Scoundrels, wayfarers and deviates: Cultural Relativism in the art of Brock Q Piper
A snapshot review of Caravel, New Paintings by Brock Q Piper at Level 1, 575 Church Street, Richmond
Brock Q Piper’s artistic adaptation of the mythical Portuguese caravel holding beneath its decks the scoundrels, wayfarers and deviates of another time as it journeys across shallow waters in strong winds no doubt, gathering great speed in search of safe harbour is wonderfully rich in symbolism. Piper is not here playing the role of historian. Nor is he sitting in judgement of his character’s exploits, judging their culture according to our own standards of what is right or wrong, strange or normal. For Piper truth and moral values are not absolute, but rather relative to the persons or groups holding them. Their experiences encapsulate what is important to them, what the world means to them. From here we come to narrow on and better understand the things we share that make us human.
These stories delightfully come to life through Piper’s abstraction and strong mark making. Long admired for his ability to capture the essential elements of his figures, free of superfluous detail, Piper breathes life in this series of paintings by taking risks, judiciously using a wide, bold colour palette. Gentle washes of vibrant colour offer a surreal feel and sense of depth to the images, without overwhelming and distracting from his wonderfully drawn figures, delineating the central figures to the fore. Piper’s painting ‘The Wager’, featuring faceless cardplayers clearly with much more at stake than at first apparent is raucously playful, comic, colourful and superbly executed.
Piper is an accomplished artist. More importantly, his paintings cleverly bridge the past to the present without becoming cliché. His imagery is dramatic and deliciously engaging. Piper's paintings stand out among many of his peers in this genre, which in itself is an extraordinary feat in a hyper-competitive art market.
Brock Q Piper, Colectivo (2021)
Brock Q Piper, The Poet (2021) Photo: Artist
Main Photo: Brock Q Piper, The Wager (2021) Photo: Artist
Andrew McIlroy is an artist and arts writer