DETAIL : Jimmy BAKER 'Katatjita' 2006 synthetic polymer paint on canvas, Courtesy of Marshall Arts Aboriginal Fine Art Gallery, � Jimmy Baker
Trevor 'Turbo' BROWN | Koala and babies

BROWN, Trevor 'Turbo'
Australia 1967
Koala and babies 2005
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152.5 (h) x 122.0 (w) cm
Purchased 2007
NGA 2007.184
© Trevor "Turbo" Brown

Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown, born in 1967, is a Latje Latje man from Mildura, Victoria. His nickname Turbo is derived from one of the central characters of the 1984 film Breakdance. Brown’s breakdancing ability was renowned in the 1980s and 1990s, and it could be said that his idiosyncratic painting style shares much with breakdancing’s immediate and highly kinetic properties. The fast-paced, fluid brushstrokes speedily block in the form and colour of his subjects, followed by a subsequent layer of studied detail. The combination of his spontaneous application of thick, unmixed acrylic paints in vibrant colours and his engaging pictorial style make his work pulse with an irresistible and syncopated beat.

Brown’s use of pictorial narrative reflects what he refers to as his ‘Latje Latje Dreaming’. He says,In Dreamtime kangaroo and bird 2006 Brown seems to conjure up an Aboriginal arcadia, a time before night and day, when all animals lived in unspoiled harmony. Within this stylised representation of refreshing simplicity and co-existence is an unexpected statement of cultural defiance and presence. The intense repetition of line and expressionistic dotting in the recognisable colours of the Aboriginal flag immediately politicise the painting, giving it a contemporary edginess. The message is matter-of-fact. The land that nurtures these animals is and has always been Aboriginal.

Nestled beneath a canopy of interlocking branches with emerald green leaves are the silvery-grey coats and the intense red-eyed gaze of two inquisitive sugar gliders. In Sugar gliders 2006 Brown captures the greedy nocturnal feedings of the tiny marsupials as they gorge themselves on the sweet sap of the eucalyptus trees – they look not unlike mischievous children being caught with their hands in the lolly jar. The features of the sugar gliders are flourished to reveal the keenly observed details of their soft, plump underbellies, their big rounded eyes for night time foraging, and their specialised wing-like flaps that extend down either side of their bodies. Their razor-sharp claws grip the tree boughs intuitively, poised at any moment to fly away from predators or fly towards prey.

Unlike koalas, sugar gliders from Victoria are not currently endangered, but their habitats are nevertheless continually under threat from human activities. Broad scale clearing of the land not only increases soil erosion rates in forests, but displaces the animals it shelters and devastates their natural habitat. This threat of dispossession is particularly painful for Brown, who has experienced first-hand the sting of homelessness. Despite these hazards, sugar glider populations continue to thrive and Brown celebrates the remarkable resilience of
these small, vulnerable animals.

Although Brown is only in the formative stage of his career, he has already received much acclaim for his innovative and bold style, and has carved out a significant exhibition history. Training his perceptive eye on the animals of the Australian bush, Brown images and celebrates a world of unabashed loveliness. Demonstrating his illustrative flair for striking compositions, split colour harmonies and abbreviated symbols of line and texture, Brown’s studies of lifelike animals in their environment evoke the distinct fauna of north-west Victoria. The oblique environmental and political dimensions add substance to his disarming oeuvre, painted fluently from the heart.

Stephen Gilchrist