From Carrie Miller…
As If, the major survey show of Ken Whisson’s work produced in collaboration with the Heide Museum of Modern Art currently showing at the MCA, is an exhibition that can genuinely claim that overused term – retrospective.
While Whisson is considered one of Australia’s most significant painters within the institutional art world, mainstream audiences are less likely to be aware of the artist whose practice spans more than six decades and tracks back to a defining period in Australian art history.
Whisson trained in Melbourne in the 1940s and was a peripheral member of the Heide group, best known for their patrons John and Sunday Reed. But Whisson has always remained intensely independent – a quality that’s at the heart of both his artistic style and his philosophical world-view. His work is charged with a raw energy that is inscribed in the gestures of an artist who believed painting should not be burdened by “good technique”. This lack of regard for technical authority is of a piece with his commitment to anarchism more generally. It’s a quality that makes his work difficult to align with a particular school or movement, which is perhaps why he’s remained less celebrated than some of his contemporaries.
This retrospective gives viewers more than just an insight into the depth and development of Whisson’s own body of work. It demonstrates the way in which major Australian painters have been able to develop a singular vocabulary parallel with their 20th Century European counterparts.
Until November 25
Museum of Contemporary Art, The Rocks.
Pic: Ken Whisson, Imaginary America (1974 -75). Oil on composition board, 80.7 x 114.6 cm. \