JOHN Olsen belongs to a very select group. Few painters continue to work into their 80s. Maybe they run out of vision or the physical constraints take their toll.
For those who continue, like Lloyd Rees, there is a lessening of precise drawing skills, but compensated for by the atmospheric and effulgent suggestion of a still vibrant world.
John Olsen is 88. His long career has always focused on his ability to take a line for a walk, a life-enhancing gift for idiosyncratic capture of the moment. Newcastle is fortunate to have in its collection a seminal example of this apparently artless artmaking. Life Burst (1964) has given us many pleasures over the years.
The gallery also has a large collection of the artist’s prints and drawings, all on view for this expansive survey over the coming summer.
The much-publicised commission of a large painting celebrating the artist’s early connections with Newcastle was a calculated gamble. In the event, it recalls his major sun paintings of the past without the wealth of animating detail. The huge tentacled orb dominates rather than celebrates. Torrid rather than radiant.
There are several months to look more closely at the exhibition as a whole and assess the place of this long-established artist in the Australian pantheon.
WE should all applaud the initiative of The Newcastle Club Foundation on its establishment of an acquisitive annual art prize.
The principal benefit for the winning painter is not just money and reputation, but to have a work on permanent display on the walls of this tradition-rich institution. The future collection should prove a notable growing survey of the region’s painters.
The judges of the inaugural prize will have had a busy time. There were 46 works hung at Newcastle Art Space last weekend selected from 73 submitted, with a wide variety of artists and approaches to the specified subject matter of Newcastle.
Interestingly, there were very few works featuring Nobbys in the ultimate shortlist, but many beach scenes and suburban streets, with younger artists less representational.
When you read this, the winner will have been announced.
SCULPTURE in the Vineyards makes an ideal reason for visiting Wollombi before December 4, with outdoor sculpture at five boutique vineyard sites and smaller pieces in the Old Fire Shed Gallery.
Are there fewer works this year lurking under the trees, cavorting with the vines, basking in the landscape?
In the associated exhibition with the title Ereignis at Cessnock Regional Art Gallery until November 27 are works more suited to indoors. It features maquettes by Paul Selwood, glass by Keith Rowe and Kayo Yokojama and a mind-blowing screen of optical lenses by Suzann Victor.
These works create hard-to-meet expectations for the outdoor installations.
PETER Lankas must be one of Newcastle’s busiest and most visible painters. But the large number of small paintings at Gallery 139 until November 19 is his first solo show for many years.
He has long made complex images, with perhaps even more complex messages, from the built environment, a lively and invariably interesting subject. Service stations, shopping centres and back yards appear here, but a wall of works relate to plein air sessions on the beach, moody and romantic.
He is one of the artists threatened with losing a studio at NCAC, where he is also a dedicated teacher and strong advocate for his rediscovery of pre-industrial paints and painting mediums.
Will he next move towards abstraction? Or will working more closely with the figure prove a new passion? His many coming exhibitions will tell.
CORMAC O’Riordan is the first photographer I’ve known to utilise a drone for curiously bent expanses of beach.
At Art Systems Wickham until November 13 he is showing further works with familiar subjects and innovative techniques. Jacqueline McCoy also provides us with surprises in the translucent textures of her woodblock prints of domestic detail.
Works on paper
THE latest exhibition at Acrux until November 12 brings together works on paper from many artists. They include Anne-Maree Hunter’s amended book, Helene Leane’s atmospheric monotypes and the vibrant prints of Valé Zakarauskas.