Kurt Brereton

Dreamhomes & Rising Tides - 2007 



cnr Church and Stewart Street Wollongong

"Artist Kurt Brereton is controversially putting forward his views on climate change through an exhibition with  a difference."
Michele Todd, Illawarra Mercury (March 5, 2007)

"A different view" The Local Citizen (March 8th, 2007)

'"Kurt Brereton produces art with meaning" The Northern Leader, (March 8, 2007)




Artist Statement

This exhibition has been inspired by the changing face of the ever expanding built and dinishing natural Illawarra environment. The impact of new housing estates on coastal marshlands; shrinking mangroves, rising sea levels and beach erosion all play a role.

The series titled “Dream Homes” engages with a recent rise of luxury new houses on Sandon Point estate. Each house has been mapped in over the top of the view it faces (or draws upon). Our view is now mediated by and through the presence of these dream homes that speculatively line up along the beach front.

Less directly representational are a group of lyrically abstract works inspired by issues connnected with Sandon Point, Bulli. Building on the 2005 Chronography series, a transition can be seen between the making out of time as duration and the mapping of place as the locality of experience. The digitised mark-making process of laying down fields of grids with dashes now gives way in this current exhibition to more organic gestures of curvy line, transparent layers and glazes. There is a sense of history at work in these paintings.

The third group of paintings titled Sea-Rise series is a more direct engagment with the impact of global warming and rising sea levels on the Illawarra coast. Famous beach front views have been overdrawn with (and erased by) linear outline profiles of the BHP steel works. Imaginary views have been constructed of what these beaches will look like in the year 2030 under 5 metres of searise.

In a dialogue with the paintings are a series of sculptures constructed from found and recycled building materials (plastic, wire, wood) chucked out onto suburban “nature strips”. Everything is held together with plastic garden ties. The results are genetically engineered hybrid plants - 1 part noxious plant, 1 part abandoned public art monument and 1 part totemic figure.

Dreamhome Series

click on images below to see larger size


Dream Home No 1, oil on canvas, 91x 61cm $2500

This award winning house sits in prime position on Sandon Point Stockland development. This dream home reminds me of a slide viewing machine framing the wonderful Northern coastal views. The translucent rendering of the house superimposed upon the view suggests both an apparition and an imposition. Nothing is solid. Even the background grid of painted dashes maps the passage of time and the transience of all dreams, buildings and framed visions.

Dream Home No 2, oil on canvas, 91x 61cm $2500

The tall beautiful yucca plants are seen as weeds by the local Bulli land care group. This big white luxury dream home is also seen as an introduced species by some local residents. Be they sublime or abject, both Yucca and Dream Home occupy politically sensitive tenuous positions within this sort-after highly contested location.


Dream Home No 3, oil on plywood, 56 x 48cm

This Dream Home looks out to Sandon Point with the old boat sheds in the foreground. I have left the plywood ground bare to emphasise the environmental cost of building and running these luxury houses that are not very energy efficient. Occupying a big footprint, they are designed to fully “draw upon the view” from every possible vantage point.


Dream Home No 4, oil on plywood, 56 x 48cm

This house looks back along Bulli Beach towards Ruby’s Cafe on Bulli Point. The Norfolk Island Pines are featured icons of the south coast. While pines are very long lived and these ones are still young. However by the time they mature they may be washed away by the rising seas along with most of what we see in this painting.

Dream Home No 5, oil on plywood, 56 x 48cm

This is a pastel drawing of the Kuradji Embassy with a new Sandon Point Estate dream home superimposed in oil paint. The mission of the Embassy is to protest against the Stockland housing development and reclaim Korri heritage land. The juxtaposition and marked differences in socioeconomic and cultural terms are marked. Yet both are making strong statements about time, place and identity in radically different ways. Corrugated iron shack tactics verses concrete bunker aesthetics. Both sites are also under the same threat of encroaching sea levels and erosion.


Sandon Point Series


Dream Home No 6, oil on canvas, 56 x 48cm

The Dream Home series was intentionally painted in a style that is a cross between an architectural concept plan and a nostalgic tourist postcard. The famous old boat sheds at Sandon Point often feature as a backdrop to weekend weddings. The exotic feral Yuccas and Norfolk Island Pines stand in the foreground as a sign of resistance as well as change.

