Richard Besley is a Melbourne based painter who has exhibited his contemplative colourist improvisations over the past 25 years. His delicate and ethereal compositions reveal a preoccupation with surfaces, layers and light.
Crawling Through the Dust of Life is an exhibition of new work comprised of mixed media works on paper and a group of large-scale works on canvas. This series has developed from an ongoing body of work in which abstract compositions are derived from natural forms and patterns. Rich surfaces are built through layers of texture and glaze. The final image emerges from a reductive process in which layers are stripped back with a palette knife. With densely textured surfaces creating movement and space, the work is suspended somewhere between the metaphysical and material. While referring to the natural world the images ultimately evoke otherworldliness and suggest an internal process of revelation.
The exhibition features a large diptych, the same dimensions (200.0 x 600.0 cm) as Claude Monet’s Water Lily Pond on permanent display at the beautiful Chichu Art Museum on Naoshima Island, Japan. It was a photo of this gallery, with visitors dwarfed by the Monet diptych, which provided the idea to embark on a work of this scale. The work took two years to complete, the first year to build up layers of oil colour and second for the painstaking process of scratching back the hardened oil paint.
The works on paper have developed over a 10 year period. Earlier versions were exhibited in 2012, at which time they were principally watercolour, but have since been entirely reworked by applying multiple layers of raw pigment and acrylic. The fresh layers have been stripped back revealing a ‘ghost’ of the underpainting through the distressed upper surface.