17 Feb James Willebrant
James Willebrant graduated from Australia’s National Art School in 1972, where he was awarded the School’s Painting Prize in 1970 and 1972. Even as a student there, Willebrant had already established his unique vision and as his work continued to evolve. Charles Blackman, his mentor, encouraged him to mount his first exhibition at the Philip Bacon Galleries in Brisbane.
This seminal exhibition was enthusiastically received by the public and launched Willebrant’s career as a professional painter. Since then he has held over 70 exhibitions in Australia and overseas. His work features in major private, public and corporate collections including the national galleries of Victoria, NSW and Queensland, many regional galleries, the Parliament House Collection, the Australia-Japan Trade Commission, the Sydney Theatre Company, Qantas, the Australian Embassy in Tokyo, Artbank, the Australian Stock Exchange, Deutsche Bank and several major university collections.
In the mid-70s Willebrant became part of the exciting Australian art scene, showing his work at the Kym Bonython Gallery, Sydney and the Australian Galleries, Melbourne. These two galleries were at the forefront of the movement that supported a new generation of Australian artists who captured the Australian public’s imagination. Willebrant and contemporaries such as Brett Whiteley, Tim Storrier, John Coburn, Martin Sharpe and John Firth-Smith continued to redefine, explore and celebrate the Australian experience as their precursors such as Streeton, Roberts, Dobell, Drysdale, and Nolan had done.
Like many Australian artists Willebrant uses the landscape as an inspirational springboard for his exploration and celebration of the human condition. His idiosyncratic response has seen the development of a style and vision, the uniqueness of which is immediately recognisable. He has nurtured and honed this original vision over many years, refusing to compromise its integrity, and above all respecting the work and the life of each painting.
His style has been variously labelled ‘surreal’, ‘naïve’, ‘pop’, and even ‘existential’. However, no label can really encompass or describe the subtleties of this artist’s unique work. He paints the Australian landscape and captures its amazing light. He celebrates nostalgic Australian popular culture. He paints the human form in this landscape and as we look at his “everyman-everywoman” figures, caught in a particular moment of ‘being’, we are brought back to some personal emotion, experience or memory. It provokes, it stimulates, and it celebrates.
In 1986 James Willebrant moved from Balmain to the Blue Mountains, seeking new horizons, both literally and figuratively. The natural beauty of this new environment, which has traditionally attracted Australian artists and bohemians, saw his work expand both thematically and stylistically. In 2001 he purchased a country property west of the mountains and established a second studio there. The new environment of ‘The Farm’ has influenced the evolution of his style and vision.
“When I moved my studio to our Dark Corner farm just west of the Blue Mountains I expected the rural surroundings to affect and influence my work, which it did, not so much visually but physically. The textures of old weathered timbers found in the cattle yards, sheep pens and paddocks, wires and objects scuffed out of the dirt, detritus of years of life on the land, old boards, joists and noggins found while renovating the country studio all inspired me to use different media for my new work.
There is a newfound freedom in the technique of incorporating found objects into the painted surface: the juxtaposition of these objects against the beauty of rubbed gold and silver finishes renders the ordinary object more gemlike, iconic and precious. The theme of the diving figure is an evolution of the swimmer in the landscape, which has featured in my work for many years: always the romantic image of my childhood and my lifelong love affair of surfing the beaches of the eastern seaboard. These nostalgic images intertwined with the resurrection of a rural history have come together to create a personal iconography.”
Born Shanghai, China.
1968 – 72
Studied at National Art School, Sydney. Awarded Diploma of Painting.
National Art School Painting Prize.
1972. National Art School Painting Prize. Holdsworth Gallery Painting Prize.
1973 – 76
Art Teacher at Chiron College, Birchgrove.
Australian Art Directors’ Award.
1971 One Man Show, Balmain Galleries.
1973 Print Show, Bonython Gallery, Sydney. Print Show, Divola Galleries, Balmain. One Man Show. Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane.
1974 One Man Show, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne. ‘Sacred and Profane’, Bonython Gallery, Sydney. ‘Four Young Artists’, Bonython Gallery, Sydney.
1976 One Man Show, Bonython Gallery, Sydney. ‘Thinking on Paper’, CAS Gallery, Adelaide Festival of the Arts. ‘Five Sydney Painters’, Collectors Gallery, Perth.
1977 One Man Show, Bonython Gallery, Sydney. One Man Show, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney.
1978 One Man Show, Australian Galleries, Melbourne. One Man Show, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane.
1979 One Man Show, Australian Galleries, Melbourne. ‘Six Sydney Artists’, Bonython Gallery, Adelaide. ‘Newcastle Foreshores’, Cooks Hill Galleries, Newcastle. ‘Interiors’, Robin Gibson Galleries, Sydney.
1980 ‘Painted Screens’, David Jones Gallery, Sydney. One Man Show, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney. ‘Survey of Contemporary Australian Painting’ -David Jones Gallery, Sydney. ‘Australian Postcard Exhibition’ Festival Centre Gallery, Adelaide.
1981 One Man Show, Hong Kong Hilton, Hong Kong. One Man Show, Australian Galleries, Melbourne ‘Continuum’, National Art School. The Ivan Dougherty Gallery and the Wollongong City Art Gallery. One Man Show, Cooks Hill Galleries, Newcastle.
1982 One Man Show, Robin Gibson Galleries, Sydney. ‘On The Beach’, Travelling Exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW.
1983 One Man Show, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane. ‘Sydney to Ballarat’, LaTrobe University. Melbourne. and Golden Age Gallery, Ballarat. ‘Four Sydney Painters’, Quentin Gallery, Perth.
1984 One Man Show, Bonython-Meadmore Gallery, Adelaide. One Man Show, Golden Age Gallery, Ballarat.
1985 One Man Show, Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney. One Man Show, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane. Commission – Limited Edition Screen Prints, for Worldwide distribution: Christies Fine Art, London.
1986 ‘The Luncheon Group Show’ , Barry Stern Galleries, Sydney. One Man Show, Cooks Hill Galleries Newcastle. One Man Show, Solander Gallery, Canberra. One Man Show, Quentin Gallery, Perth.
1987 One Man Show, Bonython-Meadmore Gallery,Adelaide.
1988 ‘Continuum’, University of Technology, Sydney. One Man Show, BMGART Gallery, Sydney. Bicentennial Print Award, Bridge Street Gallery, Sydney.
1989 ‘Three Artists Show’, Breewood Gallery, Blue Mountains.One Man Show, Cooks Hill Galleries, Newcastle. ‘Boundary Street Opening’, BMG Fine Art Gallery, Sydney.
1990 Australian Contemporary Art Fair, Melbourne
1991 ‘Five Years On’, Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney. One Man Show, BMGART Gallery, Adelaide.
1992 One Man Show, Cooks Hill Galleries, Newcastle. One Man Show, Solander Gallery, Canberra.
1993 One Man Show, Grand Prix Exhibition, BMG Art: Hilton International Hotel, Adelaide. One Man Show, Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney.
1994 Australian Contemporary Art Fair, Melbourne. Screen Print Show, Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney.
1995 One Man Show, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane. One Man Show, Greythorn Galleries, Melbourne.
1996 One Man Show, Cooks Hill Galleries, Newcastle.
1997 One Man Show, Barry Stern Gallery, Mary Place, Sydney. One Man Show, BMGART, Adelaide.
1998 One Man Show, Gallery Attica, Katoomba, Blue Mountains. One Man Show, Greythorn Galleries, Melbourne.
1999 One Man Show, Gallery 460, Gosford.
2000 ‘Three Australian Artists’, Port Jackson Fine Art: Laguna Beach, California, USA. One Man Olympic Exhibition, – Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney. ‘Sporting Images’, Australian Embassy, Tokyo.
2001 One Man Show, Cooks Hill Galleries, Newcastle. One Man Show, Solander Gallery, Canberra.
2002 One Man Show, Katoomba Fine Art Gallery, Katoomba, Blue Mountains. One Man Show, BMGART, Adelaide.
2003 One Man Show, Michael Carr Gallery, Sydney.
2004 One Man Show. Cook’s Hill Galleries, Newcastle. One Man Show, Katoomba Fine Art Gallery. Katoomba.
2005 One Man Show, BMGART. Adelaide. One Man Show, Greythorn Galleries. Melbourne
2006 One Man Show, Gallery 460. Gosford. One Man Show-WORKS -1996-2006. Agathon Gallery. Sydney
2007 ‘A Unique Collaboration’, Katoomba Fine Art. Katoomba.
2008 ‘Wood Work ‘- Four Man Show – Mixed Media – BMGART. Adelaide.;’Paintings from The Dark Corner’ – SOHO GALLERIES, Sydney.
2009 ‘Sculpture from Dark Corner’ – SOHO GALLERIES, Sydney. One Man Show, Katoomba Fine Art Gallery, Katoomba.
2010 One Man Show, ‘The Journey Home’ – SOHO GALLERIES, Sydney. Three Man Show -‘CONTAINED’ – Paintbox Fine Art, Canberra
2011 One Man Show, James Willebrant ’11:11:11′ – Paintbox Fine Art, Canberra
REPRESENTED IN THE FOLLOWING COLLECTIONS
NATIONAL GALLERY of VICTORIA
ART GALLERY of N.S.W
QUEENSLAND ART GALLERY
PARLIAMENT HOUSE COLLECTION
GOLD COAST CITY ART GALLERY
NEW ENGLAND REGIONAL ART GALLERY
HORSHAM REGIONAL GALLERY
UNIVERSITY of WESTERN AUSTRALIA
NATIONAL BANK COLLECTION, VICTORIA
COMMONWEALTH BANK COLLECTION, SYDNEY
SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY GALLERY, SYDNEY
TOKYO NATIONAL BANK, TOKYO
AUSTRALIAN STOCK EXCHANGE. SYDNEY
DEUTSCHE BANK AUSTRALIA, LTD. SYDNEY
ELIZABETHAN THEATRE TRUST, SYDNEY
UNIVERSITY of SYDNEY COLLECTION
AUSTRALIA-JAPAN TRADE COMMISSION
AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY, TOKYO
ARMIDALE REGIONAL GALLERY
WESTPAC BANKING CORPORATION. SYDNEY