The National Art School has been the training ground for some of Australia’s most significant and respected artists. On this page we recognise and pay homage to our alumni who have passed away recently.
The National Art School has been the training ground for some of Australia’s most significant and respected artists. On this page we recognise and pay homage to our alumni who have passed away recently.
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Madeleine Preston, NAS alumna, staff and artist. Madeleine was much-loved by the NAS community and lectured in the ceramics department for five years. She was fiercely intelligent, a talented artist and writer, and dedicated teacher and supporter of her peers. Her art practice spans a range of media including painting, sculpture and installation, using art historical references to investigate how attitudes of the past inform the present. With her partner Anthony, she founded Home at 725 Art Gallery in Redfern. Our deepest condolences to Anthony, her family and friends at this difficult time. This is a great loss to our community.
Only weeks before his 87th birthday, the Australian composer Nigel Butterley has died peacefully at his Sydney nursing home. Along with Peter Sculthorpe (1929-2014) and Richard Meale (1932-2009), Butterley created a new, contemporary outlook for Australian music with a substantial body of music, from tiny chamber pieces to vast orchestral works and epic song cycles.
Butterley had strong connections to the National Art School. As well as attending a number of seminal NAS performances, he performed in the Cell Block for a period spanning ten years – mostly as a pianist, but also as conductor, singer and composer. In 1967 he directed Interaction – Music and Painting in the Cell Block Theatre. In this work, which was filmed by the ABC, the 22-year-old John Peart (NAS teacher 1978-1999) spontaneously painted while Butterley improvised on the piano and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra played a series of pre-composed fragments. And in 1969 Butterley created the first Australian performance of John Cage’s Complete Sonatas and Interludes for Piano on the Cell Block Theatre’s grand piano. Butterley had spent a couple of hours preparing the piano with nuts, bolts and screws for this piece, having received instructions on how to set it up in a letter from Cage.
In April 2011 Nigel Butterley returned to the Cell Block Theatre to perform another John Cage piece for prepared piano for the launch of the book Set in Stone.
Nigel Butterley and his partner of 44 years, Tom Kennedy, were also keen art lovers, accumulating a substantial collection, including work by NAS alumni such as John Coburn, James Gleeson, Robert Klippel, Oliffe Richmond and John Peart.
Launch of Set in Stone publication in the Cell Block Theatre
The National Art School is saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Powditch, NAS Fellow.
Peter was a wonderful, ground-breaking artist and member of the NAS community, who studied here in the 1960s, then later taught here, and was appointed as a NAS Fellow in 2017. In his citation for Peter at the Fellows Ceremony, fellow alumnus and NAS sculpture teacher Ron Robertson Swann recalled: “Peter and I did have some differences in our teaching methods. Along with imparting the great joy of art, Peter had the compulsion to warn students about the self-doubt, loneliness and despair… and I’d say ‘Christ Peter, don’t mention that ‘til third year!’” In 1981, Peter was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to Art. To read more about his life and practice see ArtsHub’s story.
The National Art School extends condolences to all of Peter’s family and friends.
The National Art School is saddened to hear of the passing of Kaye Shumack, MFA student.
Kaye joined the NAS MFA 1 drawing cohort in 2020, a disrupted year for us all. For Kaye it was more difficult than we realised. Mid-year she let us know she had advanced cancer and was taking time off to manage treatment and pain. We all admired not just Kaye’s remarkable drawings but also her considered, insightful and affirming contributions to conversations about our work and theoretical concerns. I was fascinated by Kaye’s mark-making – her use of buoyant line-work built up drawings of the inner West that are inhabited by the energy or spirit of the place. Kaye loved being at NAS, her relationships with fellow students and supervisors and her light-filled studio where she could focus on making work. We’re thankful for the opportunity to know Kaye and pleased that thanks to her generosity, she will be remembered through the Kaye Shumack Sunflower Drawing Prize, an annual award of $3000 for an MFA Drawing graduate whose work contributes to broadening awareness of social issues. We look forward to creating a special place for Kaye’s work in our MFA Postgraduate exhibition.
The National Art School extends condolences to all of Kaye’s family and friends.
