Updated: Oct 31
You all are no doubt very familiar, if not deeply in love (going by your book reviews), with Darren's illustrations for our Willow the Wonderer picture book series. He is in fact a very established illustrator who has honed his craft over a career spanning almost four decades. But not many I’ll wager know of his fine art practice.
From illustration to fine arts
Darren turned to the fine arts over a decade ago following on from his success as an Illustrator in the golden 'pre-digital' age of advertising.
Being very much a purist, his art practice is underpinned by the academic rigour of post graduate studies at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney. This was followed by years of experimentation as he, inspired by his painting heroes, pushed at the boundaries of possibility and beauty in art.
It is wonderful to see his dedication to innovation in the arts being recently recognised in the pretigious Mosman Art Prize exhibition, where one of Darren's works, Golden Shoes I, has been hung - art speak for being chosen as a finalist.
Darren was one of 92 from a pool of 1295 entrants and will be hung along with Ken Done, Claire Healy, Sean Cordeiro, Black Douglas and David Griggs.
The Mosman Art Prize
The Mosman Art Prize is the longest running and most prestigious municipal art prize in Australia. Winning entries form the basis of the Mosman Art Collection, a valuable and historic collection that surveys Australian painting since 1947.
The Mosman Art Prize is an acquisitive award of $50,000 sponsored by Mosman Council. Previous winners form a roll call of Australian art luminaries; Grace Cossington Smith, Lloyd Rees, Guy Warren, Margo Lewers, Jenny Sages, Noel McKenna, Cressida Campbell, Jumaadi, Elisabeth Cummings, Adam Cullen, Jasper Knight and Guan Wei.
Lloyd Rees is one of Darren’s Australian painting heroes.
Golden Shoes I
Gold Shoes I started as an 18th century portrait, to which Darren gave a 21st century makeover using digital technologies. He then painted the portrait.
The starting point was a Portrait of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury from the British school of painting (17th or 18th century).
Much like the technique he adopts in the Willow the Wonderer books, Darren applies digital fillters to certain parts of the image that change the image, creating new effects and in the case of his fine art practice, forms a new narrative.
The narrative behind Golden Shoes I
When I asked Darren what ‘Gold Shoes I ’ is all about he became sheepish and non commital ... no suprises there.
Darren doesn't like to close down anyone else's interpretations by suggesting his own.
So I shared what it meant to me...
'Golden Shoes I' feels like a deconstruction of the self; different aspects of our personality or perhaps layers of our psyce that make us who we are. We grasp onto them for they help to define our identity and in doing so render them into tangible, concrete like structure. But if we were to step back and look a little more dispassionately, perhaps we'd see them for what they are - mental constructs that are about as concrete as smoke. Amidst all these layers lies the one uncomplicated aspect of ourself that keeps us rooted to the world remains; our feet in golden shoes.
A dear friend had another interestesting interpretation:
It is an exploration of different realms of consciousness, suggested by the different yellow shapes, but from a very grounded perspective; the grounding represented by the shoes.
I think whatever the interpretation there is an eternal aspect to whatever is going on as the gold shapes are connected by a continuous line reminiscent of a double helix.
From dark to light in Vincent's footsteps
What has been particularly interesting to me is seeing how much Darren's work has changed over the past 12 months. Prior to Gold Shoes, Darren dealt with more darker themes often showing a fragmentation of his subjects. Painting Gold Shoes marked a pivotal change in the direction of his art practice.
Darren too had reflected on this, attributing this change down to our visit to Vincent Van Gogh's grave last year.
Van Gogh's work has always captivated Darren. The luminous quality of the sunny day in Auvers last year, tracing Vincents footsteps around the wheat fields and sitting in the spot where he used to eat had a profound effect on Darren, creating a shift in the direction of his art that focuses less on fragmentation to one of more lighter themes.
An update: It seems that this comes through to the audience as well. We popped over to catch the exhibition last week and saw two ladies viewing and discussing Darren's painting. We overheard one say, "it feels cheerful". Darren was grateful to hear that - that someone simply viewing the painting, picked up the positive vibes. It is incredible how art can convey the artist's feelings to audiences, even centuries after they have made it.
The 'Gold Shoes' Series
Gold Shoes I is the first in the series of paintings on the same theme where Daren explored different facets and forms. He 'abandons' each painting once a narrrative emerges and an aesthetic postion is reached - but as always, he is a bit coy about sharing what the narrative is ...
Let us know in the comments what your interpretation of the paintings are and if you'd like to see Golden Shoes I in person, head on down to the exhibition.
The Mosman Prize exhibition can be seen at the Mosman Gallery:
1 Art Gallery Way | Mosman NSW and runs from the 23 September - 29 October.
Update: The exhibition has now closed and Golden Shoes I is available for private sale.
The canvass is 80cm x 50cm and finished in a custom sunken wooden frame in black.
If you are interested in adding this beautiful piece to your collection, please contact Darren directly.
Mobile : 0406 473 173
To see more of Darren's fine art works visit his instagram profile
(fine art gallery coming soon!)