The Australian Tapestry Workshop is excited to have worked with one of Australia’s greatest living artists John Olsen AO OBE for the ninth time to create Life Burst. John Olsen AO OBE is an artist who not only realises the creative potential of the tapestry medium, but also designs specifically for tapestry, following in the footsteps of some of the greatest artists in history such as Rubens & Raphael.
Life Burst has been commissioned for the new Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and will be unveiled in July 2016. The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) Project is delivering a new $1 billion facility purpose-built for cancer research, treatment, education and care. From mid-2016, the VCCC will provide a new home for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. It will also provide new cancer research and clinical services for Melbourne Health, new research facilities for The University of Melbourne and education facilities for all building partners.
Head of the design consortium is Plenary Health, builder is Grocon PCL & the architectural design team is Design Inc. and Silver Thomas Hanley in partnership with McBride Charles Ryan. The new design is to be symbolic and representative of the bringing together of these project partners, of the creation of new networks and clusters of collaboration. The building will have an imagery that is expressive of optimism and progress.
John Olsen’s design reflects the architectural rhythms of the atrium where the tapestry will be installed. John Olsen AO OBE visited the Australian Tapestry Workshop before the start of the tapestry to collaborate with the weavers on the design. The shapes in the design reflect the shapes of the atrium, and the purple with architectural design; including the carpet and glass panels of the building.
Soumak (supplementary weft) has been used to accentuate certain areas of the tapestry. The majority of the tapestry has been woven with cottons to achieve a more silken effect and a lightness and transparency in the yellows and oranges. Our yarn dyer, Tony Stefanovski created several new tones of orange for this project. John Olsen has worked with the ATW on eight previous occasions, including a private commission in 2015, Sun Over The You Beaut Country.
About the artist:
John Olsen AO OBE was born in Newcastle on 21 January 1928 and moved to Bondi Beach in Sydney with his family in 1935, which began his lifelong fascination with Sydney Harbour. He attended St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill leaving in 1943. He went to the Datillo Rubbo Art School in 1947 and from 1950 to 1953; he studied at the Julian Ashton School in Sydney, then Auburn School from 1950 to 1956. In 1957 a Sydney art critic raised funds for John Olsen to go to England and paint. He studied printmaking in Paris in 1957, followed by two years in Spain. Olsen returned to Sydney in 1960. He wanted to represent Australian culture in such a way that the world would see the wide diversity in the changing outback seasons. In 1968 Olsen set up and ran the Bakery Art School, and from 1972-73 he painted Salute to Five Bells, inspired by Kenneth Slessor's poem, which currently hangs in the Sydney Opera House.
Olsen's work has been marked by a deep engagement with the Australian landscape, and he has lived for long periods in different parts of the country and travelled widely. In 2013 he began work on his largest painting, 8 x 6 meters, on eight panels, The King Sun was hung in Collins Square in the Melbourne Docklands. The work depicts a brilliant Australian sun. He describes his work as "an exploration of the totality of landscape". In Australia's New Year's Honours of 1977 Olsen was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and in the Australia Day Honours of 2001 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. He was awarded the Centenary Medal on 1 January 2001. He won the 2005 Archibald Prize for his portrait Self Portrait Janus Faced.