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Gareth Sansom: Transformer | NGV Melbourne

Gareth Sansom: Transformer traces the career of one of Australia’s most provocative artists. A pioneering figure of the Australian avant-garde for more than 60 years, the Melbourne-born artist is renowned for his luridly colourful and densely-layered paintings, collages and watercolours.

Drawing influence from Francis Bacon and British pop art, Sansom’s works merge disparate visual references, imagery and his own mark-making, exploring the themes of popular culture, Australian vernacular, religion, sex and gender.

This is the largest survey of the artist’s work to date, with more than 130 works spanning his entire career. Suites of works on paper and photography complement more than 50 paintings, including many vital works from the past 15 years, and a number that have never been exhibited before.

Sexually-charged, satirical and philosophical, Sansom’s daring canvases explore ideas of physical, psychological and material transformation, often beginning as one thing but swiftly morphing into another, as referential layers reveal themselves. Sansom is known to frequently situate self-portraits and photographs in his collages to provoke and challenge the audience’s interpretation of the artwork.

‘The National Gallery of Victoria has enjoyed a long association with Gareth Sansom, acquiring its first work of his in 1965. He is a thought-provoking artist who is constantly challenging himself to surprise his audience,’ said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

‘This ambitious exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, is the most extensive ever undertaken by a major gallery and will surprise even those familiar with Sansom’s ground-breaking artistic practice,’ said Ellwood.

Born in Melbourne in 1939, Gareth Sansom studied art at RMIT between 1959 and 1964. Sansom held positions as Head of Painting, then Dean of the School of Art, at the Victorian College of the Arts between 1977 and 1991 before retiring to concentrate solely on his art practice.

Gareth Sansom: Transformer will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia from 15 September 2017 – 28 January 2018. Entry is free. Further information is available from the NGV website NGV.MELBOURNE.

The exhibition publication is extensively illustrated with essays by Pip Wallis, Curator, Contemporary Art, NGV and art critic Sebastian Smee and has been generously supported by Susan and John Wardle.

High resolution images available via Dropbox:



Monday 18 September, 6.30pm – 7.30pm
A pre-eminent figure of the Australian avant-garde for over 60 years, Gareth Sansom merges pop culture references with intuitive and gestural mark-making. Hear the artist reflect on his career in conversation with art critic Sebastian Smee.
Speakers: Gareth Sansom, artist and Sebastian Smee, art critic
Cost: $12 M / $15 A / $13.50 C
Venue: Exhibition space, NGV Australia

Sunday 17 September, 11am
Speaker: Simon Maidment, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art
Cost: Free
Venue: Exhibition space, NGV Australia

Wednesday 25 October, 2pm
Speaker: Pip Wallis, Curator, Contemporary Art
Cost: Free
Venue: Exhibition space, NGV Australia

Sun 29 Oct, 2pm
(1960, M, 96 mins)
Gareth Sansom often takes breaks from working in his studio to watch films, with references found in his body of work. Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film Psycho had a profound effect on Sansom, with his painting Bates Motel referencing the movie.
Cost: Free, bookings recommended
Venue: Theatre, NGV Australia

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