In the heart of London’s Mayfair district this week – you will find the very heart of contemporary Australian art with Osborne Samuel Gallery’s latest exhibition of John Olsens’ Latest Paintings. From the wide, brown sprawling plains to the reedy river beds, Australians are only all too familiar with the contours, the shapes and the colours of their homeland. John Olsen, as one of this country’s most prolific artists, has played an important role in instilling in us an appreciation and an understanding of our country and her natural forms.
Tropical Lily Pond by John Olsen, 2013 | Mixed media on French cotton paper | Signed and dated lower right | 80 x 100 cms
In Association with the Olsen Irwin Gallery in Sydney, Osborne Samuel have honoured John Olsen, our nation’s revered living artistic treasure, with the exhibition of his Latest Paintings. His passion for cooking, and life, is best summed up by his son Tim here;
The relevance of the work comes from a very personal place because it is literally a life’s work: a continual process of determined sacrifice and willful experiment The course of my father’s career has seen landscape painting as the pinnacle of Australian art, the end of Australian art and now the rising beacon of a third generation making the land their central motif. Through all of that he has not changed course but he has meandered into major themes of his own making. The body of works on paper presented here, traverse the range from massive interior landscapes to reedy river beds and the chaotic splendour of his own kitchen, a place where the arguments and ideas have always traveled from the table to the page.
These drawings and paintings come from real places but they are not faithful depictions. The work is not dealing with abstraction and it is not dealing with literal accuracy, instead it is down to the power of memory, John’s own and the collective dream of the interior. For what dwells within Australia are places that most of her inhabitants have never seen and have no intention of seeing. In this context the role of a painter like John Olsen is that of a messenger and a conjurer both.
Some have likened his work to that of a Zen calligrapher, others have said he has internalized the spirit of the land to a degree that has become iconic. What I see is pleasure, knowledge, play and a love of light and space animated by a quest that never leaves him. Sitting still in his studio reading a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins or leading a trail of painters into an empty river bed, he is always “out there” navigating, interrogating and refining his touch, hungry for beauty, replete in the half light. – Tim Olsen, Sydney, August 2013