Ken Whisson: as if

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 01 October – 28 November 2012
Heide Museum of Modern Art: 17 March – 15 July 2012
Co-Curators: Glenn Barkley and Lesley Harding
Assistant Curator: Ivan Muñiz Reed


Installation view, Ken Whisson: As If, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2012. Image courtesy the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia © the artist

Installation view, Ken Whisson: As If, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2012. Image courtesy the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia © the artist

About the exhibition:

In a career spanning over sixty years, Ken Whisson has been making thoughtful and uncompromising artworks which hold a unique place in Australian art. Whisson’s reputation has been built around his tenacious dedication to the acts of painting and drawing, and he has a persistent fascination with the delicate operations of both his inner reality and the world at large.

Ken Whisson was born in 1927 in Lilydale, outside Melbourne. He studied under Russian émigré artist Danila Vassilieff (1897–1958) in the 1940s, and emerged out of the influential school of figurative expressionism. Whisson’s imagery has since evolved to combine the tendencies of his formative years with an increasingly linear and graphic abstraction. Following his relocation to the Italian city of Perugia in the late 1970s, the ideas and experiences of displacement and memory have helped elaborate his enduring engagements with landscape, identity and politics. He has forged an unconventional and highly personal aesthetic which sees topographical and single-point perspectives coalesce, and imagery that often suggests a heightened, sometimes hallucinogenic reality.

The artist’s title for this retrospective derived from Immanuel Kant’s dictum: ‘May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law’, and the Paris Surrealists’ declaration: ‘Let us live as if the world really exists’. The exhibition traced the evolution of Whisson’s major themes and series, from his powerful portrayals of human relations to those which consider the relationships people and animals have with the natural, built and cultural environments.