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Wandering with Wake

Wandering with Le Corbusier is the title of leading WA artist Geoffrey Wake’s new solo exhibition at Gallows Gallery. It refers to both a painting and a process. Wake was inspired by his researches into the work and philosophy of the great Swiss-born French architect, painter and sculptor to translate those experiences into art.

“I’m interested in creativity and the way one can wander with another artist,” Wake says as we wander through the exhibition. “Creativity is definitely not a straight line. It meanders. Like a river flowing and finding its own ideas and adding to the original thought.”

Wake says creativity is the ability to create problems in your work. “If you don’t do that, all you’re going to do is repeat yourself. I’ve been painting for 50 years and I wanted to create a new problem with these paintings. I don’t really like doing sculpture; it’s more about the two-dimensional work for me. But I love architecture and if I tended to be more of a landscape painter in the past, now it’s about combining that with architectural construction.”

Wake’s paintings — either synthetic polymer on canvas or digital reductions of the same large-scale works — seem to embody the contradictory Apollonian/Dionysian impulses which characterised Le Corbusier’s own practice and which so often reside in the same artist: that tension between mathematical perfection and rhapsodic abandon.

Thus thin lines snake through vast stretches of ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow bounded by severe, angular canvases that often interlock in complex ways. Hard-edged abstraction meets soft, fluid representation.

“The work is also a collective expression of events embedded into the work to express both time and space,” Wake says. “The external shape of the painting is purely a continuation of the shaped works I have been doing over the last few years.”

But there is another side to this exhibition. At the other end of the gallery is a large diptych titled Twelve Stories. It shares a similar palette with the Le Corbusier paintings. Its inspiration is very different.

Last year, a film crew used the interior of Wake’s studio as a setting for a forthcoming film on the late Australian painter Brett Whiteley. Wake’s response was to create a painting that had something of the nature of the interior of this studio. He used cut-outs from smaller works for collage to create images.

There are also passages of text from the walls that Wake has collected over time, sentences in French that he might have been learning or random information about space, affinity and Tantalus. He likens it to a blackboard with historical memories from the past and present from his studio.

Taking into account landscape paintings which either feature Le Corbusier’s chapel in Ronchamp or whose canvases are shaped like geometric birds, the ground below seemingly reflected in their bodies or miraculously forming part of their plumage, the effect of the whole rhymes with the effect of these seemingly disparate parts.

“I became very interested in form and that comes from Le Corbusier,” Wake says. “The works are architectural, sculptural but in a flat sense. Shapes interlock or lines leap across negative space.”

Thus do Wake’s works perfectly embody Le Corbusier’s concept of “ineffable space”.

Wandering with Le Corbusier is on at Gallows Gallery, Mosman Park, until March 26. See gallowsgallery.com.

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