Maybe I should devote two years to doing nothing else but courting and causing sculpture. I love it. I love moving around something and I love sculpture next to or in front of paintings - a kind of dialogue can bounce between a sculpture and a painting. Brett Whiteley
Throughout Whiteley’s oeuvre, sculpture played a significant counterpoint to his drawings and paintings. Sculpture was the medium where Whiteley was allowed to seriously explore formal possibilities.
A new exhibition Whiteley and the third dimension will showcase some of Whiteley’s most famous sculptures along with ceramics, paintings, drawings and nudes, the latter of which was his most consistent theme throughout his life.
Whiteley explored some of the terrors of psychic space, in which the themes of imprisonment, evil and death were part of the contract with beauty. The third dimension in other words could be related to an idea of incarceration as much as its opposite, emancipation. Hence The third dimension begins with an installation based on the London necrophile murderer John Christie, who lured prostitutes to his room and gassed them to death. Whiteley became interested in a kind of virtual horror experience of Christie’s story from a visit to Madame Tussaud’s in London and replicated its conception by constructing a chair to symbolise the principle instrument of murder. There’s also an installation on the theme of Vincent van Gogh; an actual razor referring to the famous ear severing incident.
Whiteley experimented in a number of media: mangrove wood, bronze, fiberglass, and found objects. Although primarily known as a painter, his sculptures elicit an assured confidence and extension of his two dimensional works, particularly in figuration. He had included abstract organic sculptures in his exhibitions in London alongside his paintings in his early twenties.
When I analysed my own body I couldn’t find a single straight line on it or in it.
His figurative forms convey the sensuality he saw in nature. Whiteley would seek out trees and branches, which expressed his desire for the curve and release from nature his vision. This is a reductive process of carving away to better see the form captured within. Elements of exaggeration heighten the potency of the figure and allow us to see the human form in a fresh way.
Among found objects which Whiteley transformed are the delightful pelican sculptures inspired by palm fronds. One of Whiteley`s favourite works forms part of this exhibition; an owl form created out of an old shoe. Whiteley saw possibilities then realised them with great humour, vision and execution.
The Brett Whiteley Studio is managed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.Principal sponsor Brett Whiteley Studio