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Paul PARTOS (b.1943; d.2002) - UNTITLED 1979

Paul PARTOS (b.1943; d.2002)

Paul Partos was born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, on 3 January 1943. He moved, with his family, to Paris in 1949 * and then onto Australia in 1950. ** Partos spent six months in a Perth boarding school with his twin brother before being reunited with his parents for their move to Melbourne. **

After finishing his schooling in Melbourne, Partos studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology from 1959 to 1962. * Although his mother was interested in drawing and painting – Partos recalls his mother painting silk handkerchiefs to earn money in Czechoslovakia – his father encouraged him to have a trade other than being an artist. So Partos originally started in his first year at RMIT doing advertising and undertook a studentship to become a teacher at the same time. ** Partos moved on to the art course after the first year at RMIT but found it a very structured course. He failed the final Diploma exam after doing the figures he had been asked to paint in abstract form. ** He was described by his contemporary at RMIT, Guy Stuart, as “thoughtful, very gifted and intense”. ***

Partos enjoyed working on his own pieces at home, out of the confines of the art course. ** After he finished his teaching studentship in 1962, he worked part-time teaching at a psychiatric hospital to earn money. *** He was able to dedicate more time to his own art and Partos developed rapidly as an artist. He also met his future wife, Merrilyn, around this time. ***

His first solo exhibition at Gallery A in Melbourne and Sydney in 1965 (curated by James Mollison), in the figurative style, was both critically acclaimed and a sell-out. Following the show, Paul and Merrilyn headed to London and spent a year in England and Europe where they encountered the influence of post-war American art for the first time. *** Partos returned to Australia in 1966 with new vigour and new ideas. Two of his paintings, Orphea and Vesta II, were then selected for inclusion in the inaugural and controversial exhibition of abstract, colour-field works, The Field, at The National Gallery of Victoria’s new premises in 1968.

Partos became interested in conceptual art and, from 1970 to 1972, he lived in New York, producing austere, sparsely painted works. On returning to Australia, he took up a teaching position at the Victorian College of the Arts. He taught there for fourteen years before leaving in 1987 to paint full-time. *

Partos died in Melbourne in 2002, days short of his 60th birthday. He is survived by his wife, Merrilyn, and his daughters, Zero and Viva.

Partos originally exhibited at Gallery A in Melbourne and Sydney. He then exhibited at Pinacotheca Gallery in Melbourne between 1974 and 1980. In 1977, the Art Gallery of New South Wales mounted Project 16: Paul Partos. * From 1992, Partos exhibited with Sherman Galleries in Sydney and Christine Abrahams Gallery in Melbourne. **** Over his career, Partos held twenty-three solo exhibitions* and was included in numerous group exhibitions.

In 1992, Partos was the recipient of an Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship Grant. *

Partos’s oeuvre extended from minimal works through to energetic expressions of colour and form in complex, textured works. *

After travelling to London between 1965 and 1966, Partos began producing sprayed, bolted and shaped canvases, using industrial automotive paints, such as Duco, as well as incorporating metal powders, such as bronze dust, into his works. Duco is the trade name of the pyroxylin-bound enamel paint made by American manufacturer DuPont. It was one of the synthetic resin-based paints experimented with by artists in New York, most notably Jackson Pollock. *

Partos’s mid-career works were experimental and included etchings, about which he said: “Perhaps the most interesting thing about etching is that there is always the element of surprise. It is possible to force an image out of the plate and be surprised by something that would normally fail, and on another occasion be spare and casual on the plate and yet retain an urgency and directness of image.” ***

His abstract paintings frequently draw upon the visual device of a rectangle or frame, making reference to formal aspects and the process of painting. John McDonald comments: “Although his mature work was strictly abstract, it also mirrored his personality. The device of a rectangle within a rectangle - or a painting within a painting - acted as a persistent metaphor for the inner life. That inner rectangle might be bold and confident, or small, grey and vulnerable.” *****

Partos’s works are held in Collections across Australia, including the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Victoria, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, the Art Gallery of Western Australia and many other state and regional galleries, corporate, university and significant private Collections throughout Australia. His Estate includes an archive of written and visual documentation useful to researchers, curators and students interested in Australian art from the late 1960s until 2002. ****

* Paul Partos, The Field Revisited Artwork Labels pp 40, 41 and 124, The National Gallery of Victoria, 2018 ** James Gleeson Interviews: Paul Partos, James Gleeson Oral History Collection, National Gallery of Australia, Transcript of interview, 3 November 1979 *** Paul Partos: The Journey of a Painter, Guy Stuart, Artist Profile **** Paul Partos, Biography, National Portrait Gallery, updated 2012 ***** A bold explorer of Inner Space, John McDonald, Miles Ago Profile


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