A history of local art
SPANNING the past 50 years is Michael Denholm’s second volume of the history of art in Tasmania. One of the most praiseworthy aspects of the book is the way the author has highlighted the achievements of artists who may no longer be seen publicly exhibited but who had the peak of their careers in the second half of the 20th century.
After all, even the most innovative artist piggy- backs on others, so reminders are appropriate of those who have gone before them.
Credit must also be given for the way he has embraced the whole state, for there is a tendency for artists in the top half to be often unknown in the capital city – especially if they are only represented on the mainland.
Similarly laudable is the way Denholm has given due consideration to the output of many upcoming younger artists, albeit those who are mostly specialising in painting.
It appears printmakers, photographers and sculptors will be outlined in the next of this series of self- published books.
In this instalment, the author continues unabated with the highly subjective and idiosyncratic approach he established in his fi rst book.
It is acknowledged, however, that art appreciation is a highly individual exercise with the rules that once governed it suspended, if not completely overturned at times, as good practitioners strive to fi nd new or hybridised ways of expression.
Of the current artists in Tasmania, the one who is given the greatest accolade is Polish ex- patriot Jerzy Michalski.
Denholm devotes about 20 pages to the oil painter whose existential urban scenes encapsulate a European view that is both contemporary and subliminally nostalgic.
This is more than twice as much that is given to Archibald Prize winner Geoffrey Dyer and considerably more than the likes of Phillip Wolfhagen – to name two commercially successful artists.
Roger and Davis Scholes do well despite being fi lmmakers, sculptors and wood craftsmen, but innumerable others with many recognised achievements get much smaller mentions.
This is not the case for self- styled “outsider artist” Bobby- z Lambert, whom Denholm smiles upon and gives considerable coverage for his often confronting faux- naive style with much additional information ranging from his father being knocked out for three days to an obscure link to George W. Bush.
Scattered through the book are a few criticisms of artists and the occasional photograph of individuals.
One example is Alan Turner, whose heyday was the 1960s and ’ 70s and who did not receive a photo.
However, the image of his wife Beth is provided, along with the accompanying comment that she worked as a seamstress for Saddlers’ Wells Opera and lived on a farm in the south of France from 1980 to 1981.
Much of the highly detailed but often irrelevant anecdotal or personal information about various artists seems to have been gained from conversations or other sources.
Interest fl ags as well with the constant descriptions of various art works that may be in private collections or elsewhere but for whatever reason cannot be viewed.
Without doubt, the exhaustive undertaking has been marred by an excess of superfl uous information and would have benefi ted from a thorough prune.