The Power of Spring

The Power of Spring
Abstraction—Création: J.W. Power in Europe now in its final weeks
10 October 2014

We are well into Spring now which in Canberra means Floriade, thousands of visitors and even more daffodils, pansies and tulips. However, I can guarantee, you won’t to see anything like this in the flower beds of Commonwealth Park …

 

J.W. Power (1881–1943), Flower in Parenthesis  1934, oil and egg tempera on wood; Edith Power Bequest 1961 © The University of Sydney, managed by Museum of Contemporary Art

This painting, Flower in parenthesis, is by the mysterious J.W. Power (1881-1943), arguably Australia's best, yet surprisingly unknown expatriate avant-garde artist of the interwar years.

And if you're one of those people who prefer the beach to gardens and flowers when the warmer weather comes … Power's got you covered there as well.

J.W. Power (1881–1943), Seaside still life  1926, oil on canvas; 50.6 x 76.5 cm, Edith Power Bequest 1961 © The University of Sydney, managed by Museum of Contemporary Art

To see these works, and many more, just take a short 15 minute walk across the lake from Floriade to the National Library of Australia. These works are part of an exhibition called Abstraction–Création: J.W. Power in Europe 1921–1938 which brings together Power’s paintings from the University of Sydney and his sketchbooks held by the Library.

Power is probably best known for his generous bequest to the University of Sydney which led to the formation of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. However he was also an accomplished painter and art theorist. Power trained under Fernand Léger, exhibited in some of the top avant-garde galleries of London and Paris during the 1920s and 30s and was part of the Abstraction–Création group (a collective of prominent European abstract painters).

One of the highlights of the exhibition includes a unique recreation of the show he held at Abstraction–Création’s Parisian gallery in 1934. Curators, Ann Stephen and Andrew Donaldson of the University of Sydney, were able to piece together the show thanks to the discovery of this unique floor plan which includes Power’s hand painted 'thumbnails' of the works on display.

J.W. Power (1881–1943), Plan de l'exposition  1934, gouache, pencil and ink on paper; Edith Power Bequest 1961 © The University of Sydney, managed by Museum of Contemporary Art

Floriade may finish up this weekend, but don't fear, there are a few more weeks to see J.W. Power’s take on florae. Abstraction–Création: J.W. Power in Europe 1921–1938 is on at the National Library of Australia until Sunday 26 October.