Document 1 Observations on a studio visit

REPAT + REPARTEE. Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital’s Staff Newsletter. June-July 1994 (No.6)…


A very popular topic of conversation around the Hospital at present is the gradual transformation of one of recycling and Waste Management’s battery operated vehicles, affectionately known as the “Moon Buggy.”




Return to Archive



Document 1:

 C. 4.5.1992.  (Not for reproduction)

School project after studio visit. 

To a successful living artist money is not the only measure of success.” 

Today the whole class went to the Roar Gallery to have a look at Mr Slattery’s art. He showed us his paintings. They looked very nice and beautiful. He showed us different paintings that he painted and the studio looked small because all paintings are in there….

After we finished morning tea we went to have a look at his painting in the World Congress Centre. Mr Slattery had to ask the guard at the door if we can come to have a look at his painting…We wrote some notes down and some guards were watching us and Mrs Lee saw two guards with a gun. 

Description of artist’s background as an artist. 

David Slattery was born in Melbourne in 1955. He has work in the studio at the Roar gallery in Fitzroy. He also works at Debney Park Secondary College. He didn’t go to art school. He taught himself how to paint. He likes to paint. 

Description of art-workshop conditions. 

In Mr Slattery’s art he uses a lot of shapes, (for example triangles, diamond, squares, circles) and pictures (for example houses, plants, electronic symbols, rockets, pyramids, fire, flames, water) and colour especially blue and green which is his favourite colour and red…. His work uses a lot of colours. They are very bright. The paintings are full of pictures and shapes. When we look at them our eye doesn’t stay in one spot… its moving around to see a lot of picture. Most of his paintings are very big. In Mr Slattery’s studio there is a lot of his paintings. It has not much room to walk and its very crowded because it has a lot of paintings in the studio. It has two lights from the ceiling and two windows on the side. 

What is the artist’s attitude to his paintings? 

The artist’s attitude towards his paintings is his personal satisfaction and his development as an artist. Mr Slattery started with drawing on paper and moved onto painting. He does not know exactly why it happened but found he had a keen interest and had a lot of ideas that he wanted to paint. He has been painting for the last ten years and it is only in the last few years that his work is selling. So he’s not necessarily an artist for the financial gain. He has been through many phases; from portraits, to houses on water to the current phase. He keeps his best work from each phase or simply because he likes/loves a piece. 

How does the artist judge economic success? 

The artists judge economic success can be judged in different ways. If people come to see his work and show interest in his work this is success. Of course if they actually buy a painting this can be seen as “success” on an economic level. Success can also be measured by personal satisfaction and his development as an artist. There are practical concerns like covering the cost of the studio fees, the paints, brushes and other equipment. Then there is the time he puts in. As a supplement, David teaches at Debney Park Secondary College. 

What part does technology play in the art works produced? 

There is very little technology involved in his work. The tubes of paint he buys are already mixed; it’s not like in the past where an artist had to grind powders and make the paints and colours they want. His tools are simple- brush, chalk, ruler. The canvas is a framework made from wood and canvas, some of which are bolted together to make the bigger pieces. The designs are from his imagination. He has used a computer in the past but prefers the simple interaction between him and the canvas. He will chalk in a design eg the grid in his current work and start with a shape. This shape will lead to another shape. The creation is almost dreamlike. Colour is also important. He likes blue-greens creating a feeling of water, having a relaxing effect. He doesn’t like brown or black. He likes the energy of red. In the design process he uses his judgement and intuition as an artist. He steps back to look at his creation. Finally he will finish off  the piece with varnish. He will usually spend one month painting the piece; one month looking at it and perhaps changing parts; and one month allowing it to dry. 

What part has education played in developing the artist’s skills? 

David was born in Melbourne in 1955 and has had no formal training as an artist. However, he has studied in other disciplines. He gained the Bachelor of Arts degree from Monash University in 1976 with courses in Politics, Anthropology and Philosophy and his diploma of Education from Melbourne State College in 1981. David did not go to art school to learn to be an artist. He found this more useful as an artist in the development of the thinking process. Philosophy was about ideas; Anthropology introduced him to primitive cultures where he took great interest in the energy of the symbols in their art. 

How does the artist see his work as playing a part in presenting and shaping  Australian’s views of themselves. 

He sees his work as building an image of self. He is part of a group of artists who are interested in organising a travelling exhibition interstate and hopefully internationally… Another piece completed earlier this year reflects the image of a hut on a hill he saw in the steep Gippsland hills. The huts burst out of the landscape like mushrooms or plants. They seem alien in the landscape. Yet plants have seeds and energy; their image represents a surge of creativity. The houses have things coming out of them. The shapes are weightless, creating a feeling of being in space. The shapes connect  the different works and the energy of creativity  fills the canvas…

We looked at a landscape of his in the hay cutting season represented by red hills with a yellow blanket of hay with an horizon of deep blue melding the sky and sea, with a focus of faint light which is suggestive of infinity and possibilities. David’s landscapes are abstract representations. His style is not naturalistic. His work reflects his personal interest in the Australian landscape. It is the memories and and experience of the artist that emerge, particularly his experience of the bush. He sees the Australian landscape as important and powerful. It is alive; it bends and dances. In close up plants show intricate shapes. David uses these natural shapes in his paintings to bring life and movement to the canvas. Technology is also represented by electronic circuitry symbols. They are combined on the canvas to reflect the change from and agriculture to an information based society. His work reflects a flow chart of ideas and symbols lead onto the next, where choices can be made about which direction the eye moves, whether it be to a flower, a tower or a circuit. The canvas is busy and full. The symbols are David’s language. They express his ideas; they express his “self”. We looked at some black and white works where David developed shading, the tonal techniques, creating landscapes with objects moving and growing. He used primitive symbols, images in his mind which may have been influenced by his anthropological studies. He relates to Jungian ideas of the collective unconscious where humans share ideas and symbols in common  which relate to and are recognisable by all. In them are represented destructive forces eg fire.

 Return to top