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an exhibition of new paintings by Robert O'Connor.


What is it?

Robert O’Connor Steals is an exhibition of new paintings about painting. The show is called Steals. I once stole some screws from Bunnings and had to go to court. I used to steal vegetables from Woolworths until they refined their self-check-out procedures. I steal images from everywhere, I steal methods from Courbet, I steal jokes from Kippenberger and Montaigne. This time I have stolen ideas on painted images from Gustavo Fares [author “painting and the expanded realm”] and ideas of masculinity from Kieran Sullivan [artist and musician, has not written any books].

What is it “about”?

It’s about the soulful gaze of the young, male rockstar. It’s about a white, free protestant maelstrom. About men like snails, men like eels, men like slugs but not as good.

The “theme” here, if that is the kind of thing you look for, is “masculinity”, or more specifically, a component of masculinity that is gentle, vulnerable, melancholic, and slightly ashamed of it’s own being and benefaction. A coy glance and soft white skin are seemingly uncharacteristic when manifested by men.

I could have expressed this better. Imagine – what if I had taken a recognisable image like Botticelli’s Venus, and replaced the central figure with a man? Hot Damn, I’d have Buzzfeed all over me. I’d be a winner. But nothing goes my way. I am a failure. I take everything for granted and give back nothing. Holy shit, I’m a man.

Are you sick of art history’s obsession with the gentle beauty of a female muse?

Are you in a hotel room in Detroit looking for a cigarette?

Have you ever heard of a writer called Melvin Konner? His titles include “A Better World, Run By Women” and “The End Of Male Supremacy”. Which tells a lot – an old, male Valerie Solanas in skivvy and tweed.

What is it really about?

Anyways, that is what the show is “about”. However, I am not too interested in what paintings are “about”. “About” is for the johns. I like thinking of painting as the dainty pastime of Adolf Hitler. I like is the pleasures of the craft – tone and variation in surface and colour, breaking rules most people in 2015 don’t know existed.  What I have tried to do in these paintings is create little moments of tonal interest; make combinations and subtle placements within a figurative image.  That’s not exactly a lofty goal, but its fun to me.

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Bett Gallery
‪Level 1 /65 Murray Street‬, Hobart

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