John Olsen is regarded as one of Australia’s greatest living artists. He is among the last of the Australian greats who came to fame in the 1950s and 1960s for their abstracted way of looking at the Australian landscape.
In the following video recorded by Daily Review, the National Gallery of Victoria’s David Hurlston (senior curator of Australian painting, sculpture and decorative arts to 1980) tells us that Olsen, now 88, was actively involved in the creation of the exhibition. (His last NGV retrospective was in 1991).
“He’s exuberant, erudite and just a great joy to work with. Having curated lots of exhibitions, this is the probably one of my favourites to have worked on.” Hurston said.
“When we first talked about the title of the show and we proposed this title You Beaut Country (named after a work from 1962 Summer in the You Beaut Country) he loved it and he said: ‘You know what? I might even paint a new You Beaut Country painting’.”
That earlier work and the new painting, titled You Beaut Country Landscape Calling recalling his more exuberant works from the 1950s and 1960s are among 108 paintings in the show. This full survey of his life’s work at the Federation Square gallery also includes tapestries, prints, watercolours and ceiling works.
“We’ve managed to reinstall the ceilings and that hasn’t been done in many years. “The sun is above you and those creatures, voices and activities are around you. It’s just a great immersive experience,” says Hurlston.
John Olsen: The You Beaut Country is at the NGV (Federation Square) in Melbourne until February 12 and at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney from March 10 – June 12