Melbourne festival promotes the Australian identity in art

What does the Australian identity mean today?

The Australian identity has always been unique. We have a very special culture.

During October 2012 the Melbourne festival brings the international art community to Australia to celebrate our iconic culture.

Popular Australian artist Tom Roberts lived in the bush in the early 1900′s and captured the pioneering Aussie spirit.

Celebrating the rural lifestyle he wrote, ‘being in the bush and feeling the delight and fascination of the great pastoral life and work, I have tried to express it.’

Tom Roberts_Shearing the Rams painting

‘Shearing the Rams’ (1890) by Tom Roberts. Oil on canvas on composition board
122.4 x 183.3 cm National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Felton Bequest, 1932

The artistic images that represent Australia are deeply embedded in our collective unconscious and stem from a rich bush heritage and the courageous pioneers who shaped our country.

Ranging from the rugged bush to the beautiful coastlines, the Australian identity has always been at the heart of the unique artwork we produce.

Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson wrote poetry romanticising the bush lifestyle, whilst Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton produced cherished paintings of sunlit landscapes and the bushman’s spirit.

Tom Robert’s artwork above expresses a common phrase in Australian folklore. Stating the country ‘was built on the sheep’s back’. Arthur Streeton’s painting below, depicts an Australian landscape which helped build the wool industry.

Wide open spaces characterise our rough and rugged special countryside.

Arthur Streeton_The golden fleece painting

‘Land of the Golden Fleece’ (1926) by Arthur Streeton. Oil on canvas, 50.7 x 75.5 cm. National Gallery of Australia, the Oscar Paul Collection, gift of Henriette van Dallwitz

Much of the abstract art I produce and sell to international customers purposefully has an Australian identity underpinning the work. My painting below was sold through the Convent Gallery.

This series has been very popular with customers.

Described as ‘one of Australia’s most beautiful galleries’ it’s located within a small country town of Daylesford and epitomises the Australian country scene.

International visitors appreciate my large abstract paintings because within the context of a country gallery they capture a unique essence of Australia and our cultural identity derived from native gum trees.

The painting below is one of many in my ‘Eucalypt’ series.

Eucalypt painting by Simon Brushfield

‘Eucalypt’ (2001) by Simon Brushfield Oil & Acrylic on Canvas 1.8m x 1.4m (Sold: Private Acquisition)

The Melbourne Festival will be holding talks on the topic of the Australian identity. Famous cultural commentators will present lectures at The Wheeler Centre during October 2012. For more information call the Arts Centre Melbourne 1300 182 183 or visit the website

Fred Williams the master landscape painter of Australia

This post features one of Australia’s most famous landscape artists. Fred Williams became enormously successful by remaining faithful to what he loved most.

His paintings were simple abstract works, but they sold for millions of dollars.

Australia’s most celebrated contemporary landscape painter was once a humble, hard working man.

Fred was born in Melbourne Australia in 1927 and died 55 years later of lung cancer. He was Australia’s most famous contemporary landscape painter who began his working career as a shopfitter and boxmaker.

Fred studied art at the National Gallery School in Melbourne and furthered his education in London. Upon returning to Australia he was inspired by the aesthetic beauty of the dry rugged bush landscape .

He faithfully followed this visual direction for the rest of his life.

‘Upwey landscape’ 1965 by Fred Williams Oil on canvas 147 x 183 cm National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest © estate of Fred Williams

Point 1. Follow ones unique visual perspective and be faithful to that special direction.

However, he was isolated from his closest associates namely John Brack, Arthur Boyd and Charles Blackman because of his complete devotion to the unique form and style of his paintings.

Williams developed a very deliberate, purposeful approach to his painting.

An approach opposite to his friend’s expressionist tendencies who pursued a more spontaneous and improvised style of painting. Expressionism was a popular modern art movement during Fred’s lifetime, in which artists sought the emotional experience, rather than a physical depiction of reality.

Point 2. Following your creative path often means you must let go of friends travelling in a different direction.

Fred Williams’ painting titled ‘Upwey Landscape’ completed in 1965 was sold for $1,987,700 at Christie’s during 2006. Then in 2007, another auction house broke their sales record with the Fred Williams’ painting titled ‘Water Ponds’ created in 1965 which sold for $1,860,000.

However, the most expensive artwork sold in Australia during 2009 was another Fred Williams landscape completed in 1965 titled ‘Evening Sky, Upwey’ which sold for $1.38 million.

Despite the record prices what I love most about Fred Williams is the richness he manages to achieve from such simple compositions. The textures he created are symbolic and meaningful to Australian art lovers.

