‘…if there is such thing as reincarnation …I would love to come back as a bower bird’
Brett Whiteley 1985
Newcastle Art Gallery purchased Autumn abstract in 1959 from the Italian Scholarship exhibition at Komon Art Gallery, Sydney. This was the first work of art by Brett Whiteley to enter a public collection in the world. He was 20 years old.
In 1977, Summer at Carcoar was heralded as a symbol of cultural progress for Newcastle when it was commissioned as part of the launch of the new Art Gallery building opened by Queen Elizabeth II. Now in 2013, Wendy Whiteley has donated to the collection Black totem II 1993 in memory of Brett and Wendy’s daughter Arkie, making a significant contribution to both the Art Gallery and the city of Newcastle.
To celebrate the acquisition of this major work of art, Newcastle Art Gallery is proud to present Whiteley on water an exhibition in association with the Brett Whiteley Studio and the Art Gallery of NSW which has been drawn from their respective collections.
The idea of ‘on water’ binds together Whiteley’s iconic interpretations of Australian life by the sea with his revered status as one of Australia’s greatest artists of the 20th Century. A celebration of our nation’s ‘cult of the coastal life style’ from Byron to Bondi, the exhibition includes the unfinished beach polyptych which had never left the studio until its recent display at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre as part of the original iteration of this exhibition in 2012. It represents Whiteley’s ambition and commitment to the Australian landscape.
Sun, bodies and beauty are all represented with an underlying element of danger – much like the idea of the Australian coast. Whiteley consistently highlighted this tension found in nature throughout his practice with fibreglass sharks diving upwards and eggs balancing precariously atop vertical growing plinths. His beloved Lavender Bay is also depicted with such intense and prolonged observation, the subject of some of his most successful works.
Presented in association with the Brett Whiteley Studio and the Art Gallery of New South Wales