Peter Alwast

Abstract painting show
Smith and Stoneley, Brisbane

Despite its dry title Abstract Painting Show, the viewer may experience Peter Alwast's recent exhibition as an 'abstract painting freak show'. The lumpy, slimy and puffy surfaces of the twelve paintings lured one toward them in an odd way which perhaps resembled the desire to see or know 'gory details' of human bodily deformity or injury, while also being aware that it is repulsive. This seemingly psychological lure/repulse action was also reflected in viewers' rather awkward back and forth bodily movements near Alwast's paintings. Unlike abstract painting, which capitalises on visually illusionistic techniques, supposing a comfortable viewing position, Alwast 's work attempts to emphasise an inseparable relationship in art between a sublime or metaphysical illusion and a corporeal experience of artifice.

In Alwast's work the artifice involved in the activity of painting may be compared to a biological experiment. There seemed to be a number of different 'species' of abstract painting in this exhibition, that progress or regress (depending on your inclination) in their treatment of a traditional painting medium such as acrylic on canvas. In Alwast's work, a viewer might imagine this fictitious process of the (de)evolution of painting to have originated, for example, in the aptly titled Abstract Painting (acrylic and pencil on canvas) and (de)evolved through various other forms, to the brilliantly ugly Magic Substance (polyurethane and acrylic on board) which in appearance perhaps represents the most distant cousin of Abstract Painting. The seemingly distant but nonetheless recognisable relationship to abstract painting in some of the works, is emphasised by cliched titles referencing abstract painting and criticism, which may trigger the uncanny feeling of 'having been here before'. This is exemplified further in the titles of other works such as Have We Met.

The concept of a conjoint dependence between metaphysicality and materiality in painting is reflected in the method of contact between the painted canvas and the silicone in some of Alwast's works. In Unfitted the thick plasticity of clear silicone mimics the consistency of wet oil paint, but because of its absence of colour it is eerie and seems oddly detached from the canvas, like a ghosted form of paint. In this work the silicone 'apparition' is smeared over black grid lines on matt beige paint, distorting clarity and smothering the painting with toxic plasticity. The mechanism of the modernist grid, suggested by the square canvas and black lines, is disfigured by the insipid silicone substance which bonds with the surface marks of the canvas, breeding with its artifice of order and purity.

As evidence of the full -blown effect of this 'artificial' union are the works which consist of thickly applied polyurethane and a layer of acrylic paint. These works expand in a puffy and lumpy manner, growing over the edges of the canvas and bloating the painted grid outwards and into the folds of its painted skin. In the polyurethane works it seems as if Alwast's interest in exploring the relationship between the metaphysical and corporeal in art is pushed to an extreme form. Here, it seems that some of the outcomes of this exploration are sickly colouredgrotesque objects close in appearance to human intestines. Perhaps Alwast suggests that a viewer of art may experience an uncanny 'gut feeling ' but this is doubled over also by a 'feeling in the gut'.