Painting Forever: Tony Tuckson

A National Gallery of Australia Travelling Exhibition
4 Nov 2000 – 4 Feb 2001
Curator: Tim Fisher

Painting Forever: Tony Tuckson will display in depth the most beautiful and representative paintings and drawings by Australia’s greatest abstract expressionist artist Tony Tuckson. This is the first major survey exhibition of Tuckson’s work since 1976 and offers a unique opportunity to both discover and reassess one of Australia’s most important twentieth century artists.

The exhibition charts the progression of Tuckson as an artist, from prominent student of naturalist watercolours and post war murals to pre-eminent abstract expressionist. The exhibition explores one of the defining features of 20th century art-the journey towards abstraction. His life’s work is a journey of emotional, intellectual and aesthetic discovery. Painting Forever seeks to balance Tuckson’s most radical, extreme and beautiful late paintings and drawings with early paintings and contextual material to reveal how he became and remained an abstract expressionist artist.

Tuckson’s paintings were usually produced alongside numerous drawings and painted works on paper (including sketchbooks). The exhibition uses this pattern of production as the formal structure of the display. The earliest oil paintings, drawings and watercolours are selectively displayed in a dense ‘domestic’ hang – including art school studies, unframed serial drawings, unstretched experimental oil paintings, family studies, nudes and early nightclub scenes. This domestic hang reiterates both the subject matter of family, service comrades and friends, and the situation in which the works were made.

From this point forward the exhibition alternates groups of ever more abstracted paintings with the best works from Tuckson’s drawn oeuvre. Early 1950s tentative abstraction – led by the radical gouache drawings on newspaper are interspersed with the last of the formal oil paintings. Expressive ‘divisionist’ paintings on composition board open up into a powerful group of the scratchy, delicate masterpieces of the early 1960s. These in turn lead to a great group of red, black and white paintings, including some of his most extreme and compelling gouache-collage drawings.

The exhibition concludes with a whole gallery space devoted to the 1970s ‘veil’ paintings and attenuated charcoal drawings. This display contains some of Tuckson’s greatest and most expressive works of art, including the late diptych’s and previously un-exhibited drawings. The exhibition will closes with the great autobiographical masterpieces Grey 1973 and White sketch 1973. It is hoped that the artists many self-portraits (both drawn and painted) will provide the binding motif for visitors to the exhibition.

Painting Forever: Tony Tuckson seeks to establish a new audience for this wonderful artist as well as nurturing existing fans. It will appeal to younger viewers, through making a virtue of Tuckson’s most radical and expressive works, and by providing a very clear and straightforward contextual insight into the artist and his work.

The national tour of Painting Forever:Tony Tuckson exhibition will commence in late February 2001 following the display in Canberra.

For further information Public Affairs, National Gallery of Australia, Tel (02) 6240 6431, Fax 6240 6561, email