I still find pleasure in remembering the first time I saw Henri Matisse’s ‘Large Decoration with Masks’ in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. It is the biggest of the cut-outs he created in the last 15 years of his life and is full of exuberant colour, architectural form, proportion and balance. I love it and live happily with a print in my kitchen.
The exuberant description is one that has been used on the cover notes of the memoir of Ken Done’s ‘A Life Coloured In’, and it is absolutely apt for our man of colour who sees our Australian colour so clearly, reproduces it magnificently and is unique in the Australian art ‘hood because he has been commercially successful, is respected and adored internationally and is still painting. He eschews the artist moniker, but it should be writ large on our artistic conscience and celebrated for the images he created and the colour he paints in abundance.
At University House for the ‘Eat Drink and Be Artisitic ‘ dinner with Done his talent as a raconteur was on show as well and he has stories to tell, experiences to share and successes and failures to put on the record, most of which are in the memoir. But with his tell it as it is attitude this was a refreshing look at a life lived well and an appreciation of the joy of family, the simple pleasures of growing up in a 50’s Australia and his discipline to paint for pleasure and not be beholden to the opinions and criticisms of those who sit in judgement.
His family was with him for this special event with his lovely wife Judy, epitome of elegance and rocking her silky sleek grey hair, daughter Camilla who is part of the business and son Oscar the company’s managing director and his wife Yvette, all as much a part of the Done empire as he is.
One guest paid homage to the artist with his Done eBay T Shirt and sweater, there were scarves too and another artistic guest spoke of many happy memories under the Done Sheridan doona cover.
For later this year make note that in November the artists and their pets exhibition currently being curated by the National Portrait Gallery’s Dr Sarah Engledow will be opened and some of Done’s much loved dogs will be part of that exhibition. He’s currently painting them and will feature Spot, Sammy Indi and Bexley. As I raced through the book I could hear Done telling the stories, and of course he just had to be a fan of Matisse. But more importantly we share something even more important, we once were Argonauts!
A Life Coloured In by Ken Done is available at the ANU Co-Op Bookshop