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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Brett Whiteley

In their own words

Recorded 1970

Brett Whiteley
Audio: 2 minutes

It’s impossible to talk about art because I’ve always taken it for granted. I’ve always understood, basically, that I used to be something else, that I’m a continuation of a particular kind of thread of human spirit, that the only thing that I’m involved in is the notion of interpreting time, in a sense that I’m alive. That the spirit will continue and it’ll be the same as what it was, and various painters have given their flash at it and that in a summary is basically what I’m doing. Along with that, is like, the immense sense of the requirement towards survival so one gets more interested in the capacity for power, or in the various ways that can be appropriated. And that art has to follow that, has to employ it, if it’s of any value.

There’s no such a thing as Australian art because there’s probably no such a thing as Australia. There’s a kind of ancient piece of immense and interesting and very strange land, which has had a few people come down on it and in a very surreal way started a kind of sensual civilisation. It’s got to a kind of point where we’re suffering like the rest of the world with a kind of paralysis of confidence.

I think that humankind are trying to force and press open a new area of brain think – a capacity to sense, a broader knowing. In order to do that we’re going to have in God’s, or in the puzzle’s term, some sort of a major reckoning up. We’ve got death absolutely in our hands, a complete capacity to bang it out, and we’re trying to force open this newer channel. I see, to a certain degree, that I along with numbers of other individuals, are trying to, you know, cause inside their own pressure, that breaking through, that kind of time. I mean, there’s immense relaxation inside it, but there’s also like the heat towards want, the necessity of the mystery of life, of the system of life, which is always, like, come and go. (Laughs)

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Brett Whiteley is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Related people

Brett Whiteley

Related information

Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980

Listomania

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2013

Sarah Engledow describes the fall-out once Brett Whiteley stuck Patrick White’s list of his loves and hates onto his great portrait of the writer.

Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980

White Whiteley

The portrait of Patrick White by Brett Whiteley

Previous exhibition, 2012

Eleven works by Brett Whiteley, centred around his scintillating 'Patrick White at Centennial Park 1979-1980'.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency