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Special Report

On the Beach-Brett Whiteley
and Australian Artists

Anne Zahalka
The Bathers, 1989 (detail)
Colour Photo
Collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Max Dupain
Form at Bondi, 1939
Silver gelatin photograph
Collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Brett Whiteley
Bondi Beach scene (unfinished), 1991 (detail)
Oil on canvas
Collection Brett Whiteley Studio Museum


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.- The Brett Whiteley Studio Museum presents today “On the Beach - With Brett Whiteley and fellow Australian artists,” on view through Sunday, June 29, 2003. On the Beach celebrates the special relationship between Australians and the sand, surf and sun of their coastal habitats, featuring paintings, drawings and photographs drawn from the collections of the Brett Whiteley Studio Museum and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. 
Whiteley’s unique rendering of his own experiences of the beach provides the focus for the exhibition, and is an ideal context in which to explore the reactions of other notable Australian artists to this aspect of national culture. The images tell of sensory pleasures derived from total immersion in the surf, to the meditative mood of simply staring out to sea.
The spectacle of Australians enjoying the sand and surf was thought of by Brett Whiteley as a theatre of sloth. The beach scene provided endless muses for Whiteley’s studies of reclining nudes and bikini-clad beauties. In the exhibition Whiteley’s work is presented along with photographers Max Dupain, Mervyn Bishop and Robert McFarlane, together with artists Roy de Maistre, Lloyd Rees, Garry Shead, Dale Frank, Anne Zahalka, amongst others. It was not only the allure of these inherently erotic bodies [in] languid stupor that compelled Whiteley’s fascination for this iconic aspect of Australian landscape; it was also the beautiful vistas of beach and seascapes which provided such fertile ground for his inspirational paintings and drawings. He saw great beauty in the beaches, the water, the sand, the sky. At dusk you can stand there and watch the whole universe. 
Sheona White, Curator of the exhibition said, While beach culture and its natural surroundings pervade the Australian psyche, typically our expectation of Australian landscape tends to focus primarily on depictions of the bush. This exhibition draws out elements of an array of beach imagery in Australian art, celebrating this aspect of life cherished by many who live here.

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