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Watson Road

Observatory Hill (The Rocks)

Roy Jackson – Retrospective 1963-2013

  • This event finished on 12 April 2015

This retrospective exhibition spans fifty years of painting and drawing, by one of the most distinctive abstract painters in Australia. Roy Jackson (1944-2013) was regarded as a “painter’s painter” – a rare talent whose work explored and challenged the possibilities of representation and abstraction. Highly esteemed by his students, fellow artists, and collectors, the power of his work is in its vitality and the evocation of visual sensations, memory and poetic imagination. Roy Jackson’s early days coincided with the impact of American abstract expressionism in Australia but unusually for an artist of his generation, he was more affected by Europeans such as Dubuffet, Klee and the Cobra painters, and by the Australians Ian Fairweather and Tony Tuckson.

Born in 1944 in London, Jackson arrived in Australia 1959 and studied at the National Art School between 1960-61, before returning to the UK to undertake further study at Sutton Art School and Wimbledon College of Art. He migrated to Australia Sydney in the mid 1960s and was a regular exhibitor up until his death in 2013. From the very beginning, his art has been characterised by a feeling of openness that retains the pulse of its making. In an era when ecological awareness has become paramount, his most sensitive and poetic response to the observed environment  – which unfolds through a marvellously variegated and fluid graphic language (abstracted “writing”, textures, patterns, rhythms and the shifting depths and intervals between marks) – has come to seem crucially relevant, not to say authoritative because of its elemental beauty. His art channels the patterns and the latent energy of nature; it can communicate a story, an emotion or an all encompassing response to ‘that place, to that moment, to that time.’

“I’ve never been a painter that sits inside the four walls of a studio and has no interest or concern for the environment outside. I can appreciate that an artist could do that, but it’s not my way. The studio here [in Wedderburn] that I’ve had so long …the best days of the studio were right in the beginning when the pillars were put up, the roof was on and there were no walls. I started painting in it and thought it should stay like that, but after a day of wind and driving rain going horizontally through the building, you decide to put up walls. The studio I would like best would be a pavilion – it would be completely open to the environment.” Roy Jackson

In 2013 Jackson was painting at the height of his career, knowing that time was short yet achieving masterly new expression in his art, as evidenced by his epic Clinamen series included in the exhibition. Roy Jackson Retrospective includes over 60 paintings, drawings, work books, and collages selected by co-curators Sioux Garside and Terence Maloon to represent the exhilarating breadth of Jackson’s work seen in the context of a lifetime of uncompromising risks, philosophical and aesthetic exploration and a dedication to the creative act of mark making.

This exhibition coincides with the publication of a major monograph, which gives voice to the artist through a series of recorded conversations with Maloon, extracts of which form a unique and insightful narrative that runs through the book. Elizabeth Cummings, Sioux Garside, Ildiko Kovacs, the late John Peart and Paul Selwood are some of the contributing artists and writers who along with his partner Maggie Bassendine share their insights with regard to his influences, travels and life through art.