In The House of the Poet by Alan Ibell

The Letter, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 1800mm x 1500mm, $6,750

In The House of the Poet

Alan Ibell

07 March to 26 March 2017

In The House Of The Poet forms part of Ibell’s ongoing investigation into the human psyche, exploring various aspects of the self and its relationship to the physical world. The exhibition title references an experience the artist had during his stay in the small town of Assisi, Italy in 2016. During this time Ibell visited the remains of a 1st Century BC Roman villa, the Domus Propertius (attributed to the poet Propertius based on graffito inscribed beneath a fresco which reads “I kissed the house of the Muse”).

Ibell was inspired by visiting this space; that seemed to condense time through the simple suggestion of mundane and banal routines, which are associated with domestic living. This space with all its modesty was a dramatic contrast to the grandeur of the basilicas in the area, and left the artist reflecting on the domestic setting as a timeless symbol for ones inner life (with the excavational nature of the site evoking the physical comparison to a funerary burial).

Ibell’s painting practice has long explored the domestic realm as a symbol of the unconscious. In this series rooms and interiors are invaded by landmasses, and exterior landscapes are furnished with wooden chairs and antiquated domestic objects such as typewriters and water jugs. These are fields where the interior and the exterior merge as if space (and time) has fractured and layered upon itself; a paradoxical setting that draws on Michael Dear’s statement that “space is natures way of preventing everything from happening in the same place” (Dear, 2000, p 47[i]).

Ibell is interested in painting as narrative and uses figuration as a way to convey a poetic or abstract visual experience. To this end he casts imagery from dreams, memories, personal anxieties and existential musings into the works to create absurd human narratives about transition and the search for fulfilment, be it spiritual or other. The compositions depict an architectural space that is at once self-contained within the confines of the painting as an object, yet suggests an extension of space outside the canvas. The painting therefore takes on the form of an object upon which to meditate, a space for contemplation.

The space within the paintings is multi-dimensional; it is at once the inevitable flat surface and an illusionary one. The various narrative elements unfold across these two competing planes. Ibell is interested in images that express a kind of poetry that, coupled with the paintings title present the viewer with a visual experience that often plays out as a riddle or double entendre. He plays on the loaded literary connections that a symbol or motif can embody and the ways in which they can be subverted to produce new allegorical meanings.

The artist borrows from a number of sources ranging from Greek and Roman mythology to pop music and inserts these references into a kind of parallel environment with a logic that builds upon these foundations. By employing tropes from the world of religious parable and mythology (such as the serpent and it’s many associations to ritual, danger, and life-cycle) Ibell continues in a tradition of narrative painting harking back to the early Renaissance artists such as Giotto and Piero della Francesca in order to depict an existentialist view of a fractured and secular modern world.

[i] Dear, M. (2000). The Postmodern Urban Condition. California: Blackwell

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