Robert Clinch ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ at Wollongong Art Gallery

We recently caught the final weekend of a major retrospective of the work of Melbourne artist Robert Clinch  in Wollongong. It is a touring exhibition organised by Art Gallery of Ballarat.  I had no idea Clinch was so well known and established, but a look at the show justified any and all recognition he has received to date.

Clinch probably gets sick of comparisons with the late great Australian Jeffrey Smart, but it’s hard to avoid them. Like Smart, he paints very detailed realistic urban scapes. Indeed the detail is way beyond what the eye would normally see and stretches out into the far distance, so the idea of ‘realistic’ is a stylised one in fact. From memory Clinch’s work is in fact much more complex and detailed than Smart tends to be.  It smacks of obsession, but this obsession delievers a marvel for the audience.

And like Smart his works are not only beautifully seen but carefully constructed, often with whimsical additions or puns. There are serious comments too, on our abuse of planet Earth.








Salad sandwhich, 1987, gouache, watercolour & drybrush, 25 x 48cm















The Grand Reading Room, 1998, egg tempera on panel, 107 x 105cm


Apart from watercolour/gouache/drybrush work, he also paints with egg tempera, an ancient medium that acts as the vehicle for powdered pigment when painting. The works have a tremendous glow about them because of this. With all the glory and colour of these works though,  I ended up enjoying the finely drawn black and white lithographs the most. These too are carefully composed and beautifully executed. The series using paper aeroplanes is not only fun, but satisfying to look at as well.














Pot-pourri, 2007, lithograph, 43x42cm