Mostyn Bramley-Moore: Short Stories

Helen Wyatt

In Short Stories, genuine fragments, not false billboards, sing their narratives across a suite of paintings.
Mostyn Bramley-Moore: Short Stories

Mostyn Bramley-Moore Detail of the painting Wooloweyah (2017); courtesy the artist and Watters Gallery

Shot Stories is a survey exhibition of painted works by Mostyn Bramley-Moore - a painter and academic with an impressive national and international profile, including Victorian College of the Arts, Southern Cross University and Queensland College of Art where he has taught for many years collectively.

The artist has had a 40-year connection with the Sydney institution, Watters Gallery and this suite of paintings spanning 1980 - 2017 is testament to that gallery / dealer relationship. Bramley-Moore and Watters separately (and together) have been cultural icons in the Australian painting scene over this whole period. Watters Gallery, itself has been a pivotal cultural institution for more than 50-years, and will sadly close at the end of this year.

Short Stories gives us a taste of the artist’s fascinations, stories and particular places. In his own text accompanying the exhibition, Bramley-Moore references these as fragments that imply a truth.

Some of those stories take us to remote places that speak of history – of colonization (Solomon Islands), displacement (Orkneys) and resistance (Ned Kelly). However, this history is poetically referenced through Bramley-Moore’s considered and yet, at times, seemingly capricious, placement of line, treatment of surface and application of colour.

Other stories settle on the ephemeral moments when day turns dark or leaves shimmer in a breeze. In settling on such moments, Bramley-Moore opens up a world of quiet, dynamic observation. Some of the works have been executed ‘en plein-air’ and have a particular spontaneity and lightness.

The show has been curated with a sensitivity to time, place and formal qualities. As Bramley-Moore himself noted in conversation, the works speak to each other over the decades in a way that even surprised him.

My eyes were drawn immediately to the artist’s works from 2017 that reference the experience of moving out of a world of institutional responsibilities to a life with alternate priorities.

For example, in Green Curtains (2017) he pays tribute to pivotal doorways and curtains - a kind of visual poem or portal - to the works of other painters, in particular de Kooning’s “Doorway to the River” (1960), Velazquez’ “Las Meninas” (1656) and the etching “Woman contemplating a sleeping minotaur” from the Vollard Suite (1933).

This painting of Bramley-Moore serves to convey the physical act of pulling curtains on another life. Miles Davis, manifests in the artist’s choice of colour, and denotes something of this personal transition. He admits to listening to Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” on the “Kind of Blue” album, while working on it.

Mostyn Bramley-Moore, Green Curtains (2017); supplied courtesy the artist and Watters Gallery

The painting, Irish Letter (2003) strokes a grand Australian narrative with a meaty palette. The acknowledgement of Bramley-Moore’s Irish heritage, and his roguish idea of writing a letter to Ned Kelly, immediately connect the viewer to the artist’s own history and its national and art historical context.

Mostyn Bramley-Moore, Irish Letter (2003); supplied courtesy the artist and Watters Gallery

In Spirits (1995) Bramley-Moore has responded to a visit to the Solomon Islands where he encountered, first hand, the spirit-based beliefs expressed in the lives of its people.  As he notes, ‘it is a dark painting responding to the darkness’ that settles when the generator dies each night. There is one luminous white outline among many very dark ones. It is easy to connect Bramley-Moore's words, ‘Plenty of opportunity for spirits to move around’. How great was it that he could visit the island of Ysabel, where the men are largely called Mostyn.

Mostyn Bramley-Moore, Spirits (1995); supplied courtesy the artist and Watters Gallery

The exhibition reminds the artist and, in turn the viewer, of the power of image to invoke memory and visceral experience. As Bramley-Moore notes, ‘looking at a painting is like re-imagining a year and place’.  

Mostyn Bramley-Moore takes us on an intimate journey that is sensitive to fragments, to the ephemeral and the felt, that in turn help us to ponder issues beyond the particular.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Mostyn Bramley-Moore: Short Stories – paintings from 1980 – 2017

7 – 24 February 2018

Watters Gallery

109 Riley St, Sydney


What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Helen Wyatt is a visual artist undertaking higher degree research in Jewellery and Small Objects at Queensland College of Arts, Griffith University. Her own practice draws on fragments and traces found in places where industry and nature intersect.