Bruce Latimer is a Sydney-based print maker and artist. His satirical and sardonic interpretation of relationships between natural and man-made environments has led one critic to describe his images as a “surreal pictorial language of the Australian landscape” (Grishin, 2009). Through techniques of juxtaposition and manipulation of images, Latimer examines human intrusions into the natural world. Despite evidence of sometimes destructive human behaviours, Latimer’s art-making celebrates a strange beauty that results from these encounters. Working with intaglio printmaking methods allows him to express complex ideas in multi-layered images.

Born in 1951 in Sydney, Latimer’s career commenced with his Diploma of Fine Arts (Painting) at East Sydney Technical College (now National Art School [NAS]) in 1974, studying under the inspirational art teacher David Rose. Despite being enrolled in painting as a major, and printmaking as a minor, Latimer spent most of his time in his final years involved in installation sculpture. His creations were in many ways in opposition to the idea of aesthetic decision-making, being more about the physical properties of materials. His compulsory minor study – screen printing – allowed the artist to indulge in aesthetics and narrative.

Whilst receiving artistic direction from his mentor, David Rose, Latimer was also privy to the teachings of Sydney Ball, a painter, printmaker and teacher at the National Art School who had just returned from New York. To the young artist, Ball was a living witness to American contemporary art and inspired him to also visit the United States at the first opportunity. He first completed his Diploma of Fine Arts in 1973. This was followed, at the insistence of his parents, by a Diploma of Education (Art) at Sydney’s Teachers College in 1974, and then the mandatory year of teaching experience at Condell Park High School in 1975. It was not until 1976 that Latimer flew to New York on what was intended to be a six month trip. Inspired as he was by Ball’s stories, and determined to see as much art as possible, he felt “obsessed with contemporary American art” (pers. comm.).

Latimer spent fourteen years in New York. During this time he continued to screen print for another six to seven years until health concerns, arising from solvent-based printing processes, led him to concentrate more on painting. Often these activities were fitted in around his paid work in the construction and infrastructure industries. It was during this time that he also met his wife, and had a son. Latimer was taken by surprise when a friend from Australia sent him a Paul Kelly cassette which not only reminded him of his former home, but also made him reassess his employment as a builder and his former aspirations to be an artist. After fourteen years overseas, Latimer resolved to return home to Australia, with his new family, and to resume his work as an artist.

Latimer gained teaching experience in 1991 at Meadowbank TAFE in Sydney, New South Wales under Michael Kempson, who also taught him intaglio etching. For a while, Latimer was just a week ahead of the students in terms of technical experience. Etching, however, turned out to be a medium most suited to his type of creative expression. Latimer, who describes himself as “a process person” and a tonalist, was attracted to aquatint, an etching process (pers. comm.).

As a landscape artist, Latimer is not content with observation alone. Through juxtaposition he attempts to understand the landscape and our relationship with it. In works such as Showboat 2005, he demonstrates an embodiment of human triumphalism, accentuating its short-circuitedness and surveillance by representatives of the avian, aquatic and terrestrial worlds (Artist’s Statement, June 2005). The artist explains the hopeful and timeless nature of the natural order, and subtle vulnerability of human systems. Showboat , like much of his work, is a window into the artist’s view of two worlds coexisting as one.

As an artist etcher and screen printer, Latimer’s practice is influenced by artists who create impossible, synthetic, and sometimes awkward worlds: El Greco, for his eccentric bending of an ecstatic reality; Pierre Bonnard, for his amplification of unexpected aspects of the visual world; and R.B. Kitaj, for his use of montage in the creation of narratives with internal poetic logic, to list only a few (pers. comm.).

Theoretically, his intaglio etchings draw attention to the fusing of the natural and built environments; technically they show a commitment to craftsmanship, stemming from his early years of tertiary education. He regards his works as a poetic meditation, rather than an attempt to illustrate political or environmental truths (pers. comm.).

Since the early 1990s the artist has featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions. These include his solo exhibition titled 'Tenuous Connection’, at Beaver Galleries, in Canberra, 2009 and a group exhibition at The Australian Galleries, in Melbourne (June-July 2010). For his contributions to Australian screen printing and intaglio etching, Latimer has received recognition through a number prizes and grants, including a Visual Arts Board Grant in 1977, the Patron Print Commission Print Council of Australia Award in 1982, and the Geelong Acquisitive Print Award in 2005.

As of 2010 Latimer lecturers part-time at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, and has lectured at the National Art School, Sydney, and Colleges of TAFE.

Bowey, Eliza
De Lorenzo, Catherine
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