Q&A with Adam Oste

Q. Tell us about your recent work…

These works are a continuation of my work last year, exploring the mediated landscapes of areas deemed “natural” such as bush reserves, national parks and nature areas. 

Q. Talk us through your artistic process…

I usually walk or drive to explore an area. Once I’ve chosen a site I would typically create 2-3 quick observational sketches in a little 12 x 10cm book. If I'm happy with the forms, the light and the composition in the drawings I’ll begin my underpainting, using the drawing as a compositional guide. In my studio I typically have up to 10 paintings in the works at different stages of completion. Working with glazed layers of oil paint I push and pull against the colours and fundamental forms of the image. This layering slows as I sense the painting is reaching a finishing point. Sometimes that moment happens unexpectedly, sometimes its an arm wrestle towards finding a point of resolution. 

I’ve been trying to move my paintings closer to the tipping point, where a representation is abstracted beyond recognition.
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Q. You often paint in the Royal National Park and Kurnell. What keeps drawing you back to these places?

These locations in particular are local examples of places with richly layered histories of mediation. Heralding itself to visitors as “the birthplace of modern Australia”, the Kurnell area particularly has a complex history of contested claims of entitlement to the land. Cook's declaration of Kurnell as Commonwealth land, the Cronulla Riots, the localism of surfers in carparks, and the endless serpentine tyre tracks of 4x4s on land gazetted as pristine natural bushland all have problematic assertions of entitlement to the land. I’m particularly drawn to cars. and roads or tracks as both the means and the record of these assertions. I think the repeated visits are also important for me to begin to understand the landscape better; especially its changes, those that are natural and those that are not.

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Q. Your paintings are becoming looser and more abstract. What has been driving this experimentation?

I love paint. I love the way colour and light works in paint. I enjoy the act of painting, the creation of marks, the development of a surface. I can often get carried away in the surface of the work and forget its representational origins. This focus on the physicality of the paint allows me to distil the forms, colour and light of the site. I've been trying to move my paintings closer to the tipping point, where a representation is abstracted beyond recognition. It made sense to me to encourage these moments of collapse when painting landscapes that themselves have fragile illusions of their significance and title annexed to them. 

Q. When you're not painting what do you get up to? 

I also teach art at a primary school, I do plenty of surfing and I love a good bush-walk with my wife. 

Q. What have you been reading, watching and listening to lately?

I've been reading the Bible, I also recently found myself unable to put Ways of Seeing by John Berger down. I watched a fascinating film called The Night Parrot the other day. I've been listening to Paul Kelly, the Go Betweens, Big White’s new record, Miniskirt, Twerps, Middle Kids’ new record, You Beauty, and Ciggie Witch. 

Q: What’s coming up next on the horizon?

I'll be exhibiting with Collab and keeping myself occupied making plenty of art over the next 6 months.