WORLD OF IRON, 2004

Important Australian and International Fine Art + Important Indigenous Art
Melbourne
29 November 2017
37

RICK AMOR

born 1948
WORLD OF IRON, 2004

oil on canvas

146.0 x 128.5 cm

signed and dated lower left: RICK AMOR ‘04
dated and inscribed with title verso: World of Iron OCT 04 / NOV / …
bears inscription on stretcher bar verso: RA/146 / RICK 4

Estimate: 
$65,000 – 85,000
Provenance

Niagara Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne

Exhibited

Rick Amor, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 30 August – 24 September 2005, cat. 3

Literature

Fry, G., Rick Amor, The Beagle Press, New South Wales, 2008, pp. 155, 216, pl.155 (illus.)

Catalogue text

‘I’ve always thought that what we see is not necessarily what’s there. There’s extra things we don’t see, there’s layers of reality ... The twentieth century seems to be a struggle to relate perception to reality…’1

A consummate painter, sculptor and printmaker with a highly successful career spanning four decades, Rick Amor is the master of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Although drawing inspiration from the seemingly mundane, everyday sites of suburbia and the drab underside of the city, his paintings are typically full of drama, deep melancholy and foreboding – resonating with a disquieting sense of both beauty and menace that alludes to the ambiguities inherent in life and humanity’s complex existence. Far from being literal translations, Amor’s urban landscapes have evolved, rather, over a number of years, and consequently reveal layers of memory, knowledge and perception. Added to this is the influence of literature concerning cities from T.S. Eliot’s poetic verse to the classic dystopian texts of George Orwell and Franz Kafka. As Paul McGillick observes of Amor’s work, ‘… this is a phenomenological process by which the world as we think we see it is actually a construction based only partly on our understanding of it … there is a disconcerting quality to his pictures, as though they were not so much snapshots of reality as frozen frames from the moving pictures of our dreams’.2

As exemplified by the magnificent World of Iron, 2004, a motif frequently punctuating Amor’s landscapes is that of a large, man-made structure succumbing to the elements. Here, the great hulk of a decaying factory is silhouetted against a blazing Turneresque sunset which catches the lower reaches of a meandering river and sets aflame the streaky cirrus clouds in the evening sky. Heightening the mystery and drama of the strange construction is a tiny shadowy figure striding purposefully into the blackness of the darkened foreground. Amor seems to suggest that the world of iron is in its sunset times, its power and purpose softened and still.3 For no matter how large and well-engineered, such structures will quickly decay and corrode in the harsh elements – perhaps highlighting the folly of man’s feeble attempts to create permanence in an unstable world.

When first exhibited at Niagara Galleries in September 2005, significantly World of Iron was one of only ten paintings featured, with the select group encompassing each of the themes that had preoccupied Amor throughout his oeuvre to that date – memories of Frankston, the Fitzroy Gardens, decayed industrial sites, the city and museum, as well as one small self-portrait. Not surprisingly perhaps given Amor’s prominence in Australian art, the show was a huge success, selling out upon opening and receiving universally positive reviews. What was extraordinary and unbeknown to most visitors attending the gallery however, was that these works had all been completed during the time Amor was undergoing treatment for leukaemia.4 Accordingly, the paintings included in that pivotal show may be understood not only as a summation of the quintessential themes and subjects pervading Amor’s oeuvre, but more poignantly, as a statement of his position as an artist in middle age and facing an uncertain future. Indeed, in this light, World of Iron may perhaps also contemplate the relationship between the ultimately frail, contingent existence of human beings and the ostensibly intractable presence of monolithic structures; as Amor himself muses, ‘One of the main themes in my work seems to be the passing of time, the vanity of human wishes, things pass, things decay, and things fall apart. The theme of decay and the passing of time seem to have an emotional resonance with me. I keep on returning to it over and over again’.5

1. Amor, R., in Catalano, G., Building a Picture: Interviews with Australian Artists, McGraw Hill, Melbourne, 1997, p. 141
2. McGillick, P., ‘The City as Dream - The New York Paintings of Rick Amor’, Monument, no. 22, 1998, pp. 84 – 88
3. Fry, G., Rick Amor, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2008, p. 149
4. ibid., pp. 139 – 142
5. The artist, cited in Standing in the Shadows, exhibition catalogue., McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park, Victoria, 2005, p. 5

VERONICA ANGELATOS