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Reviews/Visual Art

The ordinary seen anew

4 October 2018

Review: Clay Bradbury, “Sidewalk” ·
City Arts Space, Northbridge Piazza·
Review by Varnya Bromilow·

I was waiting at a bus stop this week, when I was suddenly taken by the sheer beauty of the thing. Not the fact that it was shielding me from the elements, or the seat I was able to rest my lazy ass upon, no, the object itself. The curves of the concrete; the little peek-hole where one can spy the ever-elusive bus; the simple shape of the shelter itself. Admission – this was not an original thought, it was a reflection prompted by a visit to the weekend opening of “Sidewalk”, an exhibition by local artist Clay Bradbury.

A painting of traffic lights, looking up from the ground
By taking urban objects … and recasting them in a distilled, focused light, our everyday architecture is rendered new. Pictured: ‘Green Light’ by Clay Bradbury.

Bradbury specialises in revisualising the familiar. By taking urban objects that Perthites have grown up with and recasting them in a distilled, focused light, our everyday architecture is rendered new. Bus stops, water towers, shipping containers, traffic lights, fire hydrants, post boxes… all the quotidian physical markers of our time made somehow lovely, cast in new light.

Bradbury initially trained as an engineer before drifting into painting. (One kind of wishes he’d expedited the drift when one witnesses the talent.) He uses oil on wooden board for the most part, sometimes constructing frames that are of a piece with the work. My favourite pieces are painted onto plywood, the polished grain of the wood almost as much of a feature as the paint itself. The works are starkly realistic, save for their unnatural settings. The graffitied hydrant is set apart in the world, there’s nothing around it; it almost exists in a void. The bus stop’s sharp shadows are its only accompaniment in the vacant streetscape. Bradbury has a clear love of the 60’s brutalist style that echoes through much of Perth’s vintage infrastructure. The works are nostalgic, but they’re also lonely.

“Sidewalk” is Bradbury’s third solo show. Like the two that preceded it, most of the works had sold by the end of the first day. I bought one of a bus stop. It makes me feel sad and cosy at the same time, but more importantly, it makes me see my city anew.

Sidewalk is on at the City Arts Space, Northbridge Piazza until October 7.

Pictured top: “council in reflection” by Clay Bradbury.

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Author —
Varnya Bromilow

Varnya Bromilow is a happy dilettante who has worked as a journalist, advocate, oral historian, teacher and train driver. She spent 15 years with the ABC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The West Australian and enjoys writing fiction. She loves guinea pigs and the thrill of a good slide.

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