Various Artists
18 September 2010 10 April 2011
Heide Modern
Linda Short
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Featuring works by a range of modern and contemporary artists, this exhibition demonstrates the great variety of approaches to the activity of drawing in twentieth-century Australian art. Drawing is widely considered to be the most personal and immediate of art disciplines and the works presented here highlight the individual qualities of each artist’s draughtsmanship. Collectively, they also enable us to identify the characteristic modes of drawing integral to the ethos and temper of the times.

Many of the selected works were formerly owned by Heide founders John and Sunday Reed. They present a rich account of the artists associated with Heide’s history and the advent of modern drawing in Australia. The circle surrounding the Reeds in the 1930s and 1940s – Sam Atyeo, Arthur Boyd, Joy Hester, Sidney Nolan, John Perceval and Albert Tucker – used drawing in ways unprecedented in Australia. Rather than making drawings just as studies for paintings, these artists created independent works that possessed a sense of immediacy and vitality. On display here are iconic and lesser known examples, including Nolan’s earliest abstract drawings; the expressive wartime images of Boyd and Perceval; and powerful works from Hester’s celebrated Faces and Love series.

By the 1950s the autonomy of drawing as an independent art form had been affirmed and a diversification of styles and techniques emerged. Such developments are reflected in the more recent works in this exhibition, including the surrealist-inspired ‘automatic’ images of Erica McGilchrist, the lively outpourings of John Olsen, in which he fuses the acts of drawing and painting, and the commanding charcoal drawings of Peter Booth.