Ken Whisson began painting in Melbourne during the anxious wartime years of the 1940s. Throughout the course of his long career, his work never completely shed the sense of the nervy atmosphere that served as a backdrop to his origins as a painter. His work built on the traditions of figurative expressionism that flourished with Melbourne’s avant-garde movements during the war. Artists including Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan and Joy Hester served as artistic mentors, but in particular, it was the Russian émigré painter Danila Vassilieff, who in 1944 invited Whisson to study with him, that left an enduring impression on his work. Vassilieff’s lessons of working from the immediate; from an intuitive while deeply engaged response to his environment, remained etched in Whisson’s artistic thinking.
In 1977 Whisson moved to Perugia, Italy but continued to regularly visit and exhibit in Australia, where his work became increasingly recognised for his distinct aesthetic that sits somewhere between abstraction and observed realities and conveys physical and internal worlds in states of perpetual motion.
In Whisson’s more recent paintings, such as 'Windows, houses and trees', there is a greater emphasis on clarified light and exuberant colour in his compositions. Here, Whisson’s characteristic amalgamation of disparate forms in the environment became connected though a luminous interplay amongst pigment. Window houses and trees presents a series of entry points for viewing and relating to the world; the gateways of windows of the home, the tree lines of nature, in a composition that tremors, creating a vision that while still nervy, also describes a vital, shimmering sense of flux of the environment.
oil on canvas
99.0 x 119.5 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the artist 2018. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Not on display
© Ken Whisson
Shown in 1 exhibition
Ken Whisson paintings and drawings 2013, Watters Gallery, East Sydney, 01 Oct 2013–19 Oct 2013