The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne
Swanston Street  
Exhibition 13 February – 27 April 2008

Download PDF: Dale Hickey Catalogue  

Download PDF: Review of ‘Dale Hickey: Life in a Box’, Eyeline 66

Dale Hickey: Life in a Box
Dale Hickey commenced exhibiting in the mid-1960s and was included in the seminal exhibition The field, which marked the opening of the new National Gallery of Victoria in 1968. Today he is one of Australia’s most highly regarded painters. Dale Hickey also has a formidable reputation as a teacher, and for over twenty-five years until 1989 was involved in the training of many of Australia’s leading artists. Over this period, the relevance of painting to contemporary art practice was constantly under question. Hickey painted as he taught, constantly searching for new ways to define his own space.    Life in a Box concentrates on paintings completed since the early 1980s, focusing on the immediate confines of the artist’s studio and the objects within it. There is a continual reworking and rearranging of a range of items—easel, trestle table, canvas, auto-tray and many smaller objects—presented frontally and stacked within a shallow stage-like space. The viewer is given little breathing room and we are drawn into this claustrophobic space. Within these paintings there is  an ambiguous play between the actual painting stretcher and the depiction of the studio on that canvas surface. These beguiling shifts between object and image set up a dynamic confrontation with the viewer.    The paintings are normally untitled and produced in series. Up to three from each series have been selected for this exhibition, with one from each series configured differently in each room—thus highlighting the shifts in pictorial space and the way in which the viewer is catapulted into an engagement with it. The works are punctuated with selected earlier works in which that frontality is pre-empted, as in the late 1960s reductive abstractions of domestic grids or the patterned Cottlesbridge landscapes; alternatively there is a detailed analysis of conventional illusionism through the genre of the still-life tableau. 

Paul Zika, guest curator