After the Fire at the General Gordon Hotel, Sydenham
Finalist in the JADA in 2018
The National Art School is saddened to hear of the passing of Meg Buchanan, Head of Printmaking (1999-2001).
Meg Buchanan was born in 1949 and initially trained in painting at the Newcastle School of Art (1968- 1971) before studying etching in Paris and New York. She was awarded an MA (Visual Arts) from Monash University in Melbourne in 1998. From 1974 Buchanan lectured in tertiary institutions throughout Australia and overseas. Her most senior appointments included Head of Foundation Studies at the ANU School of Art (1992-1998) and Head of Printmaking at the National Art School in Sydney (1999 — 2001). As well as teaching she was the co-founder and Director of the Studio One print workshop in Canberra. Her work is represented in major public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the Canberra Museum and Gallery and the New York University and has been included in major curated exhibitions including “Capital Works”, which toured Asia, the Biennale of Drawing in Canberra and “Five Years On” at the Canberra Museum and Gallery. In 2007 Meg Buchanan was the subject of a major solo exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery.
The National Art School extends condolences to all of Meg’s family and friends.
The National Art School is saddened to hear of the passing of Alumnus James Ballaam. James completed the Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting) in 2016. He is remembered fondly as a distinction student.
The National Art School extends condolences to all of James’s family and friends.
The National Art School is saddened to learn of the death of photographer, film maker, painter, printmaker and former NAS teacher George Schwarz on the 28th May 2021.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1935, George studied at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers, Basel from 1953 to 1957, before moving to Spain in 1958.
He met Australian born Charis on a beach in southern Spain when they were in their twenties. In the 1960s Charis and George bought a large BMW motorbike and set off to ride from Spain to Australia. They documented their travels in an exhibition and wrote a sold-out book Highlights of the Road, which described in images and text their motorcycle travels through all the world’s continents from 1965 to 1968.The now famous BMW is held in the Collection of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
In 1969 they settled in Sydney, and George taught photography at the National Art School from 1970 to 1974. He had been teaching painting and drawing part time at NAS, and was asked to teach photography full-time, helping to implement and write the first photography course at NAS. George was renowned for bringing a huge variety of life models in for students to photograph, including the notorious Madame Lash (Gretel Pinniger), who posed clad in leather and sporting a variety of whips.
George continued teaching at Alexander Mackie School of Art and City Art Institute until 1997. George and Charis made art and film together for over 60 years. Their erotic films of the 1970s were witty and humorous – Sex aids and how to use them became Australia’s highest grossing short film at the time, with people queuing around the block to see it.
The significance of photography as a device to record time is central to many of his works. Using a variety of unexpected assemblages of visual images, George created surreal layers of meaning, blurring the line between the real and symbolic, life and art. He held numerous exhibitions at Stills Gallery, and his work is widely collected and published. In 2017 he donated 8 works and his teaching archive to the NAS Collection.
Our thoughts are with Charis and all of George’s friends, associates and former students. He will be greatly missed.
1. Charis and George Schwarz, 1965
2. George Schwarz
Home_24 (self portrait) 2013
3. Charis and George Schwarz outside their house in Riley Street, East Sydney 2017 Photo: Deborah Beck
The National Art School was sad to hear of the death of world renowned jeweller Tony White. He was born in 1942 in Sydney, and attended Saturday art classes at the National Art School when still a child. He later trained in architecture, graduating from Sydney University in 1965, and practised as an architect for five years in both Sydney and Melbourne. During this time he became interested in jewellery.
In 1971 White began working full-time as a jeweller, and began exhibiting his work with Philip Bacon Galleries in Brisbane in 1974. He travelled extensively in Africa, Asia, Europe and America, collecting rare stones for his exquisite and individual works.
His work has been exhibited around the globe and has been highly regarded and worn by world leaders and celebrities. It is also held in major collections in Australia and overseas. White had only recently returned to painting.
It is hoped that his first classes at the National Art School provided a springboard for his illustrious career and we send our sympathies to his family and friends.
The National Art School was saddened to hear of the death of Frank Watters, who died peacefully at his home on 21 May 2020. Along with with Geoffrey and Alexandra Legge, he was a founder and director of Watters Gallery between 1964 and 2018.
