Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cousin Of The One That Got Away

'Sydney Harbour by Night' Brett Whiteley - Linocut on Rice Paper 34x34 cm (1981)

Flicking through a book on the iconoclast Australian artist Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) I came across the linocut above ... and felt yet another sharp pang of regret for its cousin that got away.

Brett Whitely

You know those auctions where you set yourself a limit and rather foolishly stick to it ... only to have the work knocked down just a smidgeon above. An event which is usually followed by teeth gnashing and various forms of mental self-abuse.

What I particularly liked about both works is the economy with which the Sydney Harbour scene is conveyed - through just a few lines and shapes. And the powerful sense of night that is achieved by these forms being in white rather black - almost giving the feeling of a photographic negative.

Whitely worked in many styles but I very much like his uncompromisingly sensual and erotic figurative painting with its distortion and exaggeration, not unlike the C16 Mannerists. It's not 'polite' work but deliciously confronting.

'Woman in Bath' (1964)

'Washing the Salt Off' (1985)

'Portrait of Wendy' - Oil, material, pencil, charcoal, pen and ink on paper

This sexual charge also infuses his landscapes ...

'Summer at Carcoar' (1977) - Oil and mixed media on pine board, 244x199 cm

Whiteley challenged in his choice of material - such as including samples of his own hair stuck to the canvas of a self portrait - and in his selection of subject matter - such as dog pisses ...

'The 15 Great Dog Pisses of Paris' (1989)

... often exploring boundaries and crossing them deep into new territory.

I guess being the kind of gay guy I am, I can appreciate Whiteley's being drawn to rebellion and excess. He lived large and died at 53 of a drug over-dose.

His wife Wendy opened a large black-tie retrospective in Sydney a few years back and, looking round at the work hung on the walls, said she was glad so see so many of her old 'friends' again. Adding that many had originally been sold to pay for the 'exotic substance's they were using at the time.

There was an almost audible recoil from the 'black ties' - and I was very glad that, even in her little black dress and pearls, Wendy had not completely passed over into the art establishment!

Okay, writing about 'The one That Got Away' and shamefully using you in the process has calmed me. A bit. For the moment ... and till next time. And there certainly will be a next time. Bugger!

No comments:

Post a Comment