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Major retrospective of Ken Whisson's work opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Ken Whisson, Traveller’s Tale 1982, oil on canvas. Courtesy Newcastle Art Gallery, New South Wales. Gift of Ann Lewis AO 2011. © the artist.
SYDNEY.- The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia presents As If, a major retrospective of Ken Whisson’s work, produced in collaboration with the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne.

As If comprises more than 200 portraits, landscapes and sketches tracing the evolution of Whisson’s practice over the past six decades. The artist is renowned for his unique vision and independent style. He is recognised as one of the most important painters in Australia, with a presence in many public and private collections.

The title of the exhibition derives from Immanuel Kant’s dictum: ‘May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law’, and the Paris surrealists’ declaration: ‘Let us live as if the world really exists’.

The Holocaust, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation, the end of Communism, the domination of global capitalism, the collapse of colonisation and European hegemony, 9/11, and the war on terror form the backdrop against which Whisson’s numerous drawings and paintings have been created.

Whisson said: ‘My paintings have a much better memory than I do for the things I’ve seen ... a much clearer memory, they seem to remember a lot of things that I don’t remember.’

A self-described leftist (anarchist or communist), Whisson is fundamentally a political artist: ‘I have no doubt whatever … that art is political, but perhaps it’s political of its very nature, without any need to be self-consciously political.’

At the age of 84 he is painting as well as ever, and for the long haul, releasing into the world images that reward the patient, analytical yet unguarded viewer.

MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor said: ‘It is highly appropriate that the first solo exhibition by an Australian artist in the new MCA galleries should be Ken Whisson given his long career and his reputation.’

MCA Curator Glenn Barkley said: ‘We are honoured to be working with Ken whose singular vision and dedication to his practice has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to artists across generations.’

Ken Whisson: As If, on Level 3, is curated by Glenn Barkley (MCA) and Lesley Harding (Heide Museum).

Ken Whisson (born in Lilydale, outside Melbourne in 1927) trained as a painter in Melbourne during the 1940s under Russian émigré artist, Danila Vassilieff.

Since the late 1970s, he has been based in the Italian city of Perugia, during which time his interests in displacement and memory have joined his enduring themes of landscape, identity and politics.



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