Other Places (Somewhere Else) offers a rare opportunity to view more than forty of Brett Whiteley’s most intimate and personal works completed during his many travels to London, Paris, New York, the Asia Pacific region and Far North Queensland. The exhibition is presented in partnership with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and includes loans from the Whiteley Studio and major Australian public and private collections.
Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) is regarded as one of Australia’s most iconic artists and by the 1970s he was at the forefront of Australia’s avant-garde movement. During his lifetime he won many major prizes and awards and his work is represented in national and international galleries and private collections that include the National Gallery of Australia, Tate Gallery, London and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Whiteley was born in Sydney and studied drawing at the Julian Ashton Art School while working at an advertising agency. In 1960 he was awarded a Travelling Art Scholarship that took him to London where he met many other painters, including fellow Australians, Arthur Boyd and John Passmore. During the early 1960s he exhibited extensively in Australia, France, Belgium and Italy before being awarded the Harkness Foundation Scholarship in 1967 that supported his travel to New York where he, his wife Wendy and their young daughter Arkie, lived for eighteen months.
Whiteley found the energy of New York intoxicating but he also felt its destructiveness at a time of heightened social conflict and violence that included violent demonstrations against the Vietnam War, civil rights protests and the tragic and brutal assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Shortly after completing his vast and highly controversial 1968 painting The American Dream, Whiteley returned to Australia, via Fiji.
The works included in Other Places (Somewhere Else) are predominately from Whiteley’s time in London, Tangier, Bali and Japan. The exhibition has been curated by the Cairns Regional Gallery in partnership with Alec George, Coordinator of the Brett Whiteley Studio at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The following is an extract of George’s essay that supports the exhibition:
“The London works - Regent’s Park Zoo and Christie series - were originally exhibited together in London in 1965. The Tangier works are from 1967 when the Whiteley family travelled there for a holiday, rented an apartment, and Whiteley produced the Tangier postcard series, holding an impromptu exhibition in their hotel foyer. The Dealer is a beautiful example of imagination and experience based on a hashish dealer in Tangier... After the swim, Tangier was created in 1986-87 and recalls this time – it has also been kindly loaned for this exhibition and shows the figurative form of Wendy distorted with the perspective of foreshortening – waves in the distance.
The Emperor’s bonsai is from a five-week trip to Bali and Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto) in 1989. Whiteley loved the Asian aesthetic in brush and ink drawings and how artists would capture a subject in a beautifully brief manner. The sensuality Whiteley saw in nature is expressed in the branches and root system of the bonsai.
His travels were extensive and Whiteley produced a beautiful range of works with great virtuosity, energy, humour, sensitivity and an intense desire to document his unique vision and experiences.”
Alec George, Coordinator
Image: Brett Whiteley, The green mountain (Fiji) 1969, oil, collage on cardboard, 137 x 122 cm board, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Gift of Patrick White 1979 © Wendy Whiteley. Photo: AGNSW.