“These are my shit paintings”, “these are my fuck paintings”, “these are my bullshit paintings”. You could
be forgiven for thinking these phrases belong to Paul McCarthy. But they don’t. They came from the mouth of Melbourne-based artist Jordan Marani, whose solo show SHIT Happens at Ararat Regional Art Gallery takes the Australian verbal and visual vernacular and turns it into a more poetic art.
He graduated from Victoria College in Prahran (now amalgamated with VCA) in 1990, and his formative years were spent analysing and appropriating popular culture and vocabulary with a particularly localised air. He started painting text in the ’80s, stating: “Back then, I was thinking about Barbara Kruger and how she’d used words and I wanted to translate that into painting. Back then there was a big debate about putting text into painting – there was a general rule that you couldn’t do it. Now it’s a much broader church.”
Since then, he’s developed a solid oeuvre using painting as a foundation, taking inspiration from Australian politics, language, suburban lifestyle and uncomfortable Australian humour. His paintings are often somewhat deceptive. Initially they may appear benign with their pastel hues but on closer inspection, they have a darker undertone or, at least, a deep larrikinism.
Marani’s work isn’t so much a critique or celebration of masculine culture and language in Australia, but he thinks it stems from his being half Italian, half Australian: “It’s probably me overcompensating for my Australian-ness,” he says. Expect to see four-letter-word text paintings – as well as abstract paintings of talking heads, and some of his more recent experimentations with landscape painting.