Revisited The Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills with Dianne this weekend. It’s the workplace and home of one of my favourite Australian Artist’s Brett Whiteley (1939–1992).
He is represented in the collections of all the large Australian galleries, and was twice winner of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes.
“Difficult pleasure” is how he described painting, or creating art stating; “Painting is an argument between what it looks like and what it means.”
Brett Whiteley – Art, life and the other thing 1978
Whiteley became addicted to heroin, this shows in quite a lot of his work and is what drew me to study the Artist when I was a kid in high school. It was his 1978 Archibald Prize-winning painting ‘Art, Life, and the other thing’ which I chose to do a major on, specifically ‘the other thing’ depicting a baboon injecting himself with needles. The tormented baboon is the symbolisation of his battle with heroin.
On 15 June 1992, aged 53, Whiteley was found dead from an overdose in a motel room in Thirroul, North of Wollongong.
Proving that 90’s mindset that Artists only make it when they’re dead, in 1999 Whiteley’s painting The Jacaranda tree (1977), sold for A$1,982,000, a record for a modern Australian painter at that time. In 2007 his painting The Olgas for Ernest Giles was sold for an Australian record of A$3.5 million.
There are no photos allowed in the studio (respect to Wendy Whiteley his ex-wife and muse), but as a visitor you’re offered the unique opportunity to experience the atmosphere of the space; the studio full of unfinished paintings, his inspirational graffiti wall covered with quotes and images and a living area full of memorabilia such as photographs, objects, postcards, furniture, his music collection and sketchbooks.
Entry is free and the exhibit changes 3 times a year. It’s open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. If you’ve never been I highly recommend you go check it out!
All photos by Diana Panuccio, Photographer at The Art Gallery of New South Wales.