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.