Whiteley’s way.

As a young lad in my mid teens i was enamoured by the art work of Brett Whiteley, one of Australia’s most notable or known artists. His many addictions and his need to push creativity beyond the boundaries of destructive habit (his philosophical perspective) dis-enabled him to venture beyond the 1990’s,


Remembering Lao Tse (Shaving off a Second)
Pencil, Pen and Ink on Paper.

dieing in solitude in the sea-side town of Thirroul south of Sydney, crucified by needle and alcohol, Brett Whiteley overdosed on heroin and cut short a life that perhaps he could not live anymore?  I can’t help but think that his success was his demise, sure he had used drugs steadily from the 1960’s, though was that what killed him, in the end it did, but was it the beginning of his end? Was the drugs just the end game and not systemic of his battles or problems? I can’t help think that because a commercially successful artist is known by a style of subject matter etc, that such things are expected to continue by gallery owners, audiences and agent’s, that experimentation and new directions in an artists path are not always invited, that the possible disapproval or paranoia of disapproval from the public and critics, is a mechanism of fear to some artists that arrests their creativity and binds them to predictability, prison indeed for many artists? Was Brett in this type of prison, was he free to be or was he bound and thus stagnant in his art towards the end, living an unsatisfied existence, perhaps the piper had run out tunes to play for Sydney’s art scene? Perhaps he thought that under such conditions he would only make it to the pinnacle of the NSW art Gallery and not beyond?


The Turquoise Prince
Ink and oil on board and collage.

I often think of his artistic influences; Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Modigliani, Francis Bacon, Matisse etc. His admiration for certain artists, the appropriation of painterly elements and intensity towards them is undeniable in his work and sure Brett Whiteley was talented, though predictable, I am sure he had more in him to give, new directions in art to take and more heights to scale, however for a while i wasn’t sure who was wearing the emperor’s new clothes, Brett or the Australian art scene?


Self portrait in the studio 1976.







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Filed under Art, Art Criticism

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