Contextualising ‘Cubism Reimagined’
Max Hembrow explores still life and human forms. The images he creates are fragmented, and presented on the canvas from a multitude of perspectives and viewpoints, inspired by twentieth century cubist practices.
The work presented in Max’s solo exhibition, ‘Cubism Reimagined,’ largely follows on from the traditions of analytical cubism, the earliest stage of the movement, which tends to be temporally situated between 1908 and 1912. Analytical cubism is characterised by its dissection of the subject of the painting, and thus the fragmentation of the subject into numerous smaller parts. It is also distinguishable by its limited and tonal colour palettes. Analytical cubism gave way for a shift in perceptions and expectations of the painted image, that would steer the world of art away from classicism and towards modernism. This cubist style, though fascinating from an art history perspective, is also technically and visually impressive.
Hembrow’s latest pieces, which were exhibited at 508 Gallery during his solo show in April and May 2022, reflect his deep interest in the analytical cubist method of constructing images on canvas. His works lie somewhere on the trajectory between representation and abstraction; his subjects are familiar but stylised. The way in which Hembrow stylises the subjects in his pieces in many ways evokes the works of the icons of cubism such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Jean Metzinger, but is also very specific to his own artistic language and approach. He creates a very distinctive sense of atmosphere, depth and space in his works. His use of light and shadow and his striking colour palettes make his work very recognisable.
Much work in contemporary art has been influenced by cubist practices, but Hembrow’s pieces look at this tradition very closely. He reimagines these familiar images and techniques in his work. However, Hembrow’s bold bright colours, his masterful combinations of warm and cool palettes, and his sharp outlines with smooth and detailed shading add a contemporary element to his compositions. He examines historic cubist practices using techniques and palettes that came to the forefront in the latter part of the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries. As such, he poses some fascinating questions about art history and the blending of past movements in fine art with newer practices.
In his selection of pieces for ‘Cubism Reimagined,’ Hembrow also incorporated several sketches in charcoal and soft pastel. These pieces added a visually striking minimal element to the exhibition space, and showed another facet of Hembrow’s artistic practices. The sketches, much like his paintings, are stylised, and the line work is very bold and expressive. These works take some inspiration from the broader cubist style, but they show a strong contemporary influence in that they are heavily shaded and the charcoal or pastel is thickly applied and layered, as in other more abstract drawing work.
This exhibition was a fascinating exploration of the legacies of cubism and the ways in which this movement has been, and can be, an inspiration to contemporary artists working with visual media.
Author: Vanda Ivančić