When I was working on The Shape Of A Note I was assisted by the Penrith Regional Gallery in trying to find works that could be described as musical. Obviously it’s easiest to do that in the era when painters themselves used music as a guide – Kandinsky and Mondrian are the obvious references but the students around the Penrith region weren’t going to see these in person. But, said the Gallery, perhaps you could use Ralph Balson?
Ralph Balson? Damn! Here was a painter that (and OK painting isn’t my big thing) I knew nothing about and yet it was immediately obvious that this was exactly the mind I was seeking. It’s a bridge over to the theosophists and their colour music, the video synthesists of the late 20th Century, maybe even The New Aesthetic if I’m really lucky.
Here’s someone that lived in the same place as I did and overlapped with the people I learned from. He died 2 years after I was born otherwise I’d be around to his place with a case of VB and a lot of questions.
Socially, Balson was shy and reticent. Between 1949 and 1959 he taught part time at East Sydney Technical College. Students respected this near-sighted, suburban painter, with his tradesman’s clothes, who made no display of ego. – Aus Dict. of Biography
(East Sydney Tech College is now the National Art School, it’s where I did the Barbara Island show, which I hope Balson would have liked.) I’m not sure what I’d ask him. Probably, “Oh adopted Wise Master can you see what’s burning a hole in my head trying to figure out what this MUSIC thing is?” “Oh ascendant house painter, why am I concerned with shit that was last important in 1915?” The answer would vary on the amount of VB.
Maybe you’re looking at this stuff and thinking you saw a rug at the local shopping centre that looks a bit like this. It’s true that Balson and his crew inspired more design than fine arts. That’s OK, film is still an artform despite BATTLESHIP. Also it must be said that he moved on to other more complicated work that I am still coming to terms with, and I may be a clifford. For reasons of research I am tweaked on this constructed art at the moment and probably the little things are overly big in my mind. Still, it’s a part of the painterly arts that needs connection to those that are trending at the moment.
I am glad to hear he had a friend. I don’t know why I am less religiously transformed by Grace Crowley’s work – I like it but for some reason Balson is doing some trick with my brain. Perhaps she is less ‘musical’.
She certainly deserved more respect. “It was not until the 1950s, when Crowley was in her sixties, that a public gallery exhibited her abstract works.” And you complain.
Roy de Maistre is worth a mention, but then he never really dedicated himself to the ideal the way this pair did. In quickly and out the door fast. I’ll stick with Ralph.