Artist Profile, Issue 29 2014 -15

Bruce Latimer


I aim to create pictures that present rich visual ideas that have not existed before and whose realisation illuminates a view of our place in the world. I am always looking for visually intense and seductive images that have their own internal logic. I aim for a kind of realism but I introduce discrepancies such as exaggerations of scale or perspective or logically impossible combinations of objects and these, I hope add to a feeling of artifice over observational realism. The idea is to make the impossible look possible but not too possible.

Etching is my medium. I am attracted to its physical intensity. The image sits on the paper but because of the bitten terrain that is the plate, and because of the pressure applied, the paper is transformed so that it is actually molded around the image.

I use the basic linear etching technique to create a framework for my image, but more important to me is the application of tone, made available through the aquatint technique, a method that makes a fine texture on the plate. This texture holds ink and is subtly adjustable.

The imagery in my most recent prints has suggested the use of increasingly strong colour. I apply ink and then wipe it off the top surface of the plate. In some cases I will roll a transparent layer on top of that which can be blended to create another level of complexity.

Two recent prints are Wetsuit and The Coral Sea. They are both the result of a short sailing trip around islands off the south of New Caledonia. I don’t go to places like this looking for imagery. I take snaps and it’s usually when I get home and lay them out that ideas for my prints present themselves.

We visited a small coral island and while my friends were on the beach having drinks as the sun set, I explored and found a rather eerie abandoned campsite with a perished wetsuit draped over a pole. To that I added other visual elements which included a cliff face that looked a bit like President Kennedy. It’s all contained within a kind of Google Maps thought bubble.

The Coral Sea came from an underwater snap I took of what looked like a hovering coral ‘city’. Other ambiguous objects include a fountain and parts of the rock garden from the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Sleeping Bag is a response to the human-as-insect look that I find so suggestive in sleeping bags. I was also struck by a watercolour by the Brisbane artist Anne Wallace which is of an owl looking down at a rather Egyptian looking example of a sleeping bag- as- mummy. Mine is inhabiting a possibly anthropomorphised fig-tree-scape. Again, the fountain appears. It is Kings Cross’s El Alamein fountain. I like it’s surreal ambiguity. Is it a fountain or is it a dandelion? It also has a special resonance for me because I grew up in a house designed by Bob Woodward, who was an army mate of my father. He designed our house as a student. It was not a very good house and ironically, due to cost cutting on the foundations, it was always damp because of water flowing over the rock shelf it was built on.

The discovery of a shattered and collapsing glass house resulted in Everything is Broken. The neatly broken branch in the image appeared soon after I began thinking about the idea on a walk with my dog in the park. A visit to the writer Sasha Grishin wtih his broken ankle completed the picture. The title comes from a song by Bob Dylan. My list of breakage is short, his is long and rambling.

My most recent picture is called Sunset. As I walked through Camperdown Memorial Rest Park in Sydney’s Newtown at dusk I was amazed by the intense yellow aura of the setting sun. The problem of making a visual statement from this phenomenon was solved when I was in my yoga class. I looked up and there on the wall was an electric radiator, hot and glowing. I was reminded of a 1964 painting by the American artist Vija Celmins of a humble heater in a dark grey room. It’s a painterly illusion but you can almost feel the heat. The park in my print is now illuminated and possibly heated by a radiator, or is it the sun? I wasn’t thinking about the politics of fossil fuels but it is a subject in the air and I am not immune to it and so such ideas could be seen to apply to this picture.

Bruce Latimer is represented by Australian Galleries, Sydney and Melbourne and Beaver Galleries, Canberra.

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Bag, 2014, ed 20, etching, 44 x 35 cm


Everything is Broken

Everything is Broken, 2013, ed 20, etching, 53 x 30 cm


Sunset

Sunset, 2014, ed 18, etching, 85 x 31 cm


Wetsuit

Wetsuit, 2014, ed 20, etching, 45.5 x 35 cm