JOHN BOKOR

John Bokor 'Two mandarins' 2021 oil on linen 122 x 137 cm

BIOGRAPHY

John Bokor has held solo exhibitions since 1995. His work has been included in group exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally in the UK, USA, Denmark and Norway.

John Bokor was a finalist in the 2021 Sir John Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (also 2019) and is a recipient of the Kings School Art Prize (2015), The Muswellbook Art Prize, Drawing Section (2015), The Wilson Art Award (2013), The Eutick Memorial Still Life Award (2013), The New South Wales Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize (2012) and the Waverly Woolhahra Art Prize (2004).

John Bokor's work is held in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the New South Wales Parliament Art Collection as well as significant regional, tertiary and private collections. He has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the National Art School, Sydney.

ARTIST CV

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WORKS

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PREVIOUS EXHIBITION

STILL LIFES & INTERIORS

28 SEPTEMBER TO 16 OCTOBER

When John Bokor was preparing to take up an artist’s residency on the wild south coast near Bermagui, New South Wales, in May this year, he filled his car with enough art supplies for the two-week stay. As well as boxes of paint, Bokor packed three expansive canvases for working indoors and a bevy of small boards for painting in the dramatic landscape where the icy winter winds were just gathering pace.

But the small boards remained untouched throughout Bokor’s stay at Umbi Gumbi Artist-In-Residence, located in the spotted gum forest bordering Cuttagee Beach. In the end, he didn’t do ‘a scrap’ of plein air painting.

‘I envisaged that I would, but I just wanted to walk and think,’ Bokor said.

Instead of pictures of windswept headlands of the beach where he walked every day with his wife, writer Kirstin Bokor who shared the residency, Bokor returned home with paintings of domestic still lifes assembled from objects he found while fossicking in the Umbi Gumbi house. Who knows? Perhaps that distinctive green teapot was used by artists and writers who stayed at Umbi Gumbi in years gone by? Brett Whiteley, Michael Dransfield and Richard Neville were just some of them.

For Bokor, such objects were very much part of the Umbi Gumbi story and fabric.

‘I’d just take things out to the studio and make a mental note so I could put them all back where they belonged,’ he said.

The yellow book that appears in the paintings was about John Olsen, while the loaf of sourdough was from Honorbread in Bermagui, where the couple also bought wonderful seafood to cook at night.

While Kirstin stayed in the main house and wrote by the fire, Bokor painted in the nearby studio, entranced by the complete silence that was suddenly shattered every afternoon by kangaroos that crashed and thudded down the gully. They came so close that Bokor expected them to invade the studio, but they never did.

The three Umbi Gumbi paintings are on view in Bokor’s exhibition, Still Lifes and Interiors, at Nicholas Thompson Gallery in Melbourne, along with a suite of smaller canvases completed back home in Bulli, New South Wales, but directly inspired by the residency and informed by the many photographs that Bokor took of the assemblages he put together there.

The three big paintings – Umbi Gumbi still life, Two apples, and Green teapot – were started in Umbi Gumbi and finished in Bulli. ‘I put everything that I could in them, which is often how I paint,’ Bokor said.

‘I put more information than I want to have at the end, and then I edit it out and take things out.’

Melbourne audiences are less familiar with Bokor’s work than in Sydney, so the artist decided with Nicholas Thompson to include several older paintings for reasons of context. These include the large picture, Hendrik and Julianna’s sitting room (2014), depicting the Sydney home of artist and influential former Art Gallery of New South Wales curator Hendrik Kolenberg. The painting has a shifting, living quality, thanks to Bokor’s layering and editing which gives the objects permission to breathe rather than nailing them solidly to the spot.

For Bokor, the Umbi Gumbi residency came when Australia was first coming to terms with COVID-19.

‘It really kind of refreshed me and recalibrated my whole headspace,’ Bokor said.

Umbi Gumbi offers residencies to artists, writers and musicians. The property was once owned by Frank and Mary Brett, Mary being a relative of the artistic Boyd dynasty. A cooperative property since 1978, Umbi Gumbi is now run by Frederic Jeanjean and Jessie Connell.

 

Elizabeth Fortescue in October 2021 issue of Art Almanac, p 33-35

 

John Bokor's recent still life paintings – shown alongside earlier interiors at Nicholas Thompson Gallery – sound out the shape of absence, even in their colourific and textural richness.

In recent months, video footage of empty  CBDs – especially Melbourne and Sydney – has been circulating through my varied social media feeds. Populating this footage are shopping strips empty of foot traffic, six-lane motorways with a solitary Uber delivery person being blown through on a bike, and huge multi-million dollar stadiums full of silence. These images – and they’re almost stills, really – have an eerie half-liveliness about them. The scenes might feel post-apocalyptic, or they might feel like something from deep historical time; the worst bit of this is, of course, that these are scenes neither of the future nor the past, but from now. While emptiness has sat outside waiting for us, many will have just passed a winter of intense interiority.

