In his essay First Thing, Justin Paton chose to describe Geoff Thornley’s paintings as having a kind of “seductive reserve”. This seemingly contradictory phrase is in fact spot-on. The balance of chromatic, rhythmic and material seduction is held carefully in balance in the work by a knowing reserve.
Free of gratuitous or false risk taking and theatre, he has approached the making of his work in an orderly but open way. Cognizant of paintings’ western tradition and the heavy aspirations of modernism, his practice is leavened with the dimension given by a deep awareness of an aesthetic history that steps seamlessly into much older, eastern traditions. This awareness alleviates the weight and heady claims of modernism and allows his painting to breath in a space that is opened up by this broader cultural and attenuated temporal embrace.
His capacity to reveal a fluttering light and a kind of sonic atmosphere that are held within the slowly established layers of paint sets his practice aside. There is plenitude and abundance in his painting – which in others might easily tip into the grandiose. But in Geoff Thornley’s hands the lyricism of colour and gesture find an equanimity and poise. This is a rare and dignified practice.
Geoff Thornley’s work is well represented in both public and private collections, including:
The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Museum of New Zealand Te papa Tongarewa, Wellington
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, New Zealand
University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui, New Zealand
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand
The Fletcher Trust Collection, Wellington
Chartwell Trust, Auckland, New Zealand
BNZ Collection, Wellington
Johnston Wax Collection, Racine Wisconsin, USA
Fay Richwhite Collection, Auckland, New Zealand