Defiance Award

At Defiance Gallery, Willemina Villari and Kyle Murrell explore abstract form across an array of media. The joint winners of the Defiance Award, and the accompanying Nock Art Foundation Residency in Queenstown, each revel in the open-ended potential of pure form - especially as it is found within, and imagined beyond, the landscape.

Willemina Villari’s work responds to landscape — that is, both the genre of painting and the artist’s own surrounds, soaked with feeling and memory as they are for her. Villari’s response to these art-historical and personal landscapes, precisely, is to break their forms down, and play variations on their themes. Colours become saturated, gently modulated, or dialled up to fuller intensity; shapes shift in and out of recognisable figuration. In Villari’s sculptural works, even more, the artist’s playfulness with shape results in a kind of multiplicity of possible representations: are those fields that we see in her rectangular wire forms, or fences — or some other, more abstracted grid through which to encounter the landscape? Villari’s works, both painted and sculpted, proclaim the joy of phenomenological experience: looking, touching, moving through space and through remembered time.

Kyle Murrell’s drawings work at abstraction in a heavier manner, making a tightly-bound case for the pleasures of the manual, the repetitious, and the labour-intensive. It is here that Murrell finds — or makes — space to think beyond the immediately apparent. Indeed, these paintings work hard to move away from the obvious, obscuring the subject beneath their layers of opacity: their stroke upon stroke of colour. Murrell understands drawing to be a means of exploration and regeneration — of conceptual, but also of literal, planar space. In this way, he too is interested in the ecology of the picture: its interacting and symbiotic parts, and its potential to grow, change, and surprise. 

The Defiance Award of the Paddington Art Prize offers its winners, along with this exhibition, a place on the Nock Art Foundation Residency in Queenstown, NZ. This residency encourages artists to engage with the local landscape; both artists, we might expect, will take this landscape’s form and work it upwards, and outwards towards new imaginative possibilities.

Defiance Award
31 March – 22 April 2021
Defiance Gallery, Sydney

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