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The Primacy of Gesture - New Paintings by Ross Whitlock

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The Primacy of Gesture - New Paintings by Ross Whitlock

Taylor-Jensen Fine Arts is pleased to host the return of artist Ross Whitlock to its hallowed walls. Whitlock has shown at the Taylor-Jensen gallery since its inception almost twenty years ago.  Known primarily as a ‘plein aire’ painter, Ross Whitlock’s work has won many awards over the years. Ross describes ‘plein air’ in the following manner:  “I take my brushes outdoors, and work on the spot.  I have to work fast, keeping up with the sun and weather.”  He likes to work small…”such paintings are a bright lyrical response to the beauty of nature.  If a large studio painting is an epic poem, these are Haiku!”    

This exhibition comes ten years after Ross retired from full-time teaching – he had been, prior to retirement, Head of the Department of Art and Arts Coordinator at Nga Tawa Diocesan School, Marton.  The exhibition features a diverse selection of places that Ross has travelled to, especially Ross’s love for the sea and his painter’s eye for form and colour.  When not sailing with his wife Hilary in Tasman Bay or the Marlborough Sounds, Ross can be found walking the dogs on the beach or painting plein air.  Although he painted ‘out-of-doors’ regularly while in the Manawatu and on travels throughout New Zealand, living in Nelson allows Ross to paint ‘on site’ more regularly.  In his so-called retirement, Ross has spread his artistic wings even further and developed a more vivid and impressionistic art style.  The Nelson influences of sun, sand and sailing will be apparent to gallery visitors. Collectors of Whitlock’s works and potential new purchasers will surely be pleased to see the land and seascapes that are now created from his new palette and loosened technique. Whitlock writes: “As a teacher I tended to work in a very traditional manner, beginning with either a line and mass block-in or a transparent monochrome imprimatura, or first layer of colour to tone down the ground which is often a bright white gesso.  These days I am a direct painter.  I work much faster using a few bright primary colours, and a very big brush.  Exciting!” Ross continues: “It must be fun to watch, as I often have people watching me paint.  They are usually very respectful, and keep their distance.  I like to invite them to come closer and have a look.”

Ross has joined several art groups within the district and various groups have asked him to give demonstrations of direct painting from time to time.  He says: “It has become quite the thing to paint out-of-doors.  These days I have up to twenty people joining me on Sunday afternoons at different locations.  You can read about our adventures at (Plein Air Painters Of Nelson).”  Ross invites anyone who is down in the Nelson area and has a spare Sunday afternoon to look him up and join the fun.

Ross Whitlock was born and educated in Wanganui, studied at Auckland University and at the Elam School of Fine Art. He was awarded a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, Auckland in 2003.  Ross was Director of Art at the Collegiate School, Wanganui from 1981 to 1988.  He then travelled extensively in Australia and England, returning to teach and paint in Palmerston North.  Whitlock retired as Head of the Department of Art and Arts Coordinator at the Wellington Diocesan School for Girls, Nga Tawa, Marton.  Since retiring with his family and dogs to Nelson, the artist has been busy fixing up a much neglected house, not to mention the yard and gardens and building a proper painting studio. 

Whitlock has exhibited frequently in recent years both in solo and group exhibitions and reviews, winning prizes and awards including the ‘Popular Prize’ in the Wanganui Art Awards and a Certificate of Merit at the Manawatu Art Expo.  Among Ross’s previous work of note has been a series of paintings on 1500 x 1500mm aluminium which feature reflections and reverse images which were created as part of his Masterate degree programme and exhibited in Auckland and at Taylor-Jensen Fine Arts. 

Whitlock’s exhibition history has included: a retrospective at Nga Tawa  in 2006; ‘The City’ at Morgan Street Gallery, Auckland (2007); ‘Upon Reflection’ at Taylor-Jensen Fine Arts (2008); ‘Seeing Nelson’ at the Suter Gallery, Nelson (2009) and ‘The Plein Air Show’ at Refinery Gallery, Nelson, 2012 and 2014.

Whitlock has work in many private collections in New Zealand and Australia as well as in America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland.  His paintings grace the walls of many corporate and academic offices within the Manawatu.

Stuart Schwartz can be reached at 06 355 4278 or via email at

The public is always invited to view special exhibitions and other artworks held at Taylor-Jensen Fine Arts, 33 George Street, Palmerston North during gallery hours: Monday – Thursday, 10 to 5; Friday 10 to 6 and Saturday, 10 to 3.

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