Menzies Art Brands



Many in Australia dream of the European romance, of the never-ending holiday experience or of returning to visit the country of their birth. For here, on the rooftop garden in Venice, Florence, Barcelona or Seville on warm summer nights, it is possible to enjoy dinner late into the evening, sitting under the stars. Perhaps with a cocktail and propped up at a bar, bathed in the afterglow of the receding day; warm, comfortable and at one with the world. For many, this is a persistent European memory.

In Rooftop, Barcelona Studio, Rick Amor paints for us a succession of triggers that, on the surface, seem to capture the texture, light and colour of the much-loved European reverie. Amors 1991 Australia Council Barcelona Residency allowed him considerable access to the studios rooftop vista: he paints the urban light after sunset with almost monochromatic tonal control. Many of Amors canvasses have a sense of silent empty spacetypically this occurs in an unresolved foreground where brushmarks are left to casually fertilise the imaginationbut here an architecturally resolved rooftop oorplan invites the viewer in. Floor, wall and curved balustrade occupy almost half the painting. The balustrade epitomises the curved architectural features of old Barcelona by visionary Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). They provide a simultaneous entrance and blinding halt to the viewers wandering eye. Where are the people? A sense of unease becomes apparent.

The viewer can survey beyond the rooftop garden to see worlds beyond: a similarly enclosed architectural space on the adjacent building; a public sculpture to the left, lit eerily from below and mostly shielded from view by the balustrade; a forest of antennae, symbolic of a media existence separate from the real-world lived experience. Amor uses the visual truncation of these objects to heighten the sense of tension in his painting. Superbly positioned adjacent rooines, sculpture, antennae, balconies and distant towers are all truncated. In Amors hands the wandering edge of the balustrade shuts off the space of the rooftop from the fading light of life beyond. His Gaudi-esque line is like a boundary between this world and the next.

The viewer eventually becomes aware that it is a sense of theatre that pervades the scene. The house lights have gone downonly the footlights remain: the streetlights far below throwing up their pallid light. The set is lit from the wings,
with forlorn corner lights casting long shadows into the darkness. The empty rooftop is no garden, no community, no bustling bar full of the delights of laughter. It is a place of disconsolate isolation.

With such minimal props, Amor has undermined our European view, our sense of warm evening respite after the challenges of the day, our sense of longing, our sense of hope. What began for the viewer as a yearning for the European tradition has ended in the momentary realisation that as we stand in our isolated courtyard rooftop, the future fades away in the distance, and we are faced with our own mortality.

Writer Trent Walker observes in The Australian Art Review, that for Amor, Most art is about death and the inevitability of decay thats the only thing worth painting about I think.1

1. Rick Amor quoted in Walker, T., Rick Amor: Artist Profile, Australian Art Review, 5 July 2012

Professor Peter James Smith
BSc (Hons); MSc; M Stats; MFA; Phd

We use our own and third party cookies to enhance your experience of our site, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing. By continuing to use our site you consent to the use of cookies. Please refer to our privacy and cookie policy.