The Artist's Studio
Eolo Paul Bottaro
October 26, 2021
-
November 26, 2021
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This collection of works by Eolo Paul Bottaro brings together major paintings created over the past two decades, along with unseen ink on paper studies from the artist’s private collection, fine art prints and new bronze maquettes that relate to his yet to be launched public sculpture commission for the Essendon Fields precinct, Melbourne.


Bottaro, a Melbourne born artist of Italian heritage who divides his time between Sicily and Australia, has always worked across multiple mediums. In his oeuvre mythology and urban life occupy the same space, as he adapts ancient tales often sourced from art history to create contemporary narratives. Each of his finely rendered oils, sculptures and works on paper have the capacity to send the viewer on an imaginative and intellectual journey to decode their meaning. Nothing is spelled out – and that’s the way the artist likes it.


By enacting ancient stories in familiar urban surrounds, the artist alludes to the enduring relevance of myth to express human experience. An example of this is seen in A lion doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep, which is based on a woodcut by Renaissance master Tiziano Vecelli (1488/90 – 1576), attributed to block-cutter Niccolò Boldrini (active ca. 1530 – ca. 1570). The print depicts the biblical figure of Saint Jerome and his self-imposed exile in the wilderness to purify his soul. In this major painting on the theme, Bottaro refigures the saint as a motorcyclist entering a large stormwater drain tunnel – a metaphor for the individual’s existential journey to confront the unknown and unseen. Underneath luminous twilight skies the figure is surrounded by large and gloriously rendered lions that appear like languorous gatekeepers to another realm, one that the motorcyclist seeks to enter. Bottaro has located the scene on the banks of Melbourne’s Merri Creek, a prominent waterway that runs through the north of the city.


Alongside his interest in myth and place, considerable attention is dedicated to that ephemeral quality that keep the eye and spirit engaged – beauty. Not in a cliché sense of a gorgeous face or body represented in paint, but a beauty that resides in both the fine details rendered, and his overarching compositions that sync with natural geometry (such as the golden mean) to create a pleasing visual harmony. Beauty is found in Bottaro’s evocation of soft folds of fabric of the female figure’s dress in Naomi, or the vast sweep of rural farmlands and volcanic plains that converge upon Mt Etna, Sicily as seen in La Casa Nun Sacchianna Senza Scala (a house is not built without a ladder).


In his attention to the aesthetics of picture making, the artist’s skilled application and rigorous technique comes to the fore. Bottaro works with pure hand-ground colour pigments that he mixes with gesso, egg tempera and linseed oil, and layers in one glowing glaze of paint after another. The result is a depth and translucency to his colour application which is deeply satisfying to behold.


Through this original approach to content and technique, Bottaro has developed a keen following. This exhibition features some of the main subjects that have featured throughout his oeuvre. Works inspired by Melbourne where he lived for most of his life appear, as do that of Sicily. This distant land of his ancestors, girt by the cerulean waters of the Mediterranean has long fired Bottaro’s artistic imagination, and he has represented various Sicilian themes and locations intermittently over the years. From the snow-covered slopes of Mount Etna, the active volcano that regularly erupts above the city of Catania, to the dry golden hills of the economically impoverished province of Enna.


Central Australia features in his large sepia painting Udepata (top panel), which depicts Ellery Creek Big Hole, one of the main waterholes in the West MacDonnell Ranges. The Aboriginal name for the waterhole is Udepata, and as a permanent source of water it is an important place for the Arrarnta people. The large monochrome painting that features in the current exhibition represents the top half of Bottaro’s fresco Udepata, which was created for Australian Events Centre, Essendon Fields in 2017. The Events Centre work is a tour de force painted directly onto the wall using the little used and labour-intensive technique of buon fresco. A small and jewel-like colour study of the fresco also appears in the current exhibition.


And finally, Atlas. The small bronze maquettes that feature in this exhibition are studies for the major sculpture soon to be unveiled at Essendon Fields. Another large public commission, this work stands at a height of over 5 metres and features a hand-cast bronze figure of a crouching man who holds aloft an enormous sphere on his shoulders formed of patinated copper sheets, individually shaped and fitted using copper rivets. Inspired by classical mythology and 20th century sculpture in both form and content, Atlas presents a compelling meditation on the human condition. It evokes tension and balance, strength and human frailty as the figure is bent, but not broken by the crushing weight of the world on his shoulders. The small bronze maquettes encapsulate the form of the major piece and its inexorable pathos.


This diverse collection reflects the foundational ideas and methodologies that underpin the artist’s practice, along with new directions and major public works. It is through this ambitious scope and breadth of vision that Bottaro has forged an inimitable artistic identity.


Marguerite Brown

MA(ArtCur)

Eolo Paul Bottaro

Eolo Paul Bottaro, a Melbourne born artist of Italian heritage who divides his time between Sicily and Australia, has always worked across multiple mediums. In his oeuvre mythology and urban life occupy the same space, as he adapts ancient tales often sourced from art history to create contemporary narratives. Each of his finely rendered oils, sculptures and works on paper have the capacity to send the viewer on an imaginative and intellectual journey to decode their meaning…


By enacting ancient stories in familiar urban surrounds, the artist alludes to the enduring relevance of myth to express human experience… Alongside his interest in myth and place, considerable attention is dedicated to that ephemeral quality that keep the eye and spirit engaged – beauty. Not in a cliché sense of a gorgeous face or body represented in paint, but a beauty that resides in both the fine details rendered, and his overarching compositions that sync with natural geometry (such as the golden mean) to create a pleasing visual harmony.


In his attention to the aesthetics of picture making, the artist’s skilled application and rigorous technique comes to the fore. Bottaro works with pure hand-ground colour pigments that he mixes with gesso, egg tempera and linseed oil, and layers in one glowing glaze of paint after another. The result is a depth and translucency to his colour application which is deeply satisfying to behold.

Excerpts from an essay by Marguerite Brown, 2021

Eolo Paul Bottaro (painter, sculptor, printmaker) has been exhibiting regularly since the late 1990s in Melbourne, Sydney, Palermo, and Syracuse. His works have been included in important curated exhibitions of contemporary art and print making, including those at the Geelong Gallery, Art Gallery of Ballarat, Mildura Arts Centre, Benalla Regional Gallery, Latrobe University, Galleria Regionale Palazzo Bellomo di Siracusa, and the National Arts Club in New York.

Bottaro was the winner of Geelong Acquisitive Print Award (1997, 2011), City of Darebin Art Award (2008), Hutching Acquisitive Art Prize (2011); National Works on Paper, Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery (2012), and the Nillumbik Art Prize (2012); and his works had been included as finalists in the Archibald Prize, Fleurieu Art Prize, Conrad Jupiters Art Prize, Darebin Latrobe Art Prize, Burnie Print Prize, Rick Amor Drawing Prize, Deakin University Sculpture Award, Kilgour Prize, A.M.E. Bale Travelling Scholarship, and numerous others.

Subject of numerous art reviews and exhibition essays, Bottaro’s works have been acquired by the State Library of Victoria, Geelong Gallery, Monash University, Geelong Gallery, City of Darebin Art Collection, Essendon Airport, Museo Civico Archeologico di Polizzi Generosa, Sicily, as well as notable corporate and private collections in Australia and abroad.

The Artist's Studio
by
Eolo Paul Bottaro
October 26, 2021
-
November 26, 2021
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