"James Willebrant celebrates nostalgic Australian popular culture. He paints the human form in this landscape and as we look at his everyman-everywoman figures, caught in a particular moment of being, we are brought back to some personal emotion, experience or memory. Such a response needs no label or critical thesis. It just is... the essence of good art." Mark Widdup.
James Willebrant graduated from The National Art School in 1972 being awarded the National Art School Painting prize in 1970 and 1972 respectively.
While at The National Art School Willebrant had already established his unique vision and in 1973 was encouraged by fellow artist and Mentor Charles Blackman to mount his first Exhibition at Philip Bacon Galleries in Brisbane.
This seminal exhibition was enthusiastically received by the public and began a successful career as a professional painter, which has spanned 36 years and over 70 exhibitions throughout Australia and Overseas.
His work features in major Private, Public and Corporate Collections which include The National Galleries of Victoria, NSW and Queensland, Many Regional Galleries, Parliament House Collection, Australia-Japan Trade Commission, Sydney Theatre Company, Qantas,The Australian Embassy-Tokyo, Artbank, Australian Stock Exchange, The Deutsche Bank and several Major University Collections.
In the mid 1970’s James Willebrant became part of the exiting evolution of the art scene in Australia showing his work at The Australian Galleries in Melbourne and with The Kym Bonython Gallery in Sydney. These two galleries in particular were at the forefront of the revolution that supported a new generation of Australian artists and captured the imagination of the Australian public. Willebrant and contemporaries like Brett Whiteley, Tim Storrier, John Coburn, Martin Sharpe and John Firth-Smith continued to redefine, explore and celebrate the Australian Experience as their precursors such as Streeton, Dobell, Tucker, Drysdale and Nolan had done.
In 1986 James Willebrant moved from Balmain to the Blue Mountains seeking new horizons both literally and figuratively. The physically beautiful and at times spiritually challenging atmosphere of the mountains has seen his work expand both thematically and stylistically over the past 28 years.
“My fascination with the Eastern Seaboard and its iconic architectural beauty springs from my teenage years living in Sydney’s Northern suburbs and being an avid surfer and later extensively travelling the east coast in rock and roll bands.
The Art Deco Bathing Pavilions, Surf Clubs and Ocean Baths - the classic surfing figure and the romance of The Surf Board-both long and short, have been a constant motif and preoccupation in my work.
This nostalgia connected to the landscape of my youth is an important element of my work both thematically and emotionally….
Memories saved from my youth revolving around the architecture that I grew up with - the 20’s and 30’s bungalows, which can verge on a kind of ‘kitsch comfortability’ and never really appreciated at the time. It is only with the perspective of some years that we Baby Boomers come to a new appreciation of these architectural icons.
In my sharply defined style I aim to not only capture something about the Australian experience of ‘landscape’ but to also explore how our intense antipodean light illuminates and dominates that whole experience.
Recently when visiting one of my favourite ocean baths I was inspired by a striking full moon night-sky which dramatically illuminated the baths. This resulted in a series of nocturnal seascapes that provided an interesting counterpoint to my classic light-filled blue-sky pool images, lighthouses and other surfing symbologies.
Throughout my painting life I have always been attracted to unusual and nostalgic subject matter that I love and thus have always been aware of treading that fine line between romantic sentiment and ‘Fine Art’. Some of the subject matter may initially appear bland and anonymously peripheral, but my artistic challenge is always to try and make something special out of something ordinary and create an emotional resonance for the viewer. Above all my work is a celebration of our unique Australian landscape and my response to it.”
James Willebrant’s style has been variously described as Surreal, Naïve, Pop-Art and even Existentialist but no label can adequately encompass or define the subtleties of this artist’s unique work…He paints the Australian landscape and captures its amazing light…He celebrates popular Australian culture. He paints the Human Being in this landscape and as we look at his everyman-everywoman figures caught in a particular moment of Being we are brought back to some deep personal recognition, emotion or memory. Such a response needs no label, no critical thesis. It just is the essence of Good Art.
It provokes, it stimulates, it celebrates and it intimates something about our essence, which is beyond words.
1970. National Art School Painting Prize.
1972. National Art School Painting Prize.
Holdsworth Gallery Painting Prize.
1979. Australian Art Directors’ Award.
NATIONAL GALLERY of VICTORIA
ART GALLERY of N.S.W
QUEENSLAND ART GALLERY.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE COLLECTION
GOLD COAST CITY ART GALLERY.
NEW ENGLAND REGIONAL ART GALLERY.
HORSHAM REGIONAL GALLERY.
UNIVERSITY of WESTERN AUSTRALIA
NATIONAL BANK COLLECTION, VICTORIA
COMMONWEALTH BANK COLLECTION, SYDNEY
SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY GALLERY, SYDNEY
TOKYO NATIONAL BANK, TOKYO
AUSTRALIAN STOCK EXCHANGE SYDNEY
DEUTSCHE BANK AUSTRALIA, LTD. SYDNEY
ELIZABETHAN THEATRE TRUST SYDNEY
UNIVERSITY of SYDNEY COLLECTION
AUSTRALIA-JAPAN TRADE COMMISSION
AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY TOKYO
ARMIDALE REGIONAL GALLERY
WESTPAC BANKING CORPORATION. SYDNEY
1971 – 2016 Exhibiting throughout Australia and Overseas. Over 55 solo exhibitions with numerous group showings.
Exhibiting: Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra
1973 - 76. Art Teacher at Chiron College, Birchgrove.
1968 - 72. Studied at National Art School, Sydney.
Awarded Diploma of Painting