A his­tory of lo­cal art

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - CLYDE SELBY

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.

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