Australia Arts Part 2
In 1959 Boyd, Perceval and five other newly established artists, C. Blackman, D. Boyd (Arthur’s brother), J. Brack, R. Dickerson (the only Sydney among them) and C. Pugh, participated in a exhibition, accompanied by the Antipodean Manifesto written by the art historian B. Smith and including statements by the artists themselves.
The Antipodean Manifesto expressed the artists’ deep conviction of their duty to society and the need for an Australian art to arise from its own cultural background and environment. Furthermore, as figurative painters, they believed that art was threatened by abstract painting (which was taking over in Sydney and abroad) and that the image was central to the understanding and meaning of art.
Thirty years after the controversial movement of the Antipodeans, Australia Boyd remained the most enduring artist, author of works of significant coherence. He was chosen to represent the Australia at the XLIII Venice Biennale (1988), which for the first time had a pavilion specifically dedicated to Australia.
Olsen (b. 1928) lives in Sydney and his work expresses the daily rhythm of this prosperous and busy city, perched on the shores of the sparkling bay. Hers is the mural facing the bay in the northern alley of the Sydney Opera House, which opened on 20 October 1973. The animistic quality of Olsen’s work is reflected in the pictorial technique, in the vigorous line and in the exuberant color. The ironic Spring in the You Beaut Country (1961, Canberra, Australian National Gallery) evokes a frenzy of growth and activity set in the golden brown colors of Australia.
The landscape paintings by F. Williams (1927-1982) attest to his extraordinary ability to observe: subjects such as trees are minimalized to the point of becoming expressionistic, pictorial signs on a skilfully prepared background. Bush vegetation and wide plains or randomly distributed trees are reduced to patches of color that summarize them, static yet brilliant under vast skies of strong and pure color; Silver and Gray (1969, private collection) shows Williams’ handwriting in one of its purest expressions.
Klippel (b. 1920) worked meticulously, practically all his life, on combinations and / or constructions in wood and metal. Surprising is the very quantity of his production, which includes, in addition to the sculptures, volumes of systematic drawings, work ideas and long passages of handwritten technical notes (now in the archives of the Australian National Gallery).
The development of his ‘language of forms’ over the years has been a significant and solitary process, beyond the influence of the dominant trends. The formal logic of the artist, combined with the randomness that is typical of the nature of the objects found and put together, contained in mainly vertical constructions, pursues an extremely fruitful union of mechanical and organic forms. More important, the artist gives his constructions an internal logic perceptible within the external structure. The Opus series (in January 1988 Klippel was working on Opus 715-720) is based on a constant preoccupation with structure, form and discovery, evident in spatial relationships.
Australian sculpture is well represented in civic and corporate collections across the country; also worth mentioning are the sculpture garden at the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the various collections of the state galleries and the Heide Park Gallery and Sculpture Park in Melbourne. Non-figurative sculptures exhibited in public have generally been received with controversial attitudes, but since the 1970s appreciation for large sculptures commissioned for public places has steadily grown, so that many important works by Australian or foreign artists have been placed in the ‘area of urban contexts in constant change and development.
Australian artists have actively responded to many of the international trends of the past few decades, from poor and conceptual art to video art, performance, new expressionism and the trans-avant-garde. K. Unsworth (b. 1931) is an artist who, like the German J. Beuys, incorporates mute materials, such as stones, everyday objects and furniture, into ritualistic compositions. The Lake (1985), which was installed at the 6th Sydney Biennial (May 1986, Art Gallery of New South Wales), is a powerful example of his work. The painters P. Booth (b.1940) and I. Tillers (b.1950) and the photographer B. Henson (b.1955) are among the representatives of the young generation of Australian artists and have exhibited in various international exhibitions: their work is currently the most noteworthy among those of the numerous artists who have emerged in the last decade.
Robertson-Swann (b. 1941) is well known for his formal, linear, welded steel abstract sculptures and has carried out large public commissions in various capital cities. Similarly, B. Flugelman’s enormous geometric solid forms can be seen in Martin Place in Sydney, the National Gallery Sculpture Garden in Canberra and Rundle Mall in Adelaide. Melbourne sculptors, G. Bartlett (b.1952), Australia Dall’Ava (b.1950) and Australia Pryor (b.1951), represent the young generation, with works mainly in and around Melbourne and in some centers rural. By combining durable materials such as steel, bronze, concrete, wood and stone in water constructions, they achieve a natural, flowing and harmonious energy that matches Australian sensibilities. A typical example is the Bartlett sculpture that rises in the
Sculptor R. Gascoigne (b.1917 in Auckland, New Zealand, moved to Australia in 1943) brings together salvaged objects collected in the countryside around her Canberra home. The materials are common, typical of the Australian rural environment, such as pieces of corrugated metal (building material widely used in Australia), wood of broken boxes, barbed wire, cacatoa pens, road signs. The sculptures are thus combinations of ” poor ” components, which are transformed into poetic pure and concentrated expressions of the Australian landscape and of the fundamental aspects of its residents. The very controlled method and the selective repetition of the elements are influenced by the Japanese art of ikebana. Gaiscogne represented the to. at the XL Biennale di Venezia (1982) together with the painter P. Booth.
Contemporary art in Australia appears, therefore, as pluralistic as post-modern thanks also to the greater possibility that artists have to travel abroad, to opportunities such as studios made available under the patronage of the government in New York, Tokyo and Europe, to increased access to the international art scene through traveling exhibitions and specialized magazines, to the Sydney Biennale (started in 1972 and became the Biennale of the AustraliaD.), to the rich collections of state and national museums. Among the latter, sensitive to the most modern museographic criteria, in addition to the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, which gathers the largest panorama of national and international art and includes sections of decorative and popular arts, we must remember the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart. In the field of historiography, recent studies have analyzed Australian art, including the work of the Aborigines, from its origins, reinterpreting it according to a new meaning in the current context, both nationally and internationally.