“The Paintings of Simon Gunning”, Louisiana Cultural Vistas



Simon Gunning has painted natural landscapes and he has painted urban landscapes. In his “River Series” he does both, simultaneously. The images…are each a study in startling, if at times eerie, incongruity. Water, earth, air, metal, concrete and smoke co-exist in works that are at once both realistic and impressionistic. “Part of the joy of painting is making it realistic without having to stress it,” says Gunning. For those who live close to and know the Mississippi River, the scenes appear both familiar and oddly strange.

Gunning, who works on location, absorbing the light of the environment, says he is interested in the “incidental decay” in and around New Orleans. “I don’t know why I am not attracted to the decorative nature of uptown and the French Quarter,” he says. “I’m more attracted to the underbelly of the city.”

A native of Sydney, Australia and schooled at the Victorian College of Art in Melborne, Gunning arrived in New Orleans 24 years ago and was immediately seduced by the city’s sense of quiet decay. “The light in Sydney is quite bright and very different,” says Gunning, who is nurtured by the environment of south Louisiana. “My paintings are atmospheric, and the atmosphere is heavy-a storm coming or leaving, the air thick and almost smelling of summer stench.”

Yet each image-even those that examine the careless nature of industrial blight-shimmers with an underlying beauty; the result seems less a rebuke and more a gentle contemplation.