|Harry Kent, Brett at the Opera House, ink on paper, 26x34cm|
This drawing is another ink sketch in the series (here) commenced in the new year. These are all prelimnary exploratory sketches for an intended series of oil paintings about/around Brett Whiteley.
Brett Whiteley started to paint the Sydney Opera House in 1971 while it was still being built. He had just returned from New York and was now living at Lavender Bay from where the Opera House was clearly visible.
|Brett Whiteley, Opera House, 1982,|
oil and mixed media on canvas, 203x244cm
[image link from artquotes.net]
While some see this image as a menacing mass of shark fins, i see it as an exuberant, optimistic, flamboyant, crazy work of celebration. It makes one as happy as seeing the Opera House sparkle on a sunny Sydney day. Yet in so many of the photos of Brett Whiteley he looks serious, troubled, depressed, while his writings are peppered with commentaries on existential despair. So i wanted to bring the two together to celebrate that mysterious relationship which exists between an artist and his or her work. In our understanding, the two often inform each other.
Yet ultimately, the art can't be explained away by knowing the man, nor the man analysed away by knowing his art (Freud's musings on Leonardo border on being silly). Knowing BW had a heroin addiction or a psychotic episode helps get an angle on a few of his works but it hardly explains his talent as an artist.
You can see BW at work and hear him talk about portrait painting in this clip:
In essence, i am using photos of him and his journals and biographical information to construct my own 'Brett'. To those who knew him well, my construction may be way off the mark.
Which is all beside the point.
For me, the notion of Brett represents something about Australia, about painting, about artists, about critics, about life, love, suffering and celebration, and the questing of the human spirit.
My 'Brett' is a symbol, an icon, a talisman. And in this series i am working out for myself just what that talisman means ... with an audience looking on.