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Roland Wakelin


1887 – 1971

Artist profile

Alternate image of Narellan by Roland Wakelin
Alternate image of Narellan by Roland Wakelin
  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on canvas on plywood
    19.0 x 29.5 cm board; 31.5 x 41.8 cm x 2.3 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated l.l. corner, black oil "R.S. WAKELIN 1917".

    Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Alan and Jancis Rees 2014
    20th-century galleries (ground floor)
    Accession number
    © Roland Wakelin Estate

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Roland Wakelin

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    'By exploring the realm of colour we have opened for ourselves new avenues of thought and enlarged our consciousness of the fundamental of life.' Roland Wakelin 1919

    Roland Wakelin's sense of the utopian 'unity of harmonious colour' was perhaps first implied in the experimental work 'Narellan' from 1917. This small painting represents a major aesthetic and philosophical leap in Wakelin's practice, the implications of which were paramount in the early developments of Australian modernist painting.

    'Narellan' points toward Wakelin's exploration of the metaphysical dimensions of colour abstraction. From around 1917 he began to embrace international currents of developing modernisms, at a time when a new colour consciousness had emerged out of the devastating experiences of World War I. Artists connected colour with notions of harmony and healing and used colour expression to conceptualise non-visible or spiritual realities.

    With its colouristic sense of the mystical sublime, 'Narellan' is clearly imprinted with Wakelin's bourgeoning sense of colour as a gateway to the unconscious. He displaces direct references to the representational world using instead areas of saturated, non-naturalistic hues to suggest notions of psychological transcendence. The work signposts Wakelin's early investigations into the sensuous, psychological and spiritual aspects of colour that would culminate in his seminal 'Colour in art' exhibition that he staged with Roy de Maistre in 1919. He would at this time claim that colour invoked the "deepest underlying principles of nature...[and] the spiritual speech of everyday living"; principles he earlier envisaged in the landscape of 'Narellan'.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

    • Sydney Moderns, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jul 2013–07 Oct 2013

    • Fieldwork, Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Windsor, 17 Jul 2020–20 Sep 2020

      Fieldwork, Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Maitland, 28 Nov 2020–07 Feb 2021

      Fieldwork, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Emu Plains, 12 Mar 2021–09 May 2021

    • 20th-Century galleries Rehang (Ground Level), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 20 Aug 2022–2023

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 2 publications

    • Deborah Clark, Sydney moderns: art for a new world, 'Roland Wakelin: the early years', pg. 42-45, Sydney, 2013, 42, 44 (colour illus.), 317.

    • Denise Mimmocchi, Look, 'New to the collection: building up our holding of Sydney moderns', pg. 15-17, Sydney, Dec 2014-Jan 2015, 16 (colour illus.), 17.

Other works by Roland Wakelin

See all 55 works