The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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Four figures, Stanley Street 1998
Painting, oil on canvas
204.5 h x 250.0 w x 8.0 d cm
Purchased with the assistance of the Breuer Family 2001
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Kevin Connor

12 June 1979

Kevin Connor: Yes, pretty well. I have had portraits go back–yes, yes, always people, so naturally the odd portrait. But more and more I'm being interested in portraits over and above other things.

James Gleeson: I see.

Kevin Connor: It's the homage to external subject.

James Gleeson: Kevin, what medium do you prefer? Is it acrylic, or oil?

Kevin Connor: Well, that portrait was done in acrylics.

James Gleeson: Yes.

Kevin Connor: On canvas. I always used to paint in oil and I still use both. The reason I changed to acrylics was that I got a bit slick in oils and I wanted a paint that would give nothing. I think it's an inferior paint, but I use acrylics now.

James Gleeson: I see.

Kevin Connor: And oils occasionally.

James Gleeson: Yes, I see. You want no gratuitous aid from the medium?

Kevin Connor: Well, only that you get these slick sort of passages that oils give because it's so beautiful, and you tend to lean on them. That's what I've found in my work at any rate and the work suffered. Where with acrylics it's like a drawing, you know, you can't compromise with it. You have to make it give less.

James Gleeson: With this portrait I notice that you have–and I seem to remember this as perhaps as a characteristic of your portraits–put the sitter in an environment that seems to be an extension of their personality, as it were. Is this true? I remember Bob, the portrait of Klippel you did with his house in the background, and it seemed to be all part of Bob's life and personality.

Kevin Connor: Yes, it's a person in an environment that is familiar. Earlier portraits weren't.

James Gleeson: No.

Kevin Connor: But I've always been interested in people in rooms.

James Gleeson: Yes, I know.

Kevin Connor: And sort of rooms can be outside too. Yes, their environment. I think that's right. Yes, it is.

James Gleeson: You see it as a sort of an extension of their personality? Most people's houses are. They put around them the sort of things that express something of themselves.

Kevin Connor: Yes, yes. Well, I have a desire to do some modelling with clay and sculpture because of that environment; that I feel that it's an attempt to go around the subject


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