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Robert Jacks is best known as an abstract artist, though he has also worked in sculpture and printmaking. He began exhibiting in Melbourne in 1966, then spent 10 years in New York before returning to Australia in 1978. While in New York, Jacks founded Green Street Studio, now seen as the most important Australian artist residence. An elegant, gregarious character, he has developed a recognisable, signature style. In 2006, he was named an Officer of the Order of Australia for his service to the arts.
‘I am a huge admirer of his work,’ says Jeremy Kibel. ‘He belongs to a senior generation of Australian artists who, I think, are the next most important group of Australian artist after the Antipodeans. Robert was a teacher of mine at art school and has taught me so much about art and life through his vision.’ Some years later, after working as a studio assistant in New York, Kibel was told, quite coincidentally, that Jacks was looking for a studio assistant. Kibel jumped at the opportunity.
During 2001–03, Kibel worked for Jacks who was by then living on his beautiful, rural country property. ‘He let me live on this Monet-like estate which had a wonderful resonance. He was generous and a patient teacher,’ said Kibel. In 2006, Kibel founded Blockprojects Gallery in Melbourne – ‘and now, ironically I represent Robert,’ he says.
Though the portrait is abstracted it still bears a strong resemblance to its subject. ‘Geometric manipulation is a component of Robert’s work,’ says Kibel. ‘Robert and I are both massive lovers of Picasso – even though it’s unfashionable. I aimed to capture all that in a psychologically multi-faceted portrait that has a little bit of Robert, a little bit of what he loves, a little bit of what I see in him and a little bit of how he influenced me.’