See bottom of this page for images of individual works and prices

SURVEY 1999 - 2009

Wollongong City Gallery
July 18 - August 23  2009

PRESS RELEASE (Gallery publication)

Artist Kurt Brereton is just as likely to wield a camera or use a Mac to create art, as he is to pick up a tube of paint and brush. Brereton neither operates within the confines of the classical art tradition, nor on the new media front, but straddles the two, blurring the distinctions in order to revitalise and re-image the landscape tradition of his concern, as he makes his range of hybrid art forms. Whatever media is involved when Brereton makes a work is done so in the name of alerting audiences to environmental changes.

By manipulating formats as disparate as the video and the lino-cut, Brereton has built up a solid art practice over 20 years dedicated to the preservation of the natural world, the culmination of which will be on display in his survey show at Wollongong City Gallery from mid-July.
Over the last decade the Illawarra-based artist has had 15 solo shows, including exhibiting in the United States and Taiwan, all of which have enticed the audience to consider how we see the environment in a globalised world; comodifying it, treating it carelessly like so many consumer goods.

Kurt Brereton Survey 1999-2009 will feature key works such as Illawarra Escarpment - 2007, and Mangrove-Time - 2009, from his Searise series. A number of new paintings from his Luscious Series recently shown in New York will also be on show.
As a resident of Bulli, NSW, Brereton's art is a response to the rapidly changing nature of the rainforest, mangrove and beach environments of his neighbourhood.

Brereton notes that, "the impacts of rapid urban development, global warming and tourism have all been significant players in my output over the last decade," he says.
"Using a combination of media, I aim to create a conceptual and aesthetic tension between representation and abstraction."
Brereton is interested in the fragmentary nature of contemporary culture, one he asserts is at times difficult to tie down, yet has the benefit of operating outside the limiting hierarchies of Modernism.
“My paintings tend to grow out of each other in a non-linear fashion. Layers of information, colours, sensations of space and time are both highlighted and undermined in turn.”

Drawing on the writing of cultural critic Gilles Deleuze, he alludes to ‘the rhizome’ as representative of the organisational system in the current culture, and as a mode he uses artistically. A rhizome is characterised by a horizontal plant stem found underground, sending out roots and shoots from its nodes in a haphazard formation, thus the rhizome offers Brereton a democratic model of growth and interconnectedness. Motifs of non-linear life forms, like mangroves, appear repeatedly in Brereton’s work.

“My way of working reflects how we now increasingly live our lives in a state of schizophrenic fragmentation, yet at the same time we are each connected to other people and events often only virtually,” Brereton says.

“This is how the internet and global economy is constructed today—it is more organically viral, as we grow more technologically interconnected.”
In his work Brereton unsettles recognisable iconic images, formerly held as certitudes, while suggesting that in this age of disconnected narratives they have a tenuous hold on existence.

“Desire for some solid notion of place is raised [in my work] then undermined with each overlay skin of images—be they iconic palms, dream homes or idyllic beach views. ... My objective is to reflect the fragile contested beauty of where we live and the complex identifications we attach to ideas of place and identity."

His exhibition, Luscious, held this year at Fairleigh Dickinson University Gallery, Madison, New Jersey, USA, revealed Brereton’s ongoing interest in tourism as an environmental destabiliser, through three sites of concern: mangroves, the Illawarra escarpment and Vanuatu as holiday destination. The images, characteristically, were indeed luscious aesthetically; teasing out notions of the history of traditional landscape painting, but Brereton’s work, no matter how pleasing to the eye, consistently raise underlying issues that have a bite.

See the Wollongong City Gallery site on

Image caption: Kurt Brereton, Illawarra Escarpment, oil and lino stamps on canvas, 167cm x 122cm, 2007


Missionary Family Arrives at Erakor Island,
Vanuatu 1872, 38cm x 51cm oil, enamel,
linocut on canvas, 2008 $750

Hell/Hello, digital photo, 60cm x 80cm,
1999 $650 unframed (edition of 5)

Portrait of the Artist, digital photo,
60cm x 80cm, 1999 $650 unframed
(edition of 5)

Australian True Stories No 2:
Pikaroo Meets the a Friend, "Are you here
on business", Acrylic on canvas board,
45cm x 55cm, 1999 $850

Australian True Stories No 1: Pikaroo
Meets the Natives - "How much do you
want for this country", Acrylic on canvas
board, 45cm x 55cm, 1999 $850

Artmix, acrylic on chook feed bags, 90cm x 190cm, 2001 $2300

White-time (1 May - 3 April), 122cm x 152cm,
oil on canvas, 2003 $3900 (sold)

Outback-time (10 - 16 June), 122cm x 152cm,
oil on canvas, 2003 $3900 (sold)

Mt Keira-time (20 - 23 May), 122cm x 152cm, oil on canvas, 2003 $3900 (sold)

