Books, Art, & Visual Culture

Articles

Writing and design by Melissa Hill, graphic designer.

Rediscovering Ken Done

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve never thought much about Ken Done. His name is synonymous with smiley koalas, cutesy sunshines, and frankly hideous sweatshirts. However, after seeing a couple of his recent paintings in the Wynne and Sulman prizes, I thought that I was probably being unfair and I should probably check out what he’s been doing since the 80s.

Happily, I’ve discovered that in addition to numerous depictions of the Sydney Opera House, Done has created a body of work that covers land and sea, nudes and still lifes. Almost aggressive in its ebullience, his work is still a riot of colour but the palettes are more harmonious than the cheesy primary-hued, koala-strewn tea towels that are burnt into my brain. I especially appreciate his depictions of coral reefs, some of which are almost what you’d expect from a fusion of Monet and Derain. The intensity of the joyous colours really does make each work feel like a celebration. Many of his pieces contain figures that are very evocative of Matisse – the influence of Fauvism is clear… and since Fauvism is also one of my major influences, I can’t help but warm to him. Also, sorry to keep comparing things to other things, but Done’s “Blue Day” reminds me a lot of my favourite Brett Whiteley painting, “The Balcony 2”. Of course, Done’s version is just a tad more colourful.

 
Emily and Michael’s Place 1, by Ken Done

Emily and Michael’s Place 1, by Ken Done

 
Figures on the Beach, by Ken Done

Figures on the Beach, by Ken Done

 
January Reef, by Ken Done

January Reef, by Ken Done

 
Reef 1, by Ken Done

Reef 1, by Ken Done

 
The Window at Fez, by Ken Done

The Window at Fez, by Ken Done

 
Violet Coral Head, by Ken Done

Violet Coral Head, by Ken Done

 
Walking at Lake Eyre, by Ken Done

Walking at Lake Eyre, by Ken Done

 
Blue Day, by Ken Done

Blue Day, by Ken Done