Friday 20 November 2009

Ricky Swallow

It’s rare these days to see the level of craftsmanship that Australian artist Ricky Swallow exercises with his sculptural works with wood. Paper bags, rucksacks, car tyres and even a sleeping bag are painstakingly carved from woods such as tulip, jelutong, black walnut and English lime to beautiful, tactile effect.  The level of detail is fantastic, and making complicated folds of ‘fabric’ fall realistically or representing a snake intertwined with the strap of a cycle helmet are real feats of skill. He also tackles more traditional subject matter exploring death and mortality, and  skulls and skeletal figures are recurring themes, referencing the classic subjects portrayed in Vanitas paintings. The impressive level of detail in his magnum opus, 2004’s Killing Time - a large kitchen table with a rumpled tablecloth and various dishes seemingly abandoned during preparation, complete with fish and seafood scattered across it - would perhaps give the great Grinling Gibbons a run for his money. 

Swallow has also created a series of bronzes of different panels scattered with gunshot which are really interesting. Reflecting the idle, mindless diversions of bored youth whiling away endless days, they hint at the slow passage of time which his more representative explores more obviously.  

Now based in Los Angeles, Swallow also paints watercolours – portraits, or studies of skeletons in muted tones – which are similar in feel to the work of Karen Kilimnik or Elizabeth Peyton, but these don’t feel as special or immediate as his sculptural work.

Apple, 2000

Fig.1, 2008

Younger Than Yesterday, 2006

Rehearsal For Retirement, 2008

The Days Aren't Different Enough #1, 2009

Together Is The New Alone, 2004

Killing Time, 2004

Killing Time, 2004 (Detail)

The Days Aren't Different Enough #2, 2009

Salad Days, 2005

Fig.2, 2008

History Of Holding, 2007

History Of Holding, 2007 (Detail)

The Days Aren't Different Enough #3, 2009

Minor Threat, 2003

Private Dancer, 2002

Everything Is Nothing, 2003

Sleeping Range, 2002

All images © Ricky Swallow

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