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Philip Trusttum's Visual Vocabulary

In 1980 Gordon H. Brown curated "Philip Truttum Selected Works 1962-1979", exhibited at the Sarjeant Gallery, P O Box 637 Wanganui, New Zealand.

The following are selected sections of his essay.

"In a way Trusttum's paintings can be likened to pages from a notebook of personal experiences. Although they are the product of specific events and personal involvements, Trusttum has the ability to maintain a sufficient distance between these experiences and what finally appears in the paintings for the impartial scrutiny a public who must interpret them as they will. In this way Trusttum's visual vocabulary escapes the intimacy of its origins to enter a realm that edges on timelessness."

"In Trusttum's paintings and drawings there exists a ploygot of influences, some reasonably identifiable, others only accessible through discussion with the painter. For the most par tit is less a case of which artists have influenced Trusttum so much as what face the has chosen to glean from other artists work in order to turn this to his own personal purposes. A study of artists like Matisse, Miro, Pollock or Ellsworth Kelly may initiate some line of thought that, during the artistic process of being redefined and put to use in Trusttum's own painting, can lose much of the stylistic characteristics inherent in the work from which this process of assessment originated."

In a simplified abstraction of his career to 1980 Brown identified eight possible phases:

1960 - 64 Formative Years Many ideas are tried out, subjects largely landscape in origin with an increasing disposition towards expressionistic treatment

1964 - 66 Shift from landscape to figures and more personal images (Trusttum spent 8 months in Australia

1967 - 70 Tendency to have a single background colour, images more clearly delineated, detail often concentrated into selected areas and figures are absent

1970 - 72 No clear demarcation but single colour background is less dominant, images are broader in treatment and greater pictorial movement in shape and depth. Towards the end of this period pieces of real material were adhered to the works

1972 Three dimensional constructions, large, combined with other objects. Trusttum spent three months in France, and became interested in van Gogh's paintings

1973-75 Return to Christchurch, areas of colour and brush work reduced to short strokes of post-impressionist nature. Suburban landscape interest.

1975-79 Trusttum returned to France for three months. A softer overall treatment and stronger linear element emerges on unstretched unsized canvas. Colour areas took on almost graphic quality. The use of "writing" is introduced.

1979 Larger scale paintings

Style and Signature: The Paintings of Philip Trusttum by Peter Leech (Selected sections)

"...a richness of artistic personality"

"To study a Trusttum painting is to reconfirm our, and his, humanity: to feel party to turbulence's of feeling, to urgent desires to command the existential profusion and confusion, to the necessity of depressing those haunting eruptions of the soul, to the need reflectively to contain ourselves."

"The paintings of Philip Trusttum interestingly escape both the conceptual dislocation and the artistic dispossession. For what is centrally true of Trusttum's art over the years is that it has never become bound to anything recognisable as a Trusttum style. There is no disindividuating stylistic epiphenomenon associable with Trusttum's paintings; and so, quite markedly, there is no opportunity for others to paint in Trusttum's style, to paint like Trusttum."

".....It is not style which prevails, one wants to say, but signature. And perhaps - at least for the moment - the concept of signature has a greater articulable and specific content in discussions of art than the concept of style. Certainly in discussions on the paintings of Philip Trusttum it makes more sense to talk of a Trusttum signature than a Trusttum style."

"What is the personality of these Trusttum paintings? Well, I suggest, there is first what we call ‘warmth' of personality - most evident in Trusttum's equivalent of what Renoir called his 'rainbow palette': clear tines at high intensity, and an aversion to a gloomy, brooding ranges of hues. There is a a pitch of animation and exuberance - evident in the quick, darting movements across the face of the paintings."

"There is the glorious carnival whirl of ideas and thoughts as you witness a mind turning excitedly one way, then suddenly taking a surprising direction another: an intoxicating tumble of conversation in the way the paintings speak to us."

"And there is a generosity of spirit: these huge embracing canvases know nothing of that taunt and tense etiquette which so often constrains us socially: they seem, rather, like big visual hugs offered spontaneously. The paintings have a personality which is, in a word, engaging. There is nothing cold here, nothing aloof, nothing pompous, nothing pretentious."

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