In her latest body of work, I was born here, I’ll die here, Greenwood has transposed her translucent free gouache studies into large works in oil. Despite the change in scale, these works retain the immediacy of working in situ at the pub. Luminous pops of colour seem to shimmer out of the darkness, illuminating figures sipping beers or deep in conversation. In these paintings fingers are entwined around glasses brimming with beer or wine, the lines of patterned shirts float around various body shapes. These are figures we seem to know well, even though they are verging on abstract. Greenwood plays with negative space in this body of work, allowing her figures to float and breathe to create a sense of stillness and reflection. These are paintings we want to dive into.
Australian pub culture continues to be a source of fascination for Greenwood. For the artist, this is a timely subject in a world where human connection has been eroded by the pandemic and where our reliance on technology has exacerbated a sense of isolation from each other. A pub provides a space to connect with strangers. In a pub you can let your guard down and conversations can reveal innermost thoughts – where even deeply held secrets can waft to the surface, from climate skepticism to long held political views. And then there is the country pub, where solitary drinkers can still feel a sense of community and can quench their loneliness with a beer.
Behind each work in this exhibition there is a story to tell. Stories overheard in the various pubs that are Greenwood’s subject matter. In The Wake a group of women who had catered for their friend’s wake sit around the table talking about the vegetables that were in season in their gardens. This seemed mundane after the pain of their collective loss. Another work tells the story of a man who was cutting down a tree, which then fell on his sausage dog. The man casually described the scene, but it was apparent that he was deeply wounded by the death of his pet.
These stories and others like it, divulged at the pub in bids for connection and community, form the woven fabric of society and Greenwood consciously attempts to honour these memories through slippery paint.
Holly Greenwood is a Sydney-based artist, whose work is steeped in a uniquely Australian sense of place. Since graduating from COFA in 2011, Greenwood has exhibited extensively within Australia, gaining increasing attention as a contemporary Australian artist. In 2022 she was named a finalist in the prestigious Sir John Sulman Prize and in 2021 she was named a finalist in the Portia Geach Memorial Prize. In 2019 was awarded the Hill End Residency in addition to a finalist position in the highly competitive Brett Whitely traveling art scholarship in 2018 and 2017. In 2022 she presented a major exhibition at Broken Hill City Gallery, Petricor, with artists Ondine Seabrook and Bronte Leighton-Dore.