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(b Bothenhampton, Dorset, Aug 12, 1890; d Sydney, 1964).

Australian painter . After spending his early life in England, he moved to Sydney (1913). He began painting in 1922 and at the same time started work as a painter-decorator, a job he did until his retirement in 1956. During the 1920s he attended evening classes at the Sydney Art School under Julian Rossi Ashton. His artistic career did not really begin until 1934 when he participated in life classes with the Australian painters Frank Hinder (b 1906), Grace Crowley (1890–1979) and Rah Fizelle (1891–1964) at the Crowley–Fizelle art school in Sydney. When the school closed in 1937 he continued to paint with Crowley at her studio. In August 1939 Balson took part with Crowley, Hinder, Fizelle and others in the important Exhibition I show at the David Jones Gallery in Sydney. The works exhibited were all semi-abstract, largely influenced by Cubism, and included Balson’s ...

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Richard Haese

[Michael] (Gordon Challis)

(b Sydney, May 8, 1938).

Australian painter and sculptor. He studied art at the East Sydney Technical College (1956–8) but left dissatisfied before completing the course. An important stage in his development was his discovery in 1959 of Australian Aboriginal art and the art of Melanesia and Polynesia, which he saw in New Zealand and on a visit to New Guinea in 1960 while working with the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit. In 1961–2 he lived in the Sydney suburb of Annandale with fellow artist Ross Crothall (b 1934) producing the first of his significant work. With Colin Lanceley the artists held two influential exhibitions in 1962 of painting, collages and assemblage, in Melbourne at the Museum of Modern Art and Design and in Sydney at the Rudy Komon Art Gallery, using the name Annandale Imitation Realists. They exploited discarded materials and disdained finish in a raw and irreverent art that mixed painting and sculpture, often collaborating on work. Imitation Realism was the first full expression of ...

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(b Nelson, New Zealand, Aug 19, 1926).

Australian painter of New Zealand descent. With his close colleagues Roger Kemp and Leonard French, he introduced abstract painting to Melbourne audiences in the 1950s; he has remained, arguably, Australia’s most uncompromising and vigorous exponent of non-objectivity. His strongly geometric works have survived three distinct waves of abstract painting and in the 1990s were shown alongside those of younger generations. In New Zealand he studied painting at the Wellington Technical School and joined a group of avant-garde painters that included Gordon Walters and Theo Schoon. After arriving in Australia in 1951, Johnson relinquished all traces of figuration. Like Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich and some artists from ancient and diverse cultures (including those of the Pacific and South America, where he travelled extensively), he turned to pure abstraction, creating images that symbolized a strong commitment to social issues and universalizing ideas. His first exhibition at the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau Gallery, Melbourne, in ...

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Pamela Bell

(b Mosman, NSW, April 23, 1908; d Emu Plains, NSW, Feb 20, 1978).

Australian painter, textile designer, and sculptor. From 1925 to 1929 she studied in Sydney with Anthony Dattilo Rubbo (1870–1955), an Italian-born academic painter whose students were significant in the development of modernism in Australia. In 1933 Lewers studied at the London Central School of Arts and Crafts, and met Herbert Read and the artists of Unit One. Her works during the 1930s included Bauhaus-inspired domestic artefacts, such as pottery, modernist timber furniture, and hand-printed fabrics. After World War II she continued her studies in Sydney with the Hungarian artist Desiderius Orban (1884–1986), who had himself studied at the Académie Julian in Paris when Cubism was developing. Lewers took up his Aristotelian ideas based on the essence of the object. She was influenced by Vieira da Silva and later Afro, whose paintings were exhibited in Sydney, and also by colleagues who followed the ideas of Dynamic Symmetry. However, she did not study modernist theory herself but worked intuitively and was not part of any artistic group or movement....

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Kyla Mackenzie

(b Dargaville, April 5, 1925).

New Zealand painter. Self-taught, Mrkusich pioneered abstract modernism in New Zealand in the 1940s, a period when there was little acceptance of abstract art there. He co-founded the Auckland design firm Brenner Associates in 1949. His interest in European and American modernism, and the Bauhaus school, informed both his early painting and architectural designs of the 1940s and 1950s, which in turn, influenced each other. His early works on paper explored spatial concerns using line, geometric and organic forms, and colour. Mrkusich’s approach to colour was generally informed by Kandinsky’s writing on the emotive and metaphysical power of colour and its receding and advancing qualities. The orchestration of irregular coloured squares and rectangles in Buildings (1955; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa) echoes Piet (er Cornelis) Mondrian’s Boogie Woogie paintings of the 1940s.

Mrkusich painted full-time from 1958, and from c. 1960 he began to paint with a gestural spontaneity reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism. In these paintings irregular networks of brushwork form loose grids. In other works, amorphous colour fields are overlaid by, or adjacent to, finely drawn straight lines, circles, and squares. Geometric shapes appear in the ...