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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.

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George Duncan

In their own words

Recorded 1965

George Duncan
Audio: 2 minutes

In my works, I’m searching for something that’s not specifically stated, something that in landscape or in figure work becomes a part of landscape that we’re not always aware of, or the part of the people that I’m trying to express in my paintings. It becomes something that’s a passing thing that people are not quite aware of themselves.

I’ve always been interested in the elemental in art and in Australia with the background of Aboriginals. We find that many artists have expressed themselves in various ways on what should be the expression of the Australian beginnings, which is the Aboriginals. But I search for the elemental thing, the depths of their past, the feeling of them living in this country and so forth. But further than that, I do find in the Australian bush there is the spirit of the elemental. One can feel it. You’re aware of it when you go silently into it.

When I am approaching painting of a landscape, I firstly am aware of my subject. I want to know more of it. I walk into it. I must walk around and round all those trees and into the distance and the space that fills them, to listen, to find that feeling that’s vibrating, so as I can set it down in the spirit of that thing which I think is the essence that I should express.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of George Duncan 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.

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George Duncan

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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