Nick Pont’s style is quintessentially Australian, and so are the stories he tells. He cites, among others, Sidney Nolan and Brett Whiteley as artistic influences, as well as author Tim Winton. The painters’ influences are noticeable, while Winton’s ideas of character mystique and cultural escapism are highly visible in Pont’s work.
Since moving from Sydney to New South Wales’ Mid-North Coast, Pont has gained more space in his studio, and subsequently his mind. His work has been able to expand on to larger canvases, while still maintaining his ink practice en plein-air as well as in the studio, rather than in a small Sydney space. There is breathing room in his new works, landscapes with lone figures inhabiting them, while the expanse of hills and palm trees replaces the urgency of the city.
Utopian Dialogue includes works on paper and oil paintings, with landscapes exploring Pont’s ‘idea of utopia and the dialogue between various environmental, spiritual and social elements’. The figures in some works seem representational, like stand-ins blending into the landscape and providing anchors and reference points for the viewer. They meld with their surroundings, spreading into them with elongated limbs, like tree branches growing into picture plane. Unlike Pont’s last exhibition, Ideals and Other Stories, Utopian Dialogue, for the most part, is less driven by linear narrative. The images we see are like snapshots of a single moment, while seemingly evolving and moving in front of our eyes. The elements are in motion while the moment is still.
Reflection in Landscape is the largest painting in the exhibition. A winding river cuts through an earthy green landscape, bare, scraggly trees scattered along its escarpment. Warm afternoon sunlight creeps over rolling mountains in the background and the bust of a ghostly figure stands alone amid the blue of the river in the foreground. With no clear outline, the figure bleeds into the landscape, connected to it with a line growing out of its forehead and expanding like a plume of yellow smoke. The work speaks to Pont’s idea of Utopia: open spaces, connection to a beautiful landscape, and escape from the city; it does, however, have a dark side to it. There is something lonely about the figure, the finger-like branches of leaf-less trees reaching, with the vast land around him almost stiflingly empty – but for a house in the mountains surrounded by nature.
Utopian Dialogue is a conversation between Pont’s ideals and the rationality that creeps into the work. Each painting begins with serenity and beatific landscapes while ominous undertones develop under the surface, often around the figures that are planted in the scenery. Space opposes loneliness, nature and wilderness overwhelm as the artists explores his surroundings in a conversation around his personal Utopia.
Works from Utopian Dialogue have been show at Kunstverein Gallery, The New Standard Gallery and the Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award.