Plenty of people have painted the Australian bush before, but nobody puts paint to canvas quite like Tony Slater. His touch is distinctive. So is his sense of color and light. Astonishing how true it feels - how utterly lacking in meretriciousness or false feeling. These paintings are gutsy, keenly observed, cliché-free. They look to me like Slater’s best work, which is saying a lot. There is no rhetorical swagger or romantic exaggeration. The choice of subject matter, the unusual perspectives, the close-in cropping – it all feels fantastically fresh. It’s an unlikely achievement when you consider the history of Australian landscape painting, teeming as it is with contenders. Note, especially, the astonishing interplay between shadows, trees, and rocks (here is an artist who had really got to grips with Australian sun-dazzle). Also, Slater’s brilliant ability to capture the textures of rocks and earth, and the look of trees against slopes and skies. At times, it’s like Courbet, Corot, Constable, and Fred Williams all rolled into one. No question about it: Tony Slater is the real thing.
Sebastian Smee, 2011, Art Critic for The Boston Globe
Slater's 2011 solo exhibition at Defiance Gallery showed a change in the artist's practice. What might have been details in the earlier paintings, become paintings in their own right. The ‘Contemplation of Nature' of the earlier paintings is fragmented and replaced by ambiguity, transience and urgency. The relation between the viewer and the viewed is fleeting, a glimpse, barely understood. While still using natural forms, it is a language perhaps better suited to our place in the natural world now.
Slater studied at the Royal College of Art in the early sixties and exhibited in solo and group shows in London and Europe. His work is in private collections in Europe, America, Australia and Hong Kong. He has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Australia including the Art Gallery of New South Wales Sulman Prize on three occasions.
In 1974 Slater traveled to Australia for a holiday and like many other artists was immediately enthralled by the special properties of Australian light and landscape. He has travelled widely in the bush and lives in country NSW.