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.


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.


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

Seen in Sydney

While in Newcastle for the Fetish exhibition I took the opportunity to take a quick trip to Sydney to see the Kamisaka Sekka exhibition, Dawn of Modern Japanese Design, at the Art Gallery of NSW.

I’m glad I made the visit to see the exquisite work of this designer. The show is displayed over two floors and is drawn largely from works from the Hosomi Museum in Kyoto.The introduction to the exhibition shows works from a number of artists of the Rinpa School who influenced Sekka’s work.


This plate with decoration by Ogata Kenzan of Chinese bellflowers (1712-1731) is a particular favourite.


I also like the working drawing showing various versions of this plate design by Sekka 1920-30, Kiyomizu Rokubai V, made the plate.


Cigarette case 1920’s, design by Sekka and lacquer by Kamisaka Yukichi.


These pawlonia wood trays with designs of pine trees were high on the list of ‘if I could have one thing from this exhibition…’. Design by Sekka 1920-25.


A woodblock print from the series A World of Things, 1909-10. The original watercolour for this particular print, Plum Blossoms Beside the Eaves, was on display and was thoroughly engaging.

I’ve been working on my own response to the show, tentative steps at present. This design of 100 Flowers, 1903, in brocade for a window curtain caught my attention. I particularly liked the multi-coloured hydrangeas. Each sepal was one colour and was bordered by a second colour


My response, rather brighter, was to make ‘hydrangeas’ in crochet. Not sure how I will use them as yet. I’m using up left over tapestry wool that I found in a Newcastle op-shop.


Closer to Sekka’s painting style are a series of paintings using Japanese pigments I’ve had sitting around my workroom for several years. Time they got used.