born Australia, 1919
worked England from 1948, died 1977

Palisade, 1965
44.0 x 29.0 x 26.0 cm

Oliffe Richmond: a retrospective exhibition, Watters Gallery, Sydney, 29 July-15 August 1987, catalogue no.18

Geoffrey Blainey’s idea of ‘the tyranny of distance’ having a great impact on Australian and Australian history is nowhere more important than on the careers of many Australian artists. Living in Australia and having a successful career while exhibiting in Europe or America is almost impossible. Since the mid-nineteenth century Australian artists have gone abroad to study, to exhibit, and to show their work to a wider audience. Even in the twentieth century, with easier travel, being able to live in Australia and develop a career with regular exhibitions elsewhere consistently proves difficult if not impossible. Some artists, such as Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan, regularly returned for a top-up on Australian landscape, but for most a career outside Australia has almost always meant leaving Australia.

Oliffe Richmond is a good example of an Australian artist who left Australia to have a career in Europe.

Graduating in 1939 from Art and Applied Art course at the Hobart Technical College, he next studied sculpture at the National Art School in Sydney. In 1948 he was awarded the New South Wales Government Travelling Scholarship and travelled in England and Europe. In 1949-50 he worked as an assistant to Henry Moore and in 1951 began to teach at the Chelsea School of Art in London, where he taught until his death in 1977. During his lifetime Richmond exhibited extensively, holding solo exhibitions in London, New York, and Australia. His work was included in numerous group exhibitions in England and Europe, including significant exhibitions of contemporary British sculpture, such as New sculptors, at Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1955, and British Sculpture in the Sixties at the Tate Gallery in 1965. In these Richmond was presented as a British artist.

Although Richmond had made his career and life in London he continued to exhibit in Australia, holding solo exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. Watters Gallery organized the first of a series of posthumous solo exhibitions in 1981.
Palisade, 1965, is a significant example of Richmond’s mid-60s sculpture. It follows a series of works depicting figures, standing, sitting, moving, even a wrestler, made in the early 1960s. Some of these show his developing interest in abstract sculpture and by the end of the 1960s Richmond’s work has left behind nearly all references to reality.

The abstract organic form of Palisade, almost certainly made in plaster before being cast in bronze, has a few protrusions that have helped suggest the name, – palisade, a stake-wall made as a defensive structure or enclosure. However, the subject is of not much significance. The most important aspect of the sculpture is its very tactile nature. Smooth folded areas contrast with rough-hewn surfaces. It is extremely contained as a large round shape with the few protrusions that suggest its title adding an element of mystery.

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