Monthly Archives: November 2018

Ken Done is back, like it or not 

Photo by John Donegan It’s a peculiar irony of Australia’s art scene that commercial success is so often inversely proportional to critical acclaim. Bryce Courtenay sold millions of books but was snubbed by the literary elite; Kylie Minogue was dismissed as a singing budgie despite her platinum record sales. And Ken Done, probably Australia’s best-known and biggest-selling living painter, has only now, at 72, begun to enjoy the recognition as a serious artist that has eluded him for most of his three-decade career.
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In a sense it’s a third act of an artistic career that started with a bang in 1980, when the ad man-turned-painter burst onto the scene with a series of bright, bold and joyous canvases and some eye-catching promotional T-shirts.

Soon, Done’s trademark brushstrokes were emblazoned on everything from pillowcases to placemats, and sold through 15 Ken Done shops around the world.

By the mid-1990s, his global sales had swelled to a reported $50 million a year. Then came the inevitable backlash, when his work was spurned by the public as well as the art establishment. As the 21st century dawned, Done began dismantling his merchandising empire, retreating to his studio in Sydney’s Rocks to paint in peace.

Which is where I find him today. Things are just settling down for Done, after a tumultuous two years, in which he battled prostate cancer, sued the Commonwealth Bank and produced his most acclaimed exhibition to date.

He’s in a philosophical mood as he contemplates the next phase in his extraordinary career.

“As a painter, you always have to be optimistic, and what drives you is the desire to just get better and explore new things. I hope that my final stage is a long one and is just about beautiful things, beautiful colour and things you want to continue to look at.”

Done’s eye for beautiful things goes back to his idyllic early childhood on the Clarence River in northern NSW. An only child, he developed a love of drawing. When the family moved to Sydney, he started Saturday-morning art classes and, showing a prodigious talent, left high school at 14 to study at the National Art School in East Sydney.

For the next 4½ years he honed his craft in the studio, studying under esteemed artists, including John Passmore and Lyndon Dadswell. The colour and movement of Sydney Harbour that Done saw each morning travelling to classes by ferry would prove an enduring inspiration.

Even then, Done wasn’t much interested in painting what he saw, but rather what he felt, creating exuberant, evocative images with thick brushstrokes and smudged lines. It’s an approach that still informs his latest work, a series of underwater seascapes, shown at the Tweed River Art Gallery in northern NSW earlier this year. “They are not literally like what you see on a coral reef,” says Done of his Sea Gardens paintings. “But I hope they convey something of the feeling of what it’s like to be there.

“In truth, a lot of kids in primary school or kindy are very much better at this than me, better than most artists. Most of the time I think you’re trying to find that joyous feeling that you had when you were a child.”

Done had an artist’s eye but he was also a pragmatist. He got work in a commercial studio in Sydney and worked his way up to be art director for advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. His talent took him to New York and London, where he lived with his wife, Judy, and won him a Gold Lion at Cannes, but still he yearned to return to painting.

It wasn’t until he was 40 that Done gave in to his dream, renting a beachside studio in Sydney and mounting his debut exhibition at the Holdsworth Galleries. Ever the ad man, he made a dozen promotional T-shirts, screen-printed with one of his sketches, to give to the press. He was flummoxed when the T-shirts drew more attention than his paintings. “I wanted to spend my life as an artist and I had no concept of getting into the business I ended up getting into,” says Done. “The T-shirts had a drawing of Sydney Harbour Bridge on them and people liked them very much, especially the girls from Vogue.”

So began the first successful phase of Ken Done, the brand. The T-shirts led to tea towels and swimsuits. Soon, with the help of fashion designer Judy, Done’s signature brushstrokes were emblazoned on everything from golf balls and backpacks to pillowcases and coasters.

Done fever spread to Japan, Europe and the US. But while he was far better known for his placemats than his paintings, Done insists he remained an artist at heart. “It always came back to the art. I took the position that whatever you were doing, whether it was a scarf or swimwear, it should be as beautiful as you can make it.”

