Launceston artist exhibited at Stllwater restaurant

The decor of Launceston’s Stillwater Restaurant is being taken in a new direction as part of a collaboration with Tasmanian artist Josh Foley.

A selection of pieces from the 2011 Glover Prize-winning painter will be displayed from August until October, giving diners an insight into his recent work.

It’s not the first time Foley has exhibited his work at the site, having previously had paintings shown in the gallery which preceded the restaurant. 

He said it was an opportunity for more exposure in Northern Tasmania.

“My gallery is in Hobart, so I don’t usually have many shows up here,” he said.

“I participate in group shows at Sawtooth, and I had an installation as part of Mona Foma, but it’s been a bit all over the place.

“It’s good to get some works showing up here.”

Born in Launceston, Foley holds a Bachelor of Contemporary Art (honours) from the University of Tasmania and has been exhibiting since 2002. 

His works have featured in galleries throughout Australia, as well as in major collections, including the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Monash University and State Library of Victoria.

Not only has he won the Glover Prize, but Foley also took home the Tasmanian Art Award in 2014, and was a finalist in the 2010 RACT Portrait Prize.

He is known for his distinctive textural style, which challenges viewers’ perceptions of reality. 

Art Gallery of New South Wales International Art Curator and head judge of the 2011 Glover Prize, Anthony Bond OAM, described Foley’s art as “talking about the whole history of the conventions of western painting”.

Foley said much of his work was about letting his audience make up their own minds about what they are seeing.

“Predominately the texture represented in my images is an illusion and the paintings surfaces are flat,” he said.

“Recently, I have been interchanging passages of represented surface qualities with actual texture to further complicate the visual situation.

“Using various modelling techniques and impasto painting, I seek to transform the imagination of the audience so they must decide upon what exactly it is they are seeing and potentially feeling.

“This allows the viewer to question not only what is before them, but the larger physical schema of our existence.”

He said the space where his works were viewed also played a part in how they were interpreted.

“The different way the works can be perceived is not always evident if the viewer cannot observe them in the space that they hang,” he said.

“This trick of the eye I work with is not to deceive, but to confuse the expectations and bodily position of the audience.

“I want to disrupt the usual relationships that someone viewing a painting may have to create a schism within their mind and in turn, the corporeal reality they are situated in.”

Since winning the 2011 John Glover Prize, Foley has been commissioned to do a variety of public art projects

Last year he completed a pet-inspired mural for the Animal Medical Centre, and he has also done outdoor work for Taroona High School and Latrobe High School. 

The artist is in the midst of a community art project in East Devonport involving a car park.

Using various modelling techniques and impasto painting, I seek to transform the imagination of the audience so that they must decide upon what exactly it is they are seeing and potentially feeling.

Josh Foley

He said the process was “really exciting”.

“I’m working with members of the community and also students at the school to spruce up the car park,” he said. 

“We are at the brainstorming stage at the moment, where we have just been working on some of the different designs.

“I’ll be commuting back and forth to help facilitate the project. 

“The participants will do the actual painting and I will work into what they have done.

“It’ll be about making it special, so they have something to be proud of.”

There is a similar sense of community support in Foley’s Stillwater exhibition.

His residency comes a month after Stillwater’s sister restaurant, Black Cow announced it would show the work of Tasmanian contemporary Aboriginal artist Vicki West.

Curator Ralf Haertel said having featured artists for the restaurants accomplished two objectives.

“Firstly, we want to support local Tasmanian artists,” he said.

“It’s also allows us to enhance the fine dining experience of our customers through stronger cultural links.”

Black Cow Bistro and Stillwater co-owner and marketing manager Kim Seagram said the works allowed for a “richer, more vibrant experience in the space”.  

It’s a somewhat different experience for Foley, who admitted he is used to audiences coming to a venue specifically for the purpose of seeing his art.

“In some ways, displays like this are kind of like background music,” he said.

“It’s different in a gallery, because you know the people are there for the art.

“They do have a great space here, along with amazing food.

“I was happy to put some work up here, because it is obviously held in fairly high regard within the industry.

“I knew that I had enough works and some of them even show food, which is fitting.”

Stillwater’s location at Bridge Road is near to where Foley lives in town.

He said some of his selections for the exhibition were based on natural landscape of the region.

“I definitely thought about specific spaces when putting together the works,” he said.

“There is a little nook above the restaurant that lends itself to work of a similar scale.

“The painting I’ve chosen for that space depicts the cottage you go past on your way into the gorge.

“I knew I definitely needed to bring that one in.”

The works of Josh Foley will be displayed at Stillwater restaurant at 2 Bridge Road until October.

All works on display are available for purchase.

For more information about Josh Foley and his upcoming exhibitions, go to joshfoley.com.au.