Point 3. Williams creates dramatic contrasts between clean peaceful spaces and complex suggestive textures of earthy Australian colours .

‘Evening Sky, Upway’ by Fred Williams 1965 oil on canvas 135 x 130 cm Private collection, Melbourne

The famous Australian artist and contemporary, John Brack, gave a touching eulogy at Williams’ funeral stating, “Fred brought us a new vision of Australia’s landscape…. He changed the way we see our country: an achievement which will live long after all of us are gone.”

Williams recognised that an Australian painter musn’t adopt a European mindset when in the bush landscape. English painters had tried before to paint the Australian landscape like it was England. Not surprisingly, they failed to capture in their paintings, the Australian outback spirit.

Point 4. Natives of the land understand and creatively interpret their homeland with most relevance and insight.

Williams was adamant the Aussie landscape should not be compromised and needed a non-European artist to produce a distinctly Australian feel . He was successful in his purpose and sold paintings for record prices. Australians could resonate with his contemporary abstract interpretation of their landscape.

Another landscape artist James Gleeson believes Williams to be one of those ‘rare landscapists who, like Drysdale and Nolan, have so imposed their personal visions upon a generation that we tend to see reality through their eyes.’

Point 5. Great works of art create their own reality, first seen through the creator.

He discovered a visual language to express a beautifully unique and spacious landscape only found in Australia. Notably, Williams took inspiration from the native Aboriginals in their traditional colour palette and intimate understanding of the dry harsh motherland.

Do you have any thoughts on this important Australian landscape painter? Please leave a message in the comments box below. If you liked this article and would like to sign up for more, join my VIP list below.

Listed as one of Australia’s trendiest hotels by trip advisor, The Art Series group of hotels was the brain child of Will Deague. Who established a collection of independent hotels and named each of them after famous Australian painters. The hotels are luxurious 5 star appointments, each themed through-out according to particular Australian artists. The art experience is highly acclaimed by visitors.

For example, the Olsen Hotel is located on prestigious 637-641 Chapel Street, South Yarra Melbourne. The interior decor focuses upon the artist John Olsen who was born in Newcastle, New South Wales and recognised as a highly significant Australian abstract landscape painter. Olsen was commissioned in 1970 to paint a large mural for the Sydney Opera House.

The painters accomplishments in the Australian Art world are astounding, winning the Wynne Prize in 1969 and 1985, the Sulman Prize in 1989, and the coveted Archibald Prize 2005.

Olsen has also been awarded national and international awards including an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1977 and an Order of Australia (AO) in 2001 for services to the arts. A long list of high profile awards illustrating the influence his work has upon contemporary Australian Art.

But what I love most about Olsen (aside from the beautiful abstract Sydney image pictured below) is this quote about his belief on art. “Art is not so much talent as character. It’s what you are, the qualities of the person.”

"Sydney Sun" 1965 by John Olsen. Oil on Three Plywood Panels 305 x 412 ©John Olsen. Licensed by Viscopy

For more information, check out the Art Series Hotels website or give them a call to organise a booking on the reservations number: +61 3 9040 1222. I think you will be pleasantly surprised surrounded by beautiful modern Australian Art.

Charles Blackman, Art Series Hotels: Melbourne exhibits Famous Australian Art

The Art Series group of hotels was the brilliant idea of William Deague. He established a collection of independent hotels in Melbourne and named them after famous Australian Painters. The hotels are luxurious 5 star and themed according to their particular artist.

For example, the Blackman Hotel on 452 St Kilda Road has a contemporary, boutique interior devoted to the popular artist Charles Blackman. The hotel is very close the central CBD of Melbourne and is a great inspiration to visitors, with the artistic theme running through-out the most intricate of details in the hotel.

Charles Blackman was born in Sydney in 1928 and created a large and spectacular series of paintings inspired by Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice in Wonderland. His work is romantic at heart and describes a poetic highly sensitive world of affectionate imagery. Blackman states,

“I am a romantic painter, (but not sweet) – oh no. That’s wrong. Dreams are what you’re made of, and very often nightmares, too. A dream is quintessentially a reality when it is fulfilled.

‘The Game of Chess’ (1956) by Charles Blackman. Sold for $720,000 Bonhams & Goodman (Melbourne).

For more information, check out the Art Series Hotels website or give them a call to organise a booking on the reservations number: 1800 278 468. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

One visitor writes on, “Our stay at Art-series The Blackman in Melbourne over Christmas was an extremely positive experience. It is a hotel with that extra touch of quality, good taste and personal service besides very good comfort, which really makes you enjoy your stay. The neat artistic design in details and the access to interesting books in the rooms are something we certainly will remember and which are rare in our experience.”

