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Ann Thomson at S.H. Ervin Gallery

— Sunday 3rd March 2024

Ann Thom yellow door
Ann Thomson's survey exhibition at the National Trust's S.H. Ervin Gallery on Observatory Hill in Sydney ends on Sunday 3 March 2024.

Physical exuberance is innate to her, and it is expressed more strongly than ever in her recent work. Her feeling for pulse and rhythm, for irrepressible physical energies projected into space, imbues her pictorial conceptions with a great vivacity.”

Terence Maloon, curator

Ann Thomson is a major survey exhibition of one of Sydney’s most important artists, curated by Terence Maloon, former Director of the Drill Hall Gallery, and comprises key works created over the past two decades.

Born in Queensland in 1933, she was genteelly raised as the daughter of a prominent Brisbane bookseller and given plenty of leeway to express her natural physical exuberance. While a student at Somerville House, all of her art teachers (Caroline Barker, Patricia Prentice, June Meek, Betty Churcher) were practicing artists; not only role models for their young pupil, they also recognised Ann’s talent and encouraged her to consider art as her life’s pursuit.

In Anna Johnson’s 2012 monograph on Ann Thomson there is a photograph of the high-spirited teenage Ann leaping down the side of a sand dune. Such vigour also has come to define her painting idiom, an idiom that has never stood still, never lost its momentum or intensity, and has grown more robust and fearless with the passing years.

The French painter Jean Bazaine believed that painters were born old and only achieved the quality of youthfulness as a reward for the devotion of their labours: “Youthfulness in painting is slowly attained. It is granted as a reward to the old-timers who merit it. You need to drink long and deeply of the milk of life before it starts to go to your head” (quote from Le temps de la peinture).

Ann Thomson’s extraordinary achievement over the last decade and a half is to “lose herself in the throes of creation”, however she also manages to regain and re-impose her composure and clarity quite infallibly, seeming to land true every time, apparently with the minimum of struggle and effort. “Painting is composition”, she says matter-of-factly, and what we witness in her work is composing-in-action performed by an inveterate and virtuosic improviser. She would certainly qualify as a young artist according to Bazaine’s criteria. In fact, it was around 2008 that one began to notice the signs of change taking place in her work as it grew wilder, freer and stronger. Not just that: these paintings were resoundingly well resolved and unified, impressive not only in their vigour, but in their abundant surprise and delight. According to special guest curator Terence Maloon, Ann’s paintings are younger than ever. This survey exhibition presents works that convey her feeling for pulse and rhythm, for dynamic energy unleashed into space, alongside key antecedent works that show its genesis.

Special guest curator: Terence Maloon.

A comprehensive catalogue with essays by Terence Maloon and Joanna Capon is available here.

The exhibition is presented in association with Defiance Gallery, Sydney and will tour to Orange Regional Gallery in late 2024.

For more information, click here to visit S.H. Ervin's website.

To read John McDonald's Sydney Morning Herald review of the Ann Thomson exhibition at S.H. Ervin, click here.

To read Elizabeth Fortescue's review of the exhibition in the Australian Financial Review, click here

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.