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Robert Smith

(b Sydney, April 7, 1939; d Thirroul, nr Wollongong, June 15, 1992).

Australian painter, sculptor and printmaker . He was already preoccupied with art while at Scots School in Bathurst, for which he painted several murals c. 1955–6 on sporting themes; he later studied intermittently at the Julian Ashton School in Sydney (1957–9). He was awarded the Italian Travelling Scholarship in 1959 and spent some time in Italy before arriving in London in mid-1961, where he achieved fame when the exhibition Recent Australian Art, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, included some of his latest works. His earlier work had shown the effects of sources such as Rembrandt, Honoré Daumier and William Dobell, but by this time he was painting in a boldly sensuous style of his own, emphasizing formal qualities and replete with erotic allusion. These elements were subsequently developed in his art, though becoming increasingly figurative, deployed to symbolize human estrangement and aspects of alternative lifestyle, while owing something to the work of Francis Bacon and the French ...


Jim Barr and Mary Barr

(b Te Kaha, NZ, May 6, 1936).

Maori wood-carver, painter and teacher . As a member of the Whanau-a-Apanui tribe he was educated in the rural community of Te Kaha until he began teacher training in 1955 at Wellington Teachers College. He was quickly selected as an art specialist as a result of the Department of Education’s determination to develop Maori and Western European culture in schools. Whiting and other young Maori artists, supported by Gordon Tovey, the national arts and crafts adviser, were able to explore traditional and contemporary Maori art. In the late 1960s, encouraged by Pine Taiapa, he began working on marae (communal centres), carving and restoring buildings. Whiting’s innovative use of themes and materials placed art at the centre of the revitalization of Maori communities. From the 1970s Whiting was the leading authority on the restoration of Maori buildings, as well as working with local communities on new buildings like those at the Takahanga ...


Megan Tamati-Quennell

(b Ruatoki, Bay of Plenty, NZ, 1928).

Maori sculptor. His tribal affiliation is Tuhoe/Takimoana, Te Arawa/Tarawhai. He was the first Maori to graduate with honours in sculpture at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland (1953). Like many other Maori artists, he pursued a career in art education, enrolling at Auckland Teachers’ College in 1954. Between 1975 and his retirement in 1989 he worked as an education officer for the Department of Education in Auckland and as Director of Te Mauri Pakeaka Cross Community Arts Programme. Wilson was widely acknowledged as one of the most influential artists of the Maori art movement that emerged in the 1950s. Working first in realistic figurative forms made from clay, wood, stone and metal, he moved increasingly towards a stylized multi-media form incorporating aspects of traditional Maori symbolism: he considered that ‘myths and legends have a store of inspiration for us … the more we look the more is revealed’. After ...


Ah Xian  

Claire Roberts

[Liu Jixian]

(b Beijing, May 7, 1960).

Chinese multimedia artist, active in Australia. Self-taught as an artist, Ah Xian spent his early years in the relatively privileged environment of Beijing’s Science and Engineering University, where his parents worked. He trained as a mechanical fitter and worked in a factory, pursuing art in his own time. In the late 1970s he began to associate with avant-garde poets, writers, and artists including members of The Stars, a non-official art group demanding freedom of artistic expression. Because his experimental works of art, sometimes incorporating images of naked figures, were considered at the time to be unacceptable, he was subject to routine surveillance by the Public Security Bureau.

Ah Xian first traveled to Australia in 1989 as a visiting artist at the Tasmanian School of Art. He returned the following year and in 1995 was granted permanent residency in Australia. In 1991 he created Heavy Wounds, a series of paintings based on imagery from first aid posters that deal with injury and triage, an expression of trauma associated with the violent suppression of democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere on ...


Howard Morphy

(b c. 1907; d Yirrkala, 1978).

Australian Aboriginal painter and sculptor . He was the leader of the Gumatj clan of north-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, during a critical period of the history of the Yolngu-speaking peoples, and one of the leaders of the Yolngu people in their fight for land rights when tenure of their land was threatened by mining interests in the 1960s and 1970s. Like Mawalan Marika, he was one of the first artists to produce bark paintings for sale to the missionary Wilbur Chaseling in 1935, and he later contributed to Stuart Scougall’s collection for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. With Marika and Narritjin Maymurru he helped to develop the episodic-narrative style of paintings characteristic of Yolngu art from the 1960s to the 1980s (e.g. Space Tracking Station, 1967; Adelaide, A. G. S. Australia). He was a prolific painter until the end of his life, and established a productive relationship with the Melbourne art dealer ...