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George Foxhill

Self Portraits

Saturday 25 November 2006 until Sunday 8 April 2007

Foxhill's portraits are more concerned with describing an emotional and psychological state than the surface topography of the human face. These paintings highlight how simple and complex a portrait can be. Foxhill's ambition in these works is to understand himself by depicting the tensions of human existence as expressed in one life. Foxhill's self portraits somehow reconcile a savage approach and a tender, sensitive effect.

Self Portrait with fruit, 2004
Self Portrait with fruit, 2004

George Foxhill’s paintings somehow reconcile a savage approach and a tender effect. This is particularly evident in this small group of self-portraits.

Foxhill, now 85 years old, is a long time Canberra resident. He studied art in his native Austria, attending the Kunstegewerbeschule and the Volkshochschule in Salzburg after the war. He responded to the expressionist legacy of the city and the hardship and rude vigour of the times. With his wife Rosa he migrated to Australia in 1956 and moved into his house in what is now the inner city suburb of Dickson when it was a first established in 1958. There was little encouragement for the arts in those days and Canberra in particular was culturally arid. Foxhill’s strength of purpose and belief in himself carried him though until he gained a belated recognition in the 1980s.

Foxhill’s work shows affinities with Austrian expressionists like Oskar Kokoschka, whom he met in his youth. Foxhill’s portraits are more concerned with describing an emotional and psychological state than the surface topography of the human face. His ambition in these works is to understand himself, to depict the tensions of human existence as expressed in one life.

In his paintings Foxhill characteristically applies a broad-brush technique, using simple compositions and basic forms with strong symbolic references that nonetheless generate a powerful visual energy. For Foxhill, the aesthetic is less important than the power to move the viewer.

While he often affects a sombre and melancholic atmosphere as a means of expressing the anxiety and profundities of contemporary life, Foxhill is not a pessimist. He paints to reveal the inner man and reconcile an innate brutality with a gentle humanity. He records the tender tragedies of everyday life.

Michael Desmond
Curator