Keith Deverell – Beyond the Black Spur
Words - Sheena Colquhoun Photos - J Forsyth
Last night was the opening of the painting and video show ‘Beyond the Black Spur’ by Australian based multi-media artist Keith Deverell in Collingwood’s Kick Gallery. Outside had already been dark for an hour, as is wont to happen in a Melbourne winter, and Kick Gallery’s bright interior shone at the Smith Street end of Peel Street. The gallery space seemed to be in a rejuvenated Fitzroy terrace house, still adorned with homely accoutrements such as ceiling roses and fireplaces. Despite these additions the space was incredibly slick and polished, matching, and enhancing the low-key yet refined works of artist Keith Deverell.
The exhibition comprised a series of small scale paintings which were variations on a congruous aesthetic of black, silver and dark-toned, highly textural works. The works are imbued with a misty and somewhat sallow darkness, and seem to gain depth and complexity as one moves closer to discover the details of the individual pieces. The thick overlayed paint bubbled and faulted in small yet intense ways, creating works which captured the contingency of fault-lines and chance encounters with the aesthetic determinations of landscape painting. The individual paintings worked together to create a cohesive body of work. The statement for the show references the vastness of Cormack McCarthy’s dystopian vision in seminal text ‘The Road’, as well as the Australian landscape and its relationship to its horizon, as an important point of departure. These two sets of salient imagery combine through abstraction to provide a framework for complex and poetic works. Whilst the onlooker was encouraged by the small scale of the works, to engage with them at an intimate distance, this could also seem somewhat at ends with the ambitious large-scale subject matter. However, the artist did manage to stray away from straight forward and hence simplistic ties to commonly understood Australian landscape symbols and tropes, a task not easily accomplished. ‘Beyond the Black Spur’ is an understated and refined show in a polished commercial gallery, encouraging slow contemplation of its expansive themes.