That wasn’t how the artistic elite saw it. As his international popularity soared, critics and fellow artists dismissed Done’s work as shallow and commercially motivated. The late Brett Whiteley once quipped, “I’d rather take methadone than Ken Done.” Until 2006, Done’s name was notably absent from the Encyclopedia of Australian Art, which lists the nation’s 1200 most influential artists. Even today his work is held by only a few public collections, including two paintings in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

Done says he was never interested in conforming to the stereotype of the starving artist or creating works that defied explanation. “The fact that I have my own gallery and it’s kind of successful might be breaking the rules a bit. But the concept of starving in your garret and people not understanding your work is not very conducive.”

But did he mind not having the full respect of his fellow artists? For the first time, his clear, confident baritone falters.

“Respect from your peers is always a pleasure because it’s coming from people who have also devoted their life to art. But, again, there will be some people who don’t like what you do or how you go about it.”

By the time he was asked to design booklets for the Sydney Olympics, Done fever was at saturation point. Suddenly a Ken Done pillowcase or backpack seemed more cliché than cool.

Done was also tiring of running a global merchandising business. He wanted to return to painting full-time and began unravelling his vast licensing and retail network, until all that remained was his gallery in The Rocks.

Away from the spotlight, he began to explore new subjects in his work. The darker tone of his paintings perhaps reflected the trials his personal life. In 2007 Done discovered a large part of his multimillion-dollar nest egg had been invested, without his knowledge, in high-risk ventures via an arm of the Commonwealth Bank. A protracted legal battle over more than $53 million in losses was finally settled out of court in mid-2011.

Just weeks later, Done learned he had prostate cancer. The news turned his world upside down, but after a radical prostatectomy, he received a clean bill of health.

The brush with mortality seemed to spark a new artistic energy, heralding in a resurgent third phase in Done’s career. In 2011, he won critical acclaim for his self-portrait, which was shortlisted for the Archibald Prize. The stripped-back image in black and yellow is a radical departure from the smiling, carefree visage people were used to.

He followed it up with a similarly sombre exhibition for the Mosman Art Gallery, titled Attack: Japanese Midget Submarines in Sydney Harbour – a series of layered, complex images of the 1942 attack that killed 21 Australian and English sailors and six Japanese submariners. The paintings received among the best reviews of Done’s career, prompting some to reconsider their take on his whole body of work.

Anne-Marie Van de Ven, curator of design and society at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, says the critical acclaim slowly coming Done’s way is “way overdue”.

“Some paintings of his are a standout and I think we should see more of them, but as a painter, I think his work is yet to come into his own,” she says.

This newfound recognition coincided with a rediscovery of Done’s work by a new generation, unconcerned with rigid definitions of what constitutes “art”. Not bad for a 72-year-old grandfather of two (with a third on the way).

Done says retirement is not on the radar. Later this year, Perth’s Linton & Kay gallery will stage a retrospective spanning 30 years of his work – the biggest since the Powerhouse Museum’s 1994 exhibition.

And he will keep on painting. “Some Australian artists, especially those getting to around my age, tend to paint the same picture over and over. Well, I don’t want to do that. I like to try to do different kind of things.”

For inspiration, Done will look to his critics, even the little ones. “In the visitors’ book in Tweed [River Gallery], a 10-year-old girl has written – and these are precisely the words – ‘Really, Ken, I can do better paintings and I’m still in primary school. Next time try harder’. I think that’s a fantastic comment,” says the artist.

“I take it to heart.”


The underwater world has always been a source of inspiration for Ken Done. Coral Head II, 2012 (pictured above)is drawn from his diving expeditions over the past two years to the coral islands of Wakatobi in Indonesia, and the tropical reefs and islands of Tonga in the South Pacific.

