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Sirens & Shipwrecks

If evolution had taken a different turn the world might look a little bit like one of Bryan Bulley’s paintings.

By Tamara Howie

The urban and scenic landscapes hide lots of little stories – little red riding hood exploring the forest, rabbit people up to sordid behaviour, or a building full of faces staring quizzically back at you.

The works in his latest exhibition, Sirens & Shipwrecks, vary from landscapes to portraits of the characters and birds within his parallel universe, which he sees  as a simple deviation of evolution.

“The whole Darwinian thing was just a fluke - the dinosaurs and apes turning into Neanderthals -  it was just the way it worked out,” he explains.

“With my birds I see them as a different branch of evolution - the birds I paint could have existed if something had happened slightly differently. 

“We’ve got these weird sort of Sliding Doors moments - millions of them.”

But Bulley says the animalistic traits given to the beings in his paintings aren’t too far from our own reality.

“It doesn’t take a lot for us to become animals," he says.

"If you’re driving along and someone pulls in front of you, this little devil or wolf person comes out. 

“We’re tame but we’re not that tame.”

Despite the mythological and evolutionary themes within his work, when asked to describe his ideas Bulley jokes that he’s out of sync with the current artistic world because he’s just trying to paint something beautiful.

“I’m just trying to paint beauty, really,” he says.

“I’m looking at the aesthetics – there’s no bottom line or agenda to it.”

“I know with art these days you need a whole thesis behind what you’re doing, but for me I just like pictorially how they work.”

Bulley says with an over saturation of visual imagery in today’s society, it is his job as a painter to keep a viewer discovering something new in a single painting.

“I like to engage someone if they’re walking past a painting 30 times a day,” he says.

“It’s not like a book you have to actively read, or music you have to put on or any other medium – it’s just there.

“You walk past it and you think 'oh I never noticed that blue before'. You’ll look at it 10 times a day and you might see something different every time. 

“That’s why people still buy paintings.”

Sirens & Shipwrecks Fri 5 Apr - Sat 4 May | Opening Fri 5 Apr, 5.30pm | Paul Johnstone Gallery | Free | pauljohnstonegallery.com.au

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