Brett Whiteley – Drawing is Everything

This week we had a two hour window to see one exhibition in Sydney, before we had to catch our bus back to Canberra. So Brett Whiteley ‘Drawing is Everything’ was the unanimous choice.

Arriving early, before the gallery opened, I took the opportunity to sketch Gilbert Bayes PBRS sculpture ‘The Offerings of Peace’ (1923), from across the road. In honour, no doubt of my artistic endeavours, I was duly shat upon by Pied Currawong sitting in the tree overhead.

AGNSW

The Offerings of Peace, Gilbert Bays, PBRS, 1923

On entering the gallery we were immediately caught up in the vitality of Whiteley’s works, predominantly made with pen and ink and brush an ink. It was fascinating to see how Whiteley intensely studied the works of Van Gogh, Lloyd Rees and other artists as he developed his own style.

The gallery was encouraging visitors to draw while visiting the show, providing pencils and a small A4 folded piece of paper.

Whiteley2

Her‘, carvings in Mangrove wood, 1975 to c. 1980 (LHS); a quote by Whiteley “A good drawing (should be) loose, casual, abandoned, odd, wonky, immediate,swift, detached, +soaked in feeling, it should be brief, not just spare or simple, not just quick, It should be brief, beautifully brief, like the best Japanese art, like the soul’s shorthand.”

Luckily I also had my own paper as there were several other sketches I wanted to make.

whitely 1

After Brett Whiteley, Wendy Drunk, 1983, original, brush and black and brown ink. My version, pencil on paper.

It was intriguing to see how Whitely playfully amalgamated and created images, such as the following sketch of Matisse, putatively sitting in the Luxembourg Gardens, reading a newspaper.

After Brett Whiteley, Henri Matisse reading a newspaper in the Luxembourg Gardens, 1989 ink and brush. My version pencil on paper with watercolour added later.

Much as I enjoyed sketching in the gallery, the relative stiffness of the pencil sketches, compared to the brush works in particular, was underlined by a quote by Whiteley “Have you ever seen a pencil drawing that isn’t safe?” (p9, Brett Whiteley Drawings, Lou Klepac, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2014)

Brett Whiteley: Drawing is Everything
Art Gallery of New South Wales, on until 31 March 2019

7 Comments

    1. Thanks Emma! I was so caught in the flow that it took several seconds to realise what was happening! 😂. Yes it was good to see people sketching in the gallery. Here in Australia the galleries seem very uptight about sketching compared to what we could do in Europe when we visited last year.

      Reply

  1. such a brilliant show, the drawing of the stunningly beautiful Wendy drunk is a favourite & there are so many works I had never seen before, am enjoying reading ‘Brett Whiteley: Art, Life and the Other Thing’ by Ashleigh Wilson 2016, when I was a callow young art student in 1973 I thought he was overrated with way too many tickets on himself, ah the arrogance of youth!

    Reply

    1. My partner bought the same book (he’s reading it now and I get it next) and we splashed out on the Lou Klepac book as well (although I often don’t bother with catalogues these days). I think that he did have some tickets on himself, although we can see more clearly now that it was justified. In the end he suffered and that talent and ability couldn’t help him.

      Reply

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