For an artist who is well known for painting nudes and pictures of fierce and fabulous young models, to launch an exhibition made up solely of portraits of older subjects could be seen as a rather foolhardy step.
However in ‘One Day You’ll Understand,’ Guy James Whitworth’s follow up exhibition to last years rather successful ‘Like Neon Within’ that is exactly what the artist has chosen to do. While his last show was mainly about the physically imposing and pretty young things of the Sydney social scene, this latest one is definitely more about capturing the attitude and intellect of his models. Although still made up of the portraits and nudes he is known for, all of Whitworth’s models this time around are over the age of 45, with the oldest being 84.
The artist explains, ‘While last years exhibition was also about the strength and character of the models I used, I wanted this time, to take it one step further and try to capture the wisdom and experience of the sitters. I find older models can bring a certain something younger models don’t, its hard to define and explain exactly what that is, but it’s the opposite of vanity; it’s the voice of experience and can manifest is an attitude that is both defiant and dynamic. How we choose to see aging certainly has to change, after all, without exception it is the one experience we will all share.’
Profound thoughts indeed, but then Whitworth himself has just turned the big four o.
‘After my last show, I found myself in a very lucky position; I had a group of buyers who believed in my work and a list of people offering to sit for me who believed in my sense of aesthetic. This is a position most artists dream of and while I really appreciate where I’m at, I also believe it’s the true duty of an artist to push a few buttons and challenge the status quo whenever they can. So I’m making this artist statement and saying that as a society, and as individuals also, we need to question what we think of as attractive, what we value within that society and what we hold up as the beauty ideal.’
Obviously Whitworth knows this can all come across as rather deep and philosophical, and those two descriptives certainly don’t always necessarily guarantee sales of paintings. Whitworth smiles and rolls his eyes when I make this suggestion. ‘Oh I think the people who come to my shows to see nudes and portraits of the fierce and fabulous definitely won’t be disappointed,’ he chuckles, ‘they’ll see the elements my work is well known for, but then something else too. And that something else, well, hopefully that will be the thing they come back for next time.’
With a bit of luck maybe Whitworth’s artistic vision will help us all come to term with aging and how we see it, if not now, then maybe at some point. Maybe one day we will understand.
Check out www.guyjameswhitworth.com for more details.
The exhibition runs from Friday 19th of October til Tuesday 30th at The Pine Street gallery. 64 Pine Street, Chippendale 2008. Open Monday to Friday 9-30 til 5-30 and Saturdays 12 til 3.