15 October – 1 November 2020
about the exhibition
“Thornton Walker is an artist who is a teller of stories without a narrative,” wrote Professor Sasha Grishin a few years ago. Attributing to his paintings the “quality of a waking dream into which the beholder is invited to enter and dissolve”, Grishin noted their “play between the known and the unknown, order and anarchy, the conscious mind and chance and accident” and the “immense sense of anticipation” they generate. ‘Studies in solitude’ extends the artist’s long experimentation with the dynamics of composition, perspective and spatial depth, expressed through a technique he has refined of thinning oil paint with different alkyd mediums so as to achieve effects of fluidity and unpredictability. Sometimes, too, he scrapes the surfaces of his works to soften or veil their images. His landscapes and softly undulating seascapes are redolent of mystery and quietude, and through his still lifes, he explores arrangements of quiet objects of ascetic, ruminative character – calligraphy brushes, skulls, leaves, fragments of Eastern poetry. Gently alluding to the world in 2020, he inscribes words by the thirteenth-century writer Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī: “Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened . . . Let the beauty we love be what we do.”
Thornton Walker studied printmaking at the Prahran College of Advanced Education and Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. After graduating in 1977, he travelled for eight years throughout Europe and the United States and later undertook studio residencies in Spain and Malaysia. With almost fifty solo exhibitions to his name, he is now recognised as one of Australia’s leading figurative tonal painters. In 2007, Thornton was awarded a fellowship with the Australian Print Workshop in Melbourne. His work is represented in collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the QUT Art Museum, Parliament House, Canberra, the British Museum and the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan.