Richard Bogusz paints places that evoke the heart of Australia, but they're all in his mind.
Story By Terri Cowley
You can hear the cicadas singing, feel the baking heat and smell the gum trees in the paintings of Richard Bogusz. But the Queenslander admits he has never really been to the outback. “None of my paintings are of things I have seen. They are all from my imagination,” he says. Luckily for the viewer that imagination is fertile, evoking an Australian bush of wild vegetation that threatens to take over every canvas, willowy, playful girls and majestic birds.
Richard began painting 35 years ago when he was living in Victoria. He and his family migrated there from Germany in 1953 when he was just six. He escaped suburbia when he moved to Townsville in 1986 in an attempt to “do something adventurous”. Initially he planned to buy a beautiful building that had been a private hospital in Charters Towers and ship it to the coast. But the building wouldn’t fit across the town bridge. He settled on the coast anyway, intending to stay in north Queensland for a few years but remaining for nearly two decades. His work continues to be influenced by his time in this environment.
“The countryside surrounding us was very dry – we were in a rain-shadow area with stunted trees,” he says. “It’s not terribly attractive at first but eventually I got to like it. The paddocks near our property looked as though no one had ever walked across them before.” He recalls a trip to Thursday Island during this period when he met women clad in outrageously colourful clothing. Memories of that colour decorate the muter tones of rocky outcrops and scrubby landscapes in his paintings.
Richard is in demand at galleries around Australia but he avoids mixing in art circles and deliberately isolates himself from the work of other painters. “It can all be a lot of nonsense,” he says. “Since they put a toilet bowl in The Louvre in the 1920s or ’30s – I mean a plain toilet bowl that some guy turned up with – I think we’ve lost the plot.” He believes there are many talented painters in Australia but he questions the originality of some of them. “On a lot of occasions you can’t tell one from the other,” he says. “I don’t want to look like anyone else so I don’t look at other people’s work.” Richard has no pretensions about painting as an art form. “There are other fields of art that are more important than painting, such as music,” he says. “Music touches your senses more than paintings. Paintings are static.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #55
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2007