UNTITLED (CARLTON CAFE KITCHEN), 1969
oil on composition board
86.0 x 61.0 cm
Watters Gallery, Sydney
The Collection of Colin and Elizabeth Laverty, Sydney, acquired from the above in July 1987
The Colin and Elizabeth Laverty collection – a selection of Indigenous and non-Indigenous art exhibition, Geelong Gallery, Victoria, 18 February – 15 April 2012
Colin and Elizabeth Laverty were great supporters of Ken Whisson and were arguably the most active collectors of his work to date. Committed to building a collection of contemporary abstract art, Whisson proved to be a noticeable favourite for the Lavertys. Untitled (Carlton Cafe Kitchen), 1969 was the first of Whisson’s paintings to be acquired by the couple, thus beginning a long held adoration for the highly gestural form of abstraction adopted by this enigmatic painter.
The figure central to Untitled (Carlton Cafe Kitchen) is consistent with the fluid and ambiguous approach to the human form developed early in the artist’s career. ‘Limbs may sprout directly below the base of neckless heads, or be severed altogether in favour of vegetal, trunk-like torsos, reminiscent of Primitive sculpture (a form-language which arises in a pre-industrial society, a world not yet alienated from nature)’.1 From the ongoing flux between abstract shape and figuration emerges a cafe scene which makes more sense collectively than any part might individually. The fragmented figure, bereft of decipherable facial features is a subject which found many nuances throughout the artist’s career. Yet a common thread across the work of Whisson is the ability to create a subjective reaction in the viewer, enabled primarily by the sheer absence of immediately recognisable features or points of reference.
Untitled (Carlton Cafe Kitchen) was the catalyst for the creation of an exceptional group of Whisson paintings within the Laverty Collection, facilitating a lifelong love affair with an art that is layered with meaning and honesty.
1. Murphy, B., Ken Whisson Paintings 1957-1985, The Broken Hill City Art Gallery, Broken Hill, 1985, p. 13