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Brian Blanchflower

Particle paradise (nuclear family)  1989

oil, sand, collage, lint and pigmented gesso on linen

5 parts: 198.5 × 672cm overall

Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of anonymous donors, 1993


About the Artwork

The five panels of Particle paradise (nuclear family) are painted in earthy tones of umber, ochre, grey and black. This purely abstract work is built up from layers of painted shapes and marks, each carefully applied to provide an underlying order to the work’s apparent randomness. Uniform circular shapes appear in regular lines, interspersed with explosive spirals and gestural marks, intersected at intervals by cascading diagonals. Like staring into the night sky, with its shooting stars, patterns of constellations and intimations of infinity, Particle paradise (nuclear family) is a meditation on the big questions of existence: of time, matter, space and our place within the cosmos.

The febrile energy of Particle paradise (nuclear family) suggests the constant movement of matter in which cells divide and atoms collide, whether within the realms of our own bodies or at the outer reaches of the galaxy. For Brian Blanchflower, painting involves merging inner experience with reactions to outer phenomena. It is about opening oneself to the unknown. This work is a meditation not only on the idea of matter but on the very materiality of painting. The tinted weave of the underlying canvas can be glimpsed between thick encrustations of paint, some of which incorporate the very matter of earth itself – lint and sand. The painting thus works as much on a tactile level as it does a visual one, creating a surface tension between two- and three-dimensionality that suggests the interweaving of the physical and metaphysical in our musings upon the nature of the universe and the state of being. The notion of infinite ‘magical transformations of worlds within worlds’ continues to fascinate the artist.

I am not really interested in painting the landscape as such. It has to incorporate everything – earth, sky, space and all the forces at work in it.

Brian Blanchflower in Stephen Bevis, ‘Brian Blanchflower’s exhibition blossoms’, The West Australian, 5 June 2010.

Brian Blanchflower

– About the artist

Born 1939, Brighton, United Kingdom. Lives and works Perth.

Brian Blanchflower’s strong affinity with nature – a legacy of his childhood in the downlands of Sussex – is evident in his abstract paintings inspired by the natural environment. As a young artist in England in the 1960s, Blanchflower was impressed by ancient sites and megaliths – a clue perhaps to the artist’s consistent concern with our place in the cosmos. After immigrating to Western Australia in 1972 Blanchflower made frequent trips to the south coast of Western Australia and to the salt-lake region north-east of Perth, which formed the basis for many of his works throughout the 1970s and 80s. His abstract works took from the Australian landscape not just the colours and textures of the earth and shimmering night sky, but the parched vastness and sense of infinity associated with nocturnal visions.

Music has also been a source of inspiration for Blanchflower. The works of John Cage, Edgard Varese and Anton Webern from the 1960s, and later Gyorgy Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis and Giacinto Scelsi, as well as classical composers such as Bach and Anton Bruckner, have played an important role in his development as an artist. He has painted several homages to composers, and the British/Australian composer Roger Smalley wrote an homage to Blanchflower (‘Diptych’, 1990–92).

Since 1974 Blanchflower has held numerous solo exhibitions in Perth and Sydney, and has taken part in group shows in Japan, China and Australia. In the 1970s and 80s he was a key member of the pioneering group of artists, Praxis, which led to the establishment of the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, and from 1972 to 1984 was a lecturer in fine art at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University). His works are held in major collections around the world, including most of Australia’s state galleries.

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