Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 April 2009

Rick Amor

born 1948

oil on canvas

164.0 x 74.0 cm & 164.0 x 130.0 cm (2 panels)

signed and dated lower right: RICK AMOR ‘98
inscribed verso of both panels: MW IN THE STREET / Sep 98

$80,000 - 120,000 (2)

Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Much art is autobiographical, some more so than others. Lines are usually drawn between what is revealed and that concealed; and revelation depends a lot on the viewer's perceptiveness. So it is with Rick Amor, who has developed the enigmatic into a high art form. Portraits, however, are a slightly different matter, as Amor said in 2007 - 'I am reluctant to bring the figures in my paintings too near the picture plane as having people as protagonists in contemporary painting is a fraught business, with the obvious exception of portraits! I use the buildings and settings as metaphors for people.'1 In the joint portrait, MW in the Street 1998, his wife Megan Williams is brought so close to the picture plane that she steps into the viewer's space. The artist, as ever, is set in the middle distance, back to the viewer. Even the dog with no name is anonymous. But what do the buildings and setting represent?

The artist is the anonymous recorder with a camera held to his observing eye. The scene is not exact or of one place, being an inventive mix of Carlton, although Amor admits to it being near the Kent Hotel close to where his wife once lived. The nineteenth-century terrace buildings are human in scale, appealing in their blend of curves, upright columns and decorative ironwork. As places of private living, they are contrasted with the looming megalith of the public building estate. The green area is nominally Curtain Square off Rathdowne Street. While the painting has the stillness and concentration of a Giorgio Morandi, there are those ever-present Romantic undertones which characterise Amor's work. In such paintings as Path to the Sea, 2004, natural forms take on unnatural shape through the intensity of their realism, and Surrealist touches flirt with Romanticism in River and Sea, 2006, through the dominance of nature, of low horizon, overwhelming heavens, and as infinitesimally small sailing boat alone in the grandeur and vastness of land, sea and sky. Amor is a Romantic, especially in his presentation of the human in awe of the might of nature, be it near the sea and its monsters, in the city, or enclosed in museums. There are also Symbolist influences at work in paintings of the cypresses of Frankston, in The Catman, 1999, or those monstrous forms in Sailing to the West (Evening), 2001, recalling Arnold Böcklin's Island of the Dead, of Ulysses and Homer's mythic monsters. No shadows are cast darkly in MW in the Street. Nor are they present in most other portraits of his friends, fellow artists and of himself, although each is to some degree a continuation of his exploration of images in and of isolation.

1. Fry, G., Rick Amor, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2008, p. 208