There is a tendency now to view life in terms of fixed compartmentalised states, whereas we really live in a world of continuity and are part of an ongoing fluid development. Simon Collins’ dusk-streaked imagery and painterly process demonstrate a deep awareness of this flow.
The twilight hours are traditionally a shadowy, uncertain realm – a liminal or transitional time when one is closest to the ‘other world’. With the fading light and the busyness of the day’s activities done it offers a period for reflective contemplation. “The current work is a continuation of my usual process which is all about the visual: observation, paint and my experience with the landscape,” says Collins. “I don’t go out looking for inspirational references, I let them come to me as they reliably always will. I know all I have to do is notice with open eyes.”
“Why the exhibition’s title, The Bay?” he continues. “It wasn’t a conscious thing. I don’t decide on a narrative and create images to suit. I simply paint my life and look at what the collection of work evolves into. I find myself driving, jogging, walking, cycling or working around Botany Bay many times per week, and like all places, if you spend enough time there, the sought beauty in the mundane will reveal itself.”
Sydney-based Collins’ works are responses to sensation and visual experience. For the most part they are “small slices of everyday life” seen through the windscreen of a moving vehicle as he drives homeward in the city’s traffic. At that ‘edge’, between day and night, form recedes into silhouette or is briefly illuminated in the harsh, artificial glare of headlights. His son’s regular soccer training on the shores of the Bay provides Collins an opportunity to do a bit of exercise himself and to be immersed in the surrounding landscape. Several paintings depict the scenes unfolding as he cycles or jogs in the cool night air and evening’s shifting shadows.
There are many ways to convey experience. Although essentially a spontaneous painter, Collins does employ snap shots taken with that ubiquitous device, the smartphone. “The contraption doubles as camera, GPS tracker, calorie counter, speedometer, torch and music player,” he laughs. “It goes to emphasise the age and situation I’m in – the everyday technology which is now so normal it’s ‘meh’.” Back in the studio and facilitated by memory and imagination, those ‘freeze-framed’ moments are “exploited and enhanced” on the canvas. Collins’ selective use of visual facts, together with his expressive use of paint, channels us into different perceptions of reality. “My aim is to let the medium carry me in a way that imparts the experience I’ve drawn upon, to take the viewer to that place, abstracted and embellished as it may be.”
Alive with energy and movement, exaltation and shadow, Collins’ paintings prompt us to be cognisant of those fleeting, elusive instants that elevate the quality of our day-to-day lives. “I consider a work successful if it reveals even a tiny bit of poetry or beauty that may not have been recognised in an otherwise unremarkable day,” he concludes.
Simon Collins has a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, 1989. He was Winner of the St. George Acquisitive Art Award 2010 and has been short-listed in numerous prestigious awards including: Gold Coast Art Prize 2013; Stan and Maureen Duke Prize 2011, 2010, 2009; Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2011, 2010; Prometheus Visual Art Award 2011, 2009; Mosman Art Prize 2008, 2007; Waverley Art Prize 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006; Doug Moran National Portrait Prize 2008; Churchie National Emerging Art Award 2007; Willoughby Art Prize 2007 and was invited in the Art Interview International Award Exhibition, Gallery Twentyfour, Berlin 2007.