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 convey physical and internal worlds in states of perpetual motion.
Whisson developed a distinct style of building compositions through sketch-like forms, incorporating blank areas of the canvas, so that space becomes an active, and at times dislocating presence in his work. 'Landscape elements 1' images the environment through a series of impressions of the modern industrial world; planes and cars feature amongst the skeletons of buildings in a composition that appears unsettled and unfixed.
'Landscape elements 1' is indicative of Whisson’s unique artistic interpretation of place, formed, it would seem, from surveying of the world through the filter of the nervous system and creating corresponding impressions of the tense relationship of forms within ungrounded space. It is a characteristic statement of the flux that exists between people, objects and the experiences of their environment.
oil on Belgian linen
111.0 x 121.0 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