Reviews/Visual Art

Abstract works entice at Art Collective WA

27 April 2022

From colourful optimism to dark glossiness, Art Collective WA’s clever pairing of artists draws in Craig McKeough.

Adam Derums, ‘Giotto’s Joy’ and Chris Hopewell ‘Eclipsing’ ·
Art Collective WA ·

The term “abstract” is a barely adequate one to address the diversity of styles that fit under the umbrella of non-representational art.

This is apparent in the latest exhibition at Art Collective WA, which brings together the recent works of experienced local painters Adam Derums and Chris Hopewell.

The works of both artists are undoubtedly abstract, based on concept and process rather than object or place.

But that’s where the similarities end and their approaches and outcomes diverge – Derums with his carefully considered sprays of bright colour and Hopewell with seemingly random layers of paint and dark, glossy resin.

Derums’ three large (1.9m by 2.8m) oil canvases dominate Art Collective WA’s gallery space, in scale and spectacle.

The trio share a similar format, with shimmering circles of colour emanating from a central point. The bold palette – with variations of orange, yellow and blue – works to focus attention on the shapes and meticulous mark making.

In particular, And Every Shade Approaching Us Appeared Glad Through and Through (pictured top), with its orange and blue hues spinning out in dynamic fans and fading away to the edges, is a stunning work, with the composition and colour in perfect balance and harmony.

These truly are paintings that need to be seen in person to fully appreciate the scale and the intricacy of the marks. They are a study in patience and precision; incredibly they were each produced over a period of seven or eight years.

Viewed close-up it becomes more possible to comprehend the level of physical work that has gone into the careful placement of each mark. Derums has worked on these paintings on a tilting easel to enable him to control the direction of the flow of the paint as it runs across the canvas. This slow, laborious process is exacerbated by the need to allow the paint to dry before the next layer is applied.

These big canvases bear a lightness that belies their scale; the bright colours are alive with a kind of carefree joy.

As successful as these paintings are, Derums’ smaller Spark paintings on the opposite wall appear to lack that vital spark of spontaneity. This collection of oils on canvas – all featuring a shock of blue paint feathered on backgrounds of lime green or orange – seem laboured and heavy in comparison.

Rewarding splashes of rich copper: Chris Hopewell, ‘Brave New World’, 2020, resin and acrylic on paper, 88 x 140cm (each 42 x 32cm)

Hopewell’s paintings, most of them an intriguing combination of ink, acrylic and resin on paper, carry a much more solid base than those of his gallery-mate thanks to their strong textures, the variety of marks and elaborate layering.

The artist’s bold, flowing, seemingly random lines are delivered in thick swathes of paint and topped with pools of resin, so deep you could almost dive in, or at least dip a finger in and expect it to be enveloped in liquid.

Where Derums’ palette is bright and optimistic, Hopewell’s is dark, dark, dark, with the odd splashes of violet and rich copper all the more rewarding when they peek through.

Notwithstanding the showstopping nature of the resin, perhaps some of the most successful pieces, in terms of composition, subtlety and distinct mark-making, are the series of three Transformer works in collage and acrylic. These dense tangles in tones of black and grey are a cacophony of shape and linework, all but bursting out of the frame.

They are facing the front windows of the gallery, away from the internal spaces, but it is worth ducking between the glass and front wall for a closer look.

Despite their differences, it was a clever move on the part of Art Collective WA to bring Derums and Hopewell together for this show. The contrasts in style and process serve to underline the strengths and skills of each artist and highlight their confidence in securing their own niche in the broad abstract spectrum.

“Giotto’s Joy” and “Eclipsing” continue until 14 May 2022.

Pictured top: Adam Derums, ‘And Every Shade Approaching Us Appeared Glad Through and Through’, 2014-22, oil on canvas, 191 x 283cm

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Author —
Craig McKeough

Craig McKeough is a writer and visual artist, with a lifetime’s experience in journalism, covering everything from the arts to horse racing, politics and agriculture. Craig has always been drawn to the swing; an egalitarian, grounding piece of equipment where you can go as high and wild as you want, but you’ll always return to where you started.

Past Articles

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    AGWA’s annual showcase of Year 12 art takes the pulse of a switched-on generation ready to make their mark on the world, writes Craig McKeough.

  • River of dreams, river of life

    Nada Murphy’s solo exhibition is a thoughtful examination of connections to water and country, and a pertinent statement for the times, writes Craig McKeough.

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