My painting takes on its particular abstract quality because only in this way can I express my search for direct mystical experience. There is the feeling of an abyss, a void between oneself and everything outside, and one has the impulse to bridge it. The thing which I always endeavour to express is an animistic quality – a certain mystical throbbing throughout nature.
John Olsen, 1956
Taking its name from the title of a poem by TS Eliot, 'Dry salvages' explores the idea of being immersed in the natural world – an idea which was essential to John Olsen’s approach to painting. The painting was shown in the benchmark exhibition 'Direction I', held at Macquarie Galleries in Sydney in December 1956.
oil on hardboard
119.0 x 90.9 cm board; 133.2 x 105.0 x 2.8 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated u.r. corner, black oil "John/ Olsen/ 56".
Gift of Mrs EM Gardiner in memory of her daughter Marie Gardiner 1972
© John Olsen. Licensed by Viscopy,Australia
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Direction 1, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 04 Dec 1956–10 Dec 1956
Project 41: The mosaic -The grid (1983), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Mar 1983–24 Apr 1983
New Directions 1952-1962, Lewers Bequest and Penrith Regional Art Gallery, Emu Plains, 08 Feb 1991–24 Mar 1991
John Olsen retrospective (1991-92):
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 01 Nov 1991–02 Feb 1992
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 08 May 1992–28 Jun 1992
Referenced in 9 publications
George Berger, Meanjin, 'Notes on Sydney's art life-1956', pg. 74-76, Carlton, Autumn 1957, 74, 75. exhibition review
Sarah Couper, Look, 'Backstage: Deborah Edwards, Senior curator Australian art', pg. 11, Sydney, Nov 2015, 11 (colour illus.). Deborah Edwards photographed standing in front of Olsen's 'Dry Salvages’
James Gleeson., The Sun, 'Color, life in art', Sydney, 04 Dec 1956. exhibition review
Deborah Hart, John Olsen, 'The Pacific loan exhibition and direction one', pg. 25-31, Sydney, 1991, 29, 30 (colour illus.). cat.no. 13
Macquarie Galleries, Direction 1, Sydney, 1956, n.pag.. cat.no. 3; priced 100 guineas
Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 242 (colour illus.), 301.
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 30.
Virginia Spate, John Olsen, 'John Olsen', pg. 1-14, Melbourne, 1963, 6-7, 17, (colour illus.). colour plate no. 1
Project 41 - the mosaic, the grid, Sydney, 1983, 4 (illus.). cat.no. 6