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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Night time



Dick Watkins


04 May 1937 -


Dick Watkins' 'Night time' dates from one of the most the energetic and innovative periods in the artist's practice, the early 1980s. Watkins was experimenting with a number of potentially conflicting 'styles', from an aggressively gestural abstraction to landscape and figure subjects. The bold experimentation in his painting at this time and the exhibitions he held in 1983, which ranged across these various subjects and styles, lead to an interest in Watkin's work by a younger generation of artists as well as his selection to represent Australia at the 1985 Bienal de Sao Paulo.

Watkin's seeming eclecticism confused some critics while others saw him as perhaps an accidental post-modernist, described by one artist/writer as an exemplary 'bricoleur', evoking rather than appropriating work by other artists. (Tillers, Sao Paulo Bienal catalogue, 1985).

This particular painting, like another in the Gallery's collection 'Birdland' 1981 continues in a trajectory in Watkins' painting from the 1970s which recalls the early totemic semi-abstractions of Jackson Pollock. The energetic gestures of the paint have a source, as with Pollock's paintings from the 1940s, in the artists' subconscious and the abstraction is not quite complete as some areas seem to coalesce into forms. Elements also recall paintings by Pablo Picasso, Ian Fairweather and Tony Tuckson. Watkins' ability to call on familiar painterly languages while creating distinctive, energetic and highly original works is one of the strengths of his practice.


Other Title

Night Life



Media category


Materials used

PVA on canvas


167.7 x 122.3 cm stretcher

Signature & date

Signed and dated upper c. verso on canvas, black fibre-tipped pen "R.WATKINS/ 1984".


Gift of Danny and Lisa Goldberg 2013. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Dick Watkins

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Natalie Wilson and Anneke Jaspers, Foundation Newsletter #22, 'Curators' and coordinators' reports: Australian art', pg. 6-7, Sydney, Jun 2013, 6.