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Australian art

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Study for 'The arrival of implacable gifts'



James Gleeson


21 Nov 1915 - 20 Oct 2008


"We often wish for things, that if the wish were granted, it would be detrimental for us. The gift would overawe us. If we get the gift it could dominate or wreck our real life. It occurred to me that this idea was linked up with the Cargo Cult. Primitive people thought gifts would come from the sky, dropped from silver-winged birds. These gifts would make life easy, fulfil their heart's desire. So often these gifts turn out to be anything but beneficent. So I thought of a sky like a stormy sea where incoming gifts are deposited like wreckage on people underneath, including me - right under the fallout. The sea deposits all these things that were longed for, that turn out to be things that bind us or even destroy us."
- James Gleeson 1986

Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2000




Media category


Materials used

charcoal on white wove Arches paper


56.8 x 76.5 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. corner, charcoal "Gleeson 31.1.85".


Gift of the artist 1985


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

James Gleeson

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 6 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


Hendrik Kolenberg, Look, 'Revealing drawings: ideas that were turned into monumental paintings', pg. 22-26, Sydney, Mar 2003, 26 (illus.).

Hendrik Kolenberg, Australian drawings from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 1997, 126 (illus.). 124

Hendrik Kolenberg, Contemporary Australian drawings: from the collection, Sydney, 1992, illus.. 22

Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The enduring image', pg. 265-266, Sydney, 2000, 280 (illus.), 300.

Anne Ryan, James Gleeson: drawings for paintings, 'Refined Destruction! Dainty Horror!', pg. 19-28, Sydney, 2003, 23, 86 (colour illus.), 87. 35