Lives and works in Newcastle
Represented by nanda\hobbs
12 April — 30 April 2022
There is a warm cadence in James Drinkwater's voice as he describes his frequent sojourns to the coast with his family. Unshackled from the complexities of urban life, it is here that Drinkwater finds enormous joy, respite and inspiration from the natural environs. His love and appreciation of the land is palpable, and one cannot help but be swept up in his awe—imagining him lost in a wonderful stupor.
The Drinkwater family returns time and time again to visit a much-loved property they have affectionately dubbed “Tesoro”—a source of great inspiration to the artist. In his latest celebratory exhibition—Tesoro Mio, meaning My Treasure in Italian—the artist shares personal and familial histories; significant moments of giving to and receiving from the land. Tesoro Mio is the name lovingly given to all her grandchildren by Drinkwater’s nonna, whose impact on her family was profound. Instilling in her family an appreciation and respect for all around her, she would recount the story of having lost her late husband’s wedding ring in the garden and how, while tending to her vegetable patch some years later, it was miraculously found. Give and receive. Reap what you sow. When Drinkwater coincidentally lost his own wedding ring in the bush, he came to see it as his gift to the land. Now regaling this story to his children, Drinkwater has created his own mythology; conjuring images of his family sleepwalking in the forest under the glow of moonlight and scattering jewels on the soft forest floor, while singing ‘Tesoro, Tesoro,’⎯their gifts to the land. ‘One day’, he tells them, ‘One day, you’ll find my ring.’ There is an undeniable beauty to Drinkwater’s visual and aural storytelling and it is fantastical narratives like this that are so thoughtfully fused into the artist’s work.
At its heart, Drinkwater’s latest body of work speaks of our relationship with the land, his visual stories told from a very personal perspective. Since time immemorial, humankind has recognised that the earth nourishes us, both literally and spiritually. While we have a duty to honour the land, Drinkwater does not offer cautionary tales or preach about our obligations, rather, he simply encourages us to find joy and beauty in everything around us.
In his exhibition, Tesoro Mio, Drinkwater delves into abstraction; his swaths of colour burst with life and capture the artist’s palpable spirit. With his viscous and robust application of paint, each mark reflects a passage of time⎯a shared experience with those he holds dear. His masterfully composed series of gestures form an elegant ode to his loved ones. Laced with symbolism, motifs emerge from his canvas. Wheels from his children’s drawings roll their way into Drinkwater’s works acting as a reminder for us to slow down and appreciate all that is around us. Representations of shells collected locally by his family also feature in the artist’s works, acting as sentimental reminders of life’s simple pleasures. It is both this layered symbolism and his freedom of expression that inspires us as viewers. By offering a window into his world, Drinkwater presents painted articulations of what it means to be alive, to love and to be loved.
This is not Drinkwater’s first foray into abstraction, having devoted his early years to it as a young painter, before later turning to figuration. Falling back into abstraction in recent years has allowed the artist the space to find pictorial solutions to life’s abstract conundrums. Inspired by iconic abstractionists such as William Scott, Joan Mitchell and Lee Krasner, Drinkwater has developed his own unmistakeable voice. Mitchell believed that to express emotion, one must have an outside reference and for Drinkwater, like Mitchell, it is nature and landscapes that furnish the external reference in his works. In this exhibition, Drinkwater has drawn from memories on the land to express the joy and beauty in everyday life. Using colour with gusto, Drinkwater is on a mission to document the splendour around us, his works exhibiting what in Mitchell’s words are ‘the qualities which differentiate a line of poetry from a line of prose.’
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