Ebony Busk: Art with Attitude

Image source: Contributed

Michael Brennan explores the work of this year’s winner of the 40 Under 40 Exhibition, Ebony Busk.

In the last issue of Hello Sunshine Magazine, I gave a wrap up on the explosion of fresh creativity that is The Bentleys 40 Under 40 Exhibition at the Butter Factory Arts Centre in Cooroy. There were so many exciting new artists to be discovered with First Prize awarded to Caloundra-based artist, Ebony Busk. 

Her one-and-a-half by two-metre canvas, titled Jackson, splodged and pushed paint with a casual kind of gesture that at once summarised the fall of light and the structure of the space she depicted, while nailing a kind of detached coolness in the subject of a skater who redefines the usefulness of the civic arena he finds himself in. 

Busk paints figures and scenes with an immediacy that makes you feel like you were there. Capturing snippets of youth culture – skateboards and share houses; backyard beers and shared cigarettes – her canvases combine photographic distortion with classical compositions in a way which elevates stolen moments and celebrates beauty, intimacy and vulnerability. 

Busk typically uses an alla prima approach to her painting, which really just means she paints wet paint into wet paint. But this way of working compounds the sense of immediacy and the feeling that her subjects and scenes are little more than candid moments captured on the fly.

There’s something more to Busk’s paintings though. While the look and feel of the once-removed eye of a camera frames Busk’s work with an almost documentary-style aesthetic, the subjects she turns her attention to are not, themselves passive – regardless of their often nonplussed demeanour. 

Attitude and activism course through their posture, their clothing and the spaces they occupy. These are people on the cusp of asserting themselves on the world and they’re not going to settle for the legacy we’ve left for them if it doesn’t suit their vision for how things should or could be.

Combining a bold use of colour – both monochromatic and complimentary – with a dramatic use of light and shade, Busk’s paintings hit us front-on with a cultural realism, relevance and generational insight that’s too often dismissed by those who weren’t invited. 

They are paintings very much of a specific time – both in the broader sense of history and in the artist’s life. These kind of works would seem inauthentic if they were painted by someone older. It will be interesting to see how Busk directs her gaze as she moves into the next phases of her practice. Definitely one to watch. @ebonybusk_art

About the Author /

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Director of Noosa Regional Gallery and described as an ‘accidental curator’ this prize-winning painter and sculptor has moved from creating works to curating them. It all began when he opened The Trocadero Art Space in Footscray in an effort to build an arts community in the area and 14 years later it is still standing we are lucky to have him taking the arts to a whole new level in our region.

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