Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 September 2010

Ken Whisson

born 1927

oil on composition board

68.0 x 98.5 cm

inscribed on label verso: “EARTH AND / CONCRETE” / ... / KEN WHISSON / ...

$20,000 - 30,000

Private collection, purchased directly from the artist c1972
Bonhams and Goodman, Sydney, 20 July 2004, lot 63
Private collection, Brisbane

Catalogue text

Engaged with an ongoing exploration of the nature of creativity, Ken Whisson is a unique voice within the pantheon of Australian art. Artist, writer, teacher and philosopher, Whisson is a keen observer of human interaction and the creative impulse. With works held in every major State and National gallery in Australia, and an extensive list of publications associated with his work, his influence is one which is widely felt and broadly considered to be of lasting importance. Having lived in Italy since the late 1970s, the platform from which he works is an international one, yet underpinned by the close contact he enjoyed in his youth with some of Australia's leading cultural figures in the 1940s. The tutelage of Danila Vassilieff and an admiration of Albert Tucker informed Whisson's early works though he was to rapidly develop a complex, if unorthodox, language of his own.

As noted by critic John McDonald, 'looking at one of Whisson's works is like studying a diagram of the thinking mind. This is why their schematic forms begin to seem ever more familiar over time - they conjure up experiences and observations that virtually everyone holds in common. Everyone has looked at the landscape out of a car window, visited the seashore, or studied clouds drifting through the sky. The idiosyncratic colours and raw, insistent marks with which Whisson records these experiences do not completely disguise the nature of the each scene. On the contrary, they invite us to interpret these views as filtered through another consciousness. In doing so, we become aware of the provisional and subjective nature of our perceptions, and the way they are taken apart and reassembled in the mind.'1

It is this complex layering of associations that resonates throughout Whisson's practice. His work demands that we engage with the eye of the mind rather than expecting the immediate visual pop and fizz usually delivered by contemporary culture. It is an active form of seeing, enriched by memory and intuition, which strives for perpetual self-renewal and openness to experience.

1. McDonald, J., 'Ken Whisson: Matter and Memory', Ken Whisson: Paintings 1947 - 1999, Niagara Publishing, Richmond, 2001, p. 9