"Bell's Falls" 70 x 98cm Mixed Media on Paper

A Progress Report

It’s difficult to review Darby’s artistic output without lapsing into superlatives that always sounds biased. But then why not be biased! We are allowed to have a preference for artworks that demonstrate an artist’s ability to select interesting aspects of landscape, construct well organized images, demonstrate excellent skill while manipulating the medium, and provide the viewing public with a work of art that will delight anew each time it is viewed.

Over the past two years Darby has travelled to every corner of this island continent, collected the essence of disparate locales and translated them into the visual language, with a decided Darby accent. Impressive gorges, still rivers, snow fields and rain forest are transferred into rich colours and exciting marks. From across the gallery, these naturalistic landscapes defused in atmospheric perspective are beautiful renditions of reality. Come closer, there is often something to discover in the image, perhaps a bird hidden in the bush or a figure dwarfed by the magnitude of the environment. The element of surprise when we find them is akin to coming upon something delicate, like a wildflower, in the most forbidding place. Come closer still, examination of the image has the land mass or forest trees dissolve into a fascinating collection of brush strokes and calligraphic marks, added texture and unreal colours – all the ingredients of abstract painting. We are not only impressed by nature’s handiwork but the artist’s as well.

Darby’s paintings are measured constructions of broad horizontal brush strokes, strong verticals interspersed with marks of interest and always a calliope of colour that comes together in a harmonious whole. As the artist is also an accomplished musician and composer, one tends to think the arrangement of his painted composition is aligned to the play of beat against melody in music. This supposition is confirmed in his Listening To Paintings – Australia productions, where the artist successfully combines sight and sound, imagery and music while allowing each art form to maintain its independence.

See this excellent exhibition and hear the music in real time and space at the gallery, as the size of the works provide an added impact. Then relive the experience in virtual space on the artist’s own web site.

Judith McGrath (Review in Art Seen in Western Australia, 2000)

“A Progress Report” was on display at Stafford Studios of Fine Art during July 2000.