Jungle Paintings

Rhonda Dredge

When Alasdair McLuckie first burst onto the art scene about eight years ago his works were a breath of fresh air in a time still struggling with the ambiguous beat of postmodern pastiche.

The idea of using beads and references to Pacific trade had been explored by other artists trawling through history but McLuckie’s unashamed engagement with Modernism seemed bold and amusing.

Here was an artist who loved tribal patterns, South Seas references, geometric abstraction and was saying it directly with mask-like faces drawn on graph paper. What made them contemporary was the artist’s addiction to pencil, biro and repetitive mark-making.

McLuckie’s latest exhibition at the Murray White Room, titled Jungle Paintings, celebrates the powerful beat of the maker as he returns once again to the patterns of the Modernist sensibility.

Modernism attempted to drive directly into the heart of imagination by seeking sensibilities less done over by notions of Western progress. Post-modernism took a more laissez-faire approach to conception by acknowledging that style has always been a matter of borrowing from the globe’s cultural store of references.

Ten powerful figures look down from the white walls of the gallery having their say on the issue.

Their eyes are activated by the tips of pencils instead of pupils, their mouths are surrounded by tribal markings and their hair constructed out of collaged patterns.

Gallery director Murray White sees the show as a homage to exquisite making. His obvious pleasure in having signed up McLuckie from art school also hinges on the way his work draws on the past in a way that he predicts will be relevant in the future.

“The god is in the detail,” White says. “He is methodical, he records the weeks and days on the back of each work and the number of biros used.”

The intensity of McLuckie’s figures stood out against the empty spatial gestures of many of the exhibits at the Melbourne Now held two years ago at the National Gallery of Victoria.

McLuckie’s father taught him how to bead and perhaps this protected his practice from the synthesising pressure of art school.

Jungle Paintings is showing at the Murray White Room, Sargood Lane (off 8 Exhibition St) until 2 July.

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