Dimming-time (2 - 9 July), 122cm x 152cm, oil on canvas, 2003 $3900

Sunrise-time (20 - 25 August), 51cm - 71cm
oil on canvas, 2005 $2500

Mother Daughter-time (14 April - 12 November),
51cm - 71cm oil on canvas, 2005 $2500 SOLD

Carbon-time (1 - 25 December), 51cm - 71cm oil on canvas, 2005 $2500 SOLD

Father Son-time, (23 July - 2 October),
51cm - 71cm oil on canvas, 2005 $2500 SOLD

Waking-time, 60cm x 75cm, water colour
on paper, 2003 $750

Falling Asleep-time, 60cm x 75cm,
water colour on paper, 2003 $750

Lots of Mangroves , oil on canvas, 2001

Lots of Pandanus, oil on canvas, 2001

Hardy Hybrid No3, 160cm x 105cm x 20cm, wood, perspex, wire, painted canvas, wheels, 2007 $1700 SOLD

Kuradji Embassy No1, 122cm x 152cm,
oil on canvas, 2007 $3900 sold

Rhizophora (against straight-line thinking),
acrylic, coffee, graphite on paper, 2004
$3900 (back wall)

Mangrove Nursery (table) 110cm x 130cm x 30cm,wood, copper, oil, 2009 $1520 SOLD

Mangrove Nursery (chairs) 46cm x 123cm x 46cm,wood, copper, oil, 2009 $960  SOLD

Bulli Escarpment Estate, 150cm x 320cm, linocut stamps, acrylic on paper, 2005 $9500

Bulli Point (coal ship), 30cm x 58cm, oil on canvas, 2009

Bulli Point (BHP), 30cm x 58cm, oil on canvas, 2009

Bulli Point Sea-rise 2030, 122cm x 91cm, oil, coal, graphite on panel, 2007 $2800

Kuradji Embassy (BHP), 30cm x 58cm, oil on canvas, 2009
llawarra Pines Sea-rise 2030, 30cm x 58cm, oil on canvas, 2007

Native Beehive Cycle, 150cm x 300cm, linocut stamps, charcoal, acrylic on paper, 2005

Escarpment after Bushfire No 5, 76cm x 162cm,
oil and linocut on canvas, 2008 $1500

Illawarra Littoral No 2, 122cm x 168cm, oil, linocut on canvas, 2008 $3900

Edgewood Estate (Part 1) charcoal, acrylic on paper 152cm x 76cm, 2006 $1000 (unframed)

Edgewood Estate (Part 2)
digital animation loop 3mins, 2006 (1 of 5)

Illawarra Cabbage-Tree Triptych, 150cm x 250cm,
enamel, graphite on paper, 2005 $3900

Casting Off, 124cm x 186cm, oil, linocut on canvas, 2009 $3900 SOLD

Mutant Palm, 190cm x 30cm x 40cm,
plastic, steel, paper, acrylic, 2009
$1500 SOLD

Bulli House 82cm x 112cm, graphite, enamel,
linocut on paper, 2007 framed $100

Escarpment after Bushfire No 6, 76cm x 162cm,
oil and linocut on canvas, 2008 framed $2100

Portrait of my mother in the shower No1, pastel, graphite, acrylic, linocut on paper, 2007
framed $1200

Portrait of my mother in the shower No2,
pastel, graphite, acrylic, linocut on paper, 2007
framed $1200

Portrait of my mother in the shower No4,
pastel, graphite, acrylic, linocut on paper, 2007
framed $1200

Portrait of my mother in the shower No5,
pastel, graphite, acrylic, linocut on paper, 2007
framed $1200

Portrait of my mother in the shower No6, pastel, graphite, acrylic, linocut on paper, 2007
framed $1200

Dreamhome No 1 61cm x 91cm, oil on canvas, 2007

Dreamhome No 2 61cm x 91cm, oil on canvas, 2007

Dreamhome No 5 48cm x 56cm, oil on canvas, 2007
$700 SOLD

Dreamhome No 6 48cm x 56cm, oil on canvas, 2007
Mangrove-time, 122cm x 152cm, acrylic on canvas, 2005-09
$3500 sold

Tagging the Escarpment, 80cm x 220cm, linocut stamps, pastel, spray enamel, graphite on paper, 2005 $2900 sold


Catalogue Essay

One indisputably likable trait of Kurt Brereton is that he usually looks as though he's having a good time. For one thing, he's always funny--not just in farcical contexts, but in sober ones, where scabrous jokes amid the solemn derring-do spell cool. Kurt is seriously unserious, or unseriously serious - take your pick - always the cheeky scamp razzing the sanctimonious side of culture, he stands as Groucho to the Margaret Dumont of official antiseptic mainstream art: Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.

