Bruce Rowland: At a time where conceptual art reigns – where is his place?

bruce rowland

‘Figs & Brie’ by Bruce Rowland

Rowland is an enigma in today’s contemporary world of art! At a time where conceptual art reigns – where is his place in art? A figurative painter who has studied art of the earlier periods he is contradicted in what he appreciates i.e. abstract Australian artists of the 1960’s and backwards. Namely from Olsen, Passmore back to the great European masters. He has seen trends and fashions of art come and go remaining true to himself and the honour of the tradition of the European art influence. His art today is focused on the figurative – nude and semi nude, still life and interiors.

As I wander through his studio I become absorbed with a collection of art reference, theatrical props, still life niches comprising cloth, ceramic, metallic containers and antiques, Asian art reference in masks, puppetry with dress and cloth drawn dating to other eras! I enter another world somewhat removed from the haste and bustle of life being in stark contrast to the electronic sci-fi world we bounce around in today. There is time for thought, reflection, passion, and understanding of other forms of the arts.

It soon becomes obvious that Bruce’s life is steeped in art and it’s influence dates back centuries. Art in all forms and mediums is respected, as witnessed by his living environment. His home is a refection of his multi dimensional skills and appreciation being enshrined with art and artefacts bursting with memories and mementos of other cultures as well as Australian. It is a compulsive mindset to have art not only surrounding him but in Bruce’s case, he lives a life of art.

It’s hard to make a past comparison with any Australian artist who has the diversification, depth of art training, skills and breadth of art interest Rowland possesses. Furthermore he has studied, taught himself, refined and developed a professionalism across so many mediums. Arguably there hasn’t been an artist since Norman Lindsay who has the scope of art skill across so many mediums as Bruce Rowland. Apart from that he is prepared to convey and share his artistic knowledge with anyone who shares an enthusiasm with art and art history.

Imagine this art involvement? Marionette design and puppet making, Puppet concerts where he choreographs, writes and is the master puppeteer; drawings with all mediums – charcoal, pencil, conte crayon, pastel, crayon etc; figurative oil painting; art teacher and past TAFE principal administrator for over 40 years. Lover of music, choirs, opera, theatre and all who have reached a level of professionalism requiring dedication and commitment.

To sum up, Bruce is an ‘art committed soul’ with integrity and genuineness to expose art to anyone who wants to be involved.

This exhibition is really a ‘tribute exhibition’ which could be no better be expressed than with quotes from Rowland’s past students writing thoughts of gratitude; ‘Thank you for taking us to the Renaissance and back” and a more recent past student dating back to Bruce’s teaching days of the 1970’s “Thank you, I owe you a debt of gratitude for what you have taught me”.

What insightful outpourings of care, love and respect. Past students have honored Bruce for his unique abilities to communicate and instruct.

As such the curating of this exhibition places Bruce the master with apprentices or past students to share the exhibition as a tribute to his lifelong dedication to the arts and teaching.

Artists known to Bruce were invited to share the exhibition. Their diversity of style and subject matter was part of the design for the exhibition and as such making the exhibition overall more enticing by providing a contrast to Bruce’s own artwork.

Co exhibitors include John Moroney, Amber Carbury, Christine Harvison, Ellen Howell, & Richard Kearney. We envisage at the opening, a number of the past students will want to share their insight into Bruce’s involvement with the arts.

Bruce Rowland

‘Drape of Gold’ by Bruce Rowland

Technical skill and competence with the human anatomy is always a point of difference evident in Rowland’s artwork. Take a look at the face, hands and feet; all tell-tale signs of those parts of the body many artists cannot execute confidently.

Unfortunately the foundations of drawing receive considerably less time at TAFE and University Art courses today. “The focus on the Conceptual approach to art tuition is regarded more importantly today amongst many art institutions” says Bruce. He feels the attitude the institutions express is “The current idea is being taught, not the skill, education and art involvement of the student doing the work”. As to his own art, Bruce says it’s a continuous art of learning. His desire for art education is lifelong and never tiring.

Live models are an inspiration and a foundation for discovering the human condition! He admits he refers to the 19th and early 20th century artists for inspiration, however after he marvels, he manipulates to his own ends; compositions, figures, light play, dress and pose. His still life painting reinforces the interest Rowland enjoys preparing a considered stage for his compositions. Perhaps we see the influence of theatrical placement explored once again. To Bruce, the desire to appreciate a composition made under his management is an extension to anything he has studied in the past. His conviction of making the pose or setting is something he strives for with a passion.

Always a pragmatist, Bruce wonders why Art Education has been hijacked? Students are told; ‘anything earlier than 1960’s art is not to be a focus, almost disregarded if you want to be a contemporary artist!’ He cries in disbelief at the loss and diminished status of the importance of art history.

Cuts in the arts funding has been a driver for a contraction in art courses nationally. The question remains as to the ‘wholeness’ of the arts education? Quality learning and comprehensive art instruction is the reason one registers for this education.

Please join us for this exhibition, noting art experience is always to be appreciated and valued. RSVP here. Developing artists will gain from viewing Rowland’s exhibition. Who’s to say contemporary art is any more valid than what precedes it? As with all art, it is the quality that endures!

‘Master & Apprentices’ continues until April 28, although the gallery operation will vary with the Easter period; being closed for the Easter week.

Yours in art,

Mark Widdup

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