Lilydale, Victoria, Australia born 1927

  • England, Europe 1954-56
  • Morocco 1968-69
  • Europe, England 1969-70
  • Italy from 1978

Jean's farm 1972 Place made: St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on composition board

Primary Insc: signed by incision into wet paint, top r., "Whisson", not dated
Dimensions: 81.0 h x 109.3 w cm framed (overall) 850 h x 1130 w x 45 d mm
Acknowledgement: Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982.
Accession No: NGA 83.1595
  • Looking back, I find that for me the conscious methods I continually evolve are aimed at eliminating all kinds of cleverness and skill, for the reason that these signify and cause the blocking and petrification of the creative impulse.

    The seeds – the beginnings – from which my approach is pretty clearly derived are first my teacher for 18 months, Danila Vassilieff, who told me to start at one side of the paper and just paint across to the other side – then stop. Once the other side of the paper is reached, the work is finished and one puts it aside and starts another. The other was a visit not long after to the studio of Albert Tucker. I picked up a book on Rodin and read that Rodin did the drawings on the accompanying pages with his eyes closed. I said to Tucker, ‘Why did he do these drawings with his eyes closed?’ And Tucker replied without hesitation: ‘So that the consciousness of the lines already made will not influence or delimit the work as it proceeds.’

    More directly in relation to where art comes from, I have a distinct impression when working that the painting takes place at the point where the brush touches the canvas, and I believe that art is a result of a direct line of communication between the act of creation and a level of our being which is neither the conscious nor the famous subconscious, but which could be called the intuitive faculty, and which has to function without interference from the conscious thinking process. Our rational and conscious mind looks on and even criticises what is happening, but in the moment of creation at its fullest realisation, one’s own eyes and mind, one’s own self looking on is caught totally by surprise.

    Ken Whisson 19941

    1 From Ken Whisson ‘Talk 1994: Technique and intuition’ in Ken Whisson: Paintings 1947–1999 Melbourne: Niagara Publishing 2001 pp.141–44.

    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