How Brett Whiteley sold paintings for record prices

This Brett Whiteley art post discusses some reasons why the famous Australian artist, was such an international hit, consistently selling paintings for record prices.

It also warns against losing your life to your art.

Brett Whiteley was a famous Australian artist who died a sad death in 1992. He became a dominant painter in the years before his fatal overdose, managing to sell paintings for record prices in Australia.

“The cricket match” (1964) by Brett WHITELEY, Longueville, NSW, Australia. Private collection

Point 1. Whiteley was a highly talented artist and very street smart. Becoming well connected amongst international art circles.

Brett Whiteley was born in Sydney on 1939 and after leaving school at age 17 he spent time working in an advertising agency named Lintas. He was mostly a self taught artist, and contemporary of Fred Williams . Brett was heavily influenced by famous Australian artists like William Dobell, Lloyd Rees and Russell Drysdale.

Point 2. Brett understood a formal art degree is not a prerequisite to becoming a successful artist.

He once said that, “Art is an argument between what a thing looks like and what it means.” It seemed much of Whiteley’s life was an internal argument.

Point 3. The creative personality must be careful to maintain a healthy balanced mind to continue creating high quality art.

Unfortunately, Brett suffered in this area. Losing control of his life. It was a continual struggle between two opposing forces, a creative drive, which built his life on art, but also a destructive drive, which finally claimed his life, after a heroin overdose in a lonely hotel in Wollongong, Australia.

Like many creative souls, Whiteley can remember distinctly when he knew being a painter was his destiny. He recalls one Sunday in a Presbyterian church he picked up a book on Vincent VanGogh and studied it intensely and found a love for art .

Point 4. Life changing occurences can profoundly alter a creative destiny at any given moment

He says, “I remember having this very, very powerful sense that my destiny was to completely give myself to painting – that I would be a painter and it was a remarkable moment of knowing that.”

Point 5. There is tremendous freedom, power and success in knowing what you love and are meant to be and do in life.

In another publication Whiteley recalls, “about eleven I decided, and I quite deliberately decided, that I would go into an art which I didn’t have to answer to anyone”

‘Two miles to get the letters’ (1962–65) charcoal, tempera, oil and linseed oil, collage, on plywood 122 x 101.7 cm board; Collection Brett Whiteley Studio © Whiteley Estate

Brett was a highly sensitive personality, with a sharp artistic eye and wonderful sense of perspective and creative balance. However, as his personal life lost a healthy balance and he began to spin out of control due to a heroin addiction, the prices of his paintings soared. In a strange irony, it seemed his troubled and tormented personal life added credibility and depth of volume to his fine art.

Point 6. Trials and tribulations adds character and depth to an artists body of work.

In 1999 Whiteley’s painting called ‘The Jacaranda Tree’ was sold for $1,982,000, a record price for any contemporary Australian painter. Then again in 2007, he broke a local record with his painting ‘The Olgas for Ernest Giles’ which sold for $3.5 million. Another painting, depicting the Sydney Opera House, was sold for $2.8 million.

Point 7. Brett Whiteley continues to sell paintings for record breaking prices in Australia after his death.

These figures came as no surprise to many who knew Whiteley, who always planned his exhibitions with shrewd calculation in order to gain maximum public impact. But underneath the marketing and publicity buzz, he was a hard working and dedicated painter.

Point 8. Brett didn’t limit himself artistically, but rather experimented and left his trademark style open to change.

In a most interesting observation by the internationally famous Australian art critic Robert Hughes, who wrote in The Bulletin magazine about Whiteley saying, “his outstanding act as a painter is the decision not to be original – not to narrow his style into the crippling uniqueness of a trademark, but to keep it open, and to preserve the flow of ideas between his art environment and his own experience”.

“Woman in bath” (1963) by Brett Whiteley oil, paper, graphite and tempera on plywood 183.1 x 218.7 cm board. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2000 © Whiteley Estate

But the mild cynicism underlying his statement is typical from Robert Hughes. I believe, like many others, that much of Whiteley’s art is highly original, especially his abstract images and the Bathroom series in which he painted his wife naked.

Point 9. Brett Whiteley was entirely original and eagerly pushed the boudaries in art and life.

For example, the picture above titled, “Two miles to get the letters” and “Woman in bath” present art lovers with wonderfully memorable contemporary abstract images of a thoughtful and original painter at the height of his creative career.

Do you have any thoughts on the paintings or life of the Australian artist Brett Whiteley. I would love to read your ideas, please post your thoughts in the comments box below.


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