The 88-year-old, who has been painting for almost seven decades, is renowned for his energetic painting style and landscapes. The exhibition, at Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, showcases Olsen’s major paintings and works on paper alongside lesser-known aspects of his work.
It includes the latest instalment of Olsen’s career-defining landscapes series, “The You Beaut Country”. Commencing in 1960, the series highlights Olsen’s lifelong interest in the natural world and his continued pursuit to capture the Australian identity. In the series Olsen distills what he sees as the contradictory beauty latent in Australia.
The exhibition also features Olsen’s large-scale paintings of Lake Eyre, the Simpson Desert, Sydney Harbour and his much-loved tree frogs. Another highlight is his Archibald Prize-winning Self-portrait: Janus faced, 2005.
There’s also emphasis on his varied interests including Spanish cooking and culture, poetry and journal writing, as well as the diverse use of mediums in his practice, including tapestries, printmaking, ceramics and sculpture.
In a special project with the NGV, Olsen has created a drawing activity as part of the exhibition. Visitors of all ages can select a work on paper featuring a partly drawn image by Olsen and imagine what the lines and shapes could be. It’s one of many educational components of the exhibition.
While Olsen’s style of painting may not appeal to all, a visit to the exhibition offers the chance to see numerous works from this prolific and award winning artist. You’ll also learn more about the way he works.
John Olsen: The You Beaut Country is on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square until February 12 2017. It’s one of a number of exhibitions on at the NGV this month. Others include David Hockney: Current, Italian Jewels: Bulgari Style and Viktor & Rolf: Fashion Artists.
Visit NGV for tickets and more information.
*Photos: Wayne Taylor
Jenny Burns attended the opening of The You Beaut Country exhibition as a guest of the National Gallery of Victoria.