PANGS: Luke Brennan
at Al Fresco, Yale-Columbia Telescope Ruin
Mount Stromlo, Kamberri/Canberr

“PANGS” reflects on the degradation of the body (as spirit, as physical vessel, as painting) brought about through stress, and the more impersonal forces that bring a heavy weight to bear.

A ‘pang’ is anxiety arriving at speed – being sharply felt but always unexpected, it imposes upon certitude the “weight of the world”, the fundamental unknowingness of being human, demanding that we reckon with all that confronts us. Pangs are the animating anxieties that drive us to question and continue, and that which drives Luke to painting.

The four large canvases included in this exhibition have haunted Luke like an affliction, their accumulated surfaces playing witness to a hyper-curious and heavily-physical engagement by the artist. What we see is the effluence and decay of these manic interactions: the body of the painting firstly nourished with attention and energy, then flushed away. What remains is the ordure (manifest as muck, filth, shit, rubbish, pollution and waste) of some internal anguish, the emotional silt that has ultimately settled in a fetid pool of physical disorder, an organic continuum fixed in a satin like skin set-hard like mud in the sun – a “primordial mud” – harbouring in its decay the richness and precariousness of all life.

“... When the waters retreated, a deep layer of warm mud covered the earth. Now, this mud, which harboured in its decay all the enzymes from what had perished in the flood, was extraordinarily fertile: as soon as it was touched by the sun, it was covered with shoots from which grasses and plants of every type sprang forth; and, further, its soft, moist bosom was host to the marriages of all the species saved in the ark. It was a time, never to be repeated, of wild, ecstatic fecundity, in which the entire universe felt love, so intensely that it nearly returned to chaos.

Those were the days when the earth itself fornicated with the sky, when everything germinated and everything was fruitful. Not only every marriage but every union, every contact, every encounter, even fleeting, even between different species, even between beasts and stones, even between plants and stones, was fertile, and produced offspring not in a few months but in a few days. The sea of warm mud, which concealed the earth’s cold, prudish face, was one boundless nuptial bed, all its recesses boiling over with desire and teeming with jubilant germs.

This second creation was the true creation, because, according to what is passed down among the centaurs, there is no other way to explain certain similarities, certain convergences observed by all. Why is the dolphin similar to the fish, and yet gives birth and nurses its offspring? Because it’s the child of a tuna and a cow. Where do butterflies get their delicate colors and their ability to fly? They are the children of a flower and a fly. Tortoises are the children of a frog and a rock. Bats of an owl and a mouse. Conchs of a snail and a polished pebble. Hippopotami of a horse and a river. Vultures of a worm and an owl. And the big whales, the leviathans—how to explain their immense mass? Their wooden bones, their black and oily skin, and their fiery breath are living testimony to a venerable union in which—even when the end of all flesh had been decreed—that same primordial mud got greedy hold of the ark’s feminine keel, made of gopher wood and covered inside and out with shiny pitch.

Such was the origin of every form, whether living today or extinct...”

— Primo Levi, ‘Quaestio De Centauris’, 2015

VOID, 2022
acrylic, wax, and pencil on canvas, 213 x 168cm

HEAVEN, 2022
acrylic, wax, and pencil on canvas, 168 x 213cm

OKAY, 2022
acrylic, wax, and pencil on canvas, 213 x 168cm

FOOL, 2022
acrylic, wax, and pencil on canvas, 25 x 30cm

TRAP, 2022
acrylic, wax, and pencil on canvas, 213 x 168cm

acrylic, wax, and pencil on canvas, 25 x 30cm

Showing in fresh air, on Ngunawal and Ngambri country, Al Fresco presents a seasonal programme of outdoor fine art exhibitions. Without boundaries, beyond financial imperatives, open and exposed to the elements, Al Fresco encourages a collaborative, patient, and more organic form of exhibition develpment.

It is hoped that a dissolution of the boundary between the art and its framing context might create a more fruitful exchange between the exhibition-site and the artwork, and between artist and gallerist, providing an already compromised, nonheirachical space to experience art.

In showing art outdoors, Al Fresco demands a reconsideration of the value and durability of the art object, which requires a new way of workingfor, and being-with artworks. Short-run outdoor exhibitions grow over long-periods of exchange, to be finally presented and digitally archived and shared with wider audiences online.

~ Oscar Capezio, Director and Curator,

PANGS by Luke Brennan