Alun Leach-Jones tribute by Victorian College of the Arts Director Professor Jon Cattapan

Vale Alun Leach-Jones, distinguished painter and VCA alumnus

VCA Director Professor Jon Cattapan remembers one of Australia’s great abstract artists.

By Professor Jon Cattapan, Director, Victorian College of the Arts

On 24 December 2017, distinguished alumnus artist Alun Leach-Jones passed away.

Alun was born in Maghull, Lancashire in 1937, and moved to Wales at a very young age. He trained initially in manuscript illumination in Liverpool and arrived in Australia in 1960. He studied printmaking at the then South Australian School of Art under Udo Sellbach before relocating to London from 1964–65.

He returned to Australia and settled in Melbourne in 1966. In 1971, Leach-Jones received a Master Diploma from National Gallery School in Melbourne and was appointed by Lenton Parr to teach painting at the Victorian College of the Arts from 1972–1976, before moving to Sydney in 1977.

While completely single-minded and rigorous in his own formal abstract explorations, Alun was by all accounts an inspiring and generous teacher. He taught many distinguished alumni, and his former student Doug Hall AM (former Director of Queensland Art Gallery), sums Alun up perfectly:

I’d been warned before I arrived into Alun’s painting classes in 1973 that this belligerent doctrinaire was all cotton duck, Liquitex and masking tape. Nothing was further from the truth. He took a keen interest in my painterly recklessness and his counsel was always about making what I wanted to do work better. After a year in painting I transferred to printmaking. My report card from Alun simply stated, ‘he showed so much promise … but alas, like the morning dew’. Not only was his art important, but I’d like to think his internationalist outlook and teaching diminished the prospect of yet more figurative Australian mythic hero painting getting a second chance.

Alun was simply one of Australia’s most significant abstract artists. He was a much-lauded exemplar of geometric abstraction in Australia and was represented in the important exhibition The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968, and the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1969. Survey exhibitions of his work were held in India (1974), Germany (1981), Wales (1992) and at regional galleries in Victoria and New South Wales. In total, he held over eighty solo exhibitions.

He is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, most state galleries and internationally in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the British Museum, London.

Vale Alun Leach-Jones, distinguished Australian painter and VCA alumnus.

Banner image: Alun Leach-Jones, Music Colours (2017), acrylic on board. Exhibited at the Victorian College of the Arts’ 9 X 5 NOW Exhibition (2017) at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery.