Menzies Art Brands



Rick Amor knows his subjects intimately, but the paintings are not always literal representations; they have evolved over a number of years, and are often underpinned by several layers of memory, knowledge and perception. Amor once said: Ive always thought that what we see is not necessarily whats there. Theres extra things we dont see, theres layers of reality...The twentieth century seems to be a struggle to relate perception to reality.1

Paul McGillicks article on Amors New York paintings of the mid-nineties perfectly sums up this process:the artist has intervened to reconstruct reality so that it becomes a projection of the imagination. This is a phenomenological process by which the world as we think we see it is actually a construction based only partly on our prior understanding of itthere is a disconcerting quality to the pictures, as though they were not so much snapshots of reality as frozen frames from the moving pictures of our dreams. Typically, the paintings are powerfully perspectival. But invariably the eye is pulled up short on its journey to the vanishing point by a visual fragment, an image or a person which resonates with meaning, except that, as in a dream, the meaning is something felt rather than understood.2

Such images are also deeply influenced by the artists youthful reading of contemporary literature concerning cities, from T.S. Eliots poetic verse, to the classic dystopian texts of George Orwell and Franz Kafka. Discussing his depictions of urban Melbourne in particular, Amor mused Ive always thought that behind the faade of a building all sorts of mysterious things go on. I suppose its from my childhood and reading Kafka. I like to suggest that behind the prosaic reality something else is lurking.3

A true flneur in the modern sense, Amor often revisits the same urban corners of his favoured cities - both literally, and in his paintings - namely Melbourne, Barcelona and New York. The present painting, Four Trees, 20014, was revisited by Amor almost a decade later in 2010, with the same area depicted in Three Trees, 2010.

In his book on Amor, The Solitary Watcher: Rick Amor and His Art, Gary Catalano wrote, he visits it often [Melbourne], generally with a camera, and has made a habit of recording anything he thinks he might like to use in his paintings. Moreover, he frequently consults the albums in which he keeps his snapshots and every time he does so he makes a point of rearranging the images so that unsuspected conjunctions come about. These random conjunctions have, on occasion, led directly to compositions.5

It is likely that we are presented here with a Melbourne scene. With its enigmatic, layered space veiled in half-light and shadows, Four Trees, 2001 resonates with a disquieting sense of both beauty and menace that is the essence of Amors vision. Mysterious and intensely poetic, indeed the work encapsulates the other-worldly quality of Melbourne, a city ethereal and without substance, a city of enchantment.6


1. Amor, R., in Catalano, G., Building a Picture: Interviews with Australian Artists, McGraw Hill, Melbourne, 1997, p.141

2. McGillick, P., The City as Dream - The New York Paintings of Rick Amor, Monument, no.22, 1998, pp.84-88

3. Rick Amor cited in Harford, S., The bronze age of a city seer, The Age, 30 September 1994, p.16.

4. Fry, G. Rick Amor, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2008, pp.119 (illus.), 216

5. Catalano, G., The Solitary Watcher: Rick Amor and His Art, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2001, p.148

6. Morris, M., Australian Landscape, John Sands, Sydney, 1944 (Myra Morris was the artists aunt)


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