Watters Gallery was one of the most important and innovative private galleries in Sydney for over 50 years. Since the 1960s, the gallery has exhibited the work of hundreds of artists, many of whom have strong links to the National Art School. These artists included James Gleeson, Robert Klippel, Euan Macleod, Roger Crawford, Vivienne Binns, Joe Frost, John Peart, Frank Littler, Tony Tuckson and Chris O’Doherty (aka Reg Mombassa). Franks discerning eye meant that some of these artists were first shown by Watters gallery when they had just finished studying at the art school. In many cases he continued to show their work until the gallery closed two years ago.
Frank was also a closely involved in the avant-garde performances which were performed in the Cell Block Theatre. Many former students remember the ‘happening’ –‘A One Way Ticket to Sunshine’, written by National Art School students, rehearsed for 6 months in Watters gallery, and performed in the Cell Block Theatre in 1970. As well as this Frank performed himself alongside Daniel Thomas in a concert called Acoustic Space in the Cell Block Theatre in 1969.
In 1988 Frank Watters was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to art, and in 2013 we recognised his outstanding contribution to Australian art and culture, and his longstanding support and friendship with the National Art School by awarding him a Fellowship of the NAS.
The National Art School extends condolences to all of Frank’s family and friends.
The National Art School is deeply saddened by the news that Tily Kubany-Deane, a wonderfully talented, creative and joyful NAS alumna has passed away.
A private family service was held, her ashes scattered in her favourite places in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, including West Head Lookout.
Our condolences go out to her husband and fellow NAS alumni Sean Wadey, and their families.
The National Art School is deeply saddened by the news that Andrew ‘Greedy’ Smith, one of the founding members of iconic Australian band Mental as Anything, has died.
Smith attended the National Art School in the 1970s, then East Sydney Tech, where he met band members and fellow art students Chris O’Doherty (aka Reg Mombassa), Martin Murphy (Martin Plaza), David Twohill (Wayne DeLisle) and Steve Coburn.
Smith was already in a covers band with a school mate from North Sydney Boys, but first played with the Mentals in December 1976, at the Anthony Doherty Community Centre Hall in Darlinghurst. He also appeared with them at the Unicorn Hotel near the art school, where the band had a regular gig. He played harmonica at first but after being invited to join as a permanent member, was urged to start playing keyboards.
“Martin thought I was sitting around too much reading the paper and going to the bar between my songs,” Smith recalls in the book The Mind and Times of Reg Mombassa, published in 2009. “He and I went out to Epping where we bought an old Farfisa wedding reception organ. I was playing it that night. It was just one-handed stuff but because it was the era of punk bands, I could get away with it.
“Anyway, I always made a point not to learn too much about music because I think it interferes with song writing – the more you know about music, the more you know you can’t do. But if you write your own songs, people can’t say you’re playing it wrong.”
The band’s first gig with their final line up – Martin, Greedy, David, Chris and his brother Peter O’Doherty, was at the National Art School’s Cell Block Theatre on August 17, 1977, the night Elvis died.
The name Mental as Anything had been chosen earlier by another National Art School student, Paul Worstead, who had booked them for a gig at the Settlement in Chippendale. Worstead went on to design the cover of Mental As Anything’s first album Get Wet, released in 1979.
The school is proud to have been the crucible for the band that has held such a special place in the Australian music scene for generations.
In the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, Mombassa said he would remember his friend and bandmate as “the most positive and cheerful person I have ever met in my life”.
“He was a decent guy, he was kind to people, he cared about people,” Mombassa said. “The way he was on stage, that joyous stage presence was genuine, he was like that off stage, he cared about his fans and gave them the time of the day.”
Steven Alderton, Director and CEO of NAS, says, “Greedy Smith was an exceptional artist who could light up a room with his many talents. He was part of a golden age at the National Art School when many talented visual artists became members of bands, plying their considerable creative skills on many platforms. We will certainly miss him.”
Greedy Smith will be greatly missed and mourned by many. The National Art School would like to extend its sympathy to his friends and family.
