scott redford

surf paintings/futurist city
Bellas Gallery, Brisbane

Paradise was once a Heavenly utopia. In Queensland, paradise is tourism's cliche. Recalling Gauguin, travel brochures present palm trees, beaches and blue skies. Once off the plane, however, the bleached high-rises and tacky tourist shopping arcades are less ideal. Surfers Paradise is such a sub-tropical 'paradise'. Stunning surf and long golden beaches front up to a hub of tawdry commerce. But this is paradise on earth for artist Scott Redford. Redford 's exhibition Surf Paintings/Futurist City is accompanied by a eulogy to the optimism of 1950s Surfers Paradise by architectural critic, Robin Boyd, who described it then as a 'fibro-cement paradise under a rainbow of plastic paint'. The new Surf Paintings skim the white caps of tomorrow, casting yesterday's utopian urban dreams in the hot fluoro-pink glow of a never-ending Tequila Sunrise. The seven Surf Paintings in the main gallery depict roughly brushed silhouettes of modernist architecture and high-rise apartment buildings. Palm trees are shorthand for surf-city summer holidays. They render it kitsch, the antithesis of the modernist ideal. Monochromatic fluorescent pink fields fend a push-pull between both campsmodernist form against surfer chic. The Surf Paintings are made like surfboards-in the next room there is even a custom-made surfboard. The paintings glow within their glassy surfaces, made of fiberglass over-painted foam. Fabrication is by Phantom Surfboards at Burleigh Heads, the Gold Coast. Alonzo Punker translates Redford's designs; Chris Garret! applies the mirror coat. All the paintings bear the Phantom logo Almost as an in-joke, there is a homage to lan Burn's Blue Reflex works of 1966-67. Surf Painting/The Reflex is a portrait-orientated hot-pink monochrome devoid of image, save the Phantom logo. As in Burn's Blue Reflex and his Mirror Pieces, the viewer becomes aware of his or her relationship to the work. Such a reference acknowledges the work's links to Minimalism, the sense of remove provided by its fabrication, and the play between painting and sculpture. The Surf Paintings stand out from the wall, become objects. But pop culture is close at hand, both in Burn's use of auto lacquer and in Redford's play with surf culture. These materials carry the essence of speed, adrenaline and sex. Fast cars, surfboards, jets and skyscrapers are all replete with phallic associations. We may not see the hard bodies of surfers and lifeguards, but we might read into the forms depicted and the fluorescent pink a measure of sexuality. Like Redford's earlier Black Paintings, the Surf Paintings encapsulate elements within a glossy surface. Life is trapped, as in a time-capsule, ancient resin, or in ice. lt is not merely nostalgia. Surfers' life-savers are at hand. Life might be returned, with genetic and cellular manipulation. Modernist yearning and ideals might yet enliven our ennui. In the smaller gallery are the preliminary sketches for the Surf Paintings, though not the exact paintings exhibited here. These calligraphic silhouettes carry the urgency of Redford's own hand, black high-rise buildings brushed fast in simple strokes against matt hot-pink on board. There is a crude film noir quality to these expressionist sketches. The technical manipulation of seduction will be found in translation. In 1990, Redford exhibited work 'After drawings by my younger brother Adam McCaull ', literally tracing the drawings of his dead brother. Now Redford gives his own work to another for translation and copy. But it is his past and the past of the Gold Coast which will be re-lived. Amongst the Surf Paintings is a tall, thin object, Untitled/Proposal for a Gold Coast High-Rise Building. A Piss-Christ-urine-coloured perspex box standing at shoulder- height, reminiscent of Minimalist Larry Bell, supports a column of jaunty clear perspex numbers. Four dates (9065 A.D., 7066 A.D., 9398 A.D., 5062 A.D.) set deep into the future seemingly act as tomorrow's memorial. The dates may signify auspicious beginnings or regretful endings. The numbers in a previous decade's happy graphics are choreographed to assert optimism. They rise as an ejaculation of the future. But instead, they engender pathos. lt is at once a projection of hope and a mourning for time ever beyond our reach. In the next room, two of the dates are separated and presented as individual painted maquettes, including a maquette of The Space Between 9065 A. D. and 9398 A. D. This stands like a plastic stem from a cereal packet, once the attachments have been removed. As negative space, it does not make sense, but nonetheless, it defiantly asserts an identity. Our entrance and exit from the exhibition is marked by the photographic work, Perpetual Abstraction (7066 A. D.). A maroon surfboard inscribed with this date sits like a monument or sepulchre alone in the dunes. In the distance we glimpse the high-rises of Surfers Paradise. The date suggests a time beyond our comprehension. Yet the blown-up image appears old and grainy. There are no gods of surf and sun to be seen, no surf even. Is this the 'Futurist City' in ruins? For Redford, is this Paradise Lost? But paradise lives only in dreams, is a mirage. it is an abstraction, an ideal, which exists in perpetuity.