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AWS News, July 2013, Page 3

A passion for nature

Chairman's Column

In writing a recent critique of an exhibition of works by William Piguent, the father of colonial Australian paintings, Christopher Allen noted that painters of his generation loved to draw and paint landscapes in which they found themselves. But they added to the shapes, textures and compositions of what they beheld.Piguent's rocks and mountains are imposing silhouettes, but they are not much more than that; they have no spine, little inner form. And at the same time his treatment of sky, water and clouds is ultimately facile; light effects are more often obvious than subtle, and the surface of the broad expanses of water frequently have disagreeably bland and almost airbrushed quality.

He clearly is not vulgar but rather, if anything, overly sensitive and fairly passive in his response to picturesque detail. But painting is not just a matter of receptivity and sensitivity; it also requires the decisive, assertive imposition of order that is the essence of composition. Ultimately, indeed, composition must precede observation- that is, one must have an idea of what kind of a thing a picture is before one begins to look at the world and set down its appearances, just as one might have an idea of what a story is, or what the composition of a piece of music entails.

This brings us to the question of how our generation of paintings will be judged by future critics.

Gavin Fletcher

Ref: The Australian, June 22-23 2013: Caught by the camera - Piguenit and the rise of photography. Review by Christopher Allen of: A passion for nature: The work of William Charles Piguenit Tasmanian Museum and Art gallery (

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