Old frames, convex glass, men in suits on stilts, men in suits sinking in the ocean – welcome to the world according to James Guppy…
Northern Rivers artist James Guppy may live locally, but his work is shown in public and private collections around the world. Guppy’s most recent exhibition at Jan Murphy’s Brisbane Gallery, How Sweet is the Shepherd’s Sweet Lot! draws inspiration from shepherds in historical France. According to documented prose, shepherds would use stilts while minding their flocks on the hillsides.
Guppy explains: “I discovered that in the south of France, shepherds would use stilts every day, they went everywhere on them, even sitting on their stilts knitting as they watched their flocks. Then I found an intriguing Goya painting that depicted men on stilts and I started researching this imagery and somehow the idea was born.”
With this exhibition Guppy has taken a step both backwards and forwards – back towards some of his earlier work, and forwards because the technical expertise of this series is remarkable. The central motif of this series has evolved as the suited man in the landscape, but taking his cue from the original idea, Guppy has set the series, all within the most beautiful old picture frames, within the present.
Guppy’s contemporary shepherd, the well-suited businessman, is completely disconnected from his environment – and also, the old frames suggest, not just from the present but from his past as well – and, also one could conjecture, from any emotional life as well.
This exhibition continues Guppy’s extraordinarily intense exploration of, in a sense, the domestic, but from an absurdist perspective.
James Guppy’s work is held in many public collections, including the Queensland Art Gallery, Artbank, the Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Griffith University and Lancaster University in England. His work is held privately throughout Australia, Asia, Europe and the United States.
Jan Murphy Gallery Brisbane: 08 – 27 September