Exhibition News

Animals and Birds - Brett Whiteley.

story illustration
Published Saturday, 22 June 2002

16 June 2002 until 6 October 2002, at the Brett Whiteley Studio - 2 Raper Street, Surry Hills

People ask me 'why paint birds?' and I look at them dumbfounded! I've got no answer, except that they are the most beautiful creatures - Brett Whiteley

Animals and Birds features Brett Whiteley's paintings, drawings and sculptures of nesting and swooping birds; shy mammals and leaping frogs.

Metaphorically an escape into what Whiteley saw as the freedom of the natural world, these works provoked in him both curiosity and a tremendous sense of release. As a child, Whiteley always loved visiting Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney and from an early age he developed a profound fascination with creatures from the natural world. His sister Fran recalls that he was fiercely possessive of his egg collection,"He was mad about eggs, loved their shape and symbolism".

Some years later in London, during his formative years as a young expatriate artist, Whiteley's artistic brilliance grew and he was drawn again to celebrate the beautiful forms of animals and birds in the Regent Street Zoo. The sublime qualities he found in nature seemed to offset some of the darker sides to his irreverence or more the challenging aspects of his psyche.

In the late 60s after he left New York, he lived in Fiji for a time. He experienced with great relief, this Gauguin inspired Pacific island retreat as an escape from the craziness of New York. He declared the Fruit Dove of Fiji to be the most beautiful bird he'd seen. Back in Sydney in the 70s, developing his career as one of Australia's most brilliant draftsmen, Brett Whiteley spent many hours visiting Taronga Zoo watching and drawing the birds and animals. The fruit of his labours of love in the form of sumptuously depicted birds and mischievously drawn animals are gathered together in this Studio exhibition that provides a perfect context in the workplace and home of the artist.

Exhibition curator, Sheona White describes the assembled works as "some of the most touchingly beautiful and yet playful of Whiteley's prodigious career".

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