Kuradji Embassy No 1, oil on canvas, 167x121cm $3900

This painting began live as a quite literal representation of the Kuradji Embassy behind the beach below Stockland’s The Point development. Over a number of weeks I then abstracted and condensed the image into a series of enclosed shapes, lines, patterned fields and fragments of iconic objects such as Norfolk Pines, Aboriginal Flag, patches of blue sky and barely recognisable buildings.
In this process I was not interested in painting an historical record (photos can perhaps do it better). Rather, I wanted to suggest the complexities at work in the political, cultural and social struggles embodied practically and symbolically by the presence of the embassy. Needless to say, I was not trying to speak for the embassy in any political or cultural sense.

Fishing at Bulli, oil on canvas, 95 x38cm

I occasionally go fishing with my son Harry along Bulli Beach. We inhabit thought bubbles or escape time capsules while we fish. These are intersected/ bound by fishing line that tie together these cherished brief experiences overlapping present pleasures with past memories. Of fishing with my father back when I was a boy (<~>) time seems to wind us back for a few deja vu moments.


The Swimmer, oil on board, 56 x47cm

My love of swimming in the sea started as a small child on the far north coast of NSW. Ever since I have lived beside on beach; in Sydney and now at Bulli for the last decade. Floating in the ebb and flow of the surf, still warm patches of water map out a varied pattern each time one enters the water. The tiny vertical dashes record the number of times I have gone for a surf during my lifetime - ie too many to count OR the measured beat of strokes - of arms and feet that propel me beyond the breakers parallel to the shoreline.

Memorial to Sandon Point Picket, oil on board,
50 x58cm $750

The top picket on Sandon Point headland was active for over five years (2001-2006). Many volunteer activists from diverse backgrounds and persuasions kept the picket alive through thick and thin times as a highly visible protest against the Stocklands THE POINT development. It survived one fire bombing but was eventually completely burnt to the ground in suspicious circumstances late one night. In a few days every last trace of its existence was erased from the face of the earth. This painting is my small memorial to those happy times I sat with my friend Noel Sanders and his faithful dog Fred; both committed “regulars”.

Bulli Coal Wash, oil on canvas, 36x25cm

I produced a mini series of small works that were based on fragments or sections of the larger Kuradji Embassy painting. However each fragment is different from the original source. Not least because I have titled each work with reference to activities performed at Sandon Point and which are informed in some way by the significance of the Embassy. Here the allusion to the black section of the Aboriginal flag here also denotes the coal wash that lines the shore.

Perfect Surf at Sandon Point, oil on canvas, 32x26cm

I wanted in this painting to be a tiny jewel-like image that glowed like a polished gem stone or one of those perfect crystal waves at Sandon Point. We look through the coloured prism or lens of the wave/gemstone to the horizon. The aim was produce a gestalt reaction where each fragment or element when combined produces an emotional effect that greater than the sum of its parts.

Seven Divers, oil on canvas, 216 x 93cm $3900

An epic narrative painting describing the phenomena and symbolism of diving into water. This painting is a cross between figurative abstraction and classical allegory painting (showing the stages in a story across time). Each figure has frozen into an iconic sculpture except the swimming man “out the back” waving to you the viewer. The cross currents of swirling gestures mirror the experience of being caught in the rips of the surf. The large rounded translucent shapes denote organs (lungs) calm pools, coloured lens, jellyfish and shells. No one figure is left untouched by the energies of the natural environment that govern our entry, immersion and exit from the pool.


Liminal Series

Sandon Point Yaccas, oil and lino on MDF,
125 x 95cm $2900

Uses original linocut stamps as a construction base for a painting. The idea is that anyone can print off an infinite number of prints from this original template. While the Yucca has been destroyed the echo of its existence lives on through the hard labour art care workers - as opposed to the actions of eco-nazi operatives.

