Friday, September 28, 2012

Ken Whisson Exhibition Opening at the MCA Tonight


My favourite Australian artist, Ken Whisson, has a retrospective exhibition 
opening at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art tonight. We've been lucky to 
own a few of his paintings and drawings, so for the last ten years or so we've 
always had his work up on the walls. This is our current one:

Aeroplanes, Girders, Voters and Vapour Trails
1986-89, oil on canvas
119.5 x 89.5 cm

Exhibited at a touring solo show Ken Whisson A Survey at Pinacotheca Gallery 
Melbourne, Shepparton Art Gallery Shepparton, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery 
Ballarat and Geelong Art Gallery Geelong, 1990.

Reproduced: Ken Whisson  A Survey catalogue, plate 34.

John McDonald in Ken Whisson A Survey catalogue:

"If one acknowledges that the style of a Whisson painting is unmistakeable, this 
is not to plunge the artist into a creative cul-de-sac.  One of the reasons these 
pictures are individually so engaging and cumulatively so haunting, is that the 
problems they deal with are never predictable, their shapes never purely 
rhetorical.  Each work has its own crisis to overcome, its own pictorial language 
to invent.  Yet the path Whisson follows is by no means one of linear 
progression, since he will occasionally backtrack over old territory when he has 
a new insight, or when he feels that some revision is necessary to the current 
picture he is working on.  In AEROPLANES, GIRDERS, VOTERS AND VAPOUR 
TRAILS (1986 and 89), he revisits several motifs that have been appearing in 
his paintings for the last decade or more, as though he had the sudden urge to 
put them side-by-side to see how they looked together.  He is like a general 
assembling his troops, or a collector rearranging the objects in a display 
cabinet.  Just as we might make a list of things to do, so as to make these 
tasks seem more manageable, so too does Whisson make an orderly 
arrangement of images in this painting, (an arrangement which took three 
years to assemble), as though he is looking back at what he has alreeady done 
so as to get a clearer idea of what to do next."

An interesting essay on the exhibition (when it was in Melbourne) by W C Chong 
at a Crikey blog:

From MCA website:

28 September-25 November 2012


Learn more about one of Australia’s most important painters when the Museum 
of Contemporary Art Australia presents a major retrospective of Ken Whisson’s 
work As If, produced in collaboration with the Heide Museum of Modern Art in 

See portraits, landscapes and sketches tracing the evolution of Whisson’s 
practice over the past six decades. Renowned for his unique vision and 
independent style, Whisson has been making thoughtful and uncompromising 
paintings and drawings which hold a unique place in Australian art. His 
reputation has been built around his tenacious dedication to the act of painting 
and persistent fascination with — and singular responses to — the delicate 
machinations of both his inner world and the world at large.

Discover the artist’s influences and the development of his highly personal 
aesthetic. Trained as a young artist in wartime Melbourne in the 1940s, Whisson 
emerged out of the influential school of figurative expressionism. He initially 
studied under Russian émigré artist Danila Vassilieff at Warrandyte, then went 
on to combine the styles of his formative years with an increasingly linear and 
graphic abstraction. Topographic and single point perspectives coalesce and 
Whisson’s imagery often suggests a heightened and intense, sometimes 
hallucinogenic reality, reflected in the exhibition title derived by Whisson via 
Immanual Kant: ‘To live as if’, and the Paris surrealists: ‘Let us live as if the 
world really exists’.

Examine Whisson’s major themes and series, from his powerful portrayals of 
human relations to those which consider relationships with natural, built and 
cultural environments and see the historical backdrop of the time reflected in 
numerous drawings and paintings.

Since the late 1970s Whisson has been based in the Italian city of Perugia, 
during which time interests in displacement and memory have joined his 
enduring themes of landscape, identity and politics. At the age of 84 he is 
painting as well as ever, and for the long haul, releasing into the world images 
that reward the patient, analytical yet unguarded viewer.

Ken Whisson: As If, on Level 3, is curated by Glenn Barkley (MCA) and Lesley 
Harding (Heide Museum of Modern Art).

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