Cameron Haas: Amplify. Nancy Sever Gallery, level 1, 131 City Walk, Civic. Until June 20, 2021.
This is the third exhibition that Cameron Haas has had at this gallery and it is easily his best.
Turning 40 this year, Haas is a Tasmanian-born artist who trained at the National Art School in Sydney and has lived in Canberra for the past few years. I missed his earliest exhibitions at the Ray Hughes Gallery in Sydney. His first solo show at the Nancy Sever Gallery at the Gorman Arts Centre space in 2018 was clever but a little disappointing. It consisted of very tight, hard-edge geometric paintings aping the styles of the 1960s and 1970s. It was not that it had all been done before, but the artist himself seemed a little ill at ease with the severity of the forms and in a perhaps subconscious subversive gesture was eroding the hardness of the "hard-edge" by painting it rather than employing masking tape and seemed intent on leaving on the surface signs of the human hand. Ellsworth Kelly, the doyen of colour field painting and minimalism, would have been horrified.
In Haas's second solo exhibition in Canberra in 2019, the geometric severity of the non-figurative shapes had been broken down - the shapes were growing increasingly organic - and the colour combinations had become less cerebral and more intuitive. In the present exhibition, the move to more organic shapes has been heightened, the canvases have generally grown in scale and there is a greater preparedness to take risks chromatically.
The scale is about right for the sort of paintings that Haas is doing and whereas the smaller easel form appeared slightly cramped and the paintings were resolved as drawings from the wrist, the larger format has enabled the artist to work with his full body. There is a growing confidence and almost a gestural quality in the resolution of some of the background areas.
All of the 12 acrylic paintings at the exhibition are untitled with a number added as the sole form of identification. One of the strongest pieces is Untitled 35 (2021), an acrylic painting on primed linen and measuring 137 centimetres by 183 centimetres. The dominant colour is a very intense green that hugs a bold large armchair-like shape. This shape consumes a couple of smaller shapes and is in turn outlined with several halo-like surrounding bands of colour - a painfully intense blue, a neon pink and a dead black - and surrounded by a loosely painted subdued background. The background is handled in a painterly manner and is allowed to caress the edges of the unprimed linen, creating a somewhat personal and loose setting against which the vibrant central forms are allowed to float somewhat suspended in space.
The green "armchair" shape focuses our attention on the dark tan and light tan shapes that it embraces with their own white halos that form the epicentre of the composition. The painting is clever, effective and with sufficient movement to intrigue the beholder.
Another very successful painting at the exhibition, Untitled 36 (2021), executed on a smaller scale on a square format of 132 centimetres by 132 centimetres, has an even more ambitious play of overlapping organic shapes of colour that gives it quite a vibrant and kinetic quality.
There is a growing confidence in the work of Cameron Haas as the artist appears to be finding his natural language, scale and a taste for engaging with bold games with colour and organic shapes.