Important Australian + International Fine Art
9 May 2007

Brett Whiteley

(1939 - 1992)

oil on plywood with ink and seashell

88.5 x 83.0 cm

signed and dated verso: brett whiteley 73

$100,000 - 140,000
Sold for $198,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 1 - 9 May 2007, Melbourne

Australian Galleries, Melbourne
Company collection, Sydney


Waves: Brett Whiteley, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 1-19 June 1973, cat.7


McGrath, S., Brett Whiteley, Bay Books, Sydney, 1979, p.155

Catalogue text

...And then she said, "Please produce something beautiful and simple, so we don't have to think too much," and I said "Yes, it's time for purity. Do you have a theme?" She turned and tinglingly said, "Yes, The Sea."1

When Brett Whiteley's muse thus suggested the sea as a new theme, both appreciated the need for him to restore and recharge his creative soul after the gruelling production of his monumental Alchemy panels earlier that year. Demanding a total turning inward 'to steal the Fire'2, the large-scale frenetic eruptions characterising the Alchemy series had been inspired by his tumultuous experience living in New York - the violence, drug culture and potential destructiveness of that city embodying for Whiteley the epitome of Western corruption and excess. Now, turning his attention outward to the far more gentle subject of nature, and specifically waves, he found a theme which was not only visually satisfying, but emotionally and intellectually less draining.

Unveiled at Australian Galleries in 1973, the nine oils and seven large drawings comprising the 'Waves series' betray a number of influences salient throughout Whiteley's entire oeuvre. Whether drawn with an unbelievable sparseness or a surging cacophony of linear swirls, the calligraphic line of the waves both reveals the artist's formidable talent as a draughtsman, and moreover, references his interest in Asian art, paying homage in particular to the celebrated 'Wave' by Hiroshige. Similarly, one may discern allusions to his spiritual and artistic mentor, Vincent van Gogh, in whose work Whiteley perceived 'a heightening of reality, in that everything I looked at took on an intensity- an expandingness.'3

With its elegance and inspired simplicity, the present To Repeat Without Repeating, 1973 evokes, precisely this kind of intense, meditative response that Whiteley had so admired- the scale of the work and turbulent subject inviting the viewer into a lyrical contemplation of colour and line. Interestingly, if the association between Whiteley and the ultramarine blue of his sumptuous Lavender Bay views finds its genesis here, the swirling, highly emotive movement could not be further from the flat expanses of sheer colour that would follow.

1. Whiteley, 'Introduction' in Waves, exhibition catalogue, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, June 1973, n.p.
2. McGrath, S., Brett Whiteley, Bay Books, Sydney, 1979, p.152
3. Whiteley, op.cit., n.p.