Hornchurch, London, England 1929 – Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia 2014
phew, finger ring 1971 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Timeline: 1971, war in Vietnam — the Liberal Government runs a lucky dip lottery to choose who will be conscripted. I teach at a New South Wales high school, painting at night and in the holidays. Half my work is figurative, the rest abstract.
This is an atypical work for the period — less protest than usual. The method relates to collage and montage – a mélange of heads and bodies in differing scales, yet unity of design is achieved. The size of the work is large but, during the 1970s, I did two 50-feet-long paintings called Wall reviews (one hangs in the Art Gallery of WA, Perth), plus a 15-feet-long The bleeding eye of K. Marx in 1973.
The personages portrayed are Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger and other pop stars, Nietzsche (who said ‘God is dead’ and predicted führers and wars almost beyond comprehension), Verouschka the Russian Samizdat Queen who, unlike Wonder Woman, wore thigh-length boots for kicking commissars and was distinctly unpatriotic: an underground Russian anti-communist protest super hero. Also depicted are an ape, a skull and a screaming man.
Claes Oldenburg wrote in 1967: ‘I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum’. This just about sums up my attitude at the time. There was virtually no competition in Australia from fellow artists in this area of expression. So I had a select band of supporters and was neither rich nor famous, much as I am today.
Richard Larter 2002
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002