Variety of forms pulls in many different directions
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Variety of forms pulls in many different directions

Cameron Haas: New City. Nancy Sever Gallery, Gorman Arts Centre, 55 Ainslie Ave, Braddon. Until September 16. 

Cameron Haas, <i>Untitled 7</i>, 2018 in <i>New City</i> at Nancy Sever Gallery.

Cameron Haas, Untitled 7, 2018 in New City at Nancy Sever Gallery.

The late Ray Hughes had a reputation for spotting talent and late in life, in 2010, he started to take an interest in the emerging local Sydney artist, Cameron Haas. Hughes granted Haas a solo exhibition in his gallery in 2011 and another in 2013 before the gallery closed two years later.

Haas was an unlikely candidate for the Hughes stable, where the dealer’s private taste was for the bold and expressionist work.

Although Hughes was known for his Catholic tastes and embraced Chinese and African art, as well as such Australian painters as William Robinson, Joe Furlonger and Lucy Culliton, cool geometric abstraction of the variety of Haas has not been a signature style that he has particularly favoured.

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Haas in his artist statement announces that he references in his work, Australian and American, Hard Edge, Geometric painters of the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, there is much that is anachronistic in his forms with tight, sliding, brightly-coloured geometric shapes, which bring to mind Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland with excellent examples of this art included in the American Masters exhibition now on display at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Cameron Haas, <i>Untitled 4</i>, 2018 in <i>New City</i> at Nancy Sever Gallery.

Cameron Haas, Untitled 4, 2018 in New City at Nancy Sever Gallery.

The style was promoted in Australia under the name colour-field painting and was celebrated in a spectacular manner in The Field exhibition in 1968, which inaugurated the temporary exhibition space at the newly built Roy Grounds building of the National Gallery of Victoria in St Kilda Road.

This year, to mark the 50th anniversary of the “new building”, the National Gallery of Victoria forensically recreated and restaged The Field exhibition, this time in its space in Federation Square.

I was surprised how dated the exhibition appeared to the contemporary eye and while there was good work by good artists, like Janet Dawson, Michael Johnson, Sydney Ball, Robert Jacks, Paul Partos, Alun Leach-Jones, Dale Hickey, Dick Watkins, Ron Robertson Swann, David Aspen and Robert Hunter, many of the others appeared trite and derivative.

With Haas’s paintings, the referencing of earlier works becomes a bit too obvious in the 11 chromatically intense acrylic canvases on display and the variety of forms pulls in many different directions, rather than presenting a singular and coherent artistic vision gradually unfolding.

Much of the work appears as very cerebral in the sense of a design of carefully calculated shapes that have been subsequently coloured in.

Cameron Haas, <i>Untitled 1</i>, 2018, in <i>New City</i> at Nancy Sever Gallery.

Cameron Haas, Untitled 1, 2018, in New City at Nancy Sever Gallery.

Some of the more effective pieces, including Untitled paintings 1, 4 and 7, have less Baroque exuberance and busyness in their compositions. The actual execution of the work is quite exquisite, where despite the severity of the geometric forms the touch of the artist’s hand is still apparent and instead of employing tape and spray paint, the edges are lovingly painted by hand with tiny splodges in places where the bands of colour meet.

Cameron Haas is a painter in his late 30s and, having adopted a style and a morphology of forms, has time on his side to create his own personal and distinctive artistic language, as have the major artists who have colonised geometric abstraction as their own house style.