2008 SYDNEY BALL PRINTS: CANTOS + STAINS
An exhibition of prints by Sydney Ball, one of Australia’s foremost abstract artists, featuring Ball’s screen prints produced over the past decade and inspired by his two most renowned series of paintings; the CANTO series of the 1960s and the STAIN series of the 1970s.
What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter … something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue .
“Notes of A Painter”, 1908
Matisse’s statement has been misinterpreted many times as an assertion that art should be simple and entertaining. On the contrary, Matisse believed in an art which elevated the spirit above the everyday but which was by no means simple in form or composition. Matisse has been extremely important for the work of Sydney Ball since the early sixties. Indeed, it might be said that Matisse’s famous axiom predicts Ball’s own concerns through the sixties and seventies, but that in the last decade Ball has taken on the subject matter Matisse avoided. He has clearly moved from an interest in balance and purity, in the vein of Clement Greenberg (the major exponent of formal aesthetic analysis), to a fascination with subjects more “troubling” in nature; i.e. the complexities of symbols and motifs in Western and Eastern cultures or the relationship between human-kind and our natural surroundings. …
Though most renowned for his paintings, Ball has been a consistent and innovative printmaker throughout his career. He has worked mainly with screen prints, and has experimented with lithography and woodblock prints. Sydney Ball sees himself as an artist who makes prints rather than a printmaker per se. Though technically proficient, the main purpose of the prints has not been to achieve an expertise in the medium. Rather, the printmaking process has been integral to the realization of the paintings. Not only do the prints parallel the shifts in Ball’s successive periods of painting, they act as arenas for the artist’s thought processes. They represent the terrain of the sketch and the working drawing, especially in the early years. Furthermore, the first excitement in the discovery of an idea is preserved by the immediacy of silkscreens, a refinement, as it were, of Ball’s more complex paintings.
…The print allows Ball to chart his experiences immediately. He has reasserted the importance of the print in an artist’s sustained creativity. It is no minor indulgence, but is crucial to his artistic experience of life.
Victoria Lynn, independent curator and writer April 1989
Born in Adelaide, Sydney Ball is one of the greatest pioneers of abstract painting in Australia. Throughout his career Ball has largely been concerned with colour, form and structure. Colour, he has written, “must be regarded as a structural unit, a spatial unity, a unit of light or direct sensation, with its own capacity to react aggressively against another colour. It may even have the capacity for motion”. He has held over 60 solo exhibitions both within Australia and abroad since the early 1960s and is represented in the collections of over 70 major institutions worldwide including National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea, among others. Ball spent several seminal years in New York where he studied at the Arts Students League. Here he was exposed to the work of leading American abstractionists including Hans Hofmann, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell. On returning to Australia he was included in National Gallery of Victoria’s highly influential survey show of abstract painting, The Field, in 1968.
The show compliments the major survey exhibition, Sydney Ball: The Colour Paintings, curated by Anne Loxley of the Penrith Regional Gallery and Lewers Bequest, which will travel to other venues throughout 2008-2010. The dates for this exhibition are as follows: Penrith Regional Gallery, NSW – 8 Nov 08 – 25 Jan 09; McClelland Gallery and Scupture Park, VIC – 22 Feb – 26 Apr 09; The Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia, SA – 11 Nov 09 – 14 Feb 10.