Erica is a freelance writer and studies Professional Writing and Editing. Erica lives in the northern suburbs and in her past life was a Tourism professional for the City of Melbourne
Published April 20th 2017
Art- I know what I like
Brett Whiteley was regarded as the enfant terrible of Australian art up until the time of his death. Whiteley, directed by James Bogle, explores the artist's work through a chronological journey from Longueville in Sydney's north, to the Europe and New York years and a return to Sydney in the seventies.
Through a mashup of artfully edited interviews, photos and home movies Bogle shows the driving forces behind Whiteley's art. The artist's own words weave a story of dissatisfaction with dull suburban life in middle Australia and receiving an epiphany at a church service after finding a book on Van Gogh.
For the romantics, because every artist needs a muse, the meeting with Wendy Julius, relationship, and subsequent marriage are covered in great detail. Wendy was more than his muse; she was his minder and the mother of his only child, Arkie. She is glorious—in a 'sixties flower child' way. It is no fault of the filmmaker that I found myself wondering more about Wendy's story and perspective, rather than Brett's.
The scenes of Whiteley in the studio— a diminutive Harpo Marx figure, barefoot, sometimes bare-chested—slapping paint onto the canvas are wonderfully evocative. As are the scenes at the Whale Beach house with the sounds of cicadas in the background. Whiteley sums up the moment when all falls into place. "The whisper of the click is where you get the meaning.'
Whiteley's art appears throughout the film, from early boyhood sketches to his masterpiece Alchemy, and a collection of works that displays his desire to challenge and shake up the art world. Footage of him in his Gasworks and Surry Hills studios show him creating and discussing his art with a young Robert Hughes in a cowboy hat.
This film is for both Whiteley fans and those interested in the process of making art. It presents a rare opportunity to get inside the mind of an artist drilling down on their creative processes. It is not an homage to the rock and roll lifestyle of the Whiteleys', but a salute to a creator and the demons he faced.