Sports and their crowds are a milder version of the same subject matter as the demonstrator / police paintings. They both place the viewer as an observer of intense physical action between two groups. In the paintings of the sporting audience the viewer is observing the observer. In the paintings of crowds the viewer is (almost) observing themselves as part of the ubiquitous ‘crowd’.
The two rugby paintings were sourced from news photos of a wild brawl that took over both schoolboy teams in Auckland in 2011. This fight was the occasion for the expression of a huge range of reactions both amongst the participants – either fighting or trying to break it up – and amongst commentators. In any event it did raise questions about the nature of sport and our interaction with others. The explosive utterances of victory or failure in sporting confrontations are well tolerated as natural by their audiences but the gladiatorial nature of many of these confrontations, and the investment of both the participants and spectators in the outcome incorporates a fascinating enigma. Quite apart from this subtext, the magnificent physicality of the sporting arena is a joyful celebration and expression of human capacity. The easy prone relaxation of the crowds on the bank at a test match at the Basin Reserve has to be considered in relation to the tension of the contest taking place in the middle.