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David ASPDEN (b.1935; d.2005) - WINDOW I

David ASPDEN (b.1935; d.2005)

David Aspden was born in Bolton, England in 1935. As a teenager, he emigrated with his family to Wollongong in 1949. He had no formal art training. Rather, after he left school, he undertook a sign-writing apprenticeship and then worked as a signwriter and painter in Port Kembla for 14 years. He was involved in the arts scene in Wollongong where he won recognition with several prizes which prompted him to become a full-time artist in 1963. Aspden moved to Sydney in 1964 to further his art career and held his first solo exhibitions.

In 1971, Aspden travelled to Brazil representing Australia at the XI Biennale of Sao Paulo. He then travelled with his family to Mexico, the USA and the South of France. He had a studio in Venice for 3 months and then went to England, settling in Bath for the remainder of the year, where he shared a studio with John Peart, a fellow Field Colour artist. Aspden returned to Sydney at the end of the year, settling in the leafy suburb of Castle Hill. In 1978, he moved to a warehouse in Balmain on the edge of Sydney Harbour, reviving an interest in coastal subjects. From 1980 to 1983 he travelled widely, including to Arnhem Land, New York, New Guinea and India, returning to live in Sydney in 1983. *

Aspden held his first solo exhibition at Watters Gallery in Sydney in 1965. Soon after, he held two more solo exhibitions and then rose to prominence for his inclusion in the landmark avant-garde exhibition The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968. Aspden had two works in this show: Fifth force 1968 and Field 1, the painting that lent the exhibition its name. From then, Aspden's work has been included in many significant exhibitions. More recently, his work was included in the 18th Biennale of Sydney: All Our Relations, and survey exhibitions have been staged by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Bathurst Regional Gallery and Orange Regional Gallery.

Aspden won many awards and prizes including Gold Medal at the XI Biennale of Sao Paulo in 1971 and the Travelodge Art Prize in 1973. In 1995, he won the coveted Wynne Prize from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Aspden has been described as “one of Australia’s most significant abstractionists”. He was significantly influenced by music, particularly modern jazz music, and colour. His paintings bring together an interplay of colour, landscape and music: “For Aspden, colour, music and landscape were intertwined; they were the muses that drove him and shaped his sensibility … For Aspden painting was an act of immersion, as much about the process as the creation of an all-encompassing colour environment.” **

His early paintings were hard-edged, interlocking diamond-shaped colour blocks of which he said: “My intention being to envelope the viewer in a structure of colour forces. To allow colour to act, I try to free it from drawing as [sic] possible. I view colour as density rather than surface, that is, it acts in more than two dimensions.” ***

Over time, these uncompromising lines softened under the influence of a change of scene to the muted colours and softer shapes of European landscape. Aspden responded to colour in an emotional way saying: “For me the nature of colour is the colour of nature. Nature being so various, colours are endless … I am challenged by the colours that can be found in the air, wind and weather environments, as well as more easily recognisable colours in the tangible world of nature.” ****

Aspden’s works are held in Collections across Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the Art Gallery of South Australia and many other state and regional galleries, corporate, university and significant private Collections throughout Australia.

* The Colour of Space exhibition catalogue, Utopia Art, Sydney, 2019 ** David Aspden: One of Australia's most significant abstractionists, Anne Ryan, curator of David Aspden: The Colour of Music and Place at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2011 *** Fifth force, The Field Revisited Artwork Labels, p. 63 **** Artist’s Statement, David Aspden, Orange Regional Gallery, June 2002


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