The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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Lyndon Dadswell

8 June 1979

James Gleeson: Lyndon, at the moment we’re richest in our collection of your drawings. We have, I think, a group of 50 at one stage, and an additional earlier one, that have come into the collection in the last—

Lyndon Dadswell: Oh, the gallery bought them, did they?

James Gleeson: Yes. A group of fifty came in around about September last year.

Lyndon Dadswell: All little ones.

James Gleeson: Yes, yes. Daniel Thomas, I think, organised it.

Lyndon Dadswell: (inaudible) yes, yes. I’d forgotten that.

James Gleeson: Yes. Now, when you work, do your sculptural ideas normally come in the form of drawings first?

Lyndon Dadswell: Let’s put it this way. From 1947 or eight until 1955 or six, I use 30 by 40 litho sheets with ink and chalk.

James Gleeson: Yes, yes.

Lyndon Dadswell: I drew all that time and hardly did any sculpture at all.

James Gleeson: I see.

Lyndon Dadswell: I was looking all the time for something to come from it. I didn’t see anything coming from it. I enjoyed it. But now when I look at one of these works here, I’ve seen it as it was then. I hadn’t caught up with my thoughts.

James Gleeson: I see.

Lyndon Dadswell: I’d made a thing that eventually I felt was sculptural, but I didn’t know it at the time. It was just a drawing to me.

James Gleeson: I see.

Lyndon Dadswell: I mean, (inaudible) I’ve been drawing about 3,000 of these drawings. I work for about six hours every day just drawing these different combinations. Well, I think out of about 2,000 of them, I think I could say safely there are about 10 sculptures, which I can see as sculpture to a degree where I could give it to someone to make it.

James Gleeson: Yes.

Lyndon Dadswell: So sure of it. So I found my way.

James Gleeson: Yes. They are abstract?

Lyndon Dadswell: Yes.

James Gleeson: Totally abstract. No figurative or symbolic—

Lyndon Dadswell: No, except that I’m always bothered with the fact that I had too much figure in me.

James Gleeson: Yes, yes. You mentioned that earlier, that they do tend to take the sort of proportions or the implications—

Lyndon Dadswell: That’s it, yes. Yes. You were going to ask me something else about the drawings, were you?

James Gleeson: No. You answered it really that at one stage you were drawing just for its own sake and you didn’t realise the sculptural potential. But later on you recognised sculptural potential in some of them.

Lyndon Dadswell: And only since I’ve started the second bout of drawing.

James Gleeson: Yes, I see. When did that second bout start?

Lyndon Dadswell: About three years ago.

James Gleeson: I see. So there were periods when you draw intentionally and then for a while not at all, and there have been two phases of this.

Lyndon Dadswell: Just two.

James Gleeson: Yes, I see. But I remember at one stage you’d had a show, I think it was at David Jones. Anyway, they were very big drawings, six feet high.

Lyndon Dadswell: Farmers.

James Gleeson: Farmers, was it? The Blaxland Gallery.

Lyndon Dadswell: Blaxland Gallery.

James Gleeson: Yes.

Lyndon Dadswell: Yes, over 30 by 40 litho sheets.

James Gleeson: That was a period when you were working, I think, with that iron or metal framework and built the strips of paper wrapped around it.

Lyndon Dadswell: Well, that’s another period.


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