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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Clouds #2



Matthys Gerber

Netherlands, Australia

1956 -


Gerber is one of Australia's most interesting conceptual painters and has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally through the 1980s and 1990s. Gerber takes familiar genres from painting as his subject - realist portraits, romantic landscapes, abstraction - and overloads them to create a saturated and at times surreal version of the same genres. At the same time, Gerber's technical facility and the appeal of his evocative subjects prevents the work from being purely ironic.

Gerber was born in the Netherlands in 1956. He immigrated with his parents to Australia in 1972. Gerber cites his European heritage as being of importance to his painting. From the great European Romantic artists through Surrealism to Richter, Gerber draws on a rich vein of references. He also cites Warhol and his use of ready-made pop culture subjects for art, as a major influence.

These cloud paintings are key works in Gerber's oeuvre, marking the transition point in his practice from hyper-realist painting to abstraction. They also relate to a series of Rorschach paintings and paper cut outs he did prior to these paintings, psychoanalysing the viewer's predisposition to create associations with the subject matter of painting. Whereas 'Clouds #1' is more abstract; the billowing, fleshy forms of 'Clouds #2' suggest human faces and bodily orifices in both a humourous and surreal play on our habit of reading things into the forms that clouds take.

Gerber's 'Clouds' recall the history of romanticism from Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud" through Constable's cloud studies. However, they also recall the kitsch 70s posters for the bedroom walls of bonged-out teens. There is something about clouds, which like sunsets, are almost possible to take seriously as a subject for art. And yet here they are: lush, billowing, romantic, oscillating between being painfully kitsch and evocatively sublime.




Media category


Materials used

oil on polyester


300.0 x 189.0 cm

Signature & date

Signed l.r., oil "Gerber". Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales Contempo Group 2001


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Matthys Gerber

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 8 publications


George Alexander, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Popism and screen culture', pg. 204-245, Sydney, 2006, 15 (colour illus.), 224, 225 (colour illus.). illustration on pg.15 is a detail

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 2002, 'Year in review', pg. 8-25, Sydney, 2002, 12, 24.

Christopher Chapman, Sacred and profane, 'Hyperlife', pg. 107-110, Adelaide, 1998, 106 (illus.).

Pamela Hansford, Matthys Gerber, Sydney, 1995, n.pag..

Alison Kubler, Sebastian - contemporary realist painting, Surfers Paradise, 2000, 7-8. no catalogue numbers

Sarah Cottier Gallery, 1995, 'March - Matthys Gerber', Sydney, 1995, n.pag. (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Important purchases: what the Society and Contempo bought for the Gallery in 2001', pg. 16-17, Melbourne, Dec 2001-Jan 2002, 16, 17 (colour illus.).

Editor Unknown (Editor), Mono Poly - Matthys Gerber, Adelaide, 1998, n.pag. (illus.).