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Review: West Coast Abstract
RJ Dorizzi’s Formation II. in West Coast Abstract at Perth Galleries. Picture: Simon Cowling.

Abstract art has long been the most popular form of art in Western countries. Even today, people are more likely to buy an abstract painting than they are a landscape, a portrait or a sculpture.

This might have to do with the way that abstract painting appears to distil the essence of art, as it is made up of only colours, lines and shapes. In Perth, a particular kind of abstraction has proven popular.

Perth artists have favoured a geometric, minimal form of painting, made up of lines and fields of colour.

This might have taken off here because the city is so flat, and its suburban sprawl resembles a minimal, geometric painting.

Trevor Vickers is one of the original Australian artists of this kind, and is featured this week in a show alongside two other Perth abstract painters.

His work's optical effects lie in the afterimage that stays on the inside of your retina after you have stopped looking at something.

Looking at a Vickers painting is like looking at a room after a florescent light has just been turned off, when the shapes of the furniture flicker for a moment. He achieves this in a series of paintings that work with doubled rectangles placed side by side, like the outlines of two skyscrapers.

Of course getting from these rectangles to an afterimage isn't as simple as all that, and Vickers shows his experience, manipulating line, colour and fill to get the most out of his optics.

R.J. Dorizzi also works with afterimages, by painting parallel lines in changing tones of colour.

These are technically precise works, as variations in shade bring about an explosion of optical effects in the eye.

ike Vickers, Dorozzi is able to turn an incredibly boring pattern into a fun palace of the eye, dancing with invisible lines that rise from the surface of the work.

A third painter here stands out for not working with geometries, but with organic shapes and bright colours.

Giles Hohnen makes a more intuitive form of abstract art, his forms less controlled than the minimal geometries of his fellows.

They used to call this kind of work abstract expressionism, because you can see the gesture of the painter, the hand thrown across the surface of the work. While some of them resemble the view from a car window, they are at their best when they resemble nothing but themselves.

Hohnen has the ability to get you thinking about the feeling of a colour or a shape, inducing a kind of vertigo in their curving lines and splashes of paint.

One spectacular painting is all yellow, and seems both happy and sombre at the same time, its overlapping shapes creating an emotion all of its own.

Many of the established galleries around Perth that have recently announced their closure, including Perth Galleries, have been showcases for the abstract artists of Perth. Their closure may mark the end of an era of painting in the city.

Yet abstract painting is also one of those things that artists will always be interested in doing, because it distils some of their most basic obsessions. Dorizzi, Hohnen and Vickers are three of the best, their experience showing through in their manipulations of the eye and mind. <div class="endnote">

West Coast Abstract is at Perth Galleries, 92 Stirling Highway, North Fremantle, until June 24. </div>