Bill HENSON, Untitled 2011/2012 Enlarge 1 /1


Melbourne, Victoria, Australia born 1955

Untitled 2011/2012 2011-12 Title Notes: gallery ref #5 LS SH31 N36C
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, archival inkjet pigment print Impression: 2/5
Edition: 5 + 2 A/Ps

Dimensions: printed image 127.0 h x 180.00 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2013
Accession No: NGA 2013.4110

The National Gallery of Australia has an extensive holding of work by Bill Henson, dating from his earliest series in 1975. Untitled 2011/2012 is a fine example, not only of the strong, distinctive, aesthetic quality that is found throughout his oeuvre, but also the deep emotion and suspense that he builds within his works. He has been preoccupied throughout his 40-year career with presenting the transition from adolescence to adulthood in a way that emphasises the vulnerability and uneasy beauty of the subjects, often seen within environments evoking a lost classical world.

The series that pre-dates this one is dominated by brooding, watery landscapes. The classical world is present: temple facades glimmer in liminal half-light and there is also an image of people in a museum looking at a marble copy of Lo spinario, a Greco-Hellenistic sculpture depicting a boy withdrawing a thorn from the sole of his foot. The unconscious grace of the boy, lost in his task, has inspired endless copies and countless artists through the centuries.

In this untitled image the sculpture has taken on human form. Henson imbues the adolescent with a characteristic timeless, otherworldly presence; glints of light catch his hair and body and highlight his mottled skin and delicate physique. This is light that symbolically and literally obscures as much as it illuminates; a backdrop of darkness isolates the boy, creating a mood of solitude and melancholy.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014