Friday, May 10, 2013

Don't knock Ken Done

from w

I’ve always liked some of  the paintings of Ken Done. Okay, some say they re a recipe and commercial, but they are joyful, exuberant, expressing Australia’s  love of sunshine and colour. He is spurned by the poncy elite art establishment but popular with ordinary people.  The paintings look naïve, but he has done his turn at art school and does know how to draw. He chooses to paint loosely, brightly, seemingly quickly. And he’s made money – no artist in a garret at all. Recently another of his exhibitions opened, this time with some darker paintings such as some about the Japanese submarines in Sydney Harbour, so Ken Done is onto a new kind of painting now.
From the Weekly Review – in our letter box this morning:
It’s a peculiar irony of Australia’s art scene that commercial success is so often inversely proportional to critical acclaim. Bryce Courtenay sold millions of books but was snubbed by the literary elite; Kylie Minogue was dismissed as a singing budgie despite her platinum record sales. And Ken Done, probably Australia’s best-known and biggest-selling living painter, has only now, at 72, begun to enjoy the recognition as a serious artist that has eluded him for most of his three-decade career.
In a sense it’s a third act of an artistic career that started with a bang in 1980, when the ad man-turned-painter burst onto the scene with a series of bright, bold and joyous canvases and some eye-catching promotional T-shirts. 
Soon, Done’s trademark brushstrokes were emblazoned on everything from pillowcases to placemats, and sold through 15 Ken Done shops around the world.  Etc. etc.
From Sydney Morning Herald about a recent exhibition by Ken Done.
In commissioning the series, Mosman Art Gallery director John Cheeseman realised he was dealing with an artist who can polarise a community. "There were two sides," he recalls. "'Wow, what a terrific project; he's so undervalued as an artist.' And others were quite dismissive: 'He's a commercial artist.' And the whole jealousy thing: 'He can't be a good artist because he's Ken Done.'" Cheeseman saw the exhibition as a chance for a much-maligned artist to be redeemed in the public eye: "I really do think it will bring Ken's work to a new light, in a way that people haven't experienced before."

Read more:

Yet many still can't forgive Done for delving into the commercial world of design, a no-go zone for serious artists. "It's a difficult thing," admits John McPhee. "He was one of those people who was a brilliant graphic designer and who crossed into painting and, I think, bears the cross of having been a graphic designer in terms of his acceptance by the fine-art community. You're not allowed to go from design to serious painting - it's a real prejudice, I think; nothing more than that. And it lives on." 

Done is still paying the price. Apart from a couple of paintings in the National Portrait Gallery, his works are missing from most of our major public collections. "I suppose the reason why is he's just not considered good enough," says McPhee. "His paintings are about charm - there's no doubt about that. They just don't go anywhere."


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8:07 AM  

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