Sydney Ball Estate
Structures 1
26 Apr – 21 May 05
Selected Works
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Exhibition Text
Elusive Structures - the recent paintings of Sydney Ball
by Dr Billy Gruner

Since discovering Sydney Ball's art in my university days, I have found in many discussions on abstraction is ranked as one of Australia's most important painters. Indeed, his approach extends beyond the parochial in art, and is international in scope.

Yet, what impresses most when you meet him is his modesty, and a critical sureness in his work that belies an ability to deliver stylistically; a system that has patiently guided the artist and his rigorously conceived ideas through extended phases of development.

When studying his impressive abstract works, what becomes clear is how effectively he manages the visual paradox of abstraction. Ball's engagement with 'pure' abstraction often appears to verge into figuration, yet does not. This is unusual because, as with his current works, the idea of 'form' is presented within an evolution of highly elusive visual structures. This process alludes to one of the central paradigms of 20th century art, namely, Formalism. This has been developed in his considered hands without deferring to stylistic mannerism or, as often done today, through the use of irony.

Importantly Ball's practice is founded on the expression of an almost organic conception of form, combined with an emotively charged use of colour. The artist associates this with,..."an effect of the landscape". Undoubtedly, Ball's approach represents a long-standing engagement with the central concerns of painting. With this in mind, instead of an obviousness some have associated with seeing actual 'landscapes' or, 'maps' in his recent abstractions, what's offered here is a more sublime reading.

As stated, to assume pictorial literalness in Ball's art is to greatly underestimate the sophistication present. It is the resilience of Ball's unique style of 'hard edge' painting, an indefinable aspect inherent in his practice that is to be admired. It is a resounding note in Ball's art that remains as visually seductive and intellectually rich from the earliest Stripe, Cantos, Modular, and Stain paintings (produced from the 1960's onwards), through to his current Structures.

Dr Billy Gruner, Sydney, February 2005

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