|The Adelaide Review, August, 1991
Wordsworth never wrote about soursobs but if he had wandered cloudlike around my block in the middle of winter perhaps he might have.
Beauty. It’s all in the mind – even if this particular beholder can only see a beleaguered bush garden in full retreat. On the strength of Neville Weston’s current exhibition I believe he’d make a pretty good fist of things around here. But given that he’s just been doing the rounds of Monet’s garden at Giverny, the Montpelier Botanic Garden, Sissinghurst, Stourhead and the odd chateau, his heart might not be in it.
In making paintings of these historic gardens Weston faced a unique set of problems, principal among these having to deal with edited material. Trailing through the ordered rows, following prescriptive trails, gazing at prescribed views, both artist and general visitor are in pleasurable servitude to the will of the designer. In the watercolours Weston has been generally content to respond in a relaxed fashion to the given aesthetics of the view. A number of these works are among the most refreshing in the exhibition. They also provide clues to the artist’s intentions in the larger works, the oils and acrylics. His respective use of the two mediums deserve comment.
Weston’s methodology is built on a broad brush approach, keying in the general tonal balances before overlaying calligraphic allusions to organic growth. In this regard the acrylics worked better than the oils. Their more passive, less sensual surfaces clearly conveyed the artist’s interest in tonal balances. The slicker trails of foliage in the oils on the other hand sat awkwardly on the surfaces and dragged the eye away from a reading of the image as a notional rather than a literal environment. This reading is important. Weston has gone to some lengths to bury his polished drawing skills to eliminate the prescription of his source material and the subjectivity of his in situ observations in order to reflect on the idea of garden as a fusion of human and natural systems.
Perhaps the best clue is provided by the artist’s treatment of light. There are few shadows. The trees, bushes, lakes and occasional building appear to be lit from within. In the austere confines of the Artspace gallery Weston’s homage to the garden art tradition looks uprooted and the risks taken in searching for a midpoint between depiction and deconstruction overexposed. The strongest works however glow with colour and a sense of lushness and soursob-like threat of organic riot held in the balance by taste and aesthetic sensibility.
Artspace, Festival Centre
Multicultural Art Workers Gallery
REVIEWED BY JOHN NEYLON