Graeme Drendel Essay

Published Wednesday, January 2, 2002

The figure in art has often been used as a 'conceptual mask' to hide or subtly present an idea or context in a visual manner. The allegory is one process of masking; historically it has been a practice, which allow the artist the ability to express difficult and complex concepts as in the case of medieval art.

By decoding the story a far more complex story or theme emerges, for example stories of past kings, that might relate to the political or social leader of the time.

The human form has been used as an allegorical device that conveys many ideas and beliefs. Drendel's work demonstrates the power of allegorical narratives in painting; the human figure is the key element to his work.

The treatment of the figure in Drendel's paintings becomes a character for a setting or scene orchestrated by the artist himself, reality and imagination merge. His work transfixes the psychological state of the artists sharing the imaginative state of the artists through his development of imagery. He visualises what is personal and creates a number of settings encourage symbolic interpretation.

Drendel embraces the tradition of the figure in the landscape, however he applies a double reading to the work by mediating the subject matter with an imaginative perception that goes beyond realism. The figure takes on the character in a drama; the setting is often surreal. The subjects are stripped of their familiar environments and placed in isolated landscapes. Their attire suggests a specific identity or status and serves to heighten the incongruent nature of the event. The figure placed in a particular setting alludes to a deeper meaning that references the unconscious. The primacy of his work refers to his intuitive sense of developing the pictorial plane.

He constructs 'visual anecdotes' that give the audience a glimpse into the life of the artist, in which the human body is employed as sign that highlights the artist's experiences, imagination and aspirations. The settings could be viewed as personal psychodrama, where each character proposes a particular identity and behind this is the suggestion of an allegorical element. Each title points to a deeper reading of the work, higlighting his interest into the philosophical question of aesthetics and existence. Beneath his lucid titles lies a complex world of critical thought, which is consolidated with a technical virtuosity in the handling of painting and formulation of composition.

By Craig Malyon

Questions on the Artist

  • Drendel's paintings appear to be depicting an event or activity. His narratives are loaded with symbols and a variety of potential meanings. Select one of the paintings and give an account of the narrative constructed by the artist.
  • Do you think his paintings are Surreal?
  • What is the purpose of placing his subject in a isolated landscape?
  • Drendel sees his practice as a 'journey' - can you discuss this approach to his artmaking?
  • What is meant by the term 'limpid colour palette'?
  • Critically analyse one of the painting in this process attempt to unravel the significance of his title which assist in fabrication of the conceptual resolution within the artwork.

Artists Connections

Historical Contemporary
Raphael David Keeling
Rene Magritte James Gleeson
William Hogarth Garry Shead
Johannes Vermeer Gerhard Richter
Pieter Brughel John Young

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