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Museum of Contemporary Art Australia opens first major museum exhibition of the work of Matthys Gerber
Matthys Gerber, Self Portrait, 2002, Collection of the University of Queensland, purchased 2005, image courtesy and © the artist, photo: Carl Warner.

SYDNEY.- The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia presents the first major museum exhibition of the work of Sydney artist Matthys Gerber. Exploring how his ideas shift in time and context yet continually push at the traditions of painting in unexpected ways, the exhibition juxtaposes works from the past and the present, rather than chart a chronological line through his impressive thirty-year career.

Curated by MCA Senior Curator Natasha Bullock, the exhibition draws on Gerber’s diverse and contrasting practice to showcase his influence on contemporary painting. From photorealism to fluid abstraction, portraits and still lifes, his interests remain wide ranging and his approach incessantly experimental. The Rorschach motif, in particular, reappears in his paintings in varying colours, sizes and styles that morph into different physical forms, from the canvas to the wall.

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, says: “The MCA is delighted to be presenting the work of Matthys Gerber. His bold, colourful and surprising paintings always challenge and excite, and his exhibition comes at a time when painting is again experiencing a moment of critical self-reflection.”

Largely self-taught, from the beginning of his career Gerber sought to understand the languages and histories of painting. He came to prominence in Australia during the late 1980s when painting was experiencing an international renaissance. In his work, he has sought to revitalise most painting genres – including portraiture, landscape, still life, text-work and abstraction – and within each he has mobilised various techniques, from fine realistic details to the impasto effects of gestural abstraction. At the centre of his process of reinvention, ideas transform into paint to wrestle with the fusion of two perceived sides of painting – the figurative and the abstract.

To articulate this tension, the exhibition space has been architecturally designed with walls that reference a Rorschach ink blot in geometric form. The mirroring and doubling effects created by the walls translate a central motif in Gerber’s practice into three dimensional forms. The walls also enable conversations between works from different periods and in various styles to demonstrate the changing experiences and sexual energies of Gerber’s paintings.

The exhibition includes two works from the MCA Collection: a painting by the renowned Pupunya Tula artist George Tjungurrayi and another by the pioneering conceptual artist Tim Johnson, when he collaborated with Tommy Stevens Tjakamarra. Also included are an original photograph of an Yves Klein performance and an original print by Georges Mathieu, both from the artist's personal collection. These works demonstrate some of the many sources informing Gerber’s own practice: from Tjungurrayi’s shimmering line work and Johnson's collaborative processes to the all-over explosive technique of Mathieu and finally to the expression of painting as bodily in Klein’s performance.

MCA Senior Curator Natasha Bullock concludes: “An adventurous genre-hopper, Matthys Gerber’s works entwine, repeat, mirror, hide and transform their sources.”

Matthys Gerber was born in 1956 in Delft, The Netherlands and migrated to Australia in 1971. He has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally, including an early survey exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide in 1998. Gerber is presently Senior Lecturer of Painting at the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. He lives and works in Sydney.

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