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James Gleeson

In their own words

Recorded 1962

James Gleeson
Audio: 2 minutes

Sometime in the thirties, I can’t quite remember when, I began to see some very small black and white reproductions of the first surrealist shows in Europe; they just began to trickle out in magazines and articles, and a friend in London sent out something about it, a catalogue with some photographs, and from that moment on I knew this was the sort of art that really fascinated me, something that opened up a world of the imagination and got away from the sort of surface realities of life, which even at that stage I felt to be only a superficial part of life. With this new vision of what reality could mean, I began to become really seriously interested in art.

That was my first real understanding of the significance of art as a way of coming to grips with life, of understanding life; and that I think is the essential meaning of art. I don’t feel it’s a way of decorating a room, certainly not for an artist at any rate, it’s a way of coming to grips with reality, a way of getting to know what you yourself are like or what the world around you is like. And it seemed to me that surrealism, as a theory at any rate, offered enormous scope, and I felt that with the Surrealists, that the world of seeming – of things as they seem to be – was not the true world at all; that in the subconscious mind there were all sorts of images, ideas which were a part of reality, and, as a painter, I tried to express this subconscious material, or some of the images from it, at any rate.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of James Gleeson 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.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

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James Gleeson

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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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