A Surface Paradise, Solo Catalogue Statement, 2006

Joyous Vibrancy – A Surface Paradise

Edition of 1500

In Werner’s previous works the urban environment has been seen through the ideas of the sublime as it originated in the early German Romantic Movement. These new works while still located within the urban mis-en-scene and falling within the parameters of Werner’s continuing search for the sublime in everyday experience, are viewed through the optics of the film or still camera lens and the art historical context of Orphism when painters on both sides of the Atlantic such as Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Robert Deluney and the painter-film maker-animator Oscar Fischinger attempted to formulate an optically based system of painting that portrays the frenzied flux and energy of the city. As Robert Deluney wrote to August Macke in 1912 ‘Vision of movement and movement of vision. It was no longer a question of representing this or that displacement of form but of bringing the spectators eyes into a circulation without end’.

CityLights 2, Three Red Lights Oil on canvas 1015 x 1015mm 2006

However it is the work of Oscar Fischinger that these paintings of Werner’s owe the greatest debt. After working on abstract films with Fritz Lang in Berlin, Fischinger moved to America in the 1930s where he worked briefly on the animation for Bach’s Toccata and Fugue section of Walt Disney’s masterpiece, Fantasia. It is at the end of this sequence, where the blooms of glorious colour pulsate in time with Bach’s transcendent music that we find echoed all these years later in Werner’s paintings.

CityLights 7, Blooms in Blue Oil on canvas 1015 x 1015mm 2006
It is just this combination of optics and music that so eloquently sums up these new works. For these paintings are not just about the optics of the film camera they are also filled with music. These are paintings that fizz and shimmer on the wall, their patterns dance and shimmy across the canvas and they make you think of jazz riffs, syncopations and bursts of sacred organ music. Their rhythms capture you and I find myself thinking of the song Colour and Light from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George, (about the great pointillist painter George Surat’s and his painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette) and how the words and music echo the pointillism of Surat’s painting as they punctuate, run and tumble into one another; “Colour and light …there is only colour and light…yellow and white…just blue and yellow and white…blue, blue, blue, blue…joins with orange…more red…and a little more red, red, red, red…orange and red…purple and white…colour and light, all that colour and light, its only colour and light”.

In fact these works are full of the sensations of urban life. From driving around the city on a wet summers night when the flux and movement of bright lights and neon is captured in haloed spots of colour that dance around the windscreen, magnified and blurred by the rain and humidity to the far more pagan ritual of bursts of strobing colour spinning around the denizens of the dance club.

CityLights 6, Blooms Oil on canvas 1015 x 1015mm 2006

However the urban environment is not all in these paintings. The natural environment is also there as an echo of Werner’s earlier paintings of approaching thunderstorms over suburban skylines and the brooding sea of Deception Bay. The expanding and contracting blooms of colour suggest both pulsating natural growth and explosive urban energy. As the American artist Arthur Dove wrote so eloquently in 1927’s An Idea about his urban and nature based abstractions “I would like to take wind and water and sand as a motive and work with them, but it has to be simplified in most cases to colour and force lines and substances, just like music has done with sound”.

Clouds Dispersion Oil on canvas 1200 x 440mm 2006
Ben Byrne