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— Biography of Peter Upward

Peter Upward has been described as Australia’s purest and most underrated abstractionists, producing a deeply philosophic Australian style of expressionism that Christopher Dean terms ‘gestural minimalism’. Born in the figurative stronghold of Melbourne in 1932, his early paintings remained landscape-based until he made a permanent move to abstraction-friendly Sydney in 1960.  There, while studying calligraphy and Zen Buddhism and inspired by jazz improvisation, Upward created his strongest and best known works – his large-scale black and white gestural paintings – which he exhibited alongside Clement Meadmore’s sculptures at Macquarie Galleries. At this peak in his career he moved to London where an interest in the zodiac, cabala and alternative culture took his work down a symbolic path which, as idiosyncratic today as it was then, was not readily taken up. After a decade he returned to Sydney where he had been virtually forgotten and continued his ‘Circular’ or ‘Poured Paintings’ series which had begun in London - brightly coloured resins on circular, oval and rectangular canvases. A handsome, suave, man-about-town of 60s Sydney and a deeply inspiring Sydney Tech teacher in the 70s and 80s, Upward died suddenly of a heart attack aged 51.

“Matisse once said he wanted his paintings to be like comfortable armchairs, soothing and restful. I want mine to be like a shot in the arm.” Peter Upward, 1963

“Upward made some of the most explosive and – counter-intuitively – some of the most serenely beautiful paintings of his time” Sebastian Smee, 2007

Publication:
Frozen Gestures, The Art of Peter Upward, Exhibition Catalogue (Christopher Dean), Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, 2007

Peter Upward CV


Since its establishment in 1984, the Charles Nodrum Gallery’s exhibition program embraces a diversity of media and styles - from painting, sculpture & works on paper to graphics and photography; from figurative, geometric, gestural, surrealist & social comment to installation & conceptually based work.