David Hart Series Descriptions
Have a read about your favourite of David's collections, with insights into the history and inspirations behind each piece.
The Outback Series
The Outback Series was really where David Hart’s career first began. He finds that the best medium to express his love for storytelling, and passion for Australian history and folklore, is with the earthy tones of a paintbrush and oils, or the rich colours of gauche that’s been washed and scrumbled over thickly textured watercolour paper.
Growing up in the dusty, outback mining town of Broken Hill, NSW, has enabled David to not only experience, but to also absorb, the rich colours and depth of the Australian landscape. It is with this knowledge and experience that he has the ability to seamlessly transport his viewers inside each image. The images of his outback series are often humorous, but at the same time, very reflective of his heritage and fascination with the Australian spirit. Although David now lives surrounded by beautiful beaches and lush hinterland, his success has not changed his connection to his roots.
The Velocity Series
David’s Velocity series was born out of inspiration he had while studying areas of his studio floor. Noticing that paint had been inadvertently dropped and splashed from waist height as he worked at his easel, he could see that the paint had left interesting patterns on the floor. Intrigued by his discovery, David decided to experiment by preparing a canvas to receive paint, applied by various techniques such as dropping it from ladders and even using his bare hands. It was glass balls filled with paint, however, that eventually gave him the effect he was looking for. The end result was beautiful, and the following weeks of experimentation and refinement led to the creation of what is now known as the the Velocity series.
Black Dog Series
David’s Black Dog series is perhaps the most iconic and highly collected of all of his series. Although these works are highly sort after, they are few and far between, and it’s with good reason once you understand the process behind their creation. The iconic black dog that you see in many of David’s works depicts Bogart, his childhood pet. Bogart was a true companion and close friend to David throughout his youth – smart, watchful, protective and ever present, Bogart lives on as the feature character of this sensational series.
Interestingly, David’s Black Dog paintings were inspired by left over and cast off paint from his easel and palette. At the end of each day of painting, David often found he was left with extra paint on his pallet and, not wanting to throw it away, he began scraping it onto spare canvas. This process evolved over six to eight months until the canvas was so thick with cast off paint that the frame it was stretched on could barely support itself. At this stage, David would begin work on balancing the piece with paints straight from the tube. Once satisfied with the composition and colour, he would draw on the technique of one of his heroes and mentors, Jackson Pollock; bringing the work to life by embellishing the artwork using enamel. In the final stages after drying, several small black dogs would be cleverly and randomly scattered amongst the folds and drizzles of paint. This allowed the viewer to become actively involved in their visual experience as they searched for each dog. David’s Black Dog paintings are intentionally random, expressive, and purposeful. The Black Dog concept has become hugely successful with collectors, however, due to their thick oil paint and lengthy creation process, there are generally only 4 to 6 of these pieces available per year.
David’s Inspiration series is truly an extension of his vibrant and passionate personality. Developed through the creation of the original Inspiration Mural that was painted for the London Olympic Games as part of the Telstra Hero Message campaign. These works explore the concept that what looks like chaos in the paint can actually be manipulated, and controlled with a certain degree of accuracy. In this series, colour spills and explodes across the canvas like an expression of energy revealing a beauty that can only be found within chaos. Needing to deliver huge volumes of paint to the canvas has driven David to discover and develop many new techniques that have enabled him to create this stunning series of work. The Inspiration series has been so successful from its inception, that it was soon picked up and licenced by Australia’s largest homewares company, Maxwell and Williams, who have since created an entire range based around the series that has now been sold worldwide.
The exposure series was born out of David’s Inspiration series, intrigued with the concept of being able to dual reverse black and white layering, David wanted to create work that was cut back to its simplest form. The Introduction of metallic paint in this series was a way of David paying tribute to his childhood hero and mentor, Jackson Pollock.
Through years of development and experimentation, David has been able to create fluid suspensions and carriers that enable him to pour extremely flexible metallic colours; this has opened up a world of creative possibilities for him. He has no desire to be another Jackson Pollock, but does believe that there is much to be learned from Pollock’s work that can be adapted and expanded upon through David’s own unique application techniques and custom made mediums.
Inspired by Australian wild flowers, David’s Flower series has become a loving evolution over many years. As he freely experiments with colour and new methods of application, his flower images have taken on ever-evolving textures. David experiments with a wide variety of painting implements, like large broad paint brushes, paint tubes drilled with holes, pallet knives and house hold scrubbing brushes. These paintings are not your typical still-lives either; being thickly laden with paint that seems to struggle to hold itself to the canvas, allows his images to create a sense of energy and movement that’s almost hypnotic, yet, at the same time, gives the viewer a sense of tranquilly and stimulation.
