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David G. RANKIN (b.1946)

David Rankin is a self-taught Australian artist who is now based in New York USA. He was born in Plymouth in Devon, England in 1946, arriving in Australia in 1948 after his parents migrated to New South Wales. Growing up in Port Hacking, and in country New South Wales in Riverina towns such as Wagga Wagga and Hay, Rankin absorbed many ideas about his art from the outback. A sense of place has always been most important to him.

Training as a teacher in the 1960s required David Rankin to complete a two-year bond and so he taught at Bourke Primary School in 1966 to 1967. Strongly influenced by his outback surroundings and the isolation of the location in south-west New South Wales, Rankin began to paint. He held his first solo show at Watters Gallery in Sydney in 1968. He was just 22.

In Sydney in the 1970s, Rankin founded Port Jackson Press Australia, which soon became the pre-eminent national publishing house of fine art prints. His career as an artist also blossomed and he held frequent solo and group exhibitions. In these years, Rankin employed elliptical forms in his art; a highlight was being given a residency at Macquarie University studio in Talavera Road. The road gave its name to the artist’s “Talavera Series” - paintings of works from this time and place, which utilised an earthy palette and oriental influences. “Back of Talavera Road I and II” were acquired for the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Other diverse influences have included the art of, Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Klee and abstract expressionists, as well as indigenous Australian art and the philosophical concepts of Buddhism and Asian mysticism. “We aspire and therefore we are spiritual,” says Rankin himself. *

Loose brushstrokes, texture, colour used to express his own inner thoughts and emotions…all these characterise Rankin’s highly individual style.

He has been widely praised for the power and insight of his art, having been awarded Australia’s most widely recognised award for landscape painting, the Wynne Prize in 1983 as well as the Fremantle Print Award in Western Australia. From 1984 to 1985, Rankin was commissioned by the Victorian Arts Centre and completed his diptych, “The Scorched Earth”. In 1985, Rankin was also shown in “Four Australian Artists” at Crane Kalman Gallery in London together with Rick Amor, Clifton Pugh, and Andrew Southall. In being offered a major UNESCO commission in 1987, Rankin chose to paint “Walls of China - Lake Mungo”, engaging with the ancient environment of the world-famous dry lake of south-western New South Wales. It is the central feature of the Mungo National Park.

Married and widowed by 1979, David had a young child, his daughter Jessica, when he met and married the writer Lily Brett in 1981. In the early 1980s, he illustrated several of Brett’s books about the Holocaust. In 1989, Rankin left Australia for New York, settling there with Lily Brett. His painting of her, “The Black Coat” is displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

In explaining why, he made the move to America, Rankin said,”… to grow and challenge myself. To make big mistakes and not feel like there is an audience around me who had built up expectations of who I was and what my work was.” **

Darkness has been another theme in Rankin’s story, seen in his contemplation of personal experiences in his Golgotha series amongst others, and in his response to the tragic fire in 1997, which saw his New York studio, art works and many personal possessions destroyed. Since then, he has rebuilt and been widely celebrated, notably in a touring exhibition of his work held in Australia in 2005 – 2006.

David Rankin’s art has been shown in more than one hundred exhibitions globally including in New York, London, Beijing, Cologne, Mexico, Berlin and Paris as well as across Australia. Leading galleries around the world hold Rankin’s work including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra ACT; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Victoria; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney News South Wales; Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo Victoria; Holmes a Court Gallery; as well as many private collections both in Australia and overseas.

* John Saxby “Spiritual release that’s been decades in the making” Sydney Morning Herald review of Dore Ashton monograph/David Rankin retrospective 9 July 2013.

** IBID Saxby Sydney Morning Herald.

by Wordmakers 2018.


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