A portrait painter once removed….1
Captain Cook, Ernest Shackleton, Rita Angus and Ferdinand Leger have all been captured by this whimsical portraitist and rendered cheeky archetypes by his unique cut and paste style. Rather than strict representations, Hurley’s portraits are subtle approximations featuring sitters that seem to spring from outmoded encyclopaedias, old history textbooks, or from obtuse pop-culture origins. Hurley crafts second- hand buccaneers, colonials, cineastes, painters, wenches and year-book darlings into oil paintings and collages. All bear their stylised facial features, whether they are Cupid’s bow lips, eye-colours, chin-clefts,
philtra, periwigs or side-burns like characters from the “Guess Who?” board game.
Hurley’s collage-portraits are constructed from carefully layered flat planes of colour that together make up the simplified features of his subjects. Nostalgia for subject matter is extended to material as Hurley utilises textured papers and aged illustrations from old books thrifted from antique and second-hand stores. These collages frequently display their seams, there are cracks where shapes do not quite match and these are sometimes carried through into his paintings. Both collages and paintings share Hurley’s trademark palette which consists of sherbet pastels, generic browns and blacks, simplified primary colours and the ubiquitous powder-blue of a clear sky. All of Hurley’s works play with material and sensation, thick coarse hessian contrasts with heavy underpainting and a meticulous flat finish; varicoloured, carefully placed and glued paper shapes assemble on papery backgrounds in the company of scraps of old book covers and exercise book sheets. The use of flat areas of colour and a general lack of modelling make Hurley’s subjects mask-like. His portraits create a sense of quietude, they are colourful and synthetic with a kind of porcelain decorum. Hurley’s colourful cast of characters make up a cobbled-together and imperfect history, all of the personages display features that seem as though they may float away, as though they are kept together merely with glue, their hessian supports or collective memory.
Gavin Hurley (b. 1973) a full-time artist based in Auckland, graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1998, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting. Since then he has exhibited nationally and internationally in private galleries as well as public art institutions. Recent solo exhibitions include: Switch / Board / Room (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2014), Memexograph (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2013), Boy with ……’s
Beard (Corbans Estate Arts Centre, 2013), Whatisface (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2012) and Endurance (Crane Brothers, Auckland and Wellington, 2011 – a Melanie Roger Gallery project). He has also exhibited in public institutions within curated exhibitions such as: Tranquillity Disturb’d (New Zealand Portrait Gallery, Wellington 2015), Soft Cut (Waikato University, 2012), About Face: Aspects of Portraiture (Papakura Art Gallery, Papakura, 2011), Pakeha Now, (The Suter, Te Aratoi o Whatu, Nelson, 2007) and Mixed-Up Childhood curated by Robert Leonard at Auckland Art Gallery, 2005. Hurley has collaborated with artists such as Martin Poppelwell and Sam Mitchell and has also been featured in recent publications such as Warwick Brown’s Seen this century: 100 contemporary New Zealand Artists: A Collector’s Guide (2009), New Zealand Portraits (2008) and the catalogue Mixed Up Childhood (2005). Hurley has also published a number of artist books. He has an upcoming exhibition alongside Sam Mitchell at the Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui in late 2016 and will exhibit new work in a solo exhibition at Melanie Roger Gallery in late June.
For additional information and a complete CV please contact the gallery.
1 James Robertson, “Generals and Particulars” in Gavin Hurley: Salty Yarns of the Sea, Anna Bibby Gallery: Auckland, 2006.