Man Warren obituary


At a cocktail party in 1985, the Australian artist Man Warren, who has died aged 103, was requested by a fellow visitor whether or not he had ever entered his work for the Archibald prize, Australia’s premier portrait award. “Oh God no,” he replied. “No one goes in for that. The trustees wouldn’t know a superb portray if it fell on them.”

His good friend and host, the sculptor Bert Flugelman (“He might have had yet another glass of purple than me,” Warren recalled in an interview for the College of Wollongong Library in 2017) issued a problem. The 2 males would paint one another and enter the outcomes for the Archibald. Warren’s image, known as Flugelman With Wingman, gained. “For as soon as the judges made an extremely perceptive and clever choice,” Warren deadpanned. “Good for them.” With the prize cash, Warren may lastly afford to color full time, on the age of 64.

It was almost 40 years since he had graduated from the East Sydney Technical Faculty (now the Nationwide Artwork Faculty), below a scheme for demobbed veterans. From 1941 to 1946, Warren had served within the Australian military, partly in New Guinea. Whereas there, he met Joyce Carney, an Englishwoman working as a secretary to an officer. In 1950, shortly after Warren’s commencement, he and Carney, generally known as Pleasure, married and moved to London. They might keep for eight years, and their two youngsters, Paul and Joanna, have been born within the UK.

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Flugelman with Wingman, which gained the Archibald portrait prize for Warren in 1985. {Photograph}: Man Warren

The difficulty, so far as Warren was involved, was that he discovered England visually boring. “I didn’t know what I wished to color,” he stated, “however I knew I didn’t wish to paint London.” Likewise the panorama, which he thought of “very lovely however like a bloody huge park”. In desperation, he started to make photos from his recollections of New Guinea, “a really peculiar factor to do in the course of London”.

It was in direction of the top of his keep that he noticed a tv documentary about an annual competition of Papuan dancing “by some bloke who had been to the highlands of New Guinea”. Warren wrote to the BBC and requested for nonetheless pictures from the present. Just a few days later, the bloke telephoned. “He stated he made the movie,” Warren recalled, “and that his identify was David Attenborough. He invited me over for a drink and lent me a complete stack of pictures.” Photos from these have been to recur in Warren’s work for seven a long time. “They haven’t ceased, actually,” Warren stated in a Nationwide Artwork Faculty interview in 2021, when he was 100. “Listed below are some drawings from them I did a number of weeks in the past.”

By this time, Warren was among the many most outstanding residing Australian artists, the recipient of honours together with, in 1999, the medal of the Order of Australia, and in 2014, membership of the order. In addition to portray, he had had a distinguished profession as a trainer, serving to to arrange the groundbreaking Tin Sheds Arts Workshop on the College of Sydney, and performing as its director, 1973-76.

None of this had come simply. Born in Goulburn in rural New South Wales – “Chilly as buggery in winter, scorching as hell in summer season” – he was the son of Leonard, a pianist, and Edith (nee Wilkie), a violinist. Warren’s father performed the accompaniment to silent movies within the native cinema. When the boy was 11, double catastrophe struck. Australia was hit by the worldwide financial melancholy, and speaking photos arrived from America. Leonard Warren, unemployed, took his household to Sydney. “It appeared like each avenue nook had an out-of-work muso busking to earn a pittance,” his son was to recall. “Poor devils. My dad and mom actually struggled after that.”

Leaving college at 14 to assist with the household funds, he bought a job as an assistant proofreader on a newspaper known as the Bulletin. Whereas there, he was taken with the thought of turning into a cartoonist. The longsuffering artwork editor, bombarded with choices from Warren, finally dragged him to a constructing across the nook “and stated to the bloke inside: ‘Train this child to attract.’” This bloke was JS Watkins, a Paris-trained painter who was a trustee of the Artwork Gallery of New South Wales. By the point Warren signed up for the military in 1941, he was a talented draughtsman.

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Warren’s watercolour Large Yellow Rock With Figures Close to Alice, 2019. {Photograph}: Michael Bradfield/Man Warren/King Avenue Gallery

In a profession that spanned 70 years, there could be many modifications of favor in his work. Within the early 60s, again in Australia, Warren painted photos reminiscent of Kids Taking part in, The Backyard Celebration (1963), which married expressionism with figuration. House Lens, Yellow, Brown, Blue (1970) marked a transfer into Kenneth Noland-ish abstraction, though Warren stated that he at all times “wished to get again to the determine. For me, it was all about humanity and nature. Abstraction was by no means fairly sufficient.”

Maybe his most compelling physique of labor lay someplace between these two types. In work reminiscent of Stroll to the Hut (2020), Warren integrates figures into the panorama so that every appears a part of the opposite. This was how he felt about Australia, and what he had missed in England. “I react to this panorama as a result of I like the sensation of being in it,” he stated. “I identical to strolling by way of the bush. It encompasses you and also you turn into part of it.”

This closeness to the land was one thing he had recognised in tribal New Guinea, and amongst Indigenous Australians. That it expressed itself in body-painting and mark-making intrigued him, and led to works such because the sequence known as Travelling North (1989-93) by which patterns – prepare tracks, stilt homes – learn like maps.

Works from throughout Warren’s profession have been proven in an exhibition known as Genesis of a Painter: Man Warren at 95, on the SH Ervin Gallery in Sydney in 2016. Seen collectively, these revealed an curiosity within the relationship between determine and floor that had lasted for 70 years.

Pleasure died in 2011. Warren is survived by Paul and Joanna.


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