Ross Seaton was committed to abstraction. Whether based on nature, which seems plausible, or geometric exercises derived from his study of mathematics, he created confident and mature artworks that reflected current artistic orthodoxies, such as Hard Edge Abstraction. They are made with considerable craftsmanship, because it was a necessary condition of their existence. As Ross explained “The artist has his own special kind of accuracy and need only take care (neatness) from time to time.” This was work that required that ‘neatness’ and it was dutifully undertaken.
Abstract I, c 1983, oil on canvas, 118.8 x 172.3 cm
The first sophisticated works uncovered in Bulimba Road were made around the same time Ross was writing his notes on experimentation, quoted above. They were illustrated with pages upon pages of sketches and studies for complex, geometrical abstractions similar to the large canvases left stored in the large shed at the back of his house.
Undated, untitled and with no information appended to the paintings or their storage crates, it is hard to provide a detailed provenance, but they are the work of a highly motivated, skilled and rigorous practitioner.
The period of early experimentation, the study tour to Europe in the late 1970s, the rigorous conceptualisation of his practice had prepared Ross as an artist and the works he began producing in the early 1980s are the products of a sophisticated, motivated and focused artist.
Abstract III, c 1983, oil on canvas, 118.8 x 172.3 cm
Abstract I, II & III, c 1983, in Ross Seaton's backyard
...illustrated with pages upon pages of sketches and studies for complex, geometrical abstractions...the works he began producing in the early 1980s are the products of a sophisticated, motivated and focused artist.- curator Ted Snell
Geometric Abstraction III, c 2010-15, oil on ply, 121.8 x 61.2 cm
Whether by design or in response to the difficulty of securing expensive canvas and paint, Ross gradually moved from oil on canvas, to making his paintings in acrylic and oil on card, wallpaper and blinds.
Although a very different palette to the two large canvases, his painting on composite board (above) begins with a loose application of paint to give an overall structure, which is refined and fixed with sharp defining edges as he gradually worked back into the surface to find its inherent structure.
It is a remarkable work in many ways and a work of both sophistication and great technical finesse. The shimmering effect of jostling squares of yellow and blue creates a dynamism across the surface that is endlessly engaging.
In a series of works painted in the 1990s (right and below) Ross used the textured backs of rolls of wallpaper. Using thinned paint, he covered the surface with broad, sweeping gestural marks.
In a similar way to the work described above, he worked back into this spontaneous flurry of brushstrokes to find pattern and to demarcate one area from another. This careful process of ‘neatening’ and refining led to a group of extraordinary works that encapsulate Ross’s practice at this time.
The imagery is part of a larger continuous field of activity, which is ‘framed’ by the artist, who merely captures a snapshot of this continuous flow.
left to right: Abstract Painting II & IV, c 1983-90, oil on wallpaper on frame, each 102 x 76 cm
The artist has his own special kind of accuracy and need only take care (neatness) from time to time.- Ross Seaton, 1982, handwritten in a student exercise book
Abstract Studies, c 2015, gouache & ink on paper, 22.5 x 24 cm each
Abstract Study, c 2015, gouache & ink on paper, 22.5 x 24 cm
Another group of works Ross worked on for years were a series of large abstract paintings on plywood.
As always with his work it is hard to date, though they seem to be works that were completed over a period of time through the slow and considered accretion of paint. It’s possible that they were begun around 2014 or 2015 and layer upon layer of paint was added to create an arena in which energised micro-elements bounce off each other before visually coalescing into a unified field.
Our eyes are given little respite until we settle into the painting’s rhythms and allow us to see the patterns and attune ourselves to its life force. “It’s the Force” as Ross would say, “The Force” and it is contained within this remarkable works.
Untitled Abstract II, c 2016-20, oil on ply, 115 x 162 cm
Untitled Abstract III, c 2016-20, oil on ply, 115 x 162 cm