Albert Tucker
19 March 22 June 2011
Heide Galleries
Lesley Harding
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In 1943 Albert Tucker began a new phase in his art. Recently discharged from the army and primed with a fresh vocabulary of imagery that drew upon his wartime experiences, he commenced a suite of paintings which is now seen as a turning point in the advancement of modernism within twentieth-century Australian culture. The Images of Modern Evil series, painted between 1943 and 1948, offers a probing and powerful insight into the schismatic socio-political climate of World War II and its aftermath. Though neither critically nor popularly successful at the time, the series proved formative in Tucker’s practice as a distillation of humanist, psychological and mythological ideas and as a vehicle for specific motifs and narratives that have endured within his art.

The series starts with pictures of predatory and lascivious behaviour in Melbourne’s streets at night that have a gritty, elemental edge. As it progresses there is a greater sense of story-telling, and by the series’ end the influence of the avant-garde art of Pablo Picasso – in both style and subject – is clearly in evidence. Picasso was, however, but one of a variety of literary and artistic sources that Tucker drew on to help shape the Images: others included the poetry of T.S. Eliot; the imaginative creativity of the surrealists; the roughened political sentiments and social commentary of the German expressionists; and, pervasively, Carl Jung’s psychological treatises on irrationality, myths and archetypes, and on the personal and collective unconscious.

Tucker kept the Images of Modern Evil together and in his possession for more than thirty years, before 28 of the 39 constituent works were acquired for the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Accompanied by studies, related works on paper and archival material, this is the first time that all locatable works in the series have been displayed together.