Very good Ken Done: ‘I’ll never be like a five-year-old’ | Art

KDone has been alive with sensory details for as long as he can recall. As a child, the artist spent most of his time in McLean, a small fishing village in the Clarence Valley, NSW. There, he perused the encyclopedia and was hypnotized by pictures of butterflies. He listened to ABC Radio’s long-running children’s show The Argonauts Club. He observed changes in the Clarence River, one of Australia’s largest waterways. These early impressions formed him.

Done, 81, said: “I was an only child who loved to draw and my mother was very encouraging. “We were poor. If you live in a small country town like me, you’ll have to have some fun on your own. It’s this wonderful khaki color when the river is full. He grinned. “It used to have a big clump of bright green and blue hyacinths floating down.” “

Commercial artist turned painter Ken Done holds his neon shovel in his studio
Commercial artist turned painter Ken Done in his studio. Photo: Carrie Earl/The Guardian

The Dorn family left McLean in 1950. They originally lived in Katoomba, west of the Blue Mountains. sydney Then, in 1954, moved to the seaside suburb of Balmoral. Apart from a stint in advertising in London in the 1960s, Done would remain in this part of Sydney for the next 60 years. He took root in the land of China and Hong Kong to support his family and cultivate a childish obsession.

When Guardian Australia met Done in his studio overlooking the Rosherville Beach panhandle, a series of neon shovels hung on one wall. His bookshelves are filled with books on Matisse and David Hockney. In the center of the room, three semi-abstract works are in progress.

One of them, turquoise and magenta, serves as an index to his visual world of sailboats, water and subtropical flowers that has appeared on scarves, coffee mugs and hundreds of paintings over the decades. Soon, these visions will occupy the façade of Customs House as part of Done’s first Vivid Festival project. It’s called – what else? – go to sydney with love. It’s a collaboration that feels so inevitable, as is the case with cosmic alignment, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t happened yet.

“I’ve been documenting Sydney Harbour for a long time,” says Done, wearing a pink shirt that can be pulled from his own palette. “I’m honored to be invited to be a part of it.”

Sydney Harbour Chronicle. Commercial artist turned painter. Symbolizes the new generation’s love of kitsch. Of all the different and conflicting ways to read Ken Done, none can explain how to spend a lifetime looking at the same subject over and over again. Use drawing attention as a tuning fork to evoke not only the beauty of the city, but its mood and seasons. Its ever-changing self-image.

Done starts his day at the port at 6am, where he feeds a school of snapper.

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Ken Done said the Covid-19 lockdown had been a “very productive time” for him. Photo: Carrie Earl/The Guardian

“They were waiting for me every morning,” he said. “Dolphins come in often. I love the hot, sparkling days in the harbour, full of brightly coloured yachts and boats. I love it in winter, it’s fuchsia, grey and soft. I love the shape of the rocks, love The intensity of the green weeds that grow. Oysters.”

The relationship deepened during the lockdown.

“I went through my normal life,” he said. “Walk on the beach, go for a swim, have breakfast, and head straight to the studio.” He paused. “It’s been a very productive period for me.”

vividThe return after two years coincides with a new period in Sydney’s history.Against this backdrop, there is an epidemic; a brutal housing crisis; floods take lives in the west of the city, diverting the eastern ports brown time in march. It’s harder to maintain the city’s notion of beauty. Its relationship to the landscape.

Done sees the shift a little differently.

“In the era we live in, I think art should be more like poetry,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “It doesn’t have the power of TV and it doesn’t have the power of radio. It’s supposed to make you feel something. My job isn’t to shock people – because I think what you see on TV every night is shocking. “

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As part of Sydney’s Vivid Lights Festival, Ken Done’s artwork flies with the flow as it is projected onto Customs House. Photo: Carrie Earl/The Guardian

As a culture, we have forgotten how to play, he said. In his work for Vivid, pastel drawings give way to paintings depicting a day in city life, in his words, “on the beach, on the water, under water”. He has previously created art on a large scale, most notably for the Sydney Olympics. But for the first time, thanks to his collaborator Spinifex Group, his paintings drift, float and move when projected onto the Customs House.

“It’s amazing to show your work on such a large scale and animate parts of it,” says Done, whose daughter Camilla and assistant Kyoko helped him make it happen. “My old friend James Morrison is doing music. You’ll see one of my paintings of Sydney Harbour, and somehow, a boat sails past the building. It’s so exciting.”

He wants his latest work to be understood.

“I hope [people] Learn about the fun in it,” he said. “I want them to be amazed by the amount of abstract work on display that has to do with colour – colour that changes the look of the building itself. “

In some ways, it’s still popular to see Done as a purely commercial practice, an accusation not aimed at other artists synonymous with Sydney, such as Martin Sharp or Brett Whiteley. But you can’t myth complete. He is too firm.He’s been through too much of the zeitgeist, too approachable and continue to work hard to find a new generation of audienceThere, he was at the Ken Done Gallery for Fashion Week, smiling in a speckled jacket after unveiling Romance Was Born’s new design. Again, in NSW, as part of paintings you may not have seen, a traveling exhibition begins at the Griffith Regional Art Gallery in February and ends at the Casula Powerhouse in August – for artists who come close to him For the 82nd birthday, this is an extraordinary energy output.

Ken Done and models backstage at the Romance Was Born show at Australian Fashion Week 2022
Ken Done poses with models backstage at the Romance Was Born show at Australian Fashion Week 2022. Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

he too OK Masculine, yes, but not masculine. Artist fees from Vivid will be donated to charity. He has been married to his wife Judy for over 50 years. His grandchildren often join his studio.

“I’m not as good as a five-year-old,” Done said. “I’ll never be as good as a five-year-old.”

Complete Asking My Creative Life With True Curiosity. When I asked this prostate cancer survivor what he wanted to do in the next ten years, he answered very seriously.

“The best part of this question is the word decade,” he said. “I want at least another ten years before my bum falls off.”

He laughed. “And I want to be better at what I do.”

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