Jo Meisner was not only a dear friend to many. She was a driven, passionate and compassionate artist making exciting and engaging art. Alluring, colourful, light-filled works that draw people in to look, wonder and relate, often prompting a sharing of their own stories of that aspect of human experience which so fascinated Jo – how we can be together yet apart – the lonely crowd. – Lisa Sharp, Artist
Jo (Joanne) Meisner was born in Sydney. Jo attended the School of Fashion, East Sydney Technical College between 1971 – 4, at that time the first dedicated fashion design school in Sydney. Subsequently, she held a professional career in the fashion industry for thirty-seven years, owning and managing multiple stores and mentoring women in business.
In 2012 Jo returned to that same campus in Darlinghurst, now the National Art School, where she applied her characteristic intensity, curiosity and passion to the visual arts. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours (Painting) in 2016. In a second career that was to be all too short, Jo had built a strong reputation for her vibrant figurative works and had held four solo and numerous group exhibitions, most significantly a solo exhibition in Paris in 2018 with work following from a residency in 2017. Her works often featured textiles, layered with photography and other media, driven by an underlying socio-political commentary. Jo’s fascination and affinity for cloth drew on her past, as she explored the divergent qualities of cloth as tactile source of comfort and protection but also a politicised marker of individual as well as communal identity. Jo used to say of her ongoing fascination with textiles, we are wrapped in cloth from birth to death.
Jo passed away peacefully, after a brief final illness in September 2019, leaving her loving husband Phillip, children Ben, Joshua and Sam, grandchildren and a large and loving crowd of family and friends. We will all miss her special warmth and empathy.
“Belonging is central to how we define who we are.
It is our connection to social groups and society as a whole
that is most important in constructing this sense of identity.
This is a fundamental aspect of what I feel it is to be human.”
The National Art School is very sad to hear of the loss of alumnus Klaus Friedeberger who died in London at the age of 97 on the 19th September 2019.
Klaus Friedeberger was born into a secular Jewish family in Berlin in 1922. In April 1939, the young Friedeberger arrived in England as a refugee and not long afterwards was arrested as an enemy alien. He was then sent on the infamous ship HMT Dunera to an internment camp to Australia for two years in Hay, NSW. Among his fellow internees were a number of distinguished artists and art historians who together formed an informal academy. Friedeberger designed a number of posters, painted scenery for stage productions and painted a large number of watercolours while in the camp. After a stint in the Australian army corps, he took the opportunity to study painting for three years under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme (CRTS) at East Sydney Technical College, the National Art School. His fellow CRTS students included Fred Schonbach, Guy Warren, Tony Tuckson, Oliffe Richmond and John Coburn.
After he graduated from the NAS, Friedeberger won the 1949 Mosman Art Prize. The prize money enabled him to sail for Europe and after 10 years in Australia, he returned to London in 1950. While his intended return to Australia never happened, he remained in close contact with many of his Australian friends, particularly fellow student and artist Guy Warren.
Friedeberger set up a studio in Chelsea and began exhibiting, working as graphic designer and teaching in art schools. He held many exhibitions throughout his life, with a major retrospective exhibition of over sixty works held at Woodlands Art Gallery in Blackheath, London in 1992.
A prolific and much respected artist in the UK, his work is held in the permanent collections of the Sydney Jewish Museum, the British Museum, London, the National Gallery of Australia and the Agapitos/Wilson collection, Sydney. His work was also included in the Lines of Fire: armed forces to art school at the NAS gallery in 2008. The NAS Collection holds 12 of his student works, and 4 drawings from the 1980s. One of his NAS student works was included in the book, Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond, launched in Sydney this year.
The National Art School extends condolences to Klaus Friedeberger’s wife Julie and his many friends.
The National Art School is very sad to hear of the loss of alumnus and former staff member
Thomas Alexander (Tom) Thompson, who died in Sydney at the age of 95 on the 13th July 2019.
Born on the 16 November 1923 in Narrabri, NSW, Tom studied at the National Art School on a Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scholarship (CRTS) from 1947 to 1950 after serving in World War Two as a tank gunner in Bougainville. His fellow students included Tony Tuckson, Guy Warren, Bert Flugelman, John Coburn and Robert Klippel. A talented student, he graduated with a Painting Diploma and was awarded the College Medal.
After finishing his studies, he went to England where he worked as a night watchman for the National Gallery in London. After a period overseas, he taught at the South Australian School of Art from 1952 to 1955.
