Thom Buchanan is obsessed with the urban environment, which is evident with his new exhibition Recapitulate.
Thom Buchanan is obsessed with the urban environment, which is evident with his new exhibition Recapitulate. This obsession is often presented in different contexts through his multi- disciplinary practice – sometimes fractured or abstracted – but there is always an element of the built environment. “I’m really obsessed by it… I’m obsessed with cities, the culture, the craziness and the atmosphere. The psychological stuff that happens in cities is what I find really interesting,” says Buchanan. While Buchanan doesn’t want to limit himself to painting and drawing in the traditional sense, he does spend time making work in his studio and it is an important thread of his practice. It’s the studio work that will be on display in Recapitulate, his first solo exhibition with Hill Smith Gallery. Director Sam Hill Smith says: “Thom Buchanan is the most exciting contemporary streetscape painter I have seen in South Australia since Jeffrey Smart. His powerful and dramatic compositions build layer on layer to create a prism of buildings, streets and their inhabitants which reflect the social interaction of our time.” Recapitulate explores the dichotomy of the built environment versus the landscape. Buchanan views the cityscape beyond its present state to look at how it has evolved over time and how it will continue to evolve. “There is some kind of historical context – if you dig down underneath all the concrete there are those sedimentary layers of thought and process. That’s the crux of the show,” Buchanan says. Buchanan’s cityscapes are hybrid images, which might reference an actual scene but are made up. “They are fictitious so it’s the act of a decoy… you think it feels familiar but it isn’t familiar at all.” It’s precisely this that draws the viewer in, the idea that it’s familiar but at the same time wanting to explore what is unfamiliar. Buchanan works on a number of different levels with live drawing a major part of his practice. “It is about the actual action of making work and the process, it’s not about the outcomes. There is going to be an outcome once I finish a live performance but most of the time it’s about the action of capturing time and gesture and mark and movement and it’s got this performative element embedded into it,” he says. Collaboration is an important part of Buchanan’s work, with major projects including partnering with the Australian Dance Theatre on Worldhood in 2011, the Centenary of Canberra 2013 live performance drawing with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and working with the State Theatre Company on The Kreutzer Sonata for the Adelaide Festival 2013. “To be honest it’s where I get the most enjoyment,” he says. “I’m on a multi-channel with my practice and I think that’s where the most interesting things evolve. Sometimes they don’t work; I’m up for that experimentation and that risk to fail. I think it’s really important as an artist.” By collaborating with different industries and working in a broad range of media, Buchanan is blurring the boundaries between these disciplines, breaking down barriers and making his work more accessible to the audience. “Art is such a beautiful thing, whether it’s film, dance or whatever, it can take you out of your situation if you are not in a good situation. I think that’s the power of art. Art can engulf and encapsulate us if we let it.” Thom Buchanan Recapitulate Hill Smith Gallery Continues until Saturday, November 22 hillsmithgallery.com.au Please note: the above Thom Bucahanan images are cropped.