Liminal-time No 1, oil on canvas, 185 x 124cm $3500 SOLD

The word “liminal” refers to the thresholds, boundaries and borderlines of binary constructions (eg black/white, masculine/feminine, Eastern/Western). These oppositions are convenient yet flimsy truths, producing blurrings and gaps which might be exploited in order to deconstruct these oppositions. The background grid record of markings (doing time) lays out the liminal ground. The black curvilinear wire-like drawing signifies the searching critical path undertaken by the artist. The offset coloured shapes floating just behind the line yet above the time-grid, are the growth of alternative third meanings that have escaped (morphed) from the liminal zone.

Liminal-time Study, oil on canvas, 60 x 30cm

This is a study for the large Liminal-time No 1. I wanted to also create a curvilinear record that echoed the golden age of plastic (1950/60s) and decor furnishings that informed my childhood. There is a satisfying pleasure in visually tracing these curved pathways like a sea-snail and resting in waterworn coloured shapes. The offset coloured shapes remind me of perspex - which I have used in the Hybrid sculpture series.

Liminal-time No 2, oil on canvas, 185 x 124cm

Psychologists call ”liminal space” a place where boundaries become indeterminate. We stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of what we were into what we might become. That is, this is a space or field of transformation between phases of separation and reincorporation. This painting is my record of finding myself inside a liminal space - in a period of ambiguity, of marginal and transitional state. This is a very common experience of shedding baggage and travelling lighter between stops. In post-colonial studies, liminality relates to the concept of cultural hybridity, describing complex untidy trans cultural spaces, trans geographical or trans gender states etc. Every transition is also an opportunity to redefine fixed viewpoints.

Land-Care Yuccas, oil on canvas, 85 x 65cm SOLD

This painting is an abstract portrait of a local landcare operative who, rumour has it, has been regularly chopping down the lovely Sandon Point yucca plants. However, I did not want to be too literal in my depiction of any specific person. I was more interested in the state of mind that would drive someone to violently chop down (dismember) a lovely flowering plant simply because it is not indigenous to the locality. I see this eco-fundamentalism as the sharp pointy end (of a great restorative community group that I totally support) on the part of a few people who are understandably distressed by the loss of what they see as native habitat in the face of global warming and rapid coastal developments. Enter the liminal myth of “weeds” and “natives”.

Lost, recycled seaworn concrete and oil,
60 x 30 x 40cm

Part ruined wartime bunker, part eroded sculpture from some Japanese garden or perhaps a public art commision from the Eastern Block? All constructed from sea worn pieces of concrete building materials found washed up on Bulli Beach. I have added paint to the white encrusted remains of various sealife that once were squatters. The sculpture is interactive in that you can adjust the components to change the appearance.

Liminal-time No 3, oil on board, 90 x 60cm $1500

This lyrically abstract work began life as a painting of a chopped down Yucca plant. The intensity of emotions I felt about this destruction have combined to overlap and override any comfortable literal representation. I wanted to create a sense of loosing or falling into a botanical tangle in the battle for survival is being waged by activists and speculators that forms the undergrowth to the calm scenic beauty of the “million dollar view” from Sandon Point.

Hybrid No 3, mixed media, 85x58x20cm $1700

Hardy Hybrid No 3. (HH3) is a new biotronic breed with grafted wheels for easy maneuvering around patios. It is a multifunctional convergent species - being a mobile radar station, climate change recording gauge and highly nutritious GM crop. It was built from a mail order kit and while very fragile is highly versatile. HH3 is designed to sit flush against a wall like an spoliated fruit tree. It also works well as a space friendly piece of decor furniture. You can also use the tiny shelves to showcase mementos, cherished family heirlooms or mutant robotic toys.

Hybrid No 1, mixed media, 85x58x20cm

The toughest plants best suited to cope with increasing draught conditions of a drying continent are hardy hybrid crosses. This little beauty (HH1) needs almost no watering and yet flowers throughout the year in both sunny and shady spots. But that’s not all!... it is so easy to propagate from cuttings too! And that’s your bloomin’ lot till next week when Jane....

Hybrid No 2, mixed media, 85x58x20cm

This hybrid cross (HH2) was grafted onto a wire and recycled wood stock. It is a frost resistant cultivar and thrives in all Australian climates. Breed specifically as an outdoor sunlover it needs little watering as an indoor plant. While extremely slow growing, I suggest that you turn it around once a month to allow the leaves to grow evenly.

