Robert Jacks | A Symphony of Form, Rhythm and Colour

At the age of twenty six Robert Jacks could already be called a successful artist, having sold out his first solo exhibition and being acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria. In 1968 Jacks decided to leave Australia, wanting to go and see museums in America where the most interesting and important art of that time was being made. New York was the place where he believed he would find other artists like himself who were challenging old assumptions and looking for something new.

When Jacks returned to Australia in 1978, he brought back a finely-tuned visual language. Across the subsequent decades, he became one of Australia’s most revered and distinct abstract artists, entering the collection of every state gallery, featuring in several monographs and being honoured by a major retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2014. His work relished in a quality most elusive to abstract art: liveliness.

This collection of Jacks’ original works on paper are a symphony of form, rhythm and colour. There are references to Miles Davis’ 1959 album ‘Sketches of Spain’, James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, Lake Eyre, citylife and the guitar, a motif of cubism. Jacks resisted the idea that an artist must change his style over time. He had a voice at twenty-six and one at sixty-six, his practice a pendulum that swung back and forth. Like notes in a jazz composition, each work, form and line found rhythm in conversation.

In Jacks’ beloved ‘Ulysses’, James Joyce wrote:

“The supreme question about a work of art is how deep a life does it spring.” 

In Jacks’ art, the answer is deep – joyous, intelligent and timelessly elegant. Whether in nature, windows or the changing of seasons, he declared that there are constellations to all who look.

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