Focal Point: New Realist Painting


“Painting is always fictional,” says Tony Lloyd when discussing the links between photography, painting and realism. While the artist is interested in the various realities that can be depicted through paintings, he’s also invested in how photography can be a tool for painting. Lloyd is exhibiting in Focal Point: New Realist Painting, alongside prominent Australian painters: Ben Howe, Camilla Tadich, Matthew Quick, Robin Eley and Shannon Smiley.

Focal Point considers how photographs can offer a fruitful site for generating new ideas and images. Rather than making realist painting redundant, the blend between painting and photograph can show us how images can be simultaneously realist and fictional. As Lloyd explains, “The question with realism now is which reality to depict? There are so many realities going on, from movie screens to things like CGI and augmented reality.”

As the show’s title suggests, photography plays a key role in the exhibition and Lloyd’s works in particular have a relationship to manipulated photographs.

“I base my work on photography, but I think that realism has to have a very broad definition to call some of my paintings realistic,” says the artist.

While some of Lloyd’s works are straight portraits of Russian cosmonauts, others show fictional scenes where asteroids are suspended in mid-air. “When I paint a painting of an asteroid hovering above the road, I try to make it look like a real situation,” says Lloyd. “But because we’re looking at painting, we understand that paintings are metaphorical and rhetorical devices.” 

Lloyd’s work will be displayed in the company of other painters who all consider the links between realism and photography in varying ways. “Ben Howe is a very fine realist painter, and some of his paintings are so realist that they even look like photographs close up, while others are broken down into shapes,” explains Lloyd. “Matthew Quick is an artist who likes to play games with pictures, so again he’s got a very strong narrative to his work, but they’re not actually narratives that occur in the world.”

Meanwhile Camilla Tadich’s paintings show natural landscapes that drift between the city and the bush, while Shannon Smiley’s oil works look at the Australian wilderness. Finally Focal Point includes the portraits of Robin Eley, whose hyperrealist style directly questions the links between photography and painting.

Focal Point: New Realist Painting
Hill Smith Gallery
10 May – 26 May

Preview Words by Tiarney Miekus