The Prelude,oil on plywood, 60x50cm

The title “The Altar” denotes a raised structure such as a table often covered in gold on which gifts or sacrifices to a god are made. There is ghostly appearance to this painting. We are left with a hollow tracing (an after image) of a more solid presence now departed. One fly (blow-in) sits on the surface of the painting as a reminder of illusions and conceits of all social altars to grand orders.


Sea-Rise 2030 Series

The Prelude, mixed media,50x26x30cm

The Altar painting and companion sculpture are also DIY desiring machines doubling as pathetic memorials. Made largely out of bits of discarded flotsam and jetsam found on my local beach, the assemblage is all held together with a piece of dyed pink cotton rope. The seaweed, sponge, worm-eaten driftwood and “public sculpture” have all been painted in gold in sympathy with the two gold figurenes. The spiral mosquito coil acts as a time spring that powers the whole machine. For art buffs, this fully working model using wire, wood and painted canvas and perspex is also a sideways comment on Duchamp’s cryptically libidinal Large Glass work.

Searise (Bulli) 2030, oil on plywood, 150 x 64cm $2500

This is a formally transitional work for me - referencing the Chronography Series, the sea rise series and the more lyrically abstract Liminal series - all coming together in a street parade procession slowly moving towards 2030 and the inevitable rising of the sea across Bulli Point. Everything is floating, drifting and slipping across the horizon before our eyes.


Bulli Point 2030, oil on plywood, 50 x23cm

The sea rise series maps the ghostly presence of the industrial estate of BHP over the top of various famous Illawarra coastal landmarks. This painting combines BHP with Sandon Point after the sea has risen another 5 metres. This of course has nothing to do with actual scientific facts ie storm surges would actually wash away the whole headland vegetation etc. Rather, I am interested in creating a more subtly shocking effect - one that is beautiful at first glance yet dystopic on closer inspection.

Woonona Pool 2030, oil on board, 56 x30cm

Woonona Swimming Pool is a favourite art deco haven for locals. Here it is under 5 metres of sea rise with BHP tracing a symbolic imprint of its role as a player in the greenhouse drama.

Illawarra Pines 2030, oil on board, 50 x23cm $700

Again BHP lies on the horizon with only the skeletons of Norfolk Island Pines to give us any perspective. This is a surreal image given that we are looking back out to sea and have no reference points to locate us at any specific beach suburb.


Wollongong Harbour 2030, oil on canvas, 51 x36cm $700

Wollongong Harbour before and after the searise. Before (being the present) is the white outline image of the boats at anchor and apartment buildings over looking the harbour. The after (2030) is the painted landscape of the old lighthouse up on the headland with 5 meters of searise which has wiped out everything leaving only the white lighthgouse in the middle distance.


Coalships off Bulli, oil, copper, coal on board,
172 x32cm

The every present coal ships waiting off Bulli and Wollongong have been painted here in a C19th Colonial Australian style that renders the scene always already a thing of the past. Given the Greenhouse Effect and the major role played by coal in our increasingly warming and dimming climate, the future of the coal mining industry looks bleak. I wanted to suggest that perhaps the currently “rock solid” coal economy (dirty or clean) is turning into a chimera. The use of copper wire, coal dust and divisions of both ground and sulphurous coloured filters, all add to the breakdown of a seamless smooth reality made up of clockwork shipments arriving and departing the horizon.

Minnamurra Mangroves, oil on canvas, 125 x 95cm

The lovely Minnamurra mangroves have been a favourite place for me to draw. This quiet retreat reminds me of my childhood mangrove environment. The fragile delicate play of muted blue and yellow light reflected on the dark brown mud-stained waters, transforms this seemingly alien underworld into a other-worldly magical place. The wire and offset colour field shapes suggest the interactions of cultural productions of one kind or other that have invaded the mangrove ecosystem.

Bulli Panorama, oil and lino stamps on digital inkjet phto on canvas,
55 x200cm

Looking back from Sandon Point to the escarpment. The abstract white line and coloured offset rounded echo shapes suggest both organic forms (organs, sea creatures) and map legend tourist viewing stops.