Stephen Bush is an artist with a keen interest in both the history and the potential of the medium of paint. Installed in the Circular Quay foyer of the MCA’s Mordant Wing (built in 2012) and facing the Museum’s original building (completed in 1952), Bush’s Corde du Roi embodies the tension of this site. It highlights the artist’s interest in points of contact between the present and the past and the frictions and contrasts that occur when different histories or processes meet.
This clash is seen in the production of the work. Bush began by painting a 3.8-metre-wide canvas, using a technique he calls ‘paint-spill’ – allowing the paint to run freely, keeping in mind the impact this would have on a much larger scale.
“I was determined to allow whatever the spill is – flamboyance or just saturated colour – to dominate part of the foyer mural”, the artist commented.
This large canvas was photographed with a medium format camera, then printed onto PhotoTex, a printable adhesive fabric. In doing so, the original painting is transcribed.
“It’s a depiction of a painting. The language is different, the scale is different… and it’s not a hard, focused, high end quality reproduction, but has a handmade softness to it,” he added.
Corde du Roi creates a juxtaposition between figurative and abstract painting. This is a feature of Bush’s practice, which often includes delicately painted traditional figures and intense paint spills.
The figure in the landscape is a key motif in Bush’s work. It is a reference to 19th century European and American landscape painting traditions that sought to convey a sense of the awesome power of nature in relationship to the human figure, while also depicting humanity’s desire and capacity to tame the natural world. This motif, stemming from a centuries-old tradition, is paired with the experimental techniques and processes of Bush’s spill painting to create an apt response to the MCA Foyer site.
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, commented: “We are thrilled to have collaborated with Stephen Bush on this major new work – his largest to date. With its intriguing juxtaposition between figurative and abstract painting, and collision between the present and the past, it sets up a wonderful conversation for Stephanie Rosenthal’s vision for this year’s Biennale of Sydney.”
“We are extremely grateful to Veolia Environmental Services, a long-term partner of the MCA, for supporting the MCA Foyer Wall Commission since our redevelopment in 2012. Their support enables us to work in a unique way with Australian artists to realise temporary artworks that respond to the unique location, dimensions and history of our site,” she added.
This new commission follows previous MCA Foyer Wall Commission works by Helen Eager (2012-2013), Guan Wei (2013-2014) and Daniel Boyd (2014-2015).
Stephen Bush graduated from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Fine Arts in 1978 and has since gone on to have a prolific professional career, recognised in Australia and abroad. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, 2007. He has been awarded the Australia Council’s Visual Arts/Crafts Board, London (2016) and New York Green Street Residencies (2012), as well the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (1993). His work is represented in all state Galleries, many regional Galleries and private museums as well as numerous private collections throughout Australia, Europe and USA. He is represented by Sutton Gallery, Melbourne.
For additional information, please visit stephenjbush.com