Colin Holt: a survey

Above: The Dirty Rat Café, 2005, screenprint, 20 x 40 cm. Collection of Don Whyte
Right: Back from the Brink…, collage photocopied on paper, 44 x 31 cm, Private Collection
Below: Visit Darwin, 2001, screenprint using Hemi ink on cartridge paper. Edition of 39, 77.5 x 56.5 cm. Gift of Franck Gohier, 2004. Charles Darwin University Art Collection, CDU1220

Curator Kellie Joswig discusses the work of artist Colin Holt, who is having a survey exhibition at Charles Darwin University in Darwin. 

Imprint: Colin is often described as a ‘maverick’ artist – what is this based on and how does it manifest in his art?

KJ: Colin Holt has been described as a maverick artist because he has a distinctly unconventional approach to making art. Holt often works on oversize plywood and incorporates natural ochres, ground rocks and sand in his paintings. He has a particularly expressionist approach to his investigations of themes, evident in his choice of colour and quick application of paint, and broad gestural brushstrokes. He appreciates and is inspired by Aboriginal art, and Australian modernist artists such as Ian Fairweather. He also works in a myriad of genres and styles – print and poster-making being just two of them.

Imprint: The exhibition covers four decades – what was the process for deciding what was in the show (and not!) in terms of Colin’s print-related work?

KJ: It was important for the audience to see a variety of styles that showcase Colin Holt’s repertoire, drawing on prominent works from his own collection and from many local private collections, as well as eight works in the CDU Art Collection.

Holt is a visual artist first and foremost, but music also plays a big part of his creative life. He is a talented musician, having played drums for numerous local bands including Swamp Jockeys and Horse Trank. It was important to include posters he has made for music gigs, which incorporate photocopied and collaged elements. Other posters reference recent socio-political and historical events with a regional context, such as the 1999 independence of East Timor from Indonesia, and a satirical screenprint of local fictional ‘character’s’ that Holt was inspired to create following a spate of indiscriminate violent attacks in Darwin. The exhibition also features a print, Dirty Rat Café that Holt made as a demonstration print at Tiwi Designs when he was Lecturer at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education; although it is only a small and simple two-colour design it shows his sense of humour and easy flair for the medium.

Imprint: In what ways does Colin’s print-related work converse with his non-print work, both in terms of content and technical considerations?

KJ: I think it is safe to say that Holt consistently sees and does things ‘big’, in terms of colour and gesture. His works are always charged with emotion in responding to the world around him, although his prints and posters typically feature graphic figurative elements and text, while his non-print works are more abstract in nature. Technically, his print works are ‘designed’: methodical and layered as collages of photocopies and cut-outs, or screenprints, while his non-print works are created more intuitively and often in haste.

Imprint: Now that Colin sees all this work together in such a broad survey, what are some of the reflections on it he has had?

KJ: Colin Holt: a survey represents the life story of a prolific and talented multi-disciplinary artist! With 89 works in the exhibition, consisting of paintings in several genres including portraits, abstraction, landscapes and historical narratives, as well as prints and sculptures, the exhibition is a broad survey of what Colin Holt can do and how he thinks as an artist. But these works together reveal only a curated snippet of his entire oeuvre. Overall, Colin Holt is pleased to see his art hanging in a beautiful big space with great lighting – exactly where they deserve to be.

Colin Holt: a survey is at Charles Darwin University Art Gallery until 17 February