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Richard Dunn
‘After Namatjira’ to ‘Blasted Geometries’

July 2023 - September 2023

Sofi's Lounge, Level 1, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins

Sofitel Melbourne On Collins acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional custodians of the land on which we come together, celebrate and exhibit art and we pay our respect to their elders past, present and emerging.

"My paintings after Albert Namatjira were entirely for the purpose of understanding a particularly small set of paintings and through them, to understanding Namatjira as a man [and as] an access point to an Australian cultural story." Richard Dunn, 2015.

On a trip to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, two decades ago, artist Richard Dunn recalls being made curious by an exhibition of the works of the renowned and highly perceptive, multilingual Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira (1902-1959). Through the exhibition he saw Namatjira in a new light. The exhibition celebrated the Western Arrernte artist’s masterful and delicate watercolour studies of the Arrernte lands west of Mparntwe/Alice Springs and the beautiful and dramatic Tjoritja/MacDonnell Ranges. Dunn was interested in what he saw in a small group of pictures that captured the ‘sacred’ gorges and chasms and soon after commenced a body of work based on four of these pictures referenced directly from reproductions in the exhibition catalogue.

This powerful exhibition shows a selection of paintings and monoprints from Richard Dunn’s ‘After Namatjira’ works.

How does an artist in the settler culture understand what preceded it? Dunn’s interest in Namatjira’s gorge pictures is not in the representation of landscape per se but to understand something of place and its meaning through the act of repainting, or ‘translating’ these early Namatjira watercolours with their seemingly unusual compositions. In these four paintings the close-up views of the chasms and gorges, with their strong vertical forms, angular shapes, iridescent colour and compressed shallow perspective are unlike Namatjira’s more familiar broad vista landscapes.

Dunn’s pictures are concerned with the more abstract formal element of the artist’s work and what this implies. Here the implications at the original scale is enlarged many times so the colour appears more vivid and stark; delicate watercolour giving way to bold layers of flat acrylic paint masked with tape and applied precisely with a palette knife presenting us with a more abstracted high keyed, faceted image.

Richard Dunn is a highly celebrated Australian-born artist who originally studied architecture at UNSW and later painting at the Royal College of Art, London, in the 1960s. With a diverse practice that encompasses installation art, painting/printmaking and photography Dunn’s work is widely collected and celebrated in major Australian museums as well as in corporate and private collections both here and overseas, particularly Germany.


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