Recognition of a life’s work
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.