Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ken Whisson

Ken Whisson
House, Hills, Poultry and Trees
30.7.08 & 21.2.09 100 x 120cm

Image: courtesy of Watters Gallery

"If one acknowledges that the style of a Whisson painting is unmistakable, this is not to plunge the artist into a creative cul-de-sac. One of the reasons these pictures are individually so engaging and cumulatively so haunting, is that the problems they deal with are never predictable, their shapes never purely rhetorical. Each work has its own crisis to overcome, its own pictorial language to invent" from: John McDonald -
Ken Whisson, A Survey catalogue

Love this quote. Love Ken Whisson. Let me try and articulate. Every so often I'm visited by that vexed question: Is painting dead? To cure me of such impure thoughts I'm always heartened by an idea (not just mine, I'm sure) that for every individual who paints there is a personal question each must seek to answer through their work. Perhaps I might even go so far as to say that sometimes those questions are so much better when they're not or never truly answered thus providing a painter with enough sustenance for a lifetime. Ken Whisson is a much loved Australian painter precisely because he revisits old territory in a way that never feels old or rehashed. It's always fresh - not just with respect to paint handling which, if you are lucky enough to see one in the flesh, is quite a special experience - but always because there seems to be an importance placed on the journey rather than the final outcome. Hence the scruffy, scumbly marks, the layered staccato lines drawn with paint that are smudged or half concealed and those strange shapes that hang, usually in white space, delightfully and necessarily unresolved. A life lived through painted marks. Perfect. I'm cured.


Gabrielle Jones said...

I always find Whisson hard to understand or even relate to - though I respect his work for its individuality and freshness. I think, after your interesting and insightful comments, I will have to check him out again in the flesh and notice the paint handling and such. Thanks for another great review.

Undercover Painter said...

Hi Gabrielle, There's some Whissons up at Watters now so check them out. I know what you mean about Whisson's painting style. Sometimes it's difficult to get past the seemingly simple colour schemes and all that white space - almost illustrative too - but, when one really gives them time, they literally hum and sizzle. Thanks for your comments. See you at THE (yours, of course) show!

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