2008, 26 Minutets
Widely regarded as Australia’s greatest living artist, the exuberant 80-year-old John Olsen talks with acclaimed art commentator Betty Churcher about his life’s work.
Still painting with all his creative energy in his studio in the NSW Southern Highlands, Olsen speaks of the influence of poetry and Spain on his art and his restless love of Sydney Harbour and the Australian bush. Now at the height of his creative powers, Olsen has won many awards including the prestigious Archibald Prize in 2005 for his Self Portrait Janus Faced, in which he is depicted as the ancient Greek god who is capable of looking both ways at once.
"Janus had the ability to look backwards and forwards, and when you get to my age you have a hell of a lot to think about," he says.
Through his private journals and sketchbooks, Olsen offers a rare insight into his creative process and love of painting. He reveals the inspirations that led to some of his famous paintings including Spanish Encounter (1960), Entrance to the Seaport of Desire (1964), the Sydney Opera House mural Salute to Five Bells (1972-73), Donde Voy? Self Portrait in Moments of Doubt (1989), The Bath – Birdsville, Bunny and Pointer (1997-98) and Sydney Harbour: Spring Tide (2007).
As Churcher says, “He is an artist whose lust for life has few parallels in Australian art”.
A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Early Works. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Director: John Hughes
Writer: Betty Churcher
Running Time: 26 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Art, Media and Studies of Society and Environment.