What a funny old fellow is Pumfrey,
He paints all manner of shite,
He likes his Belgian linen,
And Kwinana’s his favourite place,
Which is hardly so very surprising,
He’s a really obsessed detailist,
What a painterly fellow is Pumfrey,
Pumfrey the factory loving realist!
Terraform II, Turner Galleries
Garry Pumfrey’s new exhibition of photorealistic works, Terraform II (Turner Galleries, until 14 June), delivers a deliciously tart rejoinder to the mindless boomtown rhetoric that Western Australians are currently immersing themselves in.
In a style not dissimilar to American hyperrealist Denis Peterson, Pumfrey’s fiendishly accomplished frozen-time renderings of smokestacks, silos, factories and chemical refineries effectively neuters the motive power behind these industrial concerns, leaving a perceptual void in the viewer that allows the entity itself to expand and finally be viewed with an unnervingly brutal clarity.
Tellingly, references to humanity are almost completely absent from Pumfrey’s latest works, the only acknowledgement being a solitary tradie’s ute in one of the pieces.
Unlike his last exhibition, For a few delis more (2006), Pumfrey has eschewed any conceits of nostalgia or whimsy in his subject matter and instead gone straight for the jugular, selecting subjects of terrifying mundanity and ugliness that challenge the viewer to find a deeper truth by unscrambling perception, reality and illusion.
Pumfrey’s new works are also far more accomplished technically. His skilled use of broad swathes of colour and his almost non-existent intimations of detail give the works a confidence that was less evident in his For a few delis more series.
With these new works, Pumfrey may be well placed to assume the mantle of Australia’s foremost contemporary photorealist, and with photorealism lurching back into popularity, he may soon reap some reward for his mind-bogglingly painstaking efforts.