In John Bokor’s A single bloom2021, two chairs face into a table. There is, per the work’s title, a single pink flower in a vase, two plates, a few cups, and what looks to be a drawing, perhaps of an animal form. Dark shadows spool out from each pictured object: perhaps this is a nod to Margaret Preston and the Australian still life tradition into which Bokor enters in his work, or perhaps it is just late in the day. Certainly the light is warm enough to suggest this latter option. In fact, the whole image is “warm” – the titular “bloom” is robust and pink like a cheek, the edges of the crockery bright and slightly glowing, everything (including the table) round and soft at the edges. And yet, I’m drawn continually into the unoccupied space the shadows fall across. The plates are empty. The chairs are empty.

Bokor is “not interested in the hard concrete facts of the objects,” in his still lifes, and says his “aim is to paint a response to the subject rather than a documentation of it.” Many of these works were made on the Umbi Gumbi Artist Residency at Cuttagee Beach this year, though some older paintings of interiors are shown as well. Though his approach to genre, and his use of space in the picture, have developed over time, what echoes across the different periods of his work is the sense that a human occupant – sometimes even named, as in Sallie’s table2014, and Hendrik and Julianna’s sitting room2014 –  has just stepped out of the scene. Rather than simple documents of what remains in empty rooms, though, these paintings do indeed feel like responses to the phenomenon of unoccupied space: to me, twelve weeks into Sydney’s lockdown, the “warmth” of Bokor’s interior object studies feels like a reaching towards the vanished people who would have sat, drawn, drank, and remarked on the roses in these scenes. Even the tabletops do this reaching – see how the perspective of Bokor’s paintings tilts their surfaces down toward the viewer like extended palms.

In light of this, it seems entirely fitting that these paintings should be viewable, for the foreseeable future, primarily through Nicholas Thompson Gallery’s website. Our looking must echo Bokor’s painting. That is, we can look at the richness in front of us, and use this to better understand the shape of the cavities which have grown around us over the past, say, eighteen months (though perhaps it is much longer).

 

Erin McFadyen for Artist Profile (online) 29 September 2021

BETWEEN THE WALLS

6 TO 24 NOVEMBER 2019

These paintings and studies are the continuation of a theme I started two years ago centred around the domestic interior. They are hybrid paintings, part reality and part fiction; part drawing and part painting. I use traditional oil painting implements and methods combined with an airbrush.The scenes are a mixture of images sourced online and spaces composed from my imagination. I want to make paintings that feel like another world but are also familiar.

John Bokor 2019

NEWS

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JOHN BOKOR EXHIBITION REVIEWED BY ELIZABETH FORTESCUE IN ‘ART ALMANAC’ OCTOBER

When John Bokor was preparing to take up an artist’s residency on the wild south coast near Bermagui, New South Wales, in May this year, he filled his car with enough art supplies for the two-week stay. As well as boxes of paint, Bokor packed three expansive canvases for working indoors and a bevy of…

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JOHN BOKOR EXHIBITION REVIEWED BY ERIN MCFADYEN IN ‘ARTIST PROFILE’ ONLINE

John Bokor’s recent still life paintings – shown alongside earlier interiors at Nicholas Thompson Gallery – sound out the shape of absence, even in their colourific and textural richness. In recent months, video footage of empty  CBDs – especially Melbourne and Sydney – has been circulating through my varied social media feeds. Populating this footage…

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JOHN BOKOR FINALIST IN SIR JOHN SULMAN PRIZE 2021 AT ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

John Bokor is a finalist in the Sir John Sulman Prize 2021 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales . John Bokor Rosé and lemons oil on canvas 160 x 180.5 cm . “In Rosé and lemons, the casual clutter of domestic life takes centre stage. This painting is my way of showing beauty…

The Lounge Room in Spring” 2020, charcoal, wash and collage, 85x100cm

JOHN BOKOR FINALIST IN THE DOBELL DRAWING PRIZE 22

John Bokor is a finalist in The Dobell Drawing Prize 22 . The Dobell Drawing Prize is the leading drawing exhibition in Australia. Presented in partnership with the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation (SWDAF), the biennial prize explores the enduring importance of drawing within contemporary art practice. . The exhibition is current at the National…

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JOHN BOKOR IS A FINALIST IN THE NATIONAL STILL LIFE AWARD AT COFFS HARBOUR REGIONAL GALLERY

⁣John Bokor⁣ ‘Spring⁣’ ⁣2019⁣ oil on linen⁣ ⁣120 x 120 cm⁣ Exhibition current 20 September to 30 November⁣

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JOHN BOKOR FINALIST IN THE SIR JOHN SULMAN PRIZE 2019 AT THE ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES WITH HIS WORK ‘FOUR THIRTY PM’⁣