Cover image of the review

Wayne Eager New Paintings

11 Nov 2017
Eastgate Gallery 14 Oct - 11 Nov 2017

An exhibition that caught my eye last week reminded me that the surrealists didn't seek their aesthetic thrills in Paris' modish contemporary art galleries or amongst the Old Masters in the Louvre, but in unexpected places. Somewhat off the beaten track, in an old picture framer founded in 1879, about a dozen very uncontemporary large abstract expressionist paintings occupied an adjoining exhibition room with surprising authority and autonomy. Here was an artist in full control of his materials but with nowhere to go.

Knowing the artist from long ago as someone who always trusted his sensibility no matter what the artworld threw up, I realised he only had himself to blame for this fate. Now in his 60s, Eager will not be rewarded with a state art gallery retrospective that artists of stature can now expect in their later years. He is not represented by even one work at the NGV. His fate, though, is not that of most artists, which is to remain invisible to the artworld. Eager has enjoyed moderate success but his career peaked early, in the mid-1980s, long enough ago to have been dragged into anonymity by a certain entropy that once it takes hold is rarely reversed. Anyway, the peak was not that high: he never enjoyed institutional patronage except for a brief moment from James Mollison at the National Gallery of Australia. He is best known as a member of the founding group of young so-called expressionists who established Roar Studios in Brunswick Street in 1982 and disbanded in 1983. But by then it was already over. Despite a small skirmish, now long forgotten, Eager and his mates at Roar Studios were no match for the theoretical and institutional firepower of Postmodernism.

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