Sundowner takes its name from the informal British term for a drink taken at the end of the day whilst watching the sun set. It is also a historical, colloquial, from the Australian and New Zealand vocabulary, referring to a transient worker who turns up to a farm too late in the day to work, but still partakes in the food and drink provided by his employer. In both instances, the sun’s performance plays out with a beverage in hand.
For Belem Lett, the term speaks to a contemplative, ‘in-between’ state of being, a transitional state in which the day draws to an end and the mind comes to rest. This moment is often brief, mirroring the fleeting nature of light in an interstitial space of being, and the shifting nature of colour as its source is removed.
Sundowner begins at the end of Lett’s previous exhibition Burnouts, a show in which the stop/start of brush moments dragged and zipped across blown-out white backgrounds of chalky marble dust and gesso. Sundowner pushes this white light further, emphasising it with a new, shifting light. The paintings in this exhibition also continue Lett’s exploration of methodological simplicity – the loading of a brush with novel colour combinations and repeated gradations. These methods are used to create a shifting sense of light and allude to the various interactions that we have with various light sources, be it the turning of day to night, the comforting guidance of light in the darkness, or the internal glow of our various screens.
What happens to your paintings when the sun goes down? What rules guide Lett’s world of gestural, tubular forms as they navigate an impenetrable void? Both questions engage with a melancholic sentiment with no specific answer. The ‘sundowner’ moment aligns with these material contemplations – a time when we pause and reconsider the world and our movements within it.
At the end of the day, take a sundowner, watch the world melt away and let the darkness fill your home. The sun has gone down.
Belem Lett is a Sydney-based artist and former Director of Wellington St Projects (2013-2019). Lett graduated with a BFA (hons Class1 ) in 2008 and an MFA in 2012, both from College of Fine Arts, UNSW. He is a regular finalist in major Australian prizes including the Waverley Art Prize (2021)The Glover Prize (2019,2020), Arthur Guy Memorial Prize (2019), The Elaine Bermingham National Watercolour Prize (2017- Highly Commended, 2020), The Paddington Art prize (2016, 2018- Highly Commended), and the NAB emerging Artist award (2014). In 2011 Lett held a residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, and in 2010 received the Brett Whitely Travelling Art Scholarship. He has exhibited extensively both locally and internationally, and has participated in art fairs including Spring 1883 (Melbourne) and a solo presentation at Sydney Contemporary with Edwina Corlette