GARY SOLOMON: FIGURES OF THE IMAGINATION YARRA SCUPTURE GALLERY UNTIL APRIL 17 2011
Gary Solomon’s 86 paintings and sculptures fit perfectly into the warehouse environment of the Yarra Sculpture Gallery in Abbotsford with its corrugated iron roof and ample skylight. Both the painted and sculpted figures float in a kind of ecstatic space, set loose from the confines of gravity and propelled by their own energy and joyfulness. They complement each other reflecting the artist’s sense of delight and confidence in experimenting.
Since 1993, he has had a show each year including the Solo Exhibition in the Jewish Museum Access Gallery in 2003 and another in the Leo Baeck Gallery in 2008. But there are no specifically Jewish references in his work; if anything, Solomon seems inspired by tribal and African art, the shapes simple and elemental, the colours bold and often bursting out of the canvas.
His sense of humour is most evident in the sculpture which is made of found objects: rusting metal tools and bicycle chains, bits of discarded wood, an old wheelbarrow, a soldering iron. Nearly all are transformed into weirdly human shapes. Most striking of all is a large blue bird, its outstretched feathers made out of the fine twigs of a tree, touching in their pathos like the withering fingers of an old man.
“I love old things,” he says of the objects he collects. “They have a history,” rather like the building they are in.
“Nature does a lovely job of weathering.”
Though he grew up surrounded by the art his father collected, the 54 -year-old only began painting in his thirties. It was the artists whose work he bought and displayed who encouraged and mentored him.
This generosity has been passed onto others. He has shared his knowledge with many communities – children, the unemployed, underprivileged, and the disabled. That openness shows in the ease with which the spectator can relate to the work. There is no attempt at obfuscation or even sophistication. The art speaks with an honesty and directness that characterise their maker. Perhaps it was the very fact of beginning as an adult that set him free from undue outside influences to be his very own man.