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Heide Museum of Modern Art celebrates pioneering Australian artist

Heide Museum of Modern Art celebrates pioneering Australian artist
February 12, 2020

Heide Museum of Modern Art in Victoria will celebrate pioneering Australian modernist artist Joy Hester (1920-1960) and the centenary of her birth with a major exhibition set to open on 21st March 2020.

Joy Hester: Remember Me is the first solo exhibition of Hester’s art in almost twenty years and brings together more than 130 significant works from public and private collections, including seldom-seen impromptu studies that shed light on Hester’s unique style and creative process.  

Acknowledged today as one of Australia’s most original and compelling artists of her generation, Hester worked almost exclusively in brush and ink, focusing on the expressive potential of the figure and face as metaphors for the human condition. Unconventional and courageous, she freed herself from orthodox methods and brought a powerful female sensibility to subjects considered provocative during her lifetime such as love, sex, birth, and death.  

This long-overdue survey traces Hester’s artistic trajectory from early naturalistic student drawings to her psychological portraits, her powerful responses to the oppressive climate of war, and later investigations into human intimacy and the theme of childhood. Joy Hester: Remember Me includes a number of Hester’s defining series - the Incredible Night Dreams, Faces, Lovers, and Girls - and reveals her experimentation with remarkably diverse stylistic modes as she found her own voice, using drawing as a vehicle to represent life in all its complexity.   

Active during a period of unprecedented vitality, invention and change in Australian art, Hester was an integral figure in the Heide Circle or so-called Angry Penguins group that included her first husband Albert Tucker as well as Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Danila Vassilieff. Heide founders John and Sunday Reed were close friends and strong supporters of these artists and Hester, like many of her peers, spent a great deal of time with the couple and created key works at their semi-rural property in Melbourne’s outer east.

Heide Artistic Director Lesley Harding advised “one of the most striking aspects of Joy Hester’s relatively short but productive career is the way she managed to remain true to her own vision and interests and undeterred by the lack of recognition, sales and critical attention she experienced. She was avant-garde in the most literal sense of the term: experimental, unorthodox and original. Joy Hester: Remember Me takes place in the centenary year of Hester’s birth and presents a timely opportunity to re-evaluate the work of this unconventional and courageous artist and review her unique contribution to Australian art.”

Heide Senior Curator Kendrah Morgan commented “Hester’s distinctive personal vision and often haunting imagery continues to resonate strongly with contemporary audiences. Her remarkably affective and emotionally intense work penetrates the human psyche and effortlessly captures, in the words of her friend, the poet Barrett Reid, ‘the mysterious forces which prompt our lives’.”

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