About the Exhibition
Learn more about one of Australia’s most important painters when the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia presents a major retrospective of Ken Whisson’s work As If, produced in collaboration with the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne.
See portraits, landscapes and sketches tracing the evolution of Whisson’s practice over the past six decades. Renowned for his unique vision and independent style, Whisson has been making thoughtful and uncompromising paintings and drawings which hold a unique place in Australian art. His reputation has been built around his tenacious dedication to the act of painting and persistent fascination with — and singular responses to — the delicate machinations of both his inner world and the world at large.
Discover the artist’s influences and the development of his highly personal aesthetic. Trained as a young artist in wartime Melbourne in the 1940s, Whisson emerged out of the influential school of figurative expressionism. He initially studied under Russian émigré artist Danila Vassilieff at Warrandyte, then went on to combine the styles of his formative years with an increasingly linear and graphic abstraction. Topographic and single point perspectives coalesce and Whisson’s imagery often suggests a heightened and intense, sometimes hallucinogenic reality, reflected in the exhibition title derived by Whisson via Immanual Kant: ‘To live as if’, and the Paris surrealists: ‘Let us live as if the world really exists’.
Examine Whisson’s major themes and series, from his powerful portrayals of human relations to those which consider relationships with natural, built and cultural environments and see the historical backdrop of the time reflected in numerous drawings and paintings.
Since the late 1970s Whisson has been based in the Italian city of Perugia, during which time interests in displacement and memory have joined his enduring themes of landscape, identity and politics. At the age of 84 he is painting as well as ever, and for the long haul, releasing into the world images that reward the patient, analytical yet unguarded viewer.
Ken Whisson: As If, on Level 3, is curated by Glenn Barkley (MCA) and Lesley Harding (Heide Museum of Modern Art).