Art: Guy Warren

  • John McDonald

AGE 96

LIVES GREENWICH, NSW

REPRESENTED BY KING STREET GALLERY ON WILLIAM, SYDNEY; NICHOLAS THOMPSON GALLERY, MELBOURNE

His thing Works on paper, landscapes, abstracts, memories.

Our take Guy Warren is an institution in Australian art. Loved and respected by his peers, he is a much underrated artist who has never been inclined to push himself forward. Warren served in the AIF during World War II and went on to study at the National Art School. During his long career, his work has been acquired by all the major Australian museums. In 1985, he won the Archibald Prize for a portrait of sculptor Bert Flugelman. Now in his 90s, but with an eternally youthful outlook, Warren is still working with great vigour. His show at Sydney’s King Street on William – a survey selected by younger artist Luke Sciberras – brings together a range of works on paper. There are vivid watercolour landscapes such as High Pastures (2013), and more minimal pieces. Emu nest Tibooburra (2016), for instance, is a mixture of watery smudges and thin, spidery lines on white paper. The idea is to convey an impression of dazzling heat. Track to the hut on the hill (2004) is an experiment in colour, with contrasts of turquoise and ochre.

Can I afford it? The smaller drawings in this show are priced at $2200, the larger watercolours at $4800. This is ridiculously cheap for an artist of Warren’s standing. One could pay a whole lot more for a picture with only decorative value by a fl ashy nonentity. The record price paid at auction for a work of Warren’s is a mere $18,000, for Wingman and Mountain, sold at Sotheby’s in 2007. It should soon be broken.

Why so cheap? The relatively low prices for a senior artist are a particular feature of the Australian scene. It’s a perennial source of dismay for artists and dealers, but a great opportunity for new buyers. This is bound to change as we become part of a globalised art market.

Where can I have a squiz? In Sydney, King Street Gallery on William has an exhibition until February 24. In Melbourne, Nicholas Thompson Gallery stocks his work.