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 Stacha Halpern
Born in Zolkiev, Poland (now Ukraine) in 1919, Halpern studied fine art in Lvov before the Nazi invasion, when he immigrated to Perth with his brothers before moving to Melbourne. Throughout the 1940s he practiced pottery, meeting Arthur Boyd at Murrumbeena, working at Greenways, and later setting up his own pottery studio in Beaumaris. In the late 40s he attended the George Bell School part time (with Fred Williams and Leonard French) and briefly studied sculpture at RMIT before travelling to Europe in 1951. He worked at the Abbey Arts Centre near London (where James Gleeson and Robert Klippel had been also) and in Tourettes-sur-Loup in Provence (where Peter Kaiser and Sam Atyeo were living at the time) before setting up a studio in Paris.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s he exhibited regularly and successfully in Paris, whose contemporary art scene accepted him. His abstracted compositions of landscapes, seascapes, portraits and carcasses, with their opulently textured surfaces and relatively restrained palette, had an affinity with the leading London trio of Jewish artists; Kossof, Freud and Awerbach, and earned the notice of some influential critics. He established a small but faithful following and held further successful exhibitions in Lausanne, Milan, Rome and Copenhagen.
In 1966 he returned to Melbourne and settled in Hampton where he continued to paint and produce pottery until his untimely death in 1969.
In 1970 the National Gallery of Victoria held a retrospective of his work; in 1971 Powell Street Gallery in Melbourne held concurrent exhibitions of his pottery and painting; in 1986 Tolarno Galleries held an exhibition of his painting; and in 1993 a survey exhibition toured Penrith Regional, Shepparton Art Galleries and Charles Nodrum Gallery. In 1999 Charles Nodrum held another survey exhibition ‘Canvas, Paper, Clay’.
James Mollison, former Director of the National Gallery of Australia, said of Halpern: “He is one of the sleepers in Australian art. He died before the adventurous buyers discovered him and his work has been barely seen since his death. He is one of the finest ceramicists Australia has ever produced. His painting and sculpture never got recognition it deserved because it ran against the aesthetics of the time. ”