Space of the dead

DERELICT carparks, fetid alleyways and the odd crooked road sign gleaming in the moonlight; artists Ian Williams and Nathan Brooker love to document mouldering urban landscapes in thick slathers of oil.

They call the subject matter deadspace: functional areas that have been abandoned and are no longer of use to society.

In a modern update of traditional French open air painting, Williams does “virtual en plein air” by painting dingy scenes from video games like Grand Theft Auto.

“I like examining the relationship, or lack of relationship, that exists between a physical object and its virtual representation — it fascinates me,” he says,

• Alfresco  Run by Ian Williams

“In games like Grand Theft Auto and Dying Light there are lots of non-places like car parks that are no longer used, but are part of the environment.

“I must admit, some games are hard to paint because people are trying to kill you all the time.”

Brooker, meanwhile, likes to visit eerie locations and document them at night.

In a twist for their latest joint-exhibition Deadspace, the pair have decided to swap working methods.

“I found myself creeping about carparks and alleyways in Cannington with a flashlight at night,” laughs Williams.

• Viewpoint by Nathan Brooker

“It was a bit scary at times and I wondered if the cops were going to come over and ask what I was doing.

“But it was great to try a different method of working for a while — it reignites your imagination.”

Oil paintings of “non-places” at night, many monotone, have a surreal and slightly eerie quality. The brain naturally expects the negligible to be represented in ephemeral or modern mediums, not by the traditional grandeur reserved for oils.

Williams, 40, works as a paint technician at Curtin University and says, surprisingly, that oil painting is popular among students, despite the longer drying times compared to acrylics, and the patience and skill required to build up sophisticated layers.

“It’s a fantastic medium and adds a strange beauty to our work,” he says.

Deadspace is at Turner Galleries, Northbridge, until the end of March.


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