Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.
– Mark Twain
I must begin with an acknowledgement of three generous spirits – Günter Umberg, James White and their shared gallerist Thomas Zander. I have known Günter Umberg for many years now – he is a painter whose clarity and rigour has inspired me both personally and professionally. It was Günter who introduced Emma and I to the paintings of James White when his work was presented at Art Basel by Galerie Thomas Zander. The exhibition Conversation was to be staged some months later at Zander’s Köln gallery and was in its planning stages. So enthusiastic were we about this idea and James White’s paintings that we resolved to meet James as soon as the opportunity arose.
Of course I want to thank Thomas Zander especially who has kindly and collegially allowed us to re-stage this adaption of his exhibition. It should be stated clearly that Thomas Zander’s version was considerably more extensive than this iteration. The breadth of work and the space given to it was generous in every sense. I would like to think however that this slimmer version captures something of that spirit and clarity. Of course whilst we are mindful to install the works with the consideration that Günter, James and indeed Thomas bring to all their exhibitions, I am conscious that we are working from a tasting menu of sorts – one where less is indeed less but absolutely worthy, nonetheless. What I will say is that seeing this group of paintings together that we have used in this exhibition, there is so much potency in this redacted presentation that I am deeply grateful to all parties for agreeing to support this and it feels more than justified.
I should like to thank fate too, for as Truman Capote quipped “a conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet”. Here it is the case that two considered painters have met. Even so, at first sight one might assume that a conversation between the most abstract of abstractionists and a painter dedicated to the resuscitation of certain traditions associated with realism might be short or at least a little contended. But rather than being adversarial, one starts to realise that there may only be three degrees of separation here and that image and space, material and support, intention and vision are simply elements in the service of a startling and cohesive proposition.
Once again, we make an exhibition without the presence of the artists and as lamentable as this is, we are mindful that we are able to visit galleries and that these magnificent works can travel even though Günter & James cannot. So, we look forward to welcoming you to visit the exhibition Conversation/s at the Alexandria space in Sydney and having… a conversation.