David finds painting beach scenes and seascapes to be among his most enjoyable and relaxing forms of expression. Living and working alongside some of Australia’s most famous beaches, has been a driving force behind his inspiration. His images of Australian beach life are portrayed in a very impressionistic style. Beginning with a hand sketch onto canvas, he then completes his scene in acrylic paint. After setting the work aside to dry for a day or two, he then begins to paint layer upon layer of luxurious oil colours, lavishly and thickly applied by pallet knife, while at the same time, allowing areas of the original under work to show through. Each image seeks to draw the viewer’s attention to an expansive depth; random knife strokes, scratches and seeming insignificant blobs of paint suddenly become objects and people who appear to be engaged in all manner of activities. David’s beach scenes are both romantic and realistic observations of life at the beach.
Dragonfly and Ants Series
The Dragonfly and Ant series came about as the result of a promise that David made to his father, Pro, to keep his secret techniques and styles alive after he passed away.
David’s father was also an artist who had a fascination with insects. Pro’s portrayal of insects, ants, and dragonflies in particular, extended from the joyous to the macabre both in paintings and sculpture. Growing up on a sheep sheering property in the outback of central NSW, influenced Pro’s work significantly. It was Pro’s fascination that also fostered David’s interest in dragonflies and ants as well. As a child, David would spend hours drawing these now iconic images in sketch books and watching his father paint and draw. Unfortunately, Pro passed away at his home in Broken Hill, NSW, in March 2006 from Motor Neurone Disease. Briefly, before Pro Hart’s passing, David made a promise to his father that he would keep his secret techniques and styles alive after his death; this promise has pushed David to further develop the series into his own expression.
David remembers his father Pro would quite often set up a video camera in front of his easel and video tape different techniques and styles as he painted. wanting to teach and mentor David, Pro would talk to him on camera as he explained what he was doing and the purpose behind certain processes, then send the tapes to him for safe keeping. The objective behind these instructional videos was not for Pro to recreate himself in David’s work, or for David to copy him, it was purely because Pro saw a unique gifting on his sons life from a very early age. Pro invested his most precious knowledge into David to ensure his lifetime of painting discoveries and techniques would never be lost, but continue on through David’s own expression.
In nearly all of the styles and subjects that David paints, there are subtle elements of his father’s secret techniques. David has been left with an incredible responsibility to his heritage, and he feels that it’s up to him now to keep these styles alive. More than that, he sees his challenge is to take his father’s secret techniques to new heights and to push through the boundaries of experimentation and growth as he adapts and integrates them into his own style.
David’s Dragonfly and Ants series are quite different to the images painted by his father. David has introduced mixed mediums to his work, and uses acrylic bases as the background to create a shiny, slippery finish. He then builds the insects using layers of glazing, which are then rubbed away then re applied; this allows the image to emerge like light from the darkness. Shadowing is then added to create the illusion that the insect is floating on top of the canvas, giving the completed work a wonderful depth of field. Both the Dragonfly and Ant series, and the continual evolution of style and technique used to create them, insures these subjects will remain among the most identifiable and iconic series of David’s body of work.
The Christ Series
David says: “A Great painting is like the revealing of an artist’s lifetime; when you look at a painting you are looking at years of experimentation, mistakes, frustrations, failures and success. My paintings are not merely images, they are shared pieces of my heart and soul.”
David is proud of his Christian faith, and his parents were equally proud of their Christianity, and raised their children on the foundation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The Christ series was something David felt compelled to paint as an expression of his own faith. He wanted to inspire people through this confronting series of paintings, by exposing the incredible price that Jesus paid for the sin and redemption of all mankind. He wanted to allow the viewer to reflect on the fact that Jesus was a gift from God – a living sacrifice to all mankind. Christ, created as a man and tempted as a man so that we could identify with him; God himself putting on flesh and reaching down to earth so that mankind could know him and live in relationship with him. The Christ series powerfully reflects that Jesus was not weak, meek or mild, but was in fact the greatest example of strength, commitment, love and passion that has ever lived or walked planet earth. His crucifixion was brutal and undeserved, but his resurrection was victorious and redeeming. The Christ series is painted using glazing techniques passed on to David from his father. Each painting is first created in black and white, once dry, David begins applying colour with various layers of glazing, which are then rubbed away, then reapplied allowing the image to emerge like light from the darkness. At times, David will even use a house hold scrubbing brush to paint in each image
Our Secret War Series
Our Secret War is perhaps David’s most acclaimed series to date. Taking more than eight years to create, the series is also accompanied by a book that David has authored. It is his hope that through his book and series of paintings, he can take his viewers on a journey of discovery through Australia’s colonial history; that for David has been a journey of personal discovery. What he has learned about Australia’s colonial past, has not only shocked him, but has also greatly impacted the way he now views the indigenous people of Australia, their character, and their culture.
