James Drinkwater

The intimacy and theatre of family life and everyday events are at the core of James Drinkwater’s art practice. Inspiration might be found in the coastal life he shares with his partner and children in his hometown of Newcastle, or in something as obscure as the architecture of his son’s vintage Japanese cameras - Drinkwater is drawn to the beauty right in front of him, the magic under his nose.

Throughout his career, which began aged five with classes at the Ron Hartree Art School, Newcastle, Drinkwater explored both abstraction and figuration before developing his distinctive aesthetic. He shifts between painting, sculpture, assemblage, collage and drawing in the studio, but it is primarily painting where his ideas are most fully explored. His canvases are viscous, sensual, and physical, with the oil applied in thick swathes of colour by palette knife, rags and his bare hands. His contemplations on themes and concepts drive both the materiality and the composition.

Occasionally disorderly, often unruly, Drinkwater’s works are poetic responses to dense family narratives and personal experiences, and capture the energy he invests in seeking beauty amidst the horror and turmoil of the wider world.

James Drinkwater graduated from the National Art School, Sydney (2001) before moving to Melbourne, then Italy and Germany to further his art practice. A finalist in major art prizes such as the Mosman Prize (2020), Paddington Art Prize (2020, 2017, 2016, 2014), Wynne Prize (2018, 2017, 2015, 2014), Kilgour Prize (2018), and the Sulman Prize (2016), he won the Brett Whiteley Travelling Scholarship in 2014 and the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship in 2011. He has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout Australia, and internationally in Germany and Singapore, and his work is held in private, corporate and public collections such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Gold Coast City Art Collection, Newcastle Art Gallery, Monash University, Macquarie University, University of Newcastle and Artbank.

Carrie McCarthy, June 2022