For artist James Drinkwater, life and paint collide in an outpouring of joy, colour and line. In WE ARE CLUMSY NOW ON THIS SOUTHERN BEACH - New Work from the South of France—his first exhibition in Australia since his Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship residency in Paris—Drinkwater’s love of the great Modernists, in particular Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso is acknowledged and celebrated. It is an exhibition that lifts the soul and engages the mind. Drinkwater finds the beauty of our world and questions “why do we not seek light over darkness”?
The last eighteen months have been the culmination of a remarkable period of travel and creativity for the artist. It is a journey that has taken him from his coastal home in Newcastle NSW to the desert of Australia and on to Paris, London and the South of France. He was accompanied by his young family who provided a source of inspiration and amplified the passion and joy he felt walking the streets of his artistic heroes.
His family has directed the artist’s eye, focusing on the minor moments of a day—a young child placing his arms in the air, lost in euphoria; his beautiful muse sunbathing on the beach. Palm trees and blue sky interplayed with his vision and through his hand and brush combine to speak of unbridled optimism. History will note that this time was shortly before the Paris terror attacks of November 2015. The great power of Drinkwater is to remind us that no matter how hard we try to destroy, humanity can love and create hope where seemingly none exists. He connects us though his tangled lines and viscous paint to the natural world to create moments of intense beauty.
Our voyeuristic experience is amplified as we are invited by the artist to experience the personal moments of reverence in the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, otherwise known as the Matisse Chapel. Pierre Bonnard’s influence pervades Drinkwater’s large boards and touches of intimacy are revealed to the viewer over time. One feels the internal debate as the artist grapples with spiritualism and the belief systems of the religious world. It is a world with plenty of options, yet there seems to be only one that makes sense to Drinkwater—aesthetic over ritual. He is a romantic, and, at its heart, the truth of the beauty that he chooses to embrace provides his personal enlightenment. And like the painters he so admires, his gift to us is to share it.