• Susannah Helman and Jo Wilson

    Susannah Helman and Jo Wilson

  • Cathy Pilgrim, Ryan Stokes and Andrew Donaldson

    Cathy Pilgrim, Ryan Stokes and Andrew Donaldson

  • Denyl Cloughley, Joan Kennedy and Lyn Adams

    Denyl Cloughley, Joan Kennedy and Lyn Adams

  • Felicity Harmey and Nat Williams

    Felicity Harmey and Nat Williams

  • Guy Hansen and Sara Kelly

    Guy Hansen and Sara Kelly

  • Joanne Strugnell and Kath Funnell

    Joanne Strugnell and Kath Funnell

  • Marcus Gibson-Huck and Cathryn Bandle

    Marcus Gibson-Huck and Cathryn Bandle

  • Ryan Stokes, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and Mark Fraser

    Ryan Stokes, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and Mark Fraser

abstraction - creation j.w.power @ NLA

25 July 2014

Who was the artist J.W. Power? If you like most of us can’t answer that – he did spend most of his artistic life in Europe - then the National Library of Australia is where you’ll find a quite extraordinary exhibition that brings together the library’s collection of his almost too perfect sketchbooks, designs and art books with the paintings from the University of Sydney collection of this avant-garde artist.

Australian born into a wealthy family he became a doctor and went to England in 1906 to further his studies, which probably made his surgeon father and architect grandfather very happy but Power had a passion for art, realized in later life. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and his meticulous drawing and architecturally influenced abstract painting makes me believe as a surgeon his stitching would have been perfect. He collected contemporary art and though his substantial art collection no longer exists the ten pochoir prints by Pablo Picasso from that collection are on display. And sit very comfortably with the Powers.

But it’s the sketchbooks that offer an insight into his travels. From Paris to Bruges, Avignon to Africa and in Sydney in his youth, his constant sketching in an eclectic mix of books is a treasure trove of Power’s talent. It would seem he never made a mistake. My favourite a bunch of ‘tin men in a scrum’, my description of course, would make a perfect print for any football tragic.

We made the mistake of not acknowledging and celebrating his genius. This exhibition at the National Library of Australia, does correct that.