Simon Blau’s solo show, Faulty Narrative, can be read as a fruitful manifestation of contradictions and loss of control. The Sydney-based artist says that his concerns have remained rather constant since he started painting in the 1980s. “I’m interested in the way a painting can develop a presence which can at times seem unrelated to my intention,” he says. Blau embraces the fact that his works may have their own ideas – ideas that may defy singular interpretations.
“The title Faulty Narrative alludes to my discomfort with narrative or descriptive painting, and I suppose my preference for work which is more symbolic and open-ended,” he explains. “The work in the show is a response to life matters, and the ability of painting to give meaning to absurdity. Or the elusiveness of meaning in the face of a confusing mass of information.”
Aesthetically, Blau’s paintings resemble a conflict between abstraction and representation, and they do indeed refuse to be confined to a strict narrative arc. Instead his images hint at multiple possibilities.
In Off Duty Police Woman, 2017, a fragmented, semi-cubist figure holds both a rifle and a handgun. She could be the perpetrator or the victim. In Horse Costume, 2017, two figures are shrouded in an equine outfit. But Blau’s background of abstract shapes gives no clues as to why they are dressed this way.
In some recent work Blau has used text, but this too is not entirely straightforward. “I use text occasionally when there seems to be no other way of conveying the idea within the work. Text and narrative in painting,” Blau says, “are prejudices which I have tried to overcome.” He hasn’t quite succeeded, but that’s the beauty of Faulty Narrative.