Most artists try to establish a narrative with clues, receding lines, perspective and depth of field, to entice and engage the viewer with a recognisable composition. Wayde Owen encapsulates it all, in a graphic short-hand. Re-assembling objects and entities, Owen makes some profound observations about life, and the structures with which we frame ourselves with semblances of ‘normality’. The realm we share with animals, is of supreme significance to Owen, particularly the anthropomorphism of birds, wolves and dogs. Some of his earliest childhood memories recall the preoccupation of his father, a breeder of quails. Quails, eagles and cockatoos feature, often in human-hybrid form, rendered as silhouettes, shadows, sketches. Owen’s birds are chimeric and all powerful. Fragments of faces, heads and torso studies hint to Greco-Roman mythology, part scientific, part fiction – re-positioned to be familiar, yet strange, artefacts from the subconscious. His manipulation of these objects questions notions of humanity, ancient civilisation and the artifice of representation, to challenge the notion of ‘decorative’, from the past to the present.
This is where Owen crosses genres. Not purely Cubist, in simplicity and distillation of form. Nor is it purely Expressionist, in its bold oleaginous use of paint and colour. It is futurist, scientific and expansive. The use of colour is borrowed from the Modernists with a Fauvist lightness of touch, and beneath it all is the other tradition, that inherited from the Naturalists, which goes back to Durer and Cranach. Balancing a variety of painting mediums on the paintbrush, from oil, to bitumen to clay, requires a mastery of draughtsmanship. He infills the surface voids with deliciously vivid greens and turquoises, butter and neon yellows, black & white banding, and a network of frenetic patterns. With a highly- skilled and fluent mark-making language, Owen defines and re- defines his composition. All is in a state of flux. The figure, the profile or the object become as one, gravity re-asserted. Normality shall prevail. We can rest and observe. But as soon as our gaze is distracted, the rhythms, movement and celerity of objects will dance again. As electrons pulse and whirr in orbit around the nucleus. So we, in these febrile seconds of life, exist as apparitions, silhouettes, flickering atoms. Owen captures this in an instant, before the inevitability of change wipes as a wave in the sand, the previous image as ephemeral. You can sense the scale and personality of objects, and the fluency of expression that ignites it all in a vivid whirl. A consummate artist at the height of his powers, observe or be deemed unworthy. And in the end, enjoy the fun. (David McCubbin 2020)