In the early 1980s, Gavin Chilcott was categorised as a ‘New Image’ painter—alongside Dick Frizzell, Denys Watkins, Paul Hartigan and others. These bright youngish figurative painters supposedly shared a common interest in urban realities, contemporary culture, slick visual formulations, international (rather than nationalist) influences and a desire to make art with verve and gusto. On account of his love of decorative traditions from past eras and non-Western cultures, Chilcott was never an entirely comfortable fit within that grouping.
In recent years, he has kept a low profile, working away out of the limelight, gleaning his inspiration from reading, travelling and living a studious life. Recent works such as Nature—Design and the Cosmos reference wall-paper design, book illustration, C. G. Jung’s Mandala Symbolism and Jean Arp’s biomorphic abstraction, as they do his immediate physical surroundings. (For some years, he has lived in the Wairarapa).
With age, Chilcott has lost nothing of his wide-eyed youthfulness. Delving into a personal iconography that is playful rather than overladen with meaning, he remains a great painter of stylised clouds, trees, plants, swans and vases. He also makes painted ceramics and installations; he has designed carpets and made numerous works out of opened-up and flattened-out shopping bags and beer boxes. His art keeps a close proximity to his daily life.
Adapted from Gregory O’Brien, In: 50/fifty – Fifty years of Aratoi (2019)
152 pages, stitched, Full-colour illustrations, Foiled cover
Editor: Lydia Wevers
Writers: Gregory O'Brien, Jill Trevelyan, Lizzie Bisley, Sian van Dyk, Bronwyn Reid, Susanna Shadbolt
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