The Sydney-born Vicki Varvaressos attended the East Sydney Technical College (now National Art School) from 1970-73. She subsequently rose to artistic prominence forming part of a generation of feminist artists who addressed gender politics and critiqued the traditions of female imagery in their work.
Varvaressos developed a signature figurative expressionist style that is both robust and lyrical, to paint subjects of often complex psychological intensity. Her paintings have depicted both the public and private worlds of women. While her work in the 1970s often satirised the depiction of females in the mass media, from the 1980s she began focusing on small, mysterious moments of more personalised narratives creating subjects from the ambiguities of everyday existence.
Varvaressos has stated that “the pictorial elements of my work are about the interrelationship between individuals, their gestures and nuances of human interaction”. She composes paintings that while visually connecting human figures, also inflate suggestions of the strains and psychological tensions that reside between them. Her turbulent brushwork extends the notion of inner states of being as determining connections and moments with others.
'Six foot Caucasian with beard' demonstrates these elements of Varvaressos’s art. The composition is built around the rhythmic sweep of the repeated form of a towelling man, as he both reveals and conceals his body in his varied poses. Through the collaged addition of the eye in the middle figure, Varvaressos emphasises a voyeuristic element, as well as satirical bent to her painting. Here, rather than gazing upon female nude, a subject relentlessly repeated in paintings throughout art history, the female eye lingers on the male body.
While Varvaressos elaborates on the movement of a single figure in this painting, there is a sense too that she depicts varied, or fractured facets of the same being. There is on one hand, a rhythmic flow to placement of the figures, but the agitated, chopped brush work and loud colour, while complimenting these movements, also instils an abruptness. Being gazed upon, perhaps, creates this tension to the figure despite the routine act depicted.
synthetic polymer paint and collaged paper on canvas
171.9 x 245.7 x 4.5 cm stretcher
Signature & date
Signed and dated u.r. verso on canvas, pencil "V. Varvaressos 76 ...".
Gift of Nigel Butterley and Tom Kennedy 2019
Not on display
© Vicki Varvaressos
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Referenced in 3 publications
Joseph Eisenberg, Vicki Varvaressos: the story so far, 'Essay', pg. 5-26, Maitland, 2014, 3-4 (colour illus.), 19-21, 47.
Watters Gallery (Organiser), The Nigel Butterley collection, 'Catalogue', pg. 3-27, East Sydney, 2015, 22 (colour illus.). cat. no 28
Watters Gallery (Co-ordinator), Paintings by Vicki Varvaressos, 'Catalogue', pg. 2, East Sydney, 1977, 2. cat. no 2