John Olsen: The You Beaut Country

Juliet Sulejmani | September 16, 2016

16 SEPTEMBER 2016 – 12 FEBRUARY 2017

THE IAN POTTER CENTRE: NGV AUSTRALIA
JOHN OLSEN: THE YOU BEAUT COUNTRY

John Olsen, The Man.

To see John Olsen, in the context that I did on Wednesday morning, I must say, was a pivotal point in my life and I hope in the lives of all the people that were there, for, as Olsen himself called it “The best dinner party he has ever been in”.

The dinner party, was a feast of John Olsen’s life’s work and titled ‘The You Beaut Country.”

A very well curated collection of Olsen’s life, passions, way of seeing the world and not limited to his experiences all translated by Olsen into paintings, journals, tapestries, ceramics and prints.

The exhibition spans over seven decades, and is sequentially arranged to give you the feeling that you are travelling through time with Olsen, who said: “I’m seeing these works a fresh, it’s exciting to come from room to room of how the change is, from the ceilings to this (paintings of Lake Eyre), entirely different from the others.”

As you move through the rooms you can feel how Olsen has developed as an artist. His work becomes less frenetic, more, gentle and reflective, especially as you arrive in the final room, where you will see his newest piece, which is being displayed for the first time.

The muse of the majority of Olsen’s work is ‘The You Beaut Country’, Australia. His love for his muse is evident in the poetic and romantic paintings hanging in the exhibition. Olsen has “a unique ability to capture the essence of the Australian landscape and it’s spirit”, thus Olsen being labelled “The greatest living artist”.

A label which, although he is very honoured by, but he says, “This doesn’t alter the condition of what the pictures are, regardless of what he is called he wants to work, get through it, wants to make it better”.

I’d like to share these words from Olsen that I will be taking away with me and holding onto…

“You must follow your feeling, you must trust yourself, I’ve never tried to be new, never, there’s far too much emphasis on newness, it’s fashionable, to  announce to a group that you’re Avant Garde is preposterous. The important thing, consider Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, the aim was not newness but possibility. To see nature in it’s essence, that’s possibility.”

To find out more about the John Olsen and the exhibition click HERE and HERE.

Image credit: Portrait of John Olsen by Hugh Stewart © Hugh Stewart
Illustration: Juliet Sulejmani
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