Tag Archives: Brett Whiteley


The Art Gallery of New South Wales has launched its first podcast series ‘Art, life and the other thing’, an original podcast exploring the life and influence of one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, Brett Whiteley (1939–1992).

Hosted by acclaimed arts presenter Fenella Kernebone, each episode begins with one of Whiteley’s artworks to look at the influence the artist has had on the art world over the past 60 years.

In an engaging six-part series, Kernebone talks with Australian artists, curators and academics about Whiteley’s artworks, from some of his most iconic paintings to others lesser known, to unpack conversations around aspects of identity, addiction, legacy, place and the creative process.

The Art Gallery has released all six 30–40-minute episodes to the public through multiple podcast platforms. Continue reading ART, LIFE AND THE OTHER THING : A PODCAST SERIES ON BRETT WHITELEY


Peter Kingston c 1990s by Greg Weight

“I have spent countless nights watching the moon reflect upon the water, and the shadow of this great building creating colours and unique impressions each passing day. ” Peter Kingston 

FIRST LIGHT: The Art of Peter Kingston, a major survey exhibition of one of Sydney’s most important artists, opened at the S.H. Ervin Gallery yesterday, Saturday 5 December. The exhibition has been curated by Emeritus Curator of Australian Art at the AGNSW, Barry Pearce,

‘First Light’ will comprise key paintings and drawings from both public and private collections throughout Australia, Peter Kingston’s artist books, memorabilia and nostalgic relics. 

The exhibition arose from a recently published book on the artist Peter Kingston. Its focus begins with the early 1990s,  before which Kingston had already established in Sydney the reputation of an experimental film-maker, satirical illustrator and relentless traveller. 

At the age of 50 an epiphany occurred where he found his own independent voice which was partly accelerated by the death of his close friend and Lavender Bay neighbour Brett Whiteley in 1992. He became a remarkable draughtsman with the ambition of a pure painter’s eye with energy more than a match for the extrovert talent of his late friend. About this time Kingston bought a tiny fishing boat so he could explore more intimately from the water’s surface the sense of space and dynamic gestures deployed so successfully in Whiteley’s imagery. 

Curator Barry Pearce, said with the death of Whiteley, Kingston felt released from an enormous shadow; free at last to convey with his own special poetic dynamic an abiding passion for a subject long familiar through childhood in Parsley Bay, where he was born in 1943. Suddenly, he now seemed fully prepared to inherit the mantle of chief chanteur of a wondrous working Harbour. And with it a growing command of charcoal drawing and the more difficult methodology of oil painting. That whole epiphany comprises the crux of this exhibition. 

By now Kingston had also moved away from the influence of another friend, Martin Sharp, contemporary from Cranbrook School where they had both studied under its art master Justin O’Brien. Kingston’s natural ability for drawing equipped him to pursue architecture at the University of New South Wales in 1965 having already studied Commerce and Arts. Meanwhile, inspired from an early age by films and comics, he contributed to university magazines and the infamous Oz, and was involved in Sharp’s legendary Yellow House at Potts Point. 

After two years in Japan during the mid-1970s Peter Kingston purchased the house next door  to the Whiteleys, where he became the serious artist we now see. Here he witnessed a spectacular synergy between nature and humanity, punctuated by iconic Luna Park, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. By the early 1990s Kingston mastered his language and over the next three decades has produced his most impressive work. 

Exhibition Details:

First Light: The Art of Peter Kingston

S.H. Ervin Gallery, Watson Road, Observatory Hill, The Rocks 

Tuesday – Sunday, 11am-5pm, Gallery information: (02) 9258 0173 

$12/ $10 Concession/ $4 National Trust Members, children under 12 free 

The exhibition closes on Sunday 14th February, 2021



Featured image: Study for ‘Big Saturday’ 1993. Oil on canvas.64X86cm



Brett Whiteley is a name many Australians would immediately recognise. His artwork shone so brightly and uniquely he was judged and awarded as a true genius the world over. The youngest artist ever (to this day) to have his work purchased by the Tate Gallery in London his celebrity star rose and fell, rose and fell yet his work is what lives on well beyond his untimely death at the age of 53 from a drug overdose.

Another work has now been completed in his name which can continue that legacy. Opera Australia’s commission for a biographical opera of his life, personally overseen by his ex-wfe Wendy Whiteley, was awarded to Elena Kats-Chernin a much loved composer here in Oz. Her work has its own unique, easily recognisable quality yet her love for art allowed her to delve deeply into Whiteley’s life and work to create a musical representation as unique as him. The premiere was held last night at the Sydney Opera House to a very full house.

The rhythm and flow of the music took a while to settle in, switching between vignette scenes of Whiteley’s turning points in life. Such a transient lifestyle, sometimes deliberate, sometimes unavoidable, called for transient music and there seemed to be very little to grab onto.

Whiteley himself said, “I really paint to try and astonish myself. That’s the basic sort of thing. To see what I haven’t seen. That can run off the rails but certainly repetition kills the spirit quicker than anything else. I mean I’d rather not do anything than go over old ground.”

This feels like what Kats-Chernin was aiming to achieve musically as well so, for those familiar with traditional opera looking for the audible clues to the end of an act/scene or where appreciative applause can be given after an aria, this may feel rather unsteady.

Like a musical play, there were times when a musical phase felt complete yet there were still 3 or 4 words needed to complete the sentence. Other times the familiar Kats-Chernin style flowed in great richness and sense of humour where the audience vibe lifted and relaxed. Conductor Tahu Matheson took an active role in the creative process so was well able to steer the very capable orchestra through the new material.

