WHITELEY is a visual journey into the private life and creative legacy of Australia’s most iconic artist, Brett Whiteley, told “in his own words” using personal letters