The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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Treania Smith

8 March 1979

James Gleeson: There’s just so much to talk about. I notice that in 1951 you had an exhibition of abstract compositions by Balson, Crowley, Hinder, Klippel, Lewers, Morris, Salisbury. This must have been the first of its kind.

Treania Smith: The very first I think of any abstract. Klippel’s were sculptures.

James Gleeson: Yes.

Treania Smith: They were the first abstract. If I remember them rightly they were long sort of knitting needles with balls on them.

James Gleeson: That’s right. Wooden construction, very delicate and fragile and I think most of them are destroyed now.

Treania Smith: Are they? What a pity.

James Gleeson: Because they were all so fragile.

Treania Smith: Yes.

James Gleeson: Then again I think in 1954 you had another show.

Treania Smith: We had regular shows of Balson, you know.

James Gleeson: Yes, yes, I remember that.

Treania Smith: His little grand-daughter used to come in with a bunch of flowers but nobody paid any attention to Balson.

James Gleeson: No, he had to die before people began to take an interest in him.

Treania Smith: Yes.

James Gleeson: Yes.

Treania Smith: They were beautiful shows, really beautiful.

James Gleeson: You were the first to give John Olsen a show, I think, if I remember correctly.

Treania Smith: Yes. The Bicycle boys was in that, wasn’t it?

James Gleeson: That’s right; now in our collection in Canberra.

Treania Smith: Very famous, yes.

James Gleeson: Yes. It made something of a sensation, didn’t it?

Treania Smith: Yes.


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