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John Brack

In their own words

Recorded 1962

John Brack
Audio: 2 minutes

I always paint without a model, because being a conceptual painter, being a painter whose interest is in ideas, the model gets in the road, prevents me from meditating about it in such a way that I’m absorbed by hosts of visual details instead of by the idea. What I’m interested in in painting is people, of course, principally, how they live, how they behave, how they get the faces they deserve, how they can bear to put up with a life which seems so curiously tragic.

Of course I know that to be interested in people’s behaviour for a painter is most impure. It’s called literary, and in our day nothing could be a greater sin than to be a literary painter; but now I’m old enough to feel that it’s a waste of time to apologise for not painting in some other way, and the fact is that I’m still always fascinated by people and their behaviour. And yet at the same time, it’s not enough to just paint pictures of ideas; at the same time we must put it into a visual form which is as complete as any abstract visual form. And here, there’s always a conflict between the demands of the idea and the demands of the form.

And in any case, I’m always dubious about the remarks painters make about their own work, because what we so often say is rather what we would like to have done than what we’ve really done.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of John Brack is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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John Brack

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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