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In the wake of the recent stockmarket crash the look of success is in. If you don't actually have the wealth anymore, or for that matter, if you never had it in the first place, the next best thing is to look like you do. As the saying goes,"nothing succeeds like (the look of) success".
Even the Queensland Premier, Mike Ahern, has not missed the political and economic significance of developing a positive "look". In what he claims is an attempt to cultivate a more alluring climate for the business 'brains' of the country, he has himself taken on the arts portfolio. His recent favourable comments in relation to corporate and government support for the arts in this State, made in opening the Budget Young Australians exhibition at MOCA, opened up a crack or two into which local artists could well attempt to drive a wedge.
One local artist who seems to fit the success orientated slant of Ahern's seductive political rhetoric, is Scott Redford. While currently spending time painting at Melbourne's Gertrude Street Studios, this young abstract "expressionist" field painter from the Gold Coast continues to exhibit in Brisbane.
The pieces shown at the Sellas Gallery, as well as his Drink Me, which won first prize at the recent Churchie Exhibition of Emerging Art, present a slight surface shift from his earlier black constructions (see eyeline 4). However, as with this earlier work, his current trajectory demonstrates an awareness that, from skateboard- riding to stock-broking, what counts these days is style.
At one level the work demands a certain "art knowledge" on the part of the viewer, although in Cold War the reference to The Field was clearly footnoted. In the light of these stylistic citations you would not wish to slip into the he's a young male genius mould, but it is worth suggesting that what really makes this art work is a certain personal grain of the voice; some might cynically say it's knowing how to present an Australian product with a "New York" label.
This is not to suggest that the play with style is a facile activity, which at best shows an astute awareness of current market forces or at worst, a seduction into the realm of merely appropriated surface pretensions. Rather, as has been argued by quite a number of theorists, the articulation, or more particularly the rearticulation of styles, provides one of the clearest ways in which social and individual value systems can be worked through, perhaps even critiqued.
That Redford conceives of this work with in the framework of contemporary corporate architecture or the well designed domestic space, in no way dimishes its conceptual foundations. If anything, the exposure of his art within such spheres seems only to further validate its claim to be taken as a serious move at this time.
Despite frequent attempts in the past to link certain styles to particular political tendencies, any such manoeuvre now seems doomed to failure; there is nothing "naturally" Nazi about neo-classical architecture, just as there is no "natural" political alignment for large black triangular abstract "expressionist field paintings. Similarly, there is little point in attacking those aspects of the art-world which find themselves in demand within the commercial market. Be it economic or theoretical, all art has its "value" and, no matter how "political" we try to make it, the market still trades in luxury goods.
The fact that Redford's work has moved into the category of 'hot property' should be interpreted as a healthy sign in the local market. If this city is to continue to develop a vital arts infrastructure, it will need to find a base in both the commercial and state funded spheres. In the light of this I take a lead from the constructivists and offer a slogan for the future: DON'T JUST LOOK, BUY.