SYDNEY BALL

SYDNEY BALL

Infinex V 

S+S Sydney 

27 Oct – 17 Nov 2018

Opening Saturday 27 Oct 3–5pm

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"For me it’s the scale which envelops the viewer; that whole nebula of colour, the ocean of colour, which just soaks you in." Sydney Ball, 2014

Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney is delighted to present an exhibition by the major Australian abstract artist, Sydney Ball (1933–2017), the first exhibition of the artist’s work since his passing. The exhibition of Australia’s greatest colourist had been planned during Ball’s lifetime to mark what would have been the artist’s 85th birthday. The exhibition will present large-scale works from Ball’s last Infinex series, his final and never before seen body of work.

Unseen during Ball’s lifetime, the Infinex V series was planned by Ball as a series of large-scale compositions. Fabricated by Urban Art Projects the series has been realised according to the artist’s exacting instructions in automotive enamel on aluminium, a method of manufacturing he devised out of physical necessity at the age of 81 in 2014. As a way of honouring Ball’s working process, the exhibition presents both the finalised large-scale works on aluminium, a number of which have been realised posthumously, alongside a small series of intimate works on paper from 2013 which have never before been exhibited.

Comprising rigid geometric forms articulated in fields of contrasting colour, the Infinex V series are crisply chromatic formal assemblages of individual but related planes of colour, which appear as if poised mid-motion. The mechanical process of their construction, which establishes a perfect surface finish – and belies the frailty of Ball’s condition at the time – associates these works with Ball’s important Modular series completed in collaboration with automotive painters in the 1960s. Black Reveal (1968-1969) from this period was seen by Sydney audiences this year in the 21st Biennale of Sydney. As Terence Maloon has described them, the Infinex series relates to the “immense outflowing of joie de vivre” in the late works of many great artists, such as in Monet’s waterlilies or Matisse’s cut-outs.

Sydney Ball was a pioneer in the field of painting and the development of abstraction in Australia and arguably Australia’s greatest colourist. Nationally and internationally renowned for his bold use of colour, form and compositional structure, his artistic practice formed a vital link between Australian painting and the New York School of American abstraction. His work is typified by its vibrancy of colour – from the colour-field abstraction of his 1960s Modular series to the more recent Infinex series begun in 2010 – and his painterly abstractions of the 1970s. Throughout each period of development Ball maintained an obsession with form, colour and light earning him the moniker, the painter-poet. The Infinex series works represent the pinnacle of this lifelong research. 

Born in Adelaide in 1933, Ball studied in the 1950s at what is now the University of South Australia’s School of Art, Architecture and Design. His links to Adelaide were strengthened in 2013 by a major gift to the University of South Australia of over thirty important works valued at more than one million dollars. 

From 1962 he studied painting at the Art Students League in New York under Theodoros Stamos and came to be associated with the first-generation New York School artists associated with “Irascible 18” such as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman. Returning to Australia in 1965, Ball’s introduction of hard-edge abstraction to Australian art established him as a crucially influential figure. 

2018 has been an important year for Ball. His work has been included in major exhibitions including The Field Revisited at the National Gallery of Victoria, the remake of the major 1968 survey of Australian abstract art, which positioned Ball as among the most important painters of his generation; and the 21st Biennale of Sydney which marked forty-five years since Ball’s participation in the inaugural Sydney Biennale in 1973. These landmark exhibitions highlight the continued relevance of a poet-painter who had absolute faith in the communicative power of pure colour.

Ball has been the subject of more than 70 solo exhibitions and his work is represented in collections both within Australia and internationally. A major retrospective exhibition Sydney Ball – The Colour Paintings 1963 – 2007toured to Penrith Regional Gallery and the Lewers Bequest, Sydney (2008), McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Melbourne (2009), and The Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide (2009). Recent group exhibitions include Shut Up And Paint, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2016); Birth of the Cool, Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide (2015); The Less There Is To See The More Important It Is To Look, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2014); 20th and 21st Century Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2012-13); Hard Edge and Colour: Field Paintings and Sculpture, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2012); Tackling ‘THE FIELD’, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2009); Australian Abstraction 1965-1985 from the collection of the AGNSW, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2007); and New to the Modern – Heide 25 Years On, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Victoria (2006). Ball was also notably included in the historic Australian exhibition The Field, held at both the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1968. In 2013, he was awarded the Honorary Award ‘Doctor of the University’ (DUniv) at the University of South Australia

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