Kathie Sutherland: Brett Whiteley

The mercurial Whiteley, flaws and all

Vivien Gaston

 

Brett Whiteley: A Sensual Line 1957–67
by Kathie Sutherland
Macmillan Art Publishing, $130 hb, 342 pp, 9781921394379

 

What to do with Whiteley? Forget the gutsy audacity and visual energy; in Bernard Smith’s estimation he was ‘egocentric, pseudo-profound and self-pitying’ (Australian Painting 1788–2000). Smith could not abide Whiteley’s ‘incapacity for detachment’; his cult of personality, poured into every last crevice of his work. With the hegemony of the social and theoretical construction of art, the actual person of the artist has been an increasing problem for art critics. Whiteley’s work, driven by personality and fuelled by sensation, is easily viewed as a romantic indulgence.

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Published in November 2010 no. 326

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