Christopher Gentle

C h r i s t o p h e r   G e n t l e

Strelitzia Study

We understand that an abstract work does not have to represent anything other than itself. It is a unique creation that stands or falls on its properties as a work of art. However, I am intrigued by the expressive power of mark making and how marks may be interpreted in a variety of ways.

I am aware that many people, consciously or otherwise, seek to bring a realistic rationale to abstraction. In realist pictures, the way is already signposted and the inherent ‘story’ is more easily understood. So, I am exploring the theme of how totally abstract marks become readable symbols. The paintings are often reminiscent or evocative of an event or a place, either imaginary or real, that I have experienced. Working abstractly, I have greater freedom to exploit colour which, enlivened with an enriched surface and range of interesting marks, is both suggestive and seductive.

Christopher Gentle grew up on a farm in Sussex, England. He studied painting, drawing, sculpture and lithography at the West Sussex College of Art and then Art Education at London University. In 1965, he travelled through Europe, the West Indies, United States and Canada before settling in Australia. He began teaching at the National Art School in 1969 and was appointed Senior Lecturer in Art at the Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education in 1975. From 1977 to 1986, he was Founding Director of the Ivan Dougherty Gallery. He retired from the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales, in 1994.

During the past four decades, Gentle has travelled widely in Australia, observing and analysing the landscape, its beauty and its fragility. His interest has been in the process of nature at work, decay and renewal, and the evidence of time passing. More recently, he has turned to developing the formal aspects of abstraction, which underpin his imagery, with particular attention to colour and texture.

He has written numerous articles and essays on art and artists, among which are ‘Contemporary German Drawings,’ Art and Australia, November 1983; and ‘Reflections and Metaphor,’ Art and Australia, March 1986. He was one of three authors of the monograph on Alun Leach-Jones published in 1988 by Craftsman House and reprinted in 1995.

Gentle has more than 40 exhibitions to his credit and various artist-in-residencies, including the Royal Botanic Gardens and Hill End.

His work is held in many private and public collections, including the Australian National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, Commonwealth Bank, the University of New South Wales and the University of Wollongong.

Christopher Gentle has been a member of the Australian Watercolour Institute since 2002.

Copyright © Australian Watercolour Institute