Recog­ni­tion of a life’s work

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - CLYDE SELBY

TONY WOODS: AR­CHIVE Aus­tralian Schol­arly Pub­lish­ing Edited by An­drew Gaynor $ 79.95

TONY WOODS was born in 1940 and had his for­ma­tive years in West Ho­bart dur­ing World War II. Happily, he would as­sist his dress­maker mother by deftly draw­ing chalk lines on ma­te­rial for her to cut.

Even with peace there was still much aus­ter­ity and, so, his in­creas­ingly steady and con­fi­dent hand was an as­set.

Threads form­ing pat­terns in the fab­rics were to be metaphor­i­cally echoed in the life of this only child of a “mixed mar­riage” ( Catholic and Angli­can) as it was termed in those more con­strained days.

An­other per­sonal weft was the ri­val at­trac­tions of a sport­ing life that wafted across the pur­suit of an artis­tic one.

A life­long in­ter­est in the ef­fects of sun­light as it shone through chinks in door­ways, fall­ing across floors and fur­ni­ture could be seen as sym­bolic of the light as well as the shad­ows of his child­hood.

An ac­ci­dent ended his youth­ful javelin-throw­ing ca­reer but a con­tin­u­ing ap­pli­ca­tion to wa­ter­colour land­scape, as well as fig­u­ra­tive art, saw him gain a fel­low­ship that al­lowed him to live in New York for two years.

A greater con­trast be­tween Ho­bart and the famed city of sky­scrapers would have been hard to find and it was there that he was ex­posed to avant- garde ab­strac­tion.

His meld­ing of mo­tion- charged lines with ex­panses of paint grew from this post-mod­ernist ex­pe­ri­ence.

Works from th­ese younger years also show a readi­ness to be flex­i­ble with space and di­men­sions within con­tem­po­rary in­for­mal­ity.

Artists, or any­one pos­sessed with the creative im­pulse in any area of hu­man en­deav­our, rarely in­no­vate from a void but piggy- back on the achieve­ments of oth­ers to make ad­vances of their own.

Thus Woods im­mersed him­self in the ex­pres­sion of the times, adapted it while ex­plor­ing re­lated ar­eas like film and, in turn, pro­vided a model to younger artists.

Ar­chive is a vis­ual doc­u­ment, with sup­port­ing text by peers, of the de­vel­op­ment of a Melbourne- based, na­tion­ally recog­nised artist from the lat­ter decades of the 20th Cen­tury.

In the 1960s, the Tas­ma­nian- born artist seemed des­tined for great fame and match­ing for­tune but ul­ti­mately did not achieve the house­hold name sta­tus that is some­times given to the con­tro­ver­sial and ex­per­i­men­tal, but not nec­es­sar­ily the most gifted.

How­ever, Woods’ steady ap­pli­ca­tion to the pur­suit of his own artis­tic truth has gained much re­spect and rep­re­sen­ta­tion in many state gal­leries and pri­vate col­lec­tions, with­out there be­ing traf­fic- stop­ping head­lines about epic or de­fin­i­tive Aus­tralian art.

Per­haps the vis­ual state­ments of Woods can be par­al­leled to highly com­pe­tent cham­ber mu­sic as dis­tinct from a grand sym­phony or a well- struc­tured Hal Porter short story as com­pared to one of Pa­trick White’s nov­els.

Nev­er­the­less, his painted ab­strac­tions in oils or acrylics “qui­etly daz­zle” many ad­mir­ers to this very day.

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