Spending most of his life on the coastal fringes of Sydney’s south, Darren Gannon would, as a younger man, head further south for surfing trips with mates. He loved those years of sleeping on isolated hilltops and gazing lovingly at landscapes that are now embedded in his consciousness. He hopes his new gauzy, enigmatic works – mainly monochromatic – go beyond nostalgia in conveying his love of the misty atmosphere that comes with the moist Illawarra countryside.
Memento, comprising more than a dozen oil paintings, has an elegiac quality. Gannon says the works were mainly created from memory rather than setting up on site for an exercise in “look and put”.
“It seems to have got into my psyche, I have been going there for such a long time. I get a sense of comfort from the place.”
Returning from a more recent visit to the coast, he started to “paint things out of [his] head.” Even though some of the scenes he recalled weren’t all that attractive – he cites the steelworks – they were enjoyable to paint, and he has managed to instil a romantic, melancholic aura into his works, with resonant titles such as Veil, Solace, Wish you could hear me and City of Rust.
Gannon says he builds his paintings up slowly in thin layers of paint and glaze; and when things aren’t going well, he refers back to Lloyd Rees’s paintings for “some sort of guidance”. There is just a hint of colour: some ultramarine, burnt umber and cadmium. Not so long ago he was using vivid colours but pared it right back for this exhibition because, as he rightly says, “it seems to suit that tone and mood”
27 February—17 March
This article was originally published in the March/April 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia.