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Melbourne-based artist Stephen Bush first gained critical attention in the late 1980s with paintings that appeared to encapsulate some of the central concerns of recent Australian art: history, originality, national identity and the effect of mass culture on art.
Blackwood skyline is the first survey exhibition of the work of Stephen Bush. Known for his witty and fantastic imagery, Stephen Bush’s paintings employ a self-deprecating humour and playfulness that encapsulates some of the central concerns of recent Australian art. First gaining critical acclaim in the late 1980s, Bush’s work attracted attention for its subversive approach to privileged notions of history, mythology and art. Placing nineteenth and twentieth century icons of style, class and taste in often grand settings, Bush subverts their earnestness, revealing the fragility of their historical or popular authority.
The fifth in the Museum’s ‘Work in progress’ series exploring the work of mid-career artists, Bush’s exhibition includes thirty-five paintings. Key pieces from the past two decades are on display, including the comically heroic series The Lure of Paris and the Pomme de terre series. Works range in date from 1980 to 2002 and show the diversity of Bush’s subject matter—tractors, self-portraits, elephant suits, bees, potatoes, deserts, computers and landscapes.
Bush's photo-realistic re-staging of historical paintings parodies the grandeur associated with the tradition of painting. The works subvert concepts of creativity and originality, and play with the authenticity of the image in an age of reproduction. This playfulness is countered with a thoughtful realism that articulates and extends the search for relevance and meaning in our contemporary world.