Thornley’s practice is rare in Australasia. It neither depends on local narrative nor does it leverage the landscape either literally or metaphorically as the all too common framework for describing, yet again, what we already know. Freed from this obligation to attend to local conditions, Thornley has been able to build a painting practice that sidesteps the kinds of geographical determinism that still hampers more provincial painting thus allowing his work a latitude and fluidity, a grace and potency.
And yet these paintings are not without connection to place. There is a quality of light and quiet humidity about them that feels “southern” hemisphere but my sense is that this is where that correspondence ends.
Thornley’s deeper association is to a gestural and poetic abstraction. One thinks of the early paintings of Cy Twombly, certainly to the Cold Mountain paintings of Brice Marden but where both these painters assert a certain romantic authorship, there is a modesty to Thornley’s hushed elegance, one that doesn’t strive for the kinds of emotional tremor that Twombly and Marden seek.
There is often an arcing; almost calligraphic sense to his brushwork that at times is fluid and at times staccato – always faintly musical. Common to these paintings and Thornley’s other series is a preoccupation with space. The space is not illusionistic but made palpable through the careful layering of colour and gesture. Such spatial sensitivity crates a lyrical scaffold for seeing. It is a slowed vision that he wishes to invite and with it a more attuned sense of self.
– Andrew Jensen