The Collectables

February 24 - March 10 2018

The Collectables exhibition presents art lovers and collectors with a rare opportunity to access the works of historically important artists who were seminal to the evolution of a distinctly Australian visual vernacular. Seldom seen beyond the confines of national galleries and museums, the paintings on show span the decades from the early twentieth century through to contemporary times with artists likely to be among the future stars of the Australian art market.

Charles Blackman is recognised as one of Australia's most significant figurative artists. Imbued in arcane symbolism, Nocturne - Black Cat was painted in 1953 and dates from the period when Blackman held his very first exhibition at the age of 25. The title of the work In a Glass Darkly, 1963, obliquely references the flawed visions of reality often referred to in various poetic and Biblical writings.

The Arthur Boyd paintings are major works from highly acclaimed series. Wimmera Landscape, 1972, was painted shortly after his return from almost a decade of living and exhibiting in England. Unsurprisingly, his senses had been assailed by the vast wheat fields of Central Victoria that were vibratory in harsh light and the raucous calls of wheeling birds. 1972 was also the year he first visited Bundanon on the banks of the Shoalhaven River in NSW, a property he subsequently acquired. Pulpit Rock and Early Morning Shoalhaven, 1990, epitomise the landscapes Boyd painted of that region. His son, Jamie Boyd, grew up in Bundanon. The pastel and watercolour work, Shoalhaven River, reflects Jamie's encounter with it.

Arthur's younger brother, David Boyd, was a dedicated figurative artist concerned with social injustice. Employing mythic characters, his early works conveyed themes of innocence and evil, destruction and creation set amidst whirling, Eden-like scenarios. Garden in the Wilderness with Europa, 1972, is a subtle evocation of the impact the arrival of Europeans to Australia was to have on the indigenous population.

Ray Crooke is renowned for his images of native people living in harmony with their environment. The 1976 painting, Islanders, is an exceptional example of the oeuvre. In the later work, Wedding Night - Vatulele, 1994, a deeply shadowed quietude pervades as evening falls upon the aftermath of celebration.

Robert Dickerson's sought after early works portrayed vestiges of alienated humanity. The angular-shaped bodies and large, haunted eyes of the city's backstreet children were often his subjects. Untitled (young girl), 1960, is an accomplished piece from this era. Dickerson's altogether more lighthearted geisha paintings and pastels, such as the Girl in Green Kimono, were inspired by an exploration of Kyoto's historic precincts in1984.

The two Sam Fullbrook paintings, Bird on a Sandbank, 1965 and White Heifer, evidence his painterly encounter with the Darling River landscape. After moving to Queensland in the mid sixties Fullbrook's palette shifted to a narrower tonal range of pastel harmonies. The new high key colours and the economy of broad, brush markings resulted in these wonderfully atmospheric abstractions.

John Gleeson's pastel, Dusk, executed in 1983, is a delicate, surrealist evocation of dissolution. Sir Sidney Nolan was perhaps inspired to visit New Guinea by his good friend Margaret Olley's accounts of her adventures there. The large oil, New Guinea, 1965, references Nolan's personal experience of that island. Akin to his African series, the figures here seem but flickering, animalistic presences subsumed by the tropical wilds.

In the early years of the twentieth century Norman Lindsay exercised a liberating force upon Australian culture in his role of the artist as critic of moral and social values. Not without controversy, his voluptuous nudes were often vehicles to express his ongoing fascination with ancient Greek mythology. The very fine watercolour, Europa, depicts that nymph unknowingly being abducted by Zeus in the disguise of a bull.

Margaret Olley's Still Life with Lemons, 1980, personifies her abiding fondness for interiors and the arrangement of personal objects as subjects. Attuned to the visual delights of flowers and fruits from a very early age, her works demonstrate a celebration of the simple things observed in quiet contemplation. In contrast, John Perceval's Self Portrait, 1985, is characteristically unpremeditated, unbridled expressionism. His daughter, Celia Perceval, also paints with gusto. The Mussel Boat - Eden NSW is a digression from her usual swirling impasto bushscapes. Here she depicts coastal activities in the southern township she calls home for half the year - the other six months she resides in an expat artists' village high in the Welsh hills.

Tim Storrier's late nineties seascapes announced a new point of departure for him. The sea's watery realms and tidal flows denoted the passage of time and the rise and fall of our emotions. In his painting, The Ocean, all sharp lines and shapes have dissolved. Far away on the indistinct shoreline a couple of ‘home fires' flare but we are adrift beneath star-speckled eternity.

The works of Fred Williams rarely appear on the art market. The Upwey landscapes of Victoria's Dandenong Ranges became his consuming inspiration after moving to the region in 1963. Being set deep in a valley, his studio outlook motivated Williams' signature high horizon lines and the trees below mere daubs of paint dotting neutral ground. Upwey Hillside, painted in 1964, is a superb rendition.

Contemporary artist, Robyn Sweaney, is renowned for her exquisitely rendered ‘portraits' of actual, suburban houses and the gardens their inhabitants have fashioned. Although truthful visual reports, our paramount interest lies in the impression that these buildings signify something beyond their prosaic facades. In Gardenesque - Side Elevation, 2017, the mute expanse of windowless wall and closed gate belie any engagement with the fastidiously manicured ‘world' outside. The sensitivity and refinement of Sweaney's oeuvre has earned her multiple representations in many of the nation's most prestigious art awards.

The extraordinary realism Peter Smets achieves owes much to his powers of observation and his training at the Maastricht Art School in the Netherlands. Smets' recent Suburbia painting depicts a scene indirectly allied to his signature construction site imagery. Under moon-silvered clouds the figure of a solitary old man shuffles into a future that is beyond the pursuit of progress. His is now a world of reflective quietude. Lights are ablaze in suburban apartment blocks signifying the new generations who will perpetuate the strivings for material advancement. Although cultural and environmental interests are always implicit, Smets' paintings essentially manifest a quest for consummate composition and geometric purity. He has been a finalist multiple times in Australia's eminent art prizes.

Avital Sheffer's eloquent ceramic vessel, La Mela II, was not created for functional purpose but rather, to initiate a contemplative response. As in prehistoric ceramic artifacts, her vessels are a rich depository of the history, art and stories of humanity. They manifest a sense of wholeness - a continuity and interconnectedness between the earth and the human body, the past and its relevance for the future. Sheffer's prodigious talent has attracted international recognition with showings in the USA, Spain, France, Korea, the UK and throughout Australia.

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