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.
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
© Matthys Gerber
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Mono Poly - Matthys Gerber, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, South Australia, 06 Mar 1998–29 Mar 1998
Sebastian - Contemporary realist painting:
- Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Surfers Paradise 05 May 2000–11 Jun 2000
- Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre 16 Jun 2000–06 Aug 2000
- Orange Regional Gallery, Orange 17 Nov 2000–07 Jan 2001
- Noosa Regional Gallery, Queensland 18 Feb 2001–08 Apr 2001
- Toowomba Regional Art Gallery 18 May 2001–17 Jun 2001
- Hervey Bay Regional Gallery, Queensland 06 Jul 2001–12 Jul 2001
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
Christopher Chapman, Sacred and profane, 'Hyperlife', pg. 107-110, Adelaide, 1998, 106 (illus.).
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.).
Sebastian - contemporary realist painting, Surfers Paradise, 2000, 7-8. no catalogue numbers
Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 2002, 'Year in review', pg. 8-25, Sydney, 2002, 12, 24.
Mono Poly - Matthys Gerber, Adelaide, 1998, n.pag. (illus.).
Matthys Gerber, Sydney, 1995, n.pag..
1995, 'March - Matthys Gerber', Sydney, 1995, n.pag. (colour illus.).