MelbourneBrendan Huntley: Without Within
In early April 2020 I found myself searching for some peace of mind amongst the chaos of the pandemic. One day, I heard someone on a podcast describe how a moth or butterfly doesn’t simply grow wings on its already fully formed caterpillar body, but breaks itself down into a kind of soup and slowly reforms itself in the cocoon, reusing its body parts to come out at the other end as a completely new creature.
Transformation often requires stillness. Like a cocoon, stillness shuts out the static and noise of the outside and gives us a chance to re-think and reimagine who we are. But stillness can foster quietude or madness and transformation doesn’t necessarily entail a spreading of wings. Sometimes it can be a tightening, inward- spiralling movement, towards peace or turmoil, wellness or infirmity, darkness or light.
Whether we change in ways bold or subtle, there’s a power in redefining ourselves, in growing beyond genetic constraints and preconceived expectations, or just going against inertia. Sometimes those changes are immediately apparent to the outside world, and at other times they’re hidden within thickly crafted exteriors. Often, despite our best efforts, our interior landscapes and emotional states are still imprinted on our faces, in lines, expressions and textures we hope no one notices, or we can cover up with bright colours and fine weaves.
During Melbourne’s long lockdown my studio and home became my cocoon, a place to grow and experiment. Usually, I spread my practice out between two studios – my home studio for painting and my sculpture workshop in Frankston. When the threat of limited movement loomed, I filled my car with bags of clay and adapted my home studio. With the paintings pinned to the wall, a conversation could take place between the two mediums – patterns, colours and forms flitting across the space.
This series depicts a spectrum of transformations, a diversity of personalities, patterns and forms, and a propensity for movement and flight within the immovable solidity of clay, plinth and frames. They sprung from a year of isolation, as I slowly built my own community of butterfly and moth people to celebrate the hope of emerging transformed.
– Brendan Huntley, April 2021
Courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne