Guy Warren

8 Not many artists would have gotten away with such a random selection. But then very few may, like Guy Warren, have the luxury of sifting amongst a cornucopia of paintings, watercolours and drawings housed in their studios, and allow a gallery to choose at will, with his blessing, a loose exhibition of works, old and new, that speak of persistence across almost eight decades. Each work selected here, if sometimes only for the opportunity of giving it air and light away from the rooms and racks of storage, connects effortlessly with its siblings like equal steps of an incredible story. But the most impressive thing about Guy Warren revealed in this exhibition is that, as he now approaches his ninety- eighth birthday, he is producing work as fresh as the day he first picked up a paint brush. Indeed the most recent group of works on paper, evocative of journeys to distant parts of Australia, mostly painted or drawn within the last ten years, are the vision of a man who has held on to his youth and continues to refine the command of his language without any sign of flagging. In central Australia his roads, rivers and rocks are chicanes on the picture plane preventing the eye from escaping too quickly into deep space. Tibooburra in the far north-west of New South Wales yields surreal patterns emphasising the modern ground of flatness. And when Warren does concede to deep space, across the Nullarbor he effortlessly evokes a bare horizontal trope without becoming rhetorical. How may we explain the mystery of his longevity? Teacher, writer, editor, designer, arts administrator, incorrigible traveller throughout two hemispheres: how has he found the time to be so prolific? It may be something to do with allowing English and European sensibility indelibly into his soul whilst living in London for eight years during the 1950s. That deeply imbedded sense of lyricism became an eternal battery of sustenance, even against the irresistible confidence of the Americans. Evidence of it is here in the 1963 oil painting Children playing: the garden party , echoing a popular Italian figurative artist Massimo Campigli. And in Prisoner of 1962, his first painting following his return to Sydney, a state of melancholy pervades the air from an artist who has left behind a culture in London far more fertile than what he found awaiting in the antipodes. American abstractionists were of course banging loudly at the door during the 1960s, and even though by then he had become inoculated by the delicate poetry of his Mungo Brush watercolours, Warren was not entirely immune to being seduced by an exaggerated formalism and exhilarating language of scale. He missed the loan exhibition Two decades of American painting which shook contemporary Australian artists in Melbourne and Sydney in 1967. In that show Warren may have been intrigued by the images of circles by Adolph Gottlieb and others had he not been abroad visiting the eastern seaboard of the United States where he would have seen plenty of the