Stewart MacFarlane was born in 1953 in Australia. He is regarded as one of Australia’s most prolific contemporary narrative painters, with his works in the collections of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Australian National Gallery, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art (New Mexico) and the Provincetown Museum and Art Center (Massachusetts), amongst many other respected institutions and museums.
Coming from a tradition of figurative painting, his work references 20th Century figurative painters – Edward Hopper being the most prominent. Vivid, glossy and ruthlessly applied pigments tend to dominate the scenes and staged dramas exposed, with rural landscapes and streetscapes, as well as urban individuals being his key subjects.
‘The Untold’ marks MacFarlane’s fifth solo with Wei-Ling Gallery. This exhibition reflects his recent travels and experiences, and represents his transition between two continents: his home Australia, and America, where he has spent a great part of his artistic trajectory. Far from the cliché of American Dreams however, he seeks mainly within the new continent, connections and familiarity to the sparse landscapes of his motherland, Adelaide.
MacFarlane has the capability of viewing the world through double lenses where he retells what is seen, in a manner that denotes American popular culture, owing this to the influences carried from his youth. The notion of reality could be grasped by how indications of time and space are manifested in each situation revealed: moments of the day, seasons of the year, the clear dry lights, heat and emptiness of rolling flatlands that stretch between his travel destinations. Although adopting common situations as a point of departure, MacFarlane prevents his works from being ordinary by inventing dramatically charged atmospheres, composed of multi-layered signs and parallel occurrences.
Ambiguity overshadows Outback (2018), in which a driving person looks vaguely towards viewers. The status of audience alters to character as one imagines sitting at the passenger’s side of the car, while spotting through the window an over-turned red pick-up – if not through the rear-view mirror, a mysterious running figure. Transmitting multiple uncertainties, MacFarlane triggers presumptions of what could have taken place, and opens up to the hypothesis of what is yet to occur. Unconsciously, the desire to ascertain the complete story emerges: What could be our relationship with the protagonist? Where are we heading to and for what purpose? How are the parallel plots connected? Most importantly, is there any need to feel uneasy?
As one explores the power of the mind to imagine and venture through personal fantasies, the warmth of sceneries complement, as if giving viewers infinite time to extend possibilities folded in each canvas, taking over the role of the storyteller.
Wei-Ling Contemporary is located at RT01 Sixth Floor, The Gardens Mall, 59200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday-Sunday 11am-7pm.
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