In a career spanning over sixty years, Ken Whisson has been making thoughtful and uncompromising paintings and drawings which hold a unique place in Australian art. Whisson’s reputation has been built around his tenacious dedication to the act of painting and persistent fascination with—and singular responses to—the delicate machinations of both the inner world and the world at large.
Trained as a young artist in wartime Melbourne in the 1940s, Whisson emerged out of the influential school of figurative expressionism. He initially studied under Russian émigré artist Danila Vassilieff at Warrandyte, then went on to combine the tendencies of his formative years with an increasingly linear and graphic abstraction. He has forged an unconventional and highly personal aesthetic which sees topographic and single point perspectives coalesce, and imagery that often suggests a heightened and intense, sometimes hallucinogenic reality.
The exhibition—titled by the artist via Emmanual Kant: ‘To live as if’, and the Paris surrealists: ‘Let us live as if the world really exists’—traces the evolution of Whisson’s major themes and series, from his powerful portrayals of human relations to those which consider relationships with natural, built and cultural environments. Since the late 1970s the artist has been based in the Italian city of Perugia, during which time interests in displacement and memory have joined his enduring themes of landscape, identity and politics.
Ken Whisson: As If is a major retrospective of the artist’s work and is produced in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.