William Holman Gallery is pleased to present The White Turning, the second solo exhibition of Australian artist Peter Bonner at the gallery. The exhibition brings together a series of charcoal drawings on wood, intimate collage works, and oil paintings on panel and canvas. Peter Bonner’s works are drawn from memories of his childhood and youth in Brisbane, Australia, as well as his travels throughout the Western United States. The imagery is primal and universal: the ocean, the forest, the desert, fire, a young man and woman kissing.
Each work in the exhibition speaks to a specific moment in Bonner’s life. In The Kiss, a charcoal drawing on wood, two profiled faces meet. The faces are darkened and tanned, the charcoal flowing like lapping water across their cheeks. This image is a moment from Bonner’s teenage years, meeting a girl at the beach in Australia. At the charged moment of a first kiss between the two, the girl yanked abruptly on his ear, explaining afterwards that he would never forget the kiss because of the unexpected pain. The at first confusing and upsetting experience transformed into a profound and fond moment in Bonner’s coming of age, an foreshadowing of life’s experiences. In another drawing, the same teenagers reappear, sitting on a surfboard in the ocean, talking. Memory is a continually evolving phenomenon within this body of work.
Bonner revisits specific memories repeatedly, shifting media from collage to drawing and oil painting. The formal composition of these memories reconfigure as Bonner’s memories deepen or renew with contemplation. Many of the works in the exhibition were inspired by Tim Winton’s collection of short stories The Turning. A weaving narrative set in Australia, the stories dwell on adolescent exploration, drugs, religion, the adult effects of childhood abuse, and the spiritual and restorative capacity of nature. The novel conjured many of Bonner’s own overlapping childhood memories in Australia, the child of alcoholic, strictly Catholic parents and the incumbent need for rebellion. In The Bridge boys lie under a bridge, as trucks rumble overhead. Sharp, geometric lines embody the cacophonous and exhilarating sounds of the trucks overhead, and suggest the youthful desire for proximity to danger. In Bonfire, a night scene rendered with dramatic chiaroscuro, the lashing bright flames of the bonfire are surrounded by the revelry of a group of friends, exploring and seeking their own limitations.
The White Turning suggests the fluid nature of the past, conjuring Bonner’s lived history, but also the shared human experiences of childhood and adolescence. The works attempt to bring these memories new and transformative significance in the present moment.
Peter Bonner was born in Brisbane Australia, where, at the age of eight years old, he won a city wide drawing competition open to children of all ages. He has lived and studied in Brisbane, Melbourne, New York, Russia, Italy, Madrid, and London. Bonner received his BFA at Monash University in Melbourne, and post graduate diploma from New York Studio School. In 2010, he received a Masters in Fine Art from University of Melbourne, for his work on perception, memory and the primitive. Bonner has won the Dobell prize, Australia’s pre-eminent prize for drawing and was a finalist for the Wynn prize, Australia’s pre-eminent prize for landscape painting. Bonner’s painting in the Wynn Prize precipitated a scholarship to study in New York, where he now lives.