Kevin Connor

‘Kevin Connor: The Forever One Day’ at Orange Regional Gallery surveys the vigorous career of one of Australia’s most renowned urban expressionists. Presenting paintings, drawings and bronzes from the 1960s to today, the exhibition canvasses the dynamism of Connor’s gestural cityscapes and expressionistic figures sustained over six decades. The artist’s observations of daily city life across the streets of Sydney, London and Paris are rendered with a soulful and incisive eye, collectively representing the nuanced textures of contemporary urbanity.

Now in his mid-eighties, Connor continues to observe and represent the unfolding of human interactions within the ever-evolving framework of the city. His raw, uncompromising imagery presents an honest account of inner-city life; from affluence to homelessness, community to alienation. Faceless vagabonds and anonymous passers-by haunt his compositions, creating elusive narratives that posit the city as a lonely place of flux. The artist presents us with physical expressions of psychological places; a state which Connor loosely describes as ‘The Forever One Day’. In his catalogue essay, Orange Regional Gallery Director Bradley Hammond reflects, ‘At first glance, The Forever One Day appears to be a contradiction, but for Connor the past and future are simply an unfolding of one endless day as the earth continually rolls towards the sun. A perpetual dawn is breaking somewhere at any one time … Connor is pointing us to the fact that all events and experiences are taking place now and it has always been so. It is this realm of nowness in which Connor finds his subjects.’

These correlative concepts of ‘nowness’ and transience are felt most immediately in the prolific drawings pervading Connor’s oeuvre. The daily practice of sketching from life has been at the heart of the artist’s process for many years, his searching lines and frenetic marks tapping into a pure sense of perceived reality. A master observer, Connor has produced thousands of drawings in pen and ink comprising a comprehensive record of his observations – along city streets, on trains, in parks, tube stations or cafés. From the urban rituals of morning café calls to commuters sleeping on an evening train, the works fossilise moments in time that are at once decidedly distant and palpably present. Various people pass in and out of a single drawing, while others are repeated across multiple works – signifiers of the flux and stasis, fleetingness and fixation that inform Connor’s visual record of time.

Connor’s figural paintings and cityscapes excavate the physical and psychological dualities of human condition. Highly-concentrated hues and urgent brushstrokes conjure complex psychodramas amidst transitory encounters, reminding us that the mundane is alive with energy. Although rooted in real life, his paintings are often memory-based, interpretive or imaginary, creating pseudo-fictive scenarios where characters find themselves suspended in an endless moment that continually reveals and conceals itself before our eyes.

Ultimately, ‘The Forever One Day’ reveals how Connor’s works beautifully bear witness to the many manifestations of human experience. Hammond concludes, ‘He shows us that painting, drawing and sculpting are as vital and relevant as ever, perhaps even more so in a mediated and distracted world in which attention is downgraded. His life and work can be seen as an act of resistance in the midst of all this, demonstrating a way in which we can make meaning from our own encounters and daily observations.’

Kevin Connor | The Forever One Day
29 September – 25 November 2018
Orange Regional Gallery, NSW


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