The paintings he produced following these trips are full of colour and teeming with life, just like the underwater gardens he discovered in the depths of the ocean.

One lucky TWR reader can win this eye-catching painting from Done’s Reef series (featured on the cover of this week’s magazine) valued at more than $2500, and a copy of The Art of Ken Done, by Janet McKenzie, signed by the artist, valued at $85.

For your chance to win, go totheweeklyreview南京夜网.au/competitionsand answer the questions before midnight on Sunday, May 12.

Coral Head II by Ken Done. Oil, crayon and gouache on paper 38.5 x 29cm. See below for how you could win this painting.

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Code of practice a dogs’ breakfast

One of Kathy Gooch’s dogs at work.VICTORIAN farmers with small teams of working dogs have unwittingly become the innocent victims of the Napthine government’s crack-down on puppy farms, according to Gippsland working dog breeder Kathy Gooch.
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In 2012, amendments to the Domestic Animals Act 1994 prescribed that anyone with more than two fertile bitches and who sells pups needs to register as a ‘domestic animal business’ with their local authority.

Registration as a domestic animal business requires compliance with the Code of Practice for the Operation of Breeding and Rearing Establishments.

Mrs Gooch said many Victorian farmers who had working dogs were likely to have more than two fertile bitches in their teams. She said many of these farmers would also breed the occasional litter of pups as part of their succession plans for their dogs.

These farmers now fell into the same category as puppy farmers and should register as domestic animal businesses and thereby comply with the code.

Mrs Gooch said working dogs were mentioned on only three occasions in the 30 page document in the definitions and twice in the exercise requirements section

“Obviously this was made with the idea of controlling puppy farms and nobody is arguing with that, but this is just anal, it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“The fact that you can’t use a dog for stud after they’re seven years of age is ridiculous.

“We just brought over this male Border Collie from Ireland, so I spent in total $12,000 to get this dog on the ground in Australia.

“Most working dogs don’t even come into their own until they’re six anyway.

“This is telling me that I can’t use that dog for stud after he is six years of age.

“Why? There is no logic behind it, I mean what’s the reason?

“He is just now proving himself, coming into his own, and he is fit and healthy at six.

“Most of them work until they’re 10, 11, and I can’t use him for stud.

“That bothers me.”

Among other proposed changes, males and females must not be housed or exercised together, toys must be disinfected weekly in the dishwasher and dogs may not be exercised on grass or dirt.

“You have to exercise your dogs on a surface which can be easily sterilised, disinfected and will not contain parasites, so that rules out grass and dirt, that leaves cement.

“Running on cement their legs break down, they get arthritis in their joints.

“It’s not healthy mentally or physically for dogs to be exercised on a concrete surface, so that’s ridiculous.

“The restrictions of not being able to run bitches and dogs together, doesn’t make sense at all.

“Bitches are the worst for fighting amongst each other anyway.”

Mrs Gooch said a petition would be circulated around local feed and dog supply stores, and urged people to make a submission to DEPI before the May 13 cut off date.

“It’s upsetting because they snuck this in.

“I think it was about three weeks ago we read a little tiny piece in the Stock and Land that said new draft code was going to posted on the DPI website, and it wasn’t in there at that time.

“So then the new article came out in the Stock and Land said it was up and the working dog breeders were upset about it and the new code was up.

“So we immediately looked at the code and found that we only had til May 13 to put in our submissions, so they have had a year to do this and are giving us no time to reply.

“So that’s a bit upsetting as well, and the fact that the regulatory impact statement says these working dog groups were consulted; well they weren’t.”

Mrs Gooch called for a separate working dog code, saying that most animal rights group such as RSPCA had jurisdiction to punish establishments that were mistreating animals.

“You know you have got to have some common sense come in to this, granted we do agree that there should be a code of practice for working dogs because not all working dogs are kept in the best of circumstances,” she said.

“The only thing that I will say is good in here is the fact that they require genetic testing on dogs before they are bred; that’s something I believe in.

