When James Gleeson first exhibited Salvage from Random’s Effigy, 1939 – 41 the Second World War had been raging for almost three years, eventually reaching Australian shores with the terrifying bombing of Darwin and the submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in February, then May of 1942. Gleeson and a number of his artist-associates had been concerned by the insidious rise of Fascism for many years, and utilised their individualistic styles in an attempt to illustrate or articulate the horror that they felt. Gleeson, a deeply read man who also wrote poetry, found a suitable strategy in Surrealism which, through its probing and analysis of the subconscious, explored ‘the realms of imagination and politics’.1 Nearly eighty years after their creation, his paintings remain some of the most enigmatic and haunting images to have been produced in Australia during this traumatic period. More on this painting
Known as the Father of Australian Surrealism, artist, poet, and critic James Gleeson examines human nature in Surrealist landscapes. His interest in classical figures and mythology inspired by artists like William Blake and El Greco, along with his unease about the fate of humanity as a result of the World Wars, resulted in a body of work featuring an apocalyptic fantasy world. In his alternative reality—as seen in works like Aspiring Echoes (1999)—punishment for historical brutalities are brought to bear in the near future in a mood of disturbing and seductive foreboding. His meticulously rendered and lusciously painted scenes of geological shapes and biomorphic forms merge into the macabre. The artist studied at East Sydney Technical College and the Sydney Teachers’ College. Gleeson’s work is in numerous collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the National Gallery of Australia. More on James Gleeson
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