Goya’s Dog begins in Spain during the mid-1950’s when John Olsen experienced significant influences of Spanish culture, poetry and music. That time opened a door for the young, emerging Olsen to explore a darker, and perhaps a more vulnerable side, to his
personality and experience. Olsen returned to Sydney and then back again to Spain in the mid-1960’s where his palette became
dynamic and bold. The exhibition also features Olsen’s work from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. A new and vitally urban Australian ‘voice’
emerged during this time, the voice of the irrepressible ‘larrikin’ that provided such an irreverent vista of this crazy country of
ours. The Olsen landscape became like a theatre or a stage; where some human drama is taking place. It is vivacious, teeming with a sort of metaphysical life – in parallel with and embracing real life, ‘making a picture a kind of narrative’, and about paintings being created in a process of evolution.
Olsen has always put great trust in his instinct, in his love of poetry, and his art is the work of a visual poet, which connects to the Dark Paintings, like Donde voy? Self-portrait in moments of doubt. This is a powerfully introspective painting – one of
a sporadic body of works to emerge that fall on the darker side of Olsen’s usually buoyant personality. Olsen’s dark and introspective works are valued as belonging within a profound historical aspect of western art, one which looks mortality in the face. Within this struggle is a continual desire to search for the unknown and to soul-search within the landscape. The landscape takes on the form of a living being, full of emotions, foibles and struggle. It speaks of our emotion. Through the struggle and the soul-searching Olsen lands on periods of enlightenment, where he is able to capture the energy and elemental life forces of nature. For all the soul-searching, struggle and endurance, he is able to reach that moment of nature electricity – enlightenment. Goya’s Dog features over 65 major works, sketchbooks and drawings, many not seen in public for generations.
Image: John Olsen, Golden summer, Clarendon, 1983, oil on hardboard, 182.5 x 244.3 cm, purchased with the assistance of Salomon Brothers 1985, Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection © John Olsen/Copyright Agency