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Our Knowing and Not Knowing: Helen Maudsley

2 Dec 2017
17 Nov - 12 Mar 2018

Curated by National Gallery of Victoria contemporary art curator Pip Wallis, Our Knowing and Not Knowing: Helen Maudsley is one of four summer solo shows on the third floor of the NGV Australia, including Louise Paramour, Mel O'Callaghan and Del Kathryn Barton

Born in 1927, and coming of age when Australian painters were increasingly engaged with European avant-garde and modernist art, Maudsley has had a practice spanning seven decades. Yet her art defies easy categorisation in terms of the artistic scenes from which she emerged. It displays none of the overt influence that Melbourne's psychoanalytic figures Clara Geroe and Reg Ellery had on Maudsley's peers, as seen in the affected and moody pictures of Albert Tucker. Nor are there the urban and social obsessions of her late husband John Brack, or the nationalism of such Antipodeans as Sidney Nolan.

There are, however, echoes of European modernism throughout her work. There's the presence of Giorgio de Chirico's metaphysical painting in her use of oft-repeated decontextualised motifs and figures throughout her painting (vases, hands, glasses, shoes, columns, letters). This is seen, for example, in the urban-like architectural–scapes of The Not Knowing. Each one there; difference. Your experience of Me, is not Me. My experience of You, is not You (2014). There are also Surrealist references and uses of futurist hues and 'lines of force' such as in Other than. Not to be Got. Heads that are Different, Contained (2013). Also prominent in Maudsley's practice is the Cubist and post-Cubist space that forms the basic building blocks of almost all the works on display. These works also display a strong sense of composition that clearly has its origin in drawing (which the exhibition provides three examples of).

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