Like the many followers of Fluxus art, Brereton has been a philandering lover of the creative process, with no patience for the lifeless integrity of artistic styles or for the dogmas that at times generate them. He has played fast and loose with film, installation, writing, painting, new media theory, linocuts, even cookery books, all with a scrambling gusto. Embodying the spirit of eclecticism, he is uneasy with the art market, rules and schools. He revels in unpleasant truths and taboo thoughts about the crumminess of postmodern life, the pathetic inanity of PoMo culture, and the abjectness of contemporary society - attitudes official programs about art are afraid to acknowledge, much less endorse, but that are built into the premise of Brereton’s imaginative world.

Kurt is the son Francis Picabia should have had. Growing up in sub-tropical northern NSW with parents who were both artists (sculpture, ceramics, fibre art), allowed Kurt’s id the licence to bounce and lurch freely finding grace and balance along the way.
Long before Brereton fell upon the Deleuzian notion of ‘the rhizome’ to understand his own aesthetics of hyper-adaptive, flexible interconnection – it was already there around him as he hopped and swam among the mangroves, pneumatophores and serpentine root systems.
For all that he ran away from this home among the pandanus palms and mangroves of the Brunswick River, to join a circus: learning magic tricks, juggling, and finding his way back into art by doing performance. Hand-eye coordination with a little misdirection is the key in magic - you look at your audience and palm a coin in your right hand while giving them the patter - and you also sense clever misdirection in Brereton’s witty photography and filmmaking: those celebrations of kinesis; lyrical or quirky tributes to the exhilaration of movement and to the mobility of phenomena.

Photography is a snatch-and-grab affair, a raid on 'the live moment', and Kurt has a dynamic sense of compositional balance, like that of a daring juggler (Hold three balls in a triangle shape in one hand. With a swinging arm motion and a little wrist flip, toss all three over the same shoulder. Line the swing of the arm with the shoulder plane…that sort of kinaesthetic thing, I’m convinced plays a part in his painted and graphic work as well.)

Brereton not only takes images and turns them into visual poetry, but his photography enables us to gain a brief control of time, the tragically erosive medium of our lives. Something that evolves into his “dot-dot dash-dash” paintings, such as in the Chronography series, where - because of the way attention works on that moment-to-moment level - time is experienced in depth as well as length.

Note the visual puns: they operate everywhere in Brereton’s work like the HELL/HELLO photos at the outset (it has the structure of a peek-a-boo joke), to the colourful shirt that blends with the animated landscape he’s working on. Double entendres and mistranslations are the currency throughout - such as the cartoonish Reality Australia Series: Pikaroo Meets the Natives (1999) - but the methodology of the pun, or perspective by incongruity, functions at every level: in the forms, the medium itself, even genre.

Through the 1970s and 1980s Brereton lived close to the gonzo, street-carnival side of the era’s social breakdowns: DIY punk, Mardi Gras, squats and anarchy in the UK; following which, like a skilfully controlled pinball, he has skidded off on an idiosyncratic course that briefly visited many styles without settling into any one of them. Quite often his shows were constructed from readymade or found materials close to the gallery and travelled in a suitcase from venue to venue.

Since then Brereton has continued to blossom into an all-around man, writing as well as painting, lecturing, making funky maquettes, drawing, shooting film, doing set design, animations, desktop publishing, indeed going digital in a big way. But as the poet Ken Bolton noted about Kurt: “None of these modes is ever definitively relegated to the past for Brereton and they can often seem ‘latent’ within and behind each particular manifestation.”

It’s as if Brereton can’t bear to postpone anything he wishes to visualise. Many drawings leave traces of first drafts which highlight second thoughts or suggest time elapsed. In the interest of having everything at once he has developed in his paintings his most characteristic trope, overlaying line-drawn images on other images and on fully painted grounds. Linocut totemic forms, sketched silhouettes, abstract ornamentation (plaited grasses or Celtic knots) and passages of rugged realism mingle in his work. The overlays often function in different ways. Some are round and biomorphic, enabling him to accumulate a wealth of pictorial matter in depth, while maintaining the material flatness of avant-garde pictorial form. At other times the modernist grid cuts like an Exacto knife into the integrity of the picture and reveals how in capitalist society we abstract the real into property “lots”. Then to get the most from his panoramic approach to landscape and space he attacks from many sides at once in the manner of David Hockney’s composite Polaroids.

In this survey show at Wollongong the work of the past comes to bear on the present with uncluttered éclat: an elliptical tale of several sacred sites and landscapes: Mullumbimby, Bondi, Uluru, Vanuatu, Mt Kiera and the Illawarra coastline around the Gong. Along the way you can see the artist absorb the deep patterns of change he sees around him, while combining his own personal and pictorial history as an artist with the public claims of political declamation. Look around the rooms and you see a pitched battle taking place between head and heart, the comic and the tragic, power and powerlessness.

In the teeth of the dissolution of entire landscapes - either through neglect or the whim of giant corporations - one senses the small victory of the artist. Through his composed focus on these tangled subjects; as we savour the sheer graphic density, the tonal shifts and the swooning calligraphic pleasure of the pictures: a second chance Eden?

George Alexander
Writer and Critic

(published by Wollongong City Gallery, 2009)