Queensland artist Joe Furlonger came to national prominence in the late 1980s with a series of large-scale figurative paintings inspired by the beach and the sea. His method was highly physical, applying swathes of colour with vigorous sweeps of the brush. For his large figurative ‘fishermen’ and ‘bather’ paintings, Furlonger immersed himself in the styles and techniques of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European artists, learning from their example and adapting those lessons to his own purpose.
Watch: Joe Furlonger’s story
What makes his figurative works unique is that, despite their monumental size, they carry a deep sensitivity: Furlonger has said that they evolved from his return to life drawing ‘to reinvest observation and realism into my painting’. Each figure powerfully inhabits its evocative beachscape, with the sea ever-present in the background.
In 1988, Furlonger’s exposure to European art and culture profoundly affected the direction of his subsequent work, through which he has continued to find creative impetus in the figure and the landscape.
Joe Furlonger ‘Bathers’
Furlonger’s land and seascapes have a deceptively naive quality, characterised by a combination of sketch-like impulsivity and painterly eloquence. In contrast to his figurative works, which come more intuitively, the landscape as subject has proven a greater challenge, necessitating the slow permeation of his consciousness, through much longer engagement, to capture its many moods.
The exhibition ‘Horizons’ explores Furlonger’s practice, from his early engagement with the human figure to his more recent creative compulsion to depict the Australian landscape. At the heart of Joe Furlonger’s 40-year practice is his assured, spontaneous expression of observations, anchored by a keen engagement with the world around him.
Joe Furlonger ‘Fishermen’
‘Joe Furlonger: Horizons’ is in Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery 3 (Kenneth & Yasuko Myer Gallery), and Gallery 14 from 27 August 2022 to 29 January 2023.
Featured image detail: Joe Furlonger / Bathers 1987 / Oil on canvas / 201 x 290cm / Purchased 1988 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Joe Furlonger