Submitted Review

Jan Senbergs at Niagara Galleries

  • Niagara Galleries • Melbourne

  • Andrew Browne • Published 27 March 2020

For the moment we are unable to physically visit Jan Senbergs’ “Not Quite The Last Picture Show”, but in lieu of that, a discussion.

Senbergs has long embraced both an architecture of the built environment — often spatially disorienting — and a more haphazard, organic architecture of the natural world. His earliest works, very much a part of the period’s mutable abstraction, kept narrative at bay, whilst in later years he has developed a highly idiosyncratic language, whether focusing close on studio detritus or pulling way back to describe throbbing schematic cities, drawing on memories & references both close to home and from the wider world.

‘Happenstance chaos of messy urban gardens’

A consummate drawer and painter, with this exhibition his touch might have relaxed somewhat but certainly not his visual curiosity, resulting in some wonderful recent paintings dizzying with detail and fully satisfying in ‘all-over’ composition. Shot through with flashes of primary colours alongside his more weighty tonal palette, several jettison overt structural devices familiar from the last couple of decades to drill in on the happenstance chaos of messy urban gardens. As in his statement invoking Guston’s late period gusto, with these Senbergs declares a new, ambitious intent.

Elsewhere in a single standout city painting, inhabited by dwarfed & tiny figures, a looming Southbank structure evokes a modern-day Tower of Babel. And a suite of aircraft paintings hovers on an end wall, with one vessel, its roof troublingly peeled as if a sardine can, displaying similarly tiny figures… so much hapless human cargo.

Senbergs’ palette, ramped to often declamatory effect, shows an artist unafraid of clamour — none more so than in several bushfire subjects — as his roving eye restlessly ranges across a landscape of phenomena. All up a powerful statement of seemingly inexhaustible painterly expression, teeming with brushy brio.

Andrew Browne

Written by Andrew Browne •
Jan Senbergs at Niagara Galleries, Melbourne.
By appointment & online until May 2.
Images courtesy of Niagara Galleries.