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Jon PLAPP (b.1938; d.2006)

Jon Plapp was born in Williamstown in 1938. He completed his B.A. at the University of Melbourne in 1959.  In 1960 he travelled to St Louis, Missouri.  He was to complete his doctorate in Psychology at Washington University in 1967.  Whilst at Washington University, Plapp took some classes in painting and life drawing, these were to be his only ever formal studies in art.

1968 saw Plapp living in Toronto, Canada where he was to meet his lifelong partner, the sculptor and academic, Richard McMillan (1951-2017).  The two of them were to become fixtures in the social scene surrounding the David Mirvish Gallery.  It was through this gallery that Plapp became acquainted with the colour field and abstract expressionist artists Jules Olisky (1922-2007), Frank Stella (born 1936), Larry Poons (born 1937) and Jack Bush (1909-77). He was profoundly influenced by these artists and their aesthetic, so much so that he determined to become a visual artist himself.  In 1976 he was to take his first studio space which he shared with David Bolduc (1945-2010) and Paul Sloggett (born 1950).

1977 saw Plapp and McMillan settle in Sydney, Australia. They very quickly established themselves as part of the lively art scene in Sydney at the time.  By 1979 Plapp had been taken under the wing of Frank Watters who was to give him his first solo exhibition at Watters Gallery in the same year. In many ways Plapp and Watters had similar dispositions and attitudes towards life and art. Plapp was to show regularly with Watters for the rest of his life. From the 1990's he was also represented by Charles Nodrum in Melbourne, Klonaridis Gallery in Toronto, and Rosenberg Gallery in New York.

Plapp’s art practice was somewhat dictated by his Parkinson's disease which had shown its first symptoms in the early 80's. Due to the shaking which was symptomatic of the disease Plapp had to adjust his technique.  Part of his methodology included tearing his canvases into strips - using the loosened strands to..."plot right-angular arrangements of threads across the surface, securing them with tacks."*  He would also often lay his canvases on the ground - working over them with one arm steadied by the floor.  He worked in series - experimenting with different nuances to a theme until satisfied that he had exhausted all creative possibilities.

Towards the end of his career, despite the extreme shaking from his Parkinson's, he ambitiously involved the use of complex and fine lineal systems..."The monochromatic lines, some dead straight, some with a slight waver, express Plapp's human persistence and strict dedication to his art."**

Plapp was deeply respected within the professional art world by critics, curators, dealers and collectors.  In 2000 he and McMillan were granted residency at Art Gallery of New South Wales Studio at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris.  His work is held in Public and Private Collections in Australia and North America including the National Gallery of Australia, M.O.C.A., University of Toronto, University of Sydney and the New England Regional Art Museum.

Plapp had a professional career outside of his art practice. He was a psychologist in the Rivendell Child and Adolescent Unit at Concord Hospital. As noted by Terence Maloon ...."Plapp's art expressed many of the intuitive responses of the psychologist: an alertness to tone, energy of expression, meaningful silences - and the implications behind them - are the keys to the paintings as to the psychologists work of diagnosis."*** On a more practical level Plapp's professional career as a psychologist allowed him the freedom to practice his art unencumbered by considerations of having to cater to a market place. Fortunately for him his main dealer, Frank Watters, was totally sympathetic to the artist’s freedom of expression regardless of pressures to achieve sales.

Plapp was one of Australia's finest abstract painters.

“His, ostensibly severe, geometrical paintings trod the line between reticence and deep sentiment with enormous subtlety and conviction."**** As noted by John McDonald, Plapp's preference was for a ..."quiet, meditative art that inspired a lasting visual pleasure - an art that appealed to the senses rather than the intellect."***** Above all it is the, "soft, densely layered surfaces of these paintings that stand as Plapp's trademark.  No matter how closely he stuck to a composition of strict horizontals and verticals, he imparted a sensuous dimension to his canvases."******

Plapp died in 2006 - he left behind a lasting and poignant legacy. 

*  Jon Michael Plapp: biography at: Design and Art Online

**  ibid

***  ibid

****  Sebastian  Smee, Painter of Emotion Jon Plapp dies at 68, The Australian, Nov.30,2006

*****  John McDonald, Abstract artist sought elusive meaning, Sydney Morning Herald, Dec.5,2006

******  ibid


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