This November, as Melbournians can finally return to galleries and experience art in person again, Studio Gallery is offering the chance to wander among the large-scale floral paintings of Sydney-based artist Simon Barlow. Although the works featured in A Moment in Time seem like simple portraits of peonies, Barlow brings a level of detail to his work that inspires a more reflective encounter than you might expect.
Barlow is fascinated by the way flowers embody so many facets of the human experience, with the plants capable of ‘representing love, life, loss, mortality and culture’. Each work in this new exhibition captures one peony or several in the single ‘moment in time’ from the exhibition’s title, highlighting all the complexities of light and form that exist for the flowers in this instant. At the same time, the delicate appearance of each petal captures how fragile the moment is, with each flower clearly set to continue on in the cycle of life and death. Suspended in this state, the flowers have an ethereal quality that transfixes the viewer in their own reflective moment.
Although I work in a representative or realistic style, flowers are quite surreal to me.
The paintings are at once smooth and intensely detailed, likely extending from Barlow’s self-described method of ‘approach[ing] the floral compositions as landscapes, rather than arrangements’. The colours are soft and calm, like many gentle paintings of open spaces, but the dramatic lighting gives the images further depth and interest. With many of the works standing over a metre and a half tall, the scale of these paintings invites viewers to appreciate the intricacies of light and shadow that Barlow has been able to create.
Barlow’s paintings capture the fragility of nature and time with careful attention to detail and form. A Moment in Time is a wonderful option for a post-lockdown gallery trip – the exhibition opens at the Studio Gallery in Cheltenham on November 12 and will be on display until November 28, 2021.
For more Australian art exhibitions, check out our feature on the painting and ceramic work of Kunmanara Carroll.
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