Bruce Thurrowgood’s deep relationship with water


To live in the isolated town of Bicheno, on the east coast of Tasmania, is to have a profound relationship with water. For the painter Bruce Thurrowgood, a resident of this settlement that faces toward the Tasman Sea, his relationship with water is aesthetic—perhaps transcendent.

“The paintings have all developed from the observation of light on water where I live,” says Thurrowgood of his new exhibition at Handmark, which features 20 paintings of various sizes, all acrylic on linen. “New paintings from 2021 reflect states of water with multiple layers of patterning in the sand and the surface of the water,” explains the artist. “The 2022 paintings are more concentrated on the picture plane and relationships between gradual colours, tones, patterns and layering. They are difficult to describe. It’s a visual language.”

Such meditations on water allow Thurrowgood to create a relationship between realism and abstraction—an interest he has held throughout his long artistic career. These new water paintings certainly depict the natural world, and the characteristics of water, yet they also explore line, pattern and shape. “Water paintings in particular have afforded me the opportunity to be absorbed in minute detail,” says Thurrowgood. “This satisfied my need for abstraction and freed me from the constraint of realism, whether the subject was water, landscape, or a still life. The current work utilises my earliest minimalist expression of the 1970s as well as skills gained from being a ‘realist’ painter.”

Also important in Thurrowgood’s work is the uniquely Tasmanian isolation and seclusion (pandemic or not)—perfect for fostering a deeper focus on the minutiae of the natural world. “My version of isolation has been integral to producing this work. It has been a good two years for painting.”

Bruce Thurrowgood
Handmark Gallery
18 November—5 December

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Barnaby Smith