Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Drawing on Drysdale

Russell Drysdale, ‘Convoy on Road near Albury’ 1942, pen, ink, watercolour on paper, AlburyCity Collection, Purchased with funds from a 1985 public appeal.

Ararat Regional Art Gallery presents ‘Drawing on Drysdale’, an exhibition of drawings by an icon of 20th century Australian art, Russell Drysdale (1912-1981) from 3 july ro 24 August 2014. 

This touring exhibition is built around the substantial holdings of Drysdale’s work in the AlburyCity Collection. ‘Drawing on Drysdale’ presents drawings, sketches, written material and objects, including Drysdale’s portable easel, in an exhibition that celebrates a major Australian artist responsible for reshaping the way we see Australia. Russell Drysdale, 'Evening Camp' 1961 (detail), pen, ink, 25x33cm, AlburyCity Collection.

Born in England in 1912 to Australian parents, Drysdale moved to Australia with his family, settling near Albury in 1923. Drysdale was expected to work on the family farm, but at the age of 20 his potential as an artist was noticed by a local doctor who sought the advice of the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Daryl Lindsay. This led to Drysdale studying in Melbourne under George Bell and Arnold Shore. He sailed for Europe in 1938 to further his career in Paris, but returned Australia in 1939 when war became imminent. Drysdale moved from Sydney back to Albury in 1942, concerned for the safety of his family during the war. This formative period established his unique style, informed by European modernism but boldly inspired by the people and places of Australia. By the 1950s Drysdale has secured a unique position as Australia’s national artist, with his art widely reproduced and disseminated.

It was drawing that first brought attention to Drysdale in the early 1930s while recovering in hospital, and towards the end of his life when he was restricted due to ill health; it was drawing that once again occupied him. Through drawing Drysdale engaged with representation, touch and vision. He sought to create images that went beyond the depiction of appearances, wrestling with the significance of marks and mark making. He did not labour over details that were not essential; rather he focussed on the essential features leaving the remaining image to the viewer's imagination. Defective eyesight excluded Drysdale from war service, but through a need to be involved he produced what has become a significant body of work that details army life in Australia. Some of these works held in the Albury Art Gallery collection include ‘Albury Platform’ 1943 and ‘Convoy on Road near Albury’1942. ‘Drawing on Drysdale’ is an AlburyCity touring exhibition.

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