In all their vastness and intimacy, the spirited landscapes of Colin Pennock visualise the profound valency of memory. Responding to his immediate surrounds in the Noosa Hinterland as well as remembered moments from his Irish homeland, the artist creates visceral compositions that materialise the experiential and emotional undulations of life. Stratified swoops of oil cast a space where formlessness meets the pictorial; where the haze of the past diffuses into the crisp clarity of the present.
‘I like the term ‘traveller’’, says Pennock of his new series, which reflects on the formative pit stops speckled along the twisted pathway of life – ‘a long, solitary road where I have often felt off track’. From the moment at school when his careers teacher told him that being an artist wasn’t a valid job, to his time spent working as a policeman in Ireland during ‘the Troubles’ and his colourful encounters throughout his many travels, Pennock makes painterly sense of the experiences that have led him to this moment. The works canvas that ubiquitous nexus between geographical and emotional landscapes, looking at how we often set out in search of something only to diverge down a new road.
Sensitive to the struggles and conflicts endemic to our world, Pennock takes hold of these moments of darkness and forces them to find a quiet place within his compositions. ‘It’s all about finding balance’, says the artist; ‘things can be discordant in your life, but they can be part of the beauty’. He translates this dynamic tension between life’s harmonies and dissonances into polychromatic symphonies resounding with diverse tonalities and timbres – whether it’s the silken hum of contentment or the roaring beat of turmoil. Tempestuous thrusts of midnights, umbers, charcoals and taupes bring to mind the darker, more difficult times in his life, while comforting swathes of pearl, celadon, creamy sage and pale blue reconstruct a place where life’s conflicts are able to settle peacefully within the bigger picture. In What’s left after you’ve taken your share, a ravaged and charred landscape is strewn with monotonal remnants of self, the verticality of Pennock’s marks like a burden weighing heavy. Rivulets of diluted oil trickle down the surface of the canvas, their forms feeble against the fiercely worked paint; and yet they command our attention. These delicate rain showers feel poignant, intimate, as if we are glimpsing the tenderest parts of Pennock’s memories. Behind them, in the distance, a twisted golden glow tells us that all is okay; that healing always lingers close to devastation.
In the show’s title piece, A forgotten traveller, a hazy horizon is disrupted by a constellation of marks that thrust into the foreground like a wave before softening into a blur at the base of the picture. This energy, this tidal movement, takes us on a voyage from the sharply palpable happenings of the present to moments that have eroded and rounded with time. Amongst Pennock’s dense abstracted terrain we catch wisps of recollection, and though we can only imagine what these moments may mean for the artist, there is a kind of universal poetry within the paintings that utter symbolic stanzas from our own lives. In other works, such as Elders’ voices and With each generation, we find Pennock contemplating the endurance of experience over the fleetingness of trend – a generational dichotomy that sees the past, in all its chaos and beauty, slowly vanish from the gripping yet transient force of the here and now. Foreground and background are more clearly delineated in these paintings, articulated through the artist’s variegated tapestry of truncated marks and gradational hues. For Pennock, ‘the quiet working moments of failure and success’ are of equal importance. ‘Experience is a well to draw from’, he explains; ‘all of it is relevant’.
Pennock’s works are as much about the act of painting as they are the subject. The artist’s palette knife becomes an extension of his psyche, orchestrating a kind of visual catharsis – a shedding of emotion and purification of mind. Pennock searches for solace in colour, gesture, mark; his intuitive layering of paint like a cognitive cleansing that gradually re-establishes equilibrium. Each swathe of oil swells with haptic energy, containing within its leathery membrane a lifetime of moments lived and lost – the distant experiences of a forgotten traveller.
Colin Pennock has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is held in prominent collections including the University of Ulster, the British Consulate in New York and Washington, the Brian Sewell Collection in London and the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery Collection. Pennock was the winner of the Alan Gamble Award, Mosman Art Prize (2005) and has been a finalist in the Len Fox Painting Award (2016), Mosman Art Prize (2014) and Fleurieu Peninsula Art Prize (2008, 2004).