Surreal works for a surreal time

Featuring the ‘You Beauty‘ series by Dean Reilly

Dean Reilly is a classically trained, contemporary Australian artist whose bold thematic works consistently feature symbolic references painted in a surreal manner. In his latest exhibition titled ‘You Beauty’ Reilly has teamed his unique style with references to iconic Australian artists such as Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd. Reilly draws upon cultural iconography and emblematic Australian symbols to depict his current reflections of Australia – an interpretation which lays bare the “glory, tragedy and struggle” that has come to shape our collective identity. Interwoven in his charged artworks is the element of humour, a distinctly Australian tool of communication, which in this instance is used to juxtapose a harsh landscape, history, and cultural identity.

“This great land of glory, tragedy and struggle lay at the foundation of what most of us call home”. – Dean Reilly

Go on Move it Along, Dean Reilly, acrylic on cotton

An important period of history which offers insight into Reilly’s current series is that of the 1940’s Australian modernist literary and artistic movement, coined Angry Penguins. It began as a literary journal founded by four poets: Donald Kerr, Maxwell Harris, Paul Pfeiffer and Geoffrey Dutton, who all studied at the University of Adelaide. The movement sought to interrogate and disrupt the cultural establishment of Australia at the time and allies of the movement were aggressive and unapologetic in their modern opinions and progressive creative techniques.

Myth in the Wattle, Dean Reilly, acrylic on cotton

Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan are synonymous with this movement and Reilly has directly referenced Nolan’s work within the series, namely with the portrayal of infamous Australian icon Ned Kelly. Between 1946-47, Nolan painted his famous Ned Kelly series which depicted the scenes of the icon, his escapades and existence. As Serle Geoffery wrote in his 1971 journal article titled, The Rush to Be Rich: A History of the Colony of Victoria 1883-1889, Kelly was “the last expression of the lawless frontier in what was becoming a highly organised and educated society, the last protest of the mighty bush now tethered with iron rails to Melbourne and the world”. It seems fitting that in a time of tightened government regulation brought on by the current global pandemic, that Reilly has painted artworks which aligned with this previous era of Australian history. As freedoms are restrained and movement limited in this surreal time, Australian’s have found themselves bound to the land they call home, forced to reflect upon their existence and identity as Australian citizens. 

More than a Couple of Galahs, Dean Reilly, acrylic on cotton

Dean Reilly has been represented at Red Hill Gallery in Brisbane since 2012 and we are delighted to present his newest series with you. The exhibition opens 10th September 2021 – RSVP here.

To keep up-to-date with our gallery follow us on Facebook and Instagram and our website. Red Hill Gallery is located at 61 Musgrave Road, Red Hill, Brisbane QLD, and is one of the few galleries in Brisbane open seven days 10am – 4pm.

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