“But as a member of the International Sheepdog Society, I am required by their code to DNA test my dogs anyway before they are bred so that’s already covered.”

Mrs Gooch said the code also required a written retirement plan for dogs aged seven years or older.

“People on farms, we are already getting the short end anyway,” she said.

“I don’t have time to sit out there and document how many times my dog poops or pees or lifts it leg or looks unhappy or whatever.

“A written retirement plan, they will have us paying superannuation for dogs soon.

“So I think it’s just bureaucracy gone mad.”

To make a submission, visit or for more information like Victorian Working Dog Owners Against 2013 DPI Code Of Practice on Facebook.

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Truancy patrol: what do you think of the $70 fine

THERE’S mixed reaction among Casey residents to Education Minister Martin Dixon’s plan to fine parents of truant children.
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State Parliament is considering a bill that would make parents liable for a $70 fine if their child is absent for five days in a year without a reasonable excuse.

When the Weekly asked shoppers their views at the Berwick Marketplace shopping centre, several pointed out that schools had a responsibility to provide an environment that encouraged students to attend.

Rosa Balisson said a $70 fine would not be enough to deter children from skipping school.

“Schools need to notify parents as soon as they are aware students are not at school.”

Gary Beckham said there was no need for a fine as it was “almost impossible” for children at private schools to wag.

“We get a call almost immediately and know if they are not at school. It’s a procedure that other schools should follow.”

Max Grenda said he had no problem with fining parents of truant children. “There needs to be great importance placed on attending school. After all, it’s better for children’s futures.”

Ivo Pippert, who admitted to wagging school in the past, questioned what would be done with the money raised

“For the process to work the money would have to be put back into schools,” he said. “Schools need to be welcoming places.”

Christine Mallinson welcomed the proposal — “kids get up get to too much mischief when they are not in school”. She said the onus was on parents to ensure their children attended school.

Mona Bourke-Kennedy said the plan would not work as there were underlying reasons why children skipped school. “It depends on what sort of teachers the students have. In some cases it’s why children are skipping school.”

Pam Viditto said schools needed to have better relationships with their students.

Victorian Education Union state secretary Meredith Peace said the plan would unfairly target already vulnerable families.

— with Catherine Watson

Should parents be fined if children wag school?

Chistine Mallinson, Berwick: ‘‘Yes, I think it’s a good idea. Parents need to ensure their children are at school.’’

Rosa Balisson, Hallam: ‘‘The fine should be more, because a lot of kids don’t care about their education.’’

Max Grenda, Harkaway: ‘‘For truant children I have no problem with it. School is just another part of life.’’

Mona Bourke-Kennedy, Berwick: ‘‘No I don’t think so. There are often underlying reasons why children skip school.’’

Gary Beckham, Emerald: ‘‘There’s no need for a fine. Most schools do a good job in letting parents know if their children aren’t at school.’’

Ivo Pippert, North Melbourne: ‘‘Schools need to be friendly places. I think fining parents would send the wrong message.’’

What do you think? Post a comment below.

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Bridge aids brain research

Dianne St Ledger, of Redland Bay, Marie Jones, of Cleveland, and Bev Tucker, of Victoria Point. Bev Hogerheyde, Trevor White and Ida Bourke of Cleveland and David Earnshaw of Ormiston enjoy the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack
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LEFT: Ida Bourke and Beb Hogerheyde, of Cleveland, take a break from play.

Stanis Davey of Wellington Point, Ann Boydell, Ria Bijker of Cleveland and Louise Nowland enjoy the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

Audrey Short, of Victoria Point, Jan Robbins, of Thornlands, and John Unger, of Victoria Point, took up the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge. Photos by Chris McCormack

Dianne Williams of Victoria Point, Kay Justice, Shirley Burgess and Danile Chua of Redland Bay enjoy the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

Joyce Slade of Wellington Point and Marti Moerke of Birkdale enjoy the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

Dianne St Ledger of Redland Bay, Marie Jones of Cleveland and Bev Tucker of Victoria Point enjoy the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

Dawn White of Capalaba is a picture of concentration in the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

Eleanor Aitken of Victoria Point and Rudi Moerke of Birkdale take part in the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

Tricia McGregor, of Thornlands, is a picture of concentration during the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.

Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

Maria Vanderkamp of Wellington Point in the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

Ivan Lam of Cleveland, Cec Tucker and Pat Back of Victoria Point and Carradine Lucas of Sheldon enjoy the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge.Photo by Chris McCormack

LOCAL bridge players have used their brain power to fight dementia and raise vital research funds.

Redland Bridge Club players took part in a special charity day last Friday with all playing fees, proceeds and donations given to Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), which is working on improving early diagnosis of dementia and developing treatments to prevent the disease altogether.

The Bridge for Brain Research Challenge is a national event, which is in its 10th year.

NeuRA CEO Professor Peter Schofield said Australians were big believers in the power of ‘use it or lose it’.

“Our national survey of attitudes to brain health shows that most people do something at least a few times a week to maintain the fitness of their brain,” he said.

“Bridge is one of those activities that keeps the mind active.”

Ros Putland, of the Redland Bridge Club, said by taking part in the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge, members were protecting their brains and supporting brain research.

“Even if we don’t win on the day, we all win in the long run,” she said.

Ann Boydell and Louise Nowland, of Cleveland.

Game on at the Bridge for Brains Research Challenge. Photo by Chris McCormack.

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Two wins from two for Wauchope

WAUCHOPE made it two wins from two starts in the Group Three Rugby League competition-proper with a bruising 34-26 victory over Old Bar in the match played at Wauchope.
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In a gripping game the Blues held out the fast finishing Pirates to continue Old Bar’s poor record at Wauchope.

However, Old Bar’s cause wasn’t helped by halfback Nathan Berry’s off day with the boot. The usually reliable Berry managed just one goal and this was significant as the Pirates fought their way back into the contest midway through the second half.

Wauchope dominated the opening half hour of the match. With captain-coach Rob Trembath and hooker Dean Hurrell heavily involved, the Blues set up camp in Old Bar’s territory and ran in 12 points in as many minutes via tries to Hurrell and centre Beau White and two goals to fullback Sam Watts.

The Blues looked to be heading for a landslide win when Trembath took a pass from his brother, Chris to crash over near the posts and Watts landed the extras to increase the advantage to 18-0.

But Old Bar gradually fought their way back.

Kyle Mundine, who alternated between fullback and centre, joined the backline from a scrum win and laid on a try for winger winger Aiden Avery. Then lock Steve Sansom took a pass from Berry to crash over and just before the break Avery was in for his second.

The teams marched off at halftime with the home side up 18-12.

Momentum continually changed in the second half. Jordan Galloway crossed for Wauchope before Mundine, who was more involved in the second section, responded for Old Bar to make it 22-16.

There was a minor altercation and referee Barry Murray gave Old Bar winger Daniel Morris 10 in the bin.

While he was cooling off Rob Trembath laid on a try for five-eighth Nick McCabe and the goal by Watts pushed Wauchope clear 28-16.

But the Pirates weren’t finished and a smart individual try by five-eighth Nathan Maher following a scrum when, where he sliced through the line and raced 50 metres put the visitors back in the game. When centre Aaron Bayley crossed and Berry finally kicked a goal, Old Bar moved within two points. The Pirates looked set to take the lead when they crossed, however, Murray correctly ruled an obstruction.The Blues finally sealed the win when a try to Chris Trembath and a goal to McCabe.

The Trembaths, typically, were strong for the Blues as was hooker Hurrell. Second rower Josh Pearsall tried hard for Old Bar while Mundine was dangerous in attack in the second half.

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