- issue 1
Ganymede (detail) 1989
oil on canvas 93 x 106 cm
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The first edition of the Allens art journal reflects on a critical, albeit under-represented, period in recent Australian art history, the late 1970s to 1990s. A radical moment characterised by post-modernist/post-structuralist theoretical dialogue and debate, these decades saw the development of complex forms of figurative art in Australia, which served to reshape contemporary art practice and wider cultural discourse. Presented here are works from the Allens collection including paintings, etchings and photo-based images by Peter Blayney, Lindy Lee, Simon Blau, Micky Allan, Fiona MacDonald, Graham Fransella and emerging artist, Liam O'Brien to name a few.
During the tumultuous 1980s, artists in Australia responded enthusiastically to world trends. One such trend was the revival of figurative painting. A closer examination of the works from the Allens collection, by some of Australia's foremost figurative painters such as Peter Blayney, Margot Hutcheson, Susan Norrie and Fiona MacDonald, to name a few, provide insights not only into stylistic innovations but Australian cultural identity during this time.
Keith Looby is considered one of Australia's significant figurative artists. His works possess an original and instantly recognisable style, and are characterised by intertextual allusion, inventive art-historical skits and spectacular draftsmanship. They are also some of the earliest examples of postmodern irony found in Australian art.
(For those using an iPad, you can view the video here) Painter and ceramicist Peter Cooley discusses his practice and, in particular, his grotesque and colourful painted vignettes which were inspired by Hollywood films, soap operas and gay subculture. His paintings display a strong modernist sensibility, influenced by early Australian, European and American modernism. Here, he also discusses his interest in Expressionism and the Oriental arts.
Experimentation with costuming, props, locations, viewpoints, film formats and colour were the basis to photographer, Liam O'Brien's Futility 2009 series. O'Brien describes his interest in the relationship between body and space as it is explored through ephemeral sculptural works and performative interventions (in) with urban spaces.
Over recent decades, artists have been exploring the rich legacy of art history and have critically examined the conventions and contexts of the tradition of art. These days it is common for the work of artists to go beyond aesthetic concerns and to challenge preconceived notions about the nature of art and its role in society.