Iconic Paintings

19/04/2018 - 12/05/2018

Dick Watkins

Dick Watkins
Fallen Idol


acrylic on canvas

183.00 x 122.00 cm


Iconic Paintings

Watkins’ Wunderkammer

When the high-priest of American modernism, critic Clement Greenberg, visited Australia in the early 1960s he singled out one artist for especial praise: Dick Watkins. In 1968 when Watkins was featured in the ground-breaking exhibition The Field, the then art critic for The Age, Patrick McCaughey declared that in Watkins’ painting, The Mooche, both “the opening of the field and the loosening of the paint promise a view of the future.” It is little wonder that national, state and private museums Australia-wide clamour to secure his works - The National Gallery of Victoria alone holds 21 of his works.

Now in his early 80s, it has become abundantly apparent that the shy and retiring artist is amongst the ranks of the Grand Old Masters of Australian art. His gestural mastery of the brush secures his place alongside the likes of Tony Tuckson and Ian Fairweather. Whether he is dealing with harsh calligraphic monochromes or howling, anarchic colouration, the sheer boldness of his line-work is without peer.

It is an understatement to say that the gestural and the abstract are difficult to master, as most artists learn. Most despair of achieving the Zen-like potency of simplicity that is required. The challenge is in both composition and execution both of which Watkins has clearly conquered, despite, or perhaps because of, being largely self-taught (between 1955-1958 he did occasionally attend the Julian Ashton Art School and East Sydney Technical College, Sydney). If Watkins had teachers, they are Picasso and Pollock, the maestros of the Gesture.

Watkins is renowned as an ‘artists’ artist’, one happiest in the studio rather than sipping champagne at openings. He is rigorously devoted to his practice. Each canvas exudes a stringent physicality, tearing into the retina like the crashing crescendo of an operatic extravaganza. Wherever they reside they make the walls hum and throb with almost hallucinatory vigour. Amongst the last of his generation, Watkins paints like a man a third of his age while his paintings remain inarguably ageless.

— Dr. Ashley Crawford, 2018.

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