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Australian art

Contemporary art


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Untitled Sequence 1979, from the series Untitled Sequence 1979



Bill Henson


1955 -


Bill Henson’s Untitled sequence 1979 is one of the most remarkable and encompassingly powerful statements produced in recent Australian photography. In fact it occupies a special territory, in subject matter, formal conception and psychological range, that is shared by no other photographic work in Australia. So many nuances and contrasts are threaded into the infinitely varied visual and psychological texture of the work: motion and immobility, naked and clothed, youth and age, the private and erotic resonated against the public and social response, composure and violence, interaction and isolation, vulnerability and withholding, prosaic incident versus monumentality and transcendence.
The whole work is notably of and about the medium of photography, but it is a work that originates and finds its completion in the imagination.
Bodies and faces – especially of the boy – are quickened by a sense of life in motion. Figures seem to be moving both towards and away from a moment of held focus, like objects moving in space and occasionally picking up paths of light that provisionally describe form. There is a strange evanescence and transmutation conveyed through figures that seem at once to assume and surrender corporeal being.
Strong in its consciousness of the history of art, Untitled sequence 1979 is deeply informed also by the language of film and employs a non-narrative formal structure that has analogies with a major piece of music…

Bernice Murphy, first published Australian Perspecta 1981, AGNSW, Sydney 1981 (revised), republished Bill Henson: Mnemosyne, Scalo, Zurich/AGNSW, Sydney 2005 p 132 (extract)




Media category


Materials used

3 gelatin silver photographs




a - Untitled image No 30, 23 x 42.1 cm, image

a - Untitled image No 30, 30.1 x 49.7 cm, sheet

a - Untitled image No 30, 42 x 61 x 4 cm, frame

b - Untitled image No 31, 23 x 42.2 cm, image

b - Untitled image No 31, 29.6 x 49.8 cm, sheet

b - Untitled image No 31, 42 x 61 x 4 cm, frame

c - Untitled image No 32, 23 x 42.1 cm, image

c - Untitled image No 32, 30.4 x 49.8 cm, sheet

c - Untitled image No 32, 42 x 61 x 4 cm, frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated lower sheet [Nos.30 and 32], ink "...1979...BILL HENSON Bill Henson".
Signed and dated lower sheet [No.31], ink "...1979...Bill Henson BILL HENSON".


Purchased 1981


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Bill Henson

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


Judy Annear, Look, 'The elusive Bill Henson', pg.28-31, Sydney, Dec 2004-Jan 2005, 29, 30.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Australian Photography', pg. 198-207, Sydney, 1999, 206 (illus.). illustration of part b, no. 31

David Malouf, Mnemosyne, essay, pg.35, Sydney, 2005, 35, 97-99 (illus.).

Bernice Murphy, Australian Perspecta 1981, Sydney, 1981. 62

Gael Newton, Australian Art Review, 'Photography, Towards a dialogue with other media', p42-46, Rozelle, 1982, 44-45 (illus.).

Donald Williams and Colin Simpson, Art now: contemporary art post - 1970, Sydney, 1994, 126 (illus.). 7.1