Can Art Bring Joy? Sydney artist, Guy James Whitworth certainly hopes so. He is about to present his seventh solo exhibition, You Can’t Say Happiness…, a collection of quirky, playful, vividly coloured portraits, abstracts and landscapes painted during the past two years.

Whitworth is well-known and respected both in art circles and in the LGBTQI community. His previous exhibitions have received critical praise and his works hang in prestigious collections. The subject matter in his paintings is sometimes sentimental, frequently humorous, but almost always political.

“I think it’s impossible to live in today’s world – certainly on social media – and not be politically aware or politically minded, and I think as an artist and certainly as a queer artist, there’s no way that I could not include politics in what I do,” says Whitworth.

‘Don’t Make Your Work Too Queer’

In fact, from the time he decided to become a professional artist, Whitworth was confronted with conservative commercial politics which arguably informed his work from then on.

“I got told by people in the art world, ‘don’t make your work too queer because if it’s too queer, it will never find a market and you won’t be able to sell it.’ So ever since then I’ve made it as queer – as unapologetically queer – as possible.”

While putting together this exhibition, Whitworth became acutely aware of certain insidiously toxic, homophobic commentary in popular media, especially with the likes of Alan Jones and his ilk, and Dave Chappelle. Whitworth would like his art, and the work of his peers, to be a response, an antidote to queer bashing.

“There’s always people who step forward to try and pull down and belittle what is happening within queer culture, within queer lives, within queer existence, and I really want this exhibition to be the antithesis to those statements and those people who use toxicity to try and push down and belittle and demean the queer community,” says Whitworth.

No Male Nudes

He achieves this with levity. The complete version of the exhibition title is: You Can’t Say Happiness Without Saying Penis. It’s funny in both senses of the word – it makes you giggle but it’s also ironic.

“This is the first exhibition that I’ve ever had where I don’t have a male nude…it doesn’t have a male penis in it,” explains Whitworth.

But it does have a few familiar faces from the queer community among its portraits. Many of these had to be sat-for via Zoom, Skype, What’s App, photos – a COVID imposed challenge and something Whitworth hopes never has to happen again.

“It’s like swimming while wearing Wellington boots!”

He prefers for himself and his subject to have a glass of wine in hand while discussing and interacting with the painting. And that is not a bad way for attendees to enjoy the exhibition, either.

You Can’t Say Happiness…

Wednesday 8th December – Tuesday 14th December, 

Midday to 6pm daily

The M2 gallery, Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills


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