Brett McMahon
Beneath the sun, under the moon

27 September – 21 October 2023


Brett McMahon

Beneath the sun, Under the moon 2023

Beneath the sun, Under the moon is an unusually poetic title for one of my exhibitions. Commonly I stick with a one word header that’s evocative, but more of a stance than a story.

But this body of work embodies an unfolding narrative of walking, running and riding through city spaces, sometimes in the day, sometimes at night.

I’m no great runner but it’s the most convenient and effective form of exercise that I can manage in a busy family life schedule - wrangling three school age kids and juggling the sometimes competing needs of my partner Ro’s clothing design business and my own creative enterprise.

I can't just run anytime, it has to be super early or later in the evening, as that's when I can transform a fitness activity into a cinematic experience of looking and discovery. Running from dark into the day along the harbour in Newcastle, Sydney, or the Port in Melbourne is something I have grown to love. The wind is often still at that hour, leaving the water surface a Homeric black mirror, reflecting myriad shapes, lights, ropelines, masts and marker buoys. I gather this all in while moving through in a semi wakeful state - I download what I can remember in the studio later in the day.

I often ride my two youngest to school along the same paths that I had run along earlier that morning, never failing to be jolted by the scene change unveiled by the sun. The sharpness and range of colour, in harmony or in clashing juxtapositions, signs, signals and the endless variety of materials and textures. And then the sounds, of ceaseless traffic, construction and machinery, the ringing of bicycle bells and the shouts of kids off to school. So different to the discreet world of night sounds, resounding ship horns declaring their arrival, clashing coal cars echoing from the industry across the water, and my breath and footfall.

I spend a lot of time in Sydney, occasionally trips to Melbourne, but mostly in Newcastle where my family and studio are based. At night I dream of KL, Tokyo…

I mine these places for different things. I love to walk around Melbourne slowly, trusting the algorithm of the grid to lead me somewhere interesting and then back again, I search out the graffiti lanes, construction sites and the cbd fringes where the grid gives way to industry, overpasses, suburbia or parkland.

Sydney is my place of connections, of friends and circling my past with my present. The place where I forged a path and shaped a life. It's my place of grounding. But it's also where I started looking, closely, at how the salt from the sea, rain from those Sydney thunderstorms and the constant human river wears made things down, peeling back surfaces, exposing and eroding the base materials. From the standpoint of my work it's beautiful to see the anthropocene relentlessly brought back into a state of nature by nature…a reminder of our place in something so much more complex and wondrous.

Thousands of tons of black prehistoric landscape is transported to Newcastle by rail, in snaking 70 car long trains and then loaded into vast rust stained ships that glide silently out of the harbour at dawn. I run along the breakwall trying to keep pace, thinking of how much we take, and how little we give back.

Brett McMahon


Artist Talk: Richard Morecroft interviews Brett McMahon, Michelle Cawthorn and Janis Clarke

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Video tour: Brett McMahon - Beneath the sun, under the moon

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Please note: Works may no longer be available as shown and prices may be subject to change to reflect current market value. Please contact the gallery for assistance. Thank you

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