Thursday, January 12, 2012

Brett Whiteley's inisistent madness


Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's insistent madness,
charcoal and Conte on paper, 52x42cm

"One of the hardest things is to discipline oneself to keep looking until one sees to a point of almost insistent madness, to concentrate on one vision until it discloses its third and fourth veil, to keep seeing past what you have just seen requires feeling and ambition, the more open, the more unexpected and extraordinary the intervention ..."
[Brett Whiteley, from Catalogue of 1976 Exhibition, Australian Galleries, Melbourne]

Here i have portrayed BW with his red hair (he had curly red in life) acting as a kind a burning that both reveals and obscures his vision. I wanted a whiff of Promethean fire. I wanted a suggestion of dangerous craziness.

As Coleridge, the English poet, writes in 'Kubla Khan',
"Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise."



  1. Soft power!
    Like it.

  2. As always, a very good work. You know that the madness is sorounding us in many different ways.
    The hard work in art is to define in the sensitivity of a sign and/or a symptom, the real meaning! And you do it! Congrats!

  3. Yes Jaime, the world seems run by psychopaths. They do so well in careers where total ruthlessness is an advantage.

    Though here Whiteley was talking about the madness that can grip an artist in the process of creation, especially when undertaking expressive or surreal works that draw deeply on the artist's inner life. Whiteley seemed preoccupied such driven mental states.

  4. Harry ... your work is always so unique and thought provoking... No plain jane stuff for you.

  5. you stopped once you had drawn what you wanted to say.... interestingly, your thoughts about the painting did not add or detract anything from the painting as it stood strong in its own right with a clear voice (imho)... that is art.

  6. Thanks, Marian. I count that as praise indeed. Herman Melville once said, ""It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."

    Even this Brett Whiteley material - i don't want to paint what and how he painted. I just want to learn about the depths of painting from one who had been there.

  7. Thanks so much, Rahina. I really prize economy, even if it makes work look rough. To my taste so many paintings are over finished to the point of all the life being knocked out of them. The best things Turner did were his unfinished landscapes, imho.

    And at heart i still believe a painting should be a complete communication in its own right. I'm usually glad to give artits' statements in galleries a miss, however much time their art school spent teaching how.