A thought-provoking and cheeky new exhibition asks what happiness is and whether it can be created through art.
Featuring works created in the last two years and inspired by Whitworth’s personal experience of lockdown, You Can’t Say Happiness… is a collection of paintings depicting the search for and expression of pure joy.
“The past 18 months have been really tough on most of us, but I’m so lucky that I’ve been able to process my frustrations through my work,” said Whitworth.
“I’d often find myself in a state of utter contentment – in contradiction to what was happening outside in the real world!”
Whitworth said that even the extended title of the show – You Can’t Say Happiness Without Saying Penis – is meant to make people smile.
“I think if, at this moment in time, as an artist, I can’t make someone’s burden more manageable through experiencing joy through my art, then I’m failing as an artist!” he said.
One of Sydney’s most prominent artists, Whitworth infuses his work with wit and incisive social commentary: rebellious and edgy yet accessible.
“Representing joy – which I think has been in great shortage in a lot of our lives of late – has been the challenge I set myself,” said Whitworth.
“One of my biggest challenges for this show was completing portraits while not being able to see people face to face.
“Trying to really get under the skin of someone, trying to work out what makes them tick, is difficult enough, but when it’s done over a laptop screen, it can be nigh on impossible.
“A lot of my time on these portrait sessions was spent trying to get people to laugh – like, really big belly laugh – and taking screenshots of that particular moment when joy was truly visible.
“I guess, like all good artists, I just have to make the most of what I’ve got to work with!”
Whitworth’s signature bold, brightly coloured portraits of the Sydney queer scene are highly sought-after, and many reside among esteemed Australian collections.
You Can’t Say Happiness… is his seventh solo exhibition.
The exhibition will be open daily between 12 pm and 6 pm from 8–14 December at m2 Gallery, 4/450 Elizabeth Street in Surry Hills.