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JOY HESTER AND FRIENDS

1 September - 28 October 2001
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Joy Hester made a highly personal and original contribution to Australian art. Her distinctive achievement is being recognised in an important exhibition Joy Hester and Friends at the National Gallery of Australia (1 September - 28 October 2001). The show will include a wide range of Hester's works from a sensitive early student drawing through to many expressive brush drawings of the 1940s and 1950s prior to her untimely death in 1960. The most compelling aspect of Hester's art is her capacity to convey states of mind and emotion with a striking economy of means.

Considering the intensity of Joy Hester's imagery, she had a remarkable ability to work naturally in front of her friends and peers, often at Heide, the home of John and Sunday Reed. Hester experimented with oils yet quite consciously chose to 'paint' and draw with ink, gouache and watercolours - media that suited her energetic, rapid method of working to attain the most direct and truthful emotional response. On a pragmatic level these materials were also more affordable for an artist who struggled financially.

Hester was very much part of her times. By comparison with the men, however, her work received little critical recognition until after her death. Like so many artists in the 1940s, including Albert Tucker (then her husband), her work was deeply affected by the war - in her case, particularly by the film footage of the Nazi concentration camps that she saw in the cinema in Little Collins Street, Melbourne. During the 1950s, when Hester was living with the artist, Gray Smith, her art developed to include the subjects of love and lovers, as well as images of children and motherhood - introducing considerable tenderness as well as a depth and ambiguity with regard to human relationships.

In the National Gallery exhibition, Hester's art will be shown in relation to works by other artists who were in close contact with her in the 1940s and 1950s including: Albert Tucker, Danila Vassilieff, Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Gray Smith, Mirka Mora and Charles Blackman. The show will also include photographs and other documentary material to reveal her friendships with art patrons, John and Sunday Reed; the writer, Barbara Blackman; the poet, Barrett Reid and others. In this way the exhibition will place an extensive selection of Joy Hester's art in the context of the times in which she was working, to reveal her extraordinary artistic contribution.

A full-colour illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, published by the National Gallery in 2001. Visit the online exhibition at www.nga.gov.au/Hester.

For further information please contact
Dr Deborah Hart, Exhibition Curator, phone +61 2 6240 6415; or
Public Affairs, phone 61 2 6240 6431, fax +61 2 240 6561.