Gary Freemantle came to prominence as a painter in the 1980s with his expressionist landscapes. For the past decade Freemantle has been creating his own pigments using natural products such as mud, quartz, sand, coal, pyrites, and manganese, a practise as old as cave painting.
The inspiration for these earth-based works arrived on Freemantle’s doorstep at Paekakariki during the floods of 2003 when muddy deposits that were left after the water subsided. The first of these mud landscapes, collectively titled Dirty Pictures, exhibited at Paekakariki’s One Eye Gallery later in the year. This began what Art writer and collector Warwick Brown calls “a journey of discovery that saw him roaming over the landscape, not just to find suitable subjects to paint, but to locate his painting materials.” To date Freemantle has sourced over one hundred earth-based pigments, including difficult colours like blue, yellow, red and green, his mission being to prove that ‘mud isn’t just brown.’
More recently Freemantle has been working with another unusual material- velvet. His velvet works, which can be described as subtle haunting images, purposefully ignore the dirty reputation of the velvet painting practice popularised in the mid-twentieth century. Not interested in ironically referencing these associations, Freemantle argues that there is a great deal more kitsch in the world produced with oil on canvas than any other.
These recent figurative paintings depict elusive narratives; employing dramatic gesture and action. A range of emotional states are revealed emerging from the darkness. These ghostly figures convey hope, joy, fear, violence to represent collective human experience.
Freemantle has been working and exhibiting for three decades. He has held a number of artists’ residencies including the prestigious NZ Arts Council Rita Angus Residency in 1988-9 and the William Hodges Fellowship in 2012. In recent years he has had solo shows at an eclectic range of venues from the Auckland Art Gallery to Dub Pies in New York, and has regularly shown at the Brooke-Gifford Gallery, Christchurch and Mary Newton Gallery, Wellington. His work has also been included in numerous group shows over the years. Freemantle was a James Wallace Art Awards Runner up 1994 and has been a finalist 15 times. His work is held in numerous public collections including the Ashfield Council, Sydney, the National Library, Wellington, and the Auckland Museum.