Anne Wallace, Talking Cure, 2010, oil on canvas. Collection of Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Brisbane.
Cinematic visuality—the film still, mis-en-scène compositions, retro décor—has haunted painting since the 1980s. The US has its so-called Pictures Generation, all semiotics and simulacra, but in Australia it was always about the long tail of surrealism. Anne Wallace paints an angsty, cinematic surrealism; part of a counter-history that might one day elbow the likes of Albert Tucker aside, and make room for Tracey Moffatt, Robyn Stacey and many others.
In the wee hours of the morning, wrote Van Gogh, anyone might go mad, perhaps commit a crime. In 1932 Giacometti made a little model of that moment, called The palace at 4 a.m. Wallace fleshes out Giacometti’s ‘fragile palace of matchsticks,’ cladding its sketchy walls with rich drapes and flock wallpaper. It might always look like a quiet suburban afternoon in Wallace’s paintings but it feels like 4 am. The air has been sucked out of the room, the mind is a fug of half thoughts, desire is stifled into a dull latency. The paintings are like a series of vignettes from imagined Doug Sirk melodramas. Any moment now the taut silence will be broken: a cocktail will be thrown, doors slammed and a nondescript sports car will speed down a sweeping driveway to the sound of swelling violins.