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Jan Senbergs
, 2015

by Jacqueline Mitelman

inkjet print (sheet: 51.0 cm x 56.4 cm, image: 27.8 cm x 39.8 cm)

Jan Senbergs AM (b. 1939) came to Australia from Latvia in 1950. He studied at the Melbourne School of Printing and Graphic Arts, where he was influenced by Leonard French. He taught throughout the 1960s at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; meanwhile, in 1964, he joined the stable of artists associated with the Rudy Komon Art Gallery in Sydney.

Senbergs has developed a vocabulary of seemingly sinister images of the modern industrial city, which have often been interpreted – for instance, by Bernard Smith – as ‘dreary emblems of humankind polluted materially and spiritually by the advanced technological society’. He sees himself, however, as an ‘image maker’, whose method is to paint abstract shapes, with little preconception, then unite elements from printmaking and photography with the outlines he has made.

In the mid-1970s he was the Creative Arts Fellow at ANU, and between 1977 and 1980 he made a huge anodised aluminium six-panel mural for the ‘Constitution Wall’ of the public hall of the High Court. Here he began a friendship with the architect Colin Madigan, which resulted in a collaborative exhibition documenting the sinking of the HMAS Armidale, Armidale '42 Memory and Imagination, exhibited at the National Gallery in 2000.

Senbergs is well-known for his fantastically intricate, messy drawings, including the huge quartet Kitchen at Smacka’s in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, as well as depictions of Antarctica that he made after a visit in 1987. The Art Gallery of New South Wales mounted Jan Senbergs: From screenprinter to painter in 2008, and the National Gallery of Victoria held a major retrospective of his work in 2016. Showing commercially at Melbourne’s Niagara Galleries, he is represented in all major Australian public galleries and various American institutions.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by Wayne Williams 2015
Accession number: 2015.124