Brett Whiteley: A Prominent Australian Artist
The most prominent of Australian artists and advocate of free, uninhibited and imaginative thinking in art, Brett Whiteley, AO (7 April 1939 - 15 June 1992) was born in Sydney, New South Wales.
Whiteley was art-inclined early in his life, as a result of which he produced the early works, notably the "The Soup Kitchen" (1958). But it was an earlier work "Sofala" (1956) that was among the paintings on canvas that made him eligible for the Traveling Art Scholarship of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1960. The scholarship gave Whiteley exposure to the art and cultural scene of Europe. His "Untitled Red painting" was purchased by the Tate Gallery, London after it was featured among his other Canvases at the Whitechapel Gallery. Whiteley shot to fame following his securing the international prize at the 1962 Biennale de Paris.
The various influences Whiteley came under in London resulted in three series of paintings in oil on canvas in 1964 featuring influences from British modernist art. The time Whiteley spent in Europe was a fruitful one as it gave him the recognition and success that made him an established painter and also enabled him to develop his artistic skills, chief of which was incorporating photographs and fiberglass shapes in his paintings. He would incorporate these elements in his huge work carried out on 18 wooden panels, "The American Dream". This work was the product of Whiteley's visit to America and his subsequent involvement in the peace protests against America's involvement in Vietnam. Taking around a year to complete, "The American Dream" depicts a calm ocean that gets disturbed and soon becomes a playground of destruction.
Whiteley's next massive project was "Alchemy", done on his return to Australia. Completed between 1972 and 1973, the work was carried out on many panels, and featured the massive letters IT in the center on one of the panels and designs and patterns on the rest that included sexual imagery and curved shapes. It symbolizes the idea of transforming metal to gold found in mythology.
In the 1970s Whiteley, on his return to Sydney, painted beautiful views in oil on canvas of the Sydney Harbor. An example is "Interior with Time Past" that won him the Sulman Prize in 1976. Whiteley would go on to win other prestigious art prizes in Australia - the Archibald Prize for "Self Portrait in the Studio" and the Sulman Prize in 1976, the Wynne Prize in 1977 for "The Jacaranda Tree (On Sydney Harbour)" and all the three prizes in 1978 for "Art, Life and the Other Thing", "Yellow Nude" and "Summer at Carcoar" respectively. Whitney was also initiated into the Order of Australia (AO) in 1991. The artist died from a drug overdose on 15 June 1992 at the age of 53.