From Friday 16 September to Sunday 12 February National Gallery of Victoria is hosting the biggest showing of John Olsen’s work in their newest temporary exhibition John Olsen: The You Beaut Country. It’s a joint production with the Art Gallery of NSW and will be touring to Sydney in March 2017.
John Olsen has been touted by many as Australia’s greatest living artist. The 88 year old is still energetic, painting and exhibiting and the retrospective is the collection of almost seven decades of work.
His fascination has always been with Australia’s landscape and so many of the large scale pieces are inspired by places such as Lake Eyre, Lake Woomera and Australia’s rivers.
For me there are a few standout pieces. The vast paintings comprising Summer in the you beaut country are displayed on the ceiling as they are originally intended.
Lie back on the light-embedded low backed chairs so you can really appreciate the view, pick out the intricacies of each painting and immerse yourself in its mood.
My favourite painting is entitled ‘Nightfall, when wattle stains the doubting heart’ and it has no explanatory plaque. In its place is an excerpt of Terra Australis, a poem by James McCauley
‘Voyage within you on the fabled ocean,
And you will find that southern Continent,
Quiros’ vision – his hidalgo heart
And mythical Australia, where reside
All things in their imagined counterpart.
It is your land of similes: the wattle
Scatters its pollen on the doubting heart;
The flowers are wide-awake; the air gives ease.
There you come home; the magpies call you Jack
And whistle like larrikins at you from the trees.
I love the deep, enigmatic blue background, the golden points of colour and the bird-eye perspective of the trees, houses and wildlife with the high horizon. I spy it out of the corner of my eye as I enter the room and it literally makes me gasp. My photograph does not do it justice at all, so you must see it in real life for yourself!
John Olsen is most famous for his paintings but in this exhibition you’ll be introduced to his tapestries, ceramics, prints and watercolours and even volumes of his sketchbooks and notebooks.
If you are taking young visitors then there are NGV Kids plaques dotted around the exhibition and a ‘Draw with John Olsen’ space. There visitors young and old are invited to take a specially designed drawing sheet and to draw something inspired by what they’re seeing in a unique collaboration with the artist.
John Olsen: The You Beaut Country, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square Melbourne +61 (0)3 8620 2222
Fri 16 September 2016 – Sunday 12 February 2017
NGV Member Adult $12
Senior Card Holder discount Wednesdays $13
Child (5–15 years) $7
NGV Member Family (2 adults + 3 children) $32
Family (2 adults + 3 children) $41