Born 1969, Melbourne, Australia
The painterly program of John Derrick is determined by Realist, arguably Social Realist, principles. In a recent body of work in the oil–on–canvas medium he catalogued the occupants of 'nursing homes' and 'special accommodation houses', terms which achieve the chilling ring of Nazi euphemism.
That these portrayals of incapacity and convalescence risk impropriety is part of their power.
Is Derrick's observation invasive, we must ask? Are his images compassionate ex–votos welcomed by their subjects or voyeuristic trophies they're too weak or weak-minded to repel? Which is their genre: the portrait, the interior or the still life? If they deal with the institutional abjection of the marginalised, why then are they outrageously beautiful?
With his liking for the kiss of light on crumpled dressing gowns, for infirmary–issue fabric folded into flounces, and for human assemblies masked in the rueful incognito of their own emotion, Derrick is a Watteau of malaise.
Inert in his metallic cot, Karl has the lolling bulk of a hospitalised odalisque. Apart from his distracted eyes, he's as factually banal as a cadaver. But in those eyes Derrick assigns the outward register of inner anxiety. We know this man to be of the tribe whose diurnal hours are absorbed, in the artist's words, by slow regimes of 'sleeping, eating, smoking and fighting with personal demons.'
Bruce James from the 1998 Samstag catalogue, Samstag 98 : This Thing Called Art
1998 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship
1998 MA in Fine Art, Pratt Institute, New York
1997 Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting) University of Melbourne, Australia