Tom returned to the National Art School as a teacher in 1955, teaching painting and drawing for over 20 years. A great chronicler of events, he helped preserve the NAS Collection, and did many drawings of the site, its history and its occupants. Fifty-seven of his drawings of fellow artists are held in the State Library of NSW, and many of these are of teachers at the NAS. From 1975 to 1976 he was Head of the School of Art and Design before resigning to paint full time in his studio in Braidwood, NSW.
Influenced by Italian renaissance painting, Tom painted a number of large murals during his career. His commissioned works included murals for the International Air Terminal at Mascot, Sydney, three panels in tempera for Australia House, London, and a major mural for Parramatta City Council depicting the early days of the city.
His work was included in the Tate Gallery Exhibition of Australian Art, 1963, and he exhibited widely throughout Australia as well as undertaking a number of study tours of Europe. Thompson’s work was exhibited in The Studio Tradition, Manly Art Gallery, 2001, and Lines of Fire in the NAS Gallery in 2008, and ten of his student works are represented in the NAS Collection. His work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, State galleries in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Wellington, New Zealand.
The National Art School extends condolences to Tom’s family and friends. He will be greatly missed by his former colleagues and many students.
From his parents, Lorraine and Robert Roberts
28 February 2019
Our beautiful son, James Edwin Roberts, ex- Nambour and Burnside High School student in the nineteen eighties, son of Lorraine and Bob Roberts, was killed in an incomprehensible, tragic accident when he fell from his bicycle, on the 11th of February because of a mechanical failure. Though wearing a safety helmet, he still sustained a massive brain injury. The police believe that sadly too many people become complacent, thinking that a helmet will protect them for receiving serious head injuries. A warning. James has worked at the Sydney Opera House as a stage mechanist for the last 16 years, and was studying at the National Arts School. He was due to start a Master of Fine Arts degree that he had intended to follow up with a PhD soon after that. James had planned to return to Nambour to take care of his aging parents as soon as he completed his PhD.
We hope James’ friends will remember him as the fun loving kind and caring soul that he is. A book is being produced to honour his life and gift as an artist. Anyone of his friends wishing to contribute anecdotes for publication in this book and to later obtain a copy of the book can contact his parents on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Some may remember James and a friend performing a piece about saving the trees, in the forecourt of the Nambour Council and Library in 1984. As well as his interest in the environment, James was a member of the Palmwoods Players theatre group, appearing in Cinderella and working on set design. His prize winning characterisation performance of King Henry V in our local Eisteddfod may be remembered. James’ many other interests included: a passion for vintage old objects and a wide taste in music. James was an advocate of the fair go and had a special interest in and empathy with people who were struggling.
James was a much loved son and will be greatly missed by his parents, his sister Muria Roberts and niece Amyra Roberts Prayoga, and also his wide circle of family and friends. Cyclists, young and old, do be careful while riding. Safety helmets cannot always provide full head protection.
James Barker (b1931) Northwood – a bushy suburb of Sydney near the Lane Cove National Park.
Barker graduated from East Sydney Technical College in 1955. Fellow students in James’s year were a close knit group of artists which include Ron Lambert; Robin Lawrence; Georgina Worth; Barbara Holliday (Romalis);Wendy Learmonth; Didi (Diana) Vale-Brown.
Other students at East Sydney in the same period included Karen Oom ; Cam Sparks; Ursula Latham ( Laverty) and Elisabeth Cummings. Elisabeth was to join James in Florence some years later, where they were married and spent the ensuing years painting teaching and travelling throughout Europe.
During the period in Florence James and Elizabeth had a constant stream of visiting travellers from Australia many of them fellow art students from East Sydney. In late 1968 Elisabeth and James returned to Australia with their young son Damian, born in Florence just shortly prior to the historic and catastrophic floods of 1966.
Back in Australia, Elisabeth and James painted in and around Coal and Candle Creek, then after the commencement of the building of the “Mud Hut” at Wedderburn, Barker was very much inspired by the surrounding bush and the George’s river which was not far away. Barker painted the bush around Church Point and latterly around the southern banks of the Hawkesbury River around Brooklyn.