40 years of painting brings Ken full circle
PERCHED on a stool at my kitchen bench, Ken Gailer gets a clear view of the painting hanging on the lounge room wall.
He says he likes what he sees.
My heart does a little skip, not just because I love what I see, but because the internationally-acclaimed artist is looking at one of his past works - and he's smiling.
Various Pleasures, painted in 2007 during Ken's tromp-l'eoil period, has stood sentinel over our lounge room since the Christmas morning I unwrapped it to discover I now had my very own Gailer.
Eleven years later, seeing and hearing the artist himself appreciating the piece gives the framed canvas - and my lounge room wall - an added lustre.
"I love looking at my own work,” he says with a grin.
"Just to walk in and see them on people's walls is a great experience.
"Sometimes I look at them and can't believe I actually did that. I think, 'Wow, that's great'.”
That joy in his own genius with the brush now spans 40 years and, to mark the milestone, Ken is showcasing his work from 1977 to the present in Full Circle - 4 Decades of Revision opening in Gympie Regional Gallery at 1.30pm this Saturday.
The exhibition comprises work from Ken's own collection with a few pieces from private collections.
"It's a four-decade survey of my work,” he said.
"I've had these paintings sitting in my studio - some of them up to 30 years.
"I decided I wanted them to see the light of day, to see them on a gallery wall to see how my work has gone over the 40 years.
"And it's nice to acknowledge that I've actually had a career of being a professional artist for 40 years.”
Ken's interest in painting took hold in his mid-20s while he was working as a graphic artist in Sydney.
"I was working in an advertising agency and had the opportunity to visit galleries in my lunch hours,” he said.
"They had extended lunch hours in those days. A working lunch could go to 10pm and then you'd get a taxi home. Advertising agencies had money back then!
"In those days I was drawing all the time and doing the odd painting.
"I was going to art galleries and seeing wonderful exhibitions and I decided that was what I wanted to do.
"My first exhibition was in 1977 in Paddington in Sydney. I was 26.”
A year later, Ken gave up his agency job to work solely as an artist, and he, wife Jeanette their children moved to Caloundra. Since 1981, the Gailers have called Gympie home.
"Gympie has been a great place for me to work from - since moving here I've been exhibiting in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Singapore, Lasting Impressions Gallery in Kenilworth and Gympie Regional Gallery.
"This will be my 37th exhibition and the third I've held in Gympie.
"I love the Gympie gallery - it's a wonderful gallery.”
A self-proclaimed maximalist, Ken believes more is not enough.
His works are concoction of grids, images, dot patterns and abstract flourishes and his latest exhibition includes everything from post-modern neo-pop pin up or Renaissance-inspired still life scenery, and is full of sensuous colour and rich imagery.
"The show brings together most of my series of work from the past 40 years and will look like the work of five or six artists,” he said.
"All the series run into each other - they overlap - except probably for one very abstract series I did in the early to mid-80s which is very heavily textured work.”
About five Gailer series will be missing from the Gympie exhibition, simply because Ken no longer has any of these works.
"They're now in collections in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and it'd be impossible to find them.
"I tried to work out how many paintings I've done over the years - I think probably 800. I've not even got 40 at home so the rest are in private collections.
"I've got some paintings I can't part with and, of course, some that don't sell.
"This exhibition isn't a commercial show, but usually my favourite painting in a show doesn't sell anyway. I'm always really surprised. I think, 'My God, I can't believed that didn't sell'.”
As the title suggests, the latest Gailer exhibition brings the artist full circle which, he says, could be a reaction to retiring from his other life's passion - surfing.
"My first exhibition in Sydney in '77 was seascapes and this one is seascapes.
"I've tried to analyse it - why have I gone back to seascapes?
"I only started doing them again in the past 3 ½ years since I gave up surfing, so I can only think it's because of my love of the ocean and the reaction to giving up surfing.
"For many years, along with my pop work, I've also worked on landscapes.
"I'm very interested in clouds because of their abstract qualities. They're constantly changing.
"That's part of the reason I've gone back to seascapes - the constantly moving, changing aspects. The mood changes all the time, so does the ocean. It's an ever-changing thing.”
Forty years of painting have taken Ken through periods of still life, textural abstraction, trompe-l'oeil (using realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions), landscapes/seascapes.
"I've got a restless spirit,” he said. "I like to try new techniques and I like to paint what I want to paint.
"A lot of major galleries want their artists to paint the same throughout their careers but I've always painted exactly what I've wanted to paint.
"I'm always looking for inspiration and inspiration comes from looking at other people's work whether it's renaissance, classical or contemporary.
"But it's mainly contemporary for me. To get inspiration, I can stand looking at a painting for hours.
"I love Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Vermeer and when I was in Europe last year saw some of Boticelli's paintings. I'd only seen him in print but to see them in the flesh was mind-boggling.
"I went to all the major contemporary exhibitions in Italy, France and Amsterdam and it was wonderful.”
As he prepares for the opening of Full Circle - Full Circle - 4 Decades of Revision, Ken still recognises the young Gailer of 40 years ago.
"I recognise a deep desire to paint. Just to put paint to canvas. That was always my goal - to make beautiful things. Even with my dark, grungy still life period - I think they were beautiful.
"I hope my art will be admired, looked at and treasured in another 100 years. I can't see why it wouldn't be.”
Unlike surfing, Ken can't ever see himself not painting.
"I hope to drop dead in my studio - either that or while I'm travelling.
"There's a lot more art to see in the world.”
Win your own Gailer
ONE of Ken Gailer's spectacular seascapes is being raffled in aid of Little Haven Palliative Care.
Little Haven business manager Sue Manton described the donation of the painting as "incredibly generous”.
"It's a beautiful piece and we are very grateful for his generous donation,” she said.
Mrs Manton said tickets are $10 each with only a 350 being number being sold.
"Tickets will be on sale at the (Gympie Regional) Gallery for the duration of his exhibition Full Circle - 4 Decades of Revision and then available from Little Haven for a week leading up to our biennial garden party event Springtime at Springhalls on September 15 where it will be drawn,” she said.
Long table dinner
KEN Gailer will be joining Gympie Regional Gallery for an intimate dinner event on Friday 10 August.
Guests will have the opportunity to speak with Ken and understand the inspiration for his latest works.
Tickets for the Long Table Dinner: A Walk in New York event can be purchased directly from the Gympie Regional Gallery by calling 5481 0733.Tickets are $45 a head. RSVP August 3.