It is the role of the Drill Hall Gallery to exhibit the work of talented, established contemporary artists. To this end, it is a pleasure to be presenting the work of Geoffrey Bartlett, one of Australia's most creative and innovative sculptors.
Geoffrey Bartlett studied sculpture at RMIT then took a Masters in Fine Arts on a Harkness Fellowship at Columbia University, New York. He subsequently lectured in sculpture at Deakin University, RMIT, the Victorian College of the Arts and Monash University. For the last decade he has devoted himself full time to his sculpture. During the period that he was studying sculpture at RMIT, most of his contemporaries and mentors were doing figurative work. It was at this early point in his artistic career that he decided that, while he respected figuration, the challenge of abstraction was more suited to his creative temperament.
Most of the works in this exhibition were executed after a trip that Bartlett took to Europe a few years ago. It was a journey that was to have a compelling effect on him and resulted in a reassessment of his work. He became focused on the detail and material elements of art that he had first encountered many years before - the glaze on a Renaissance plate, the riveting on a suit of armour, the frame on a 14th century triptych 1 . This presented him with a new creative challenge: to fuse these diverse cultural references into a cohesive sculptural statement.
As can be seen from the works in this exhibition, Bartlett's sculptures are characterised by careful surface treatment and meticulous attention to detail. The result, in the artist's words, is that "the intimacy of the surfaces entices the viewer to assess it so minutely that the wholeness of the work is lost in the abstractedness of its detail" 2. This is a principal feature of Bartlett's monumental, stainless steel and bronze sculpture Fusion on the Faculty of Engineering building here at the Australian National University.
Bartlett's sculptures are elegant statements of his ideas and values. He feels that "one of the great challenges for an artist is to harness the inevitable refinement that a work requires without diminishing the complexity and potency of the ideas embodied in the work" 3. The sculptures in this exhibition show that he has met that challenge.
The Gallery would like to thank Geoffrey Bartlett for accepting our invitation to exhibit and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch A.C. D.B.E. for her generous support of the exhibition. Thanks are also due to Elena Taylor and John Buckley for their scholarly contributions to the catalogue and to Tony Oates for his curatorial input and management of every aspect of the exhibition.
Director, Drill Hall Gallery, The Australian National University