Since its establishment in 1984, the Charles Nodrum Gallery’s exhibition program embraces a diversity of media and styles - from painting, sculpture & works on paper to graphics and photography; from figurative, geometric, gestural, surrealist & social comment to installation & conceptually based work.
— Biography of Edwin Tanner
Born in Wales in 1920, Edwin Tanner emigrated to Australia with his family as a child and settled in Port Kembla, NSW. His technical and mathematical skills were quickly noted and he graduated in Engineering in 1944. He worked in the field for many years, including as Engineer-in-Charge of Tasmania’s Hydro-Electric Commission. In 1951, at age 31, he began night classes in Fine Art at Hobart Technical College, exhibiting his first works with the Contemporary Art Society in Sydney and Melbourne in 1954. Throughout the mid-1950s he also completed studies in English, Philosophy, Logic, Scientific Method, History, Maths, and Applied Physics – all of which feed into the nature and subject matter of his art throughout the rest of his career.
In 1954 the National Gallery of Victoria acquired their first work of Tanner’s which generated controversy amongst the Public Service who took offence at the artist’s depiction of their profession; and in 1957 the artist produced works relating to the scandal of Professor Orr.
These early oil paintings, often likened to those of his contemporary John Brack, are characterised by a muted palette, elongated figures, and a dry and wry sense of humour taken toward the subject matter – usually of an engineering nature. In the 1960s, the work became more abstract and incorporated collage, often involving multiple elements on an elaborately constructed support. And in the 1970s the work moved into large canvases with precisely painted geometric line work.
Tanner held exhibitions at numerous prominent galleries until his death in 1980, including the Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne, Rudy Komon in Sydney, Bonython Gallery in Adelaide and Powell Street in Melbourne.
Major retrospective exhibitions were held at The Age Gallery in Melbourne in 1976, at Monash University Gallery in 1990, and at TarraWarra Museum of Modern Art in 2018.
Anthony Fitzpatrick, 2018: "The common thread throughout [contemporary commentary on Tanner] is of a fiercely independent artist who escapes straightforward categorisation, who doesn’t fit neatly into any particular genre or stylistic tendency. To understand how Tanner assumed this unique status it is necessary to explore his rich and complex personal history which is inextricably entwined with his artistic career. What most characterises Tanner’s oeuvre is the overt and persistent autobiographical current running through his artistic output.”
Jenepher Duncan, 1990: “A late CV of Edwin Tanner lists, after his six professional qualifications (not including three for Carpentry and Joinery), his various lives as ‘Consulting Engineer, Painter, Poet, Philosopher, and Writer of Short Stories.’ These are followed by the description ‘At various times Champion Track Cyclist, Champion Marksman, A Grade Cricketer and Civil Pilot’ – a total of nine identified lives. Tanner’s art has always been approached with due regard to these achievements, existences, interests, possibly because Tanner himself made constant reference to them but also because these sources formed the fabric of his art.”