Tony TUCKSON, White over red on blue Enlarge 1 /1

Tony TUCKSON

Egypt 1921 – Australia 1973

  • Australia from 1946
  • Europe, United States of America 1967-68

White over red on blue c.1971 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on two composition boards

Primary Insc: no inscriptions
Dimensions: 213.4 h x 244.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1978
Accession No: NGA 78.1033
Image rights: © Tony Tuckson. Licensed by Viscopy
Provenance:
  • the artist;
  • with Geoffrey Legge, Sydney;
  • from whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, October 1978

In the last three years of his life, before his premature death in 1973, Tony Tuckson created some of his most powerful works. In this, one of the most dramatic of Tuckson’s paintings, we feel the presence of the artist in the raw energy and spontaneity of the great white slashes of paint. Each mark is a trace of the artist’s hand moving backwards and forwards across the surface. The process of creating the work by painting layer over layer—white over red over blue—is clearly evident. The act of painting is the subject of this work, the artist inviting us to watch the creative process.

This sense of the artist’s presence parallels Tuckson’s interest in the mark-making and underlying spirituality of Indigenous art, especially that of the Melville Island burial poles he saw on his travels to northern Australia. Combined with his formative art studies in London and East Sydney Technical College, under artists such as Ralph Balson and Grace Crowley, Tuckson also drew inspiration from Paul Cézanne, Ian Fairweather and Henri Matisse. Without becoming derivative, he distilled their work and developed his own unique style.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

[this painting brought] us back to something more important: nerves, flesh, blood and bones, the human body and its ways of making contact.


Daniel Thomas1

White over red on blue exudes a passionate energy and vigour, resonating through colour, structure and gesture, yet Tuckson called himself ‘just a Sunday painter’2. He was unencumbered by an extensive palette, using only a translucent lapis-blue ground partly obscured by an opaque layer of ‘ox-blood’ red, and lusciously applied strokes of brilliant white. One can almost see him sweeping paint energetically across the surface of the masonite in dramatic and confident brushstrokes, each layer established in just enough time for the next.

This sense of the artist’s presence parallels Tuckson’s interest in and connection to the mark-making and underlying spirituality of Aboriginal art, especially that of the Melville Island burial poles he saw on his travels to northern Australia. Combined with his formative art studies in London and East Sydney Technical College under artists such as Ralph Balson and Grace Crowley, Tuckson also drew inspiration from Cézanne, Ian Fairweather and Matisse. Without becoming derivative, he distilled their work and developed a unique style.

Friend and colleague, Daniel Thomas wrote:

He [Tuckson] was in fact a very pure and very fine Abstract Expressionist, probably Australia’s best. He was passionately convinced of the humanity communicated by gesture, he spoke of himself as an action painter and I can’t think of any artist’s brushmarks whose scale and pace so clearly reveal generosity, modesty, courage and freshness: every mark is exploratory, not once is there any descent into formula, into the deadness of habit.3

Belinda Cotton 2002

1Daniel Thomas, notes, National Gallery of Australia 1993.

2Sydney Morning Herald 28 August 1975.

3Daniel Thomas, notes, National Gallery of Australia 1993.


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