2014-04-24 - 2014-06-01

Curated by: Marlena Chybowska-Butler

Artists: Robert Clinch

The National Museum in Szczecin is having a great collection of art from all over the world, including art form Australia – presented in our various displays. Apart from permanent exhibitions, we are actively organizing temporary shows.  Robert Clinch’s exhibition is the latest in a series featuring contemporary Australian art that began with the SMS: Szczecin-Melbourne-Szczecin project in 2010. This featured local and Australian artists, with shows in both cities.

The solo exhibition of Australian artist Robert Clinch „Sounds of Silence” presents – for the first time in Poland – the most important artworks in the artist’s thirty-year career. 

“Robert Clinch’s paintings fascinate by the sheer brilliance of their technique. He challenges nature through the extraordinary realism of his art, creating, through detail upon detail, arresting images of seeming verisimilitude. The urban landscape is his home where he explores concerns about the human condition, especially the everyman enclosed within the every city. While his world is urban bound and his metaphors mere buildings, his exploration are universal. Harsh as this contemporary reality often is, Clinch makes it more palatable by the visual music of his colours and compositions, harmonious, ascending, transcending. Forms are enveloped in an atmosphere so poetic that the bricks and mortar are transformed into something of lyric beauty.

Fanfare for the Common Man, 2003, sums up much of his art and interests. Inspired by American composer Aaron Copland’s composition of the same name, it is redolent with music. The brass sounds of Copland’s score resound in the angled shapes of the factory roofs, big of form like the notes of the music itself. They flow through its composition of accents and upward movements, crowned by the trombone player at the top of the picture. Its visual sound has all the clarity of the notes played.

Music is central to Clinch’s art. He grew up with classical and stage music, his mother having a fine mezzo-soprano voice. His father loved Rachmaninov. As a teenager, Clinch played in a garage rock band before moving to a deeper enjoyment of classical music. It is only to be expected that musical references and reminiscences abound in his art. There is also his own family from whom his models are usually drawn. […] For the Grand Reeding Room, 1988, the seated model is his daughter Jean. (Commissioned by the Ian Potter Museum of The University of Melbourne, it is a pendant to Fanfare for the Common Man.) […]

The model for the figure in Fanfare for the Common Man is the artist’s older son Allan. Not only was he a talented trombone player, but, aged seventeen at the time of the painting, he was tall and athletic of build, the ideal heroic Clinch wanted to portray. The significance of this image becomes more apparent with the knowledge that Copland’d philosophy of wanting his music to be accessible to all people, to be part of the commonplace in its best sense, appealed to Clinch. It inspired him to create its visual equivalent in paint, of trumpeting the achievements of the everyday. […] Clinch’s painting, like Copland’s music, is a celebration of the rights of all people figured in one who has succeeded, the trombone player ‘trumpeting’ his success to the skies. The commonality of the everyman is emphasized through his clothes, jeans and a black t-shirt, and musical instrument not the golden trumpet of stately occasion, rather the everyday musical instrument.

This triumph of humanity runs like a golden thread throughout Clinch’s art. But snakes lurk in whatever Garden of Eden we choose to live. Here it is ominously present in the image of power looming in the distance, the tower of modern Melbourne Central. Its rising presence amid all the red and yellow bricks is like some strange emanation from science fiction, incredible, but coldly true. Clinch reflects that man made bricks; but today’s technological dominance produces buildings of heavy glass and steel.