Stieg Persson was one of Melbourne's first post-modern painters. Backmasking – The Art of Stieg Persson launching 18 October will look at 20 years of his art. The exhibition curated by David O'Halloran will provide the opportunity to critically review the ideas of post modernism without the heat and controversy that accompanied it at the time.
This exhibition displays the artist’s eclectic interest in illustration, heavy metal iconography and Dutch still life painting. Persson uses collage to bring together popular and fine art sources in a collision of ideas. In the early 1980s he, like many artists, was concerned to undermine the romanticism that burdened painting and ideas of creativity. He used landscape and signs of transcendent light – the star, sunset, lightening – to discuss this romanticism. In later work, heavy metal iconography comes to the fore. He employed gothic metal symbols as a way of discussing a suburban tribe that, like art itself, have evolved an elaborate visual iconography of their own. His interest in ‘heavy metal’ imagery came from his desire to resuscitate perceived ‘low’ art forms, such as illustration.
Recent paintings combine an interest in 16th century Dutch Still Life painting which was concerned with the transience of life with Australian suburban gardens.
A number of works to be included in the exhibition are based on poems by John Donne that address the themes of God and death. Stieg’s fascination with ‘death’ began in the 1980s with post-modern ideas of the ‘death of the author’ and then through to more traditional fine art interest in human fraility and sickness.
The exhibition presents recent and new works, never exhibited art works, and early works from many private collections.
An illustrated exhibition catalogue features essays by the curator (David O’Halloran), and dramatist and personal friend Joanna Murray-Smith.
The exhibition will then embark on a regional tour to Bendigo Art Gallery, Hamilton Art Gallery, and the Exhibitions Gallery in Wangaratta.