The libretto by Justin Fleming included many quotes and critiques from the life and times of Whiteley.  This often dumbfounded the audience with phrases that were patronising in their application and sounded highly intellectual or overly poetic. It felt a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes idea where, if you put your hand up and said “I have no friggin’ idea what you just said”, you might be laughed at. I am guessing these words were the art critic voices Whiteley held in such disdain.

One of the strongest parts of the libretto that the audience responded to was the story of a mass murderer which fascinated Whiteley. In plain English the story was told followed up by a moving gallery of the ladies of the chorus parading past as victims plastered into the walls of his home. Whiteley said he was looking for the singular point of evil and this is what he had found. His astounding painting of the murderer was displayed in the background. A very moving moment.

What were the performers like?  The cast, in dealing with the challenges of free flowing music as well as constantly learning newly updated material during rehearsals were dealing with a task far greater than the regular season. They did a fantastic job.

Usually in opera, the singer’s musical capabilities and interpretation take the highest priority but in this production the title role, played by American Baritone Leigh Melrose, showed an acting ability far beyond what is normally expected of a singer. Whiteley is a complex, wide ranging character from a 20 year old surprised at the overnight success, to rock star socialite, tentative father and defeated drug addict.

Creating a character on stage that both newbies or experts can believe in and relate to is an exceptional challenge. Melrose rose to that challenge and I expect there would be few, if any, singers around the world who could better his performance. This is his debut role with Opera Australia and I really hope we see him return to Australia again.

Whiteley’s wife, played by Queensland Soprano Julie Lea Goodwin was outstanding. A powerful voice and highly versatile actress. I last saw her in the comedy role of Two Weddings One Bride for Opera Australia and she is well known for her Musical Theatre roles so this role should open the door to more serious roles if she desires.

As gorgeous and glamorous as the real life Wendy, Goodwin carried the story with Melrose progressing from a 15 year old student through to grieving 50-something ex-wife. Well established principal for Opera Australia Mezzo Domenica Matthews gave a very strong performance as Whiteley’s mother – the audience loved her.

I attended the talk Opera Australia held in the Utzon Room of Sydney Opera House 2 weeks ago as promotion for the production. The talk highlighted the constant flow of edits to be managed by a team working through the night to produce manuscripts for the following day. This process had been running 24 hours a day for around 6 months. So the focus of the whole company was “It’ll be alright on the night” and it was. If there were any major mistakes, we didn’t spot them. The mammoth task of creating a premiere seems to have bonded the already strong team vibe amongst both cast and production personnel.

The large video walls previously used in Aida, Madame Butterfly and Anna Bolena were used again for the ever changing scenery, and this time it felt like a perfect balance, neither upstaging nor overwhelming in video imagery. It enhanced the performance with large scale versions of Whiteley’s artwork, sometimes older artwork he was studying bursting into life, other times quiet, abstract panels to keep the focus on the performers – the best production yet in the use of these panels with credit to Director David Freeman, Production Designer Dan Potra, Video and Projection Design Sean Nieuwenhuis.

The audience gave a rousing applause at the conclusion, with many curtain calls. The performance  was just over two hours including interval and kept our attention throughout. It is a short season so hurry along if you want to see the most new and innovative production of the year.

Premiere season at Sydney Opera House 15 until 30 July 2019

Opera Australia website: https://opera.org.au/

Arts Fundraising Event to announce new Brett Whiteley theatre production

Painting by Brett Whiteley, one of the donated paintings for the Auction Event

A fundraiser event has been announced to help support an upcoming production about Brett Whiteley’s life and art.

Some last days tickets are still available!
$90 pp / Dress: smart casual

A fab night for art lovers, with special performance by acrobatics troupe, Dauntless Movement Crew. 

Two of Australia’s leading theatre companies, Legs On The Wall and Theatre Of Image, have announced a new project on which they’ll collaborate, bringing the life of artist Brett Whiteley to the stage in a new Kim Carpenter directed production called Brett And Wendy – A Love Story Bound By Art.

To accompany this is the announcement of a one-off Fundraising Event, wherein a fully endorsing Wendy Whiteley will be the Special Guest for a night of cocktails, canapés, and a silent auction.

The artworks of 20 artists include Brett Whiteley, Arthur Boyd, Lloyd Rees, Joanna Logue, Del Kathryn Barton, Tom Carment and more, have been donated for the auction, with luxury accommodation packages, tickets to Belvoir St Theatre, signed art books, and more available to help raise funds for the stage production.

The fundraiser is to be held this Wednesday May 11 in The Treasury Room at the Intercontinental Sydney, with tickets at $90. The stage production itself is still in development, with more details to be announced soon.

Some last days tickets are still available. Please visit the website to purchase, or call Neil Hunt at Theatre of Image on 02 9518 8458.

Wednesday 11 May from 6.30pm

For more about Arts Fundraising Event to announce new Brett Whiteley theatre production, visit http://www.theatreofimage.com.au
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Pop to Popism at AGNSW

Roy Lichenstein's famous work, In The Car
Inset Image- Roy Lichenstein’s  In The Car. Featured Image: Howard Arkley’s Triple Fronted

With over 200 works by some 70 of the genre’s most well known artists, POP TO POPISM at the Art Gallery of NSW is the biggest collection of Pop Art ever to be seen in Australia. It is part of the Sydney International Art Series and is showing in conjunction with the Chuck Close : prints, process and collaboration exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

The exhibition spans 30 years (roughly the 1950’s to the 1980’s) and looks at the rebellious origins of Pop Art, how it spread world wide, and its legacy in Australia. Significant Australian works are included to put Australian Pop art in its international context. Continue reading Pop to Popism at AGNSW