David says: “These images are about the invasion of the British and their occupation of Australia under the guise of Terra Nullius, or “land belonging to no one”. The paintings focus on the impact that the First Fleet of British invaders had on the land, its resources, and the displacement and maltreatment of the indigenous people that had lived there for thousands of years. The series also has a strong focus on indigenous heroes and their formidable resilience and resistance. It is my hope that through the paintings I have created, I can offer people a different point of view of Australian colonial history and indigenous culture that is both confronting and thought provoking. I think it is extremely important to the process of reconciliation that people understand and recognise the hardships and attitudes that the indigenous people of Australia have had to endure – from the first fleet invasion, through to their ongoing struggle for full recondition and rights to land they belong to.”
David’s goal, right from the outset, was to create images that hadn’t been seen before by forming the series from the pages of history itself. David drew inspiration for his images from the words within the many historical texts he was reading. For David, the paintings needed to become more than just images, they needed to give the people, that these books were about, a chance to come to life again on canvas. He wanted to give them a new voice and a new platform to tell their story in person. He wanted to connect the viewer to history in a way that was engaging, and even confronting. He knew that without that connection, the paintings would simply end up being void of power or emotion.
Before David even painted the first brush stroke of this series, he gave great consideration as to how he wanted the paintings to look. After studying many of Australia’s early colonial artworks, he discovered that they all appeared to have a very distinct European feel to them, even though they featured Australian subject matter. Many of the first fleet artists were, of course, European, so they relied heavily on the styles they had been taught whilst learning to paint in Europe. Much of their early landscape depictions featured a style of painting houses, flora and fauna that could be easily mistaken for Europe, had they not contained depictions of Australian aborigines or kangaroos. David knew that what he wanted to create was a look and feel to the work that was unmistakably Australian in colour, landscape and subject matter, so that no matter where it was viewed, it would be instantly recognisable as Australia.
David had a very powerful and confronting story of history to tell, and it needed the correct technique and style to go with what it had to say. He also wanted to create totally original images that no one had ever painted or seen before, images that would allow the viewers to feel like they had physically entered the paintings. David eventually decided to use a style that he had discovered when he was just sixteen, living in the outback mining town of Broken Hill. Using gouache and watercolour, he had learnt to paint the earthy colours and subtle nuances of the outback landscape where he lived, and felt that this style would be perfect for Our Secret War. Not only would the style reflect the harshness and challenges of Australia’s early colonial history perfectly, it was also totally original and uniquely Australian, and in David’s mind, it was exactly what was needed to bring this series to life.
Even though David had read an incredible amount of history books and knew the stories of the indigenous well, he made a point of imagining himself as being present at each scene before beginning. In his mind, taking himself into the scene was the only way he could bring the viewers with him. It was something he had learnt from watching his father paint as a young boy. while painting a series of paintings on the war battles of Gallipoli, Pro would fire off caps, and light pieces of fuse and small amounts of gun powder to fill his studio with the sounds, smell and smoke of the battle field.
David says: “An artist must situate their mind in the moment in time they are hoping to capture; that’s the only way to translate emotion into the work.”
It was important that David took himself into the story as closely as possible. Before starting this series, he even planted particular plants and native trees in the garden outside his studio that would have been found in the stories he was painting, and would often refer to them if particular images required their presence. In this way, he would know how the plants would have actually looked at different times of the day or year. He would also play didgeridoo music, and had large sticks and lengths of aluminium extrusion leaning up against the walls of his studio that looked just like spears. Before starting work on each painting, David would spend an hour or more reading and watching the story unfold in his mind with the hope of transferring the feeling of being there, to the canvas and viewers.
One of the things that you may notice as you observe the landscapes in some of these paintings, is that the background, or tree line, can have an exaggerated softness and beauty in its appearance and colour. The reason for this was drawn from a technique often employed by Norman Lindsay. Lindsay would often use a group of ugly woman or demonised dwarfs, to enhance the beauty of an average looking woman through juxtaposition. David has done the same here in this series of work; using soft colourful landscapes to create a sense of serine light and tranquillity to juxtapose the grotesque carnage taking place within some of the scenes. Just as Norman Lindsay used ugliness to enhance beauty, David has used beauty to magnify the ugliness. This reinforces the fact that what’s being seen does not belong in the landscape, and does not belong within the heart of a human to perpetrate such things.
The canvas that David chose for this series was an 8oz, triple primed, seedless, cotton canvas with a very fine tooth. David chose a fine tooth, or smooth finish, as it would lend itself better to the fine brushwork and glazing that his style would involve. David also used Chroma Atelier Interactive Acrylic as his choice of painting medium, as he felt the range of colours they offer and the way the paint behaves was the best choice for the style being used.
David says that there were still many moments of frustration with both the medium and the technique, in that they were very unforgiving, and allowed no room for mistakes. He experienced many difficulties with glazing and staining techniques that were used to create shadows and build depth within the images. The problem he faced with this was the reactivation of the underlying colours, even after many weeks of drying time. When new colours were being applied over the top of older colours, it had the potential to moisten them again and cause them to lift away. David had to make sure every time he finished painting something into his work, that he spent a good amount of time heating it and drying it with a hair dryer in order to fast-cure the paint. This would usually do the trick, but even then, there were no guarantees that the colours wouldn’t reactivate.
David says: “There was a constant pressure not to make a mistake after completing hours of work. One mistake could destroy an entire painting. The landscape alone could take up to 50 hours to complete, so a mistake would literally ruin a week’s worth of work. Simply painting someone or something in the wrong spot, or not having my scale or perspective exactly right was all it would take to ruin the painting. If I were to paint a person into a landscape at the wrong size compared to say, a tree or building, it would be almost impossible to reverse the mistake.
“Painting the first strokes of the main subject matter is always tense moment for me, and requires total dedication to concentration. Every stroke is technically a controlled stain and it can be quite neve racking and challenging, but conquering that fear and completing a great finished painting always brings a joy and satisfaction and sense of achievement that is difficult to explain.”
Contrary to what people might think, nothing in David’s paintings is sketched out first, in fact, everything in his paintings is painted in by hand from the inspiration of the moment. David never does a pre-sketch of what he thinks painting should look like, as he finds that over-planning can take the feeling of inspiration away from what he’s painting. Preferring Instead to just let it happen, David says that, quite often, things he does spontaneously end up being some of his best work. David believes that every painting he creates has a life of its own, and, throughout its creation, can cross from life to death and back again many times. In that battle, there is a wonderful relationship that is born between the canvas and the creator; turmoil and joy working together to give birth to a masterpiece. This is part of the joy of being an artist, and it is also what David has enjoyed most about creating this important series of work.
The Colony Series
The Colony series is a follow on concept from the ‘Our Secret War series’. Based around Australia’s first colony and the explorations and adventures of the people who arrived in the first fleet that was situated in and around the Sydney Cove area of Australia. With these paintings, David shifts his focus towards various individuals and characters of the First Fleet as he explores their adaption to Australia’s harsh conditions, along with their interactions with each other, the landscape, and with the indigenous people who lived there. David is also concerned with the way in which the colony eventually grew to become a nation, and the moments of those early colonial years that were part of that process, such as those people who were brave enough to explore the dangerous and unforgiving vastness of the Australian landscape. There are also parts of this series that are somewhat romantic as he illustrates the simpler things of daily life in the colony, such as the adventurous spirit of the children who lived there and their ability to adapt to both their surroundings and the boundaries of culture.
In this series, David, once again, chose to use acrylic on canvas as his choice of medium. Despite this, you will notice that this body of work has a very different feel to it. In these paintings, David has framed his subjects with a glow that was created with the intention of drawing the viewers eye immediately to the subject matter within the panting, leaving the details of the landscape to act purely as supporting elements. While his use of colour captures the spirit of both the people and the land, David creates a look and feel to the work that is unmistakably Australian. Through his paintings, he has a wonderful ability to be a storyteller of the past; his images are powerful and confronting, and sometimes whimsical and romantic. His technique and style to go hand-in-hand with what the stories have to say, allowing the viewers to feel like they can become personally involved with the story; as though they have entered into the paintings.