The work included in The Kenneth Jack View exhibition transport us on a sensory journey around Australia; from the outback to sleepy country towns and the metropolis of Melbourne, Kenneth Jack’s artistic proficiency and clever use of colour has captured sweeping landscapes, shifting light and water with elegance and ease.
Whilst defining a viewpoint held by his generation of Australia, Jack’s works appear effortless and are beautifully constructed compositions employing highly skilled techniques, explains Jacqueline Healy, Director of Bundoora Homestead Art Centre. “Abstract structure behind even the most detailed painting”, coupled with “basic elements of design” are the foundations of the exceptional pieces that he created.
The exhibition only runs until June 6 at Bundoora Homestead, so there isn’t much more time to see it. The exhibition features special pieces kept by the Jack family over a number years. This remarkable collection also demonstrates the “intellectual and artistic challenges” Jack faced. Jack’s versatility as an artist is evident through a variety of pieces in mixed mediums such as watercolour, oil, acrylic and tempera, as well as prints and drawings.
Appointed as the senior instructor of art at Caulfield Institute of Technology in 1956, Jack founded the print making and painting departments and was a “technical perfectionist” who “led a generation of artists” says Healy. “For Jack, drawing was a pleasure, a challenge and an achievement”. He believed that it was essential “for an artist to be able to draw well”. This belief demonstrates his determination to acquire (and later teach) the techniques and skills required to become a great artist.
Jack’s success in capturing the Australian landscape also derived from his extensive travel around Australia, absorbing his surroundings. Primarily focusing on outback scenes and rural Australian towns, each of his works have been carefully considered and created in his studio (as opposed to in situ), often with the assistance of photographs, as well as his keen eye.
Perhaps Jack’s exceptional skill for capturing landscapes was also enhanced by his time as a war artist. Jack was sent on active service with a Mobile Works Squadron in 1944. Based in Papua New Guinea, Halmahera Islands and Borneo, landscape, people and battles were just some of the subjects that Jack observed and recorded, becoming an unofficial war artist.
Donald Friend, a twenty-eight year old war artist that Jack met whilst serving abroad was also instrumental in the development of Jack’s art career. He encouraged Jack to “extend his range and vision.” Jack says that Friend’s “techniques influenced me for decades, although our final results were very different.” The Australian War Memorial in Canberra holds five hundred of Jack’s works within its collection.
A series of Jack’s works exploring religious and biblical imagery are also included in this exhibition. In contrast to Jack’s scenic watercolours, these pieces compliment and further showcase his versatility with printmaking, oil and tempura painting.
Jack’s other artistic accomplishments include his membership of the Royal Watercolour Society of London, Australian Watercolour Institute, and President and Patron of the Victorian Watercolour Society. Many of Jack’s works can be seen in the Royal Collection at Windsor and in major Australian galleries today.
The Kenneth Jack View exhibition runs until June 6 2010 at Bundoora Homestead, 7-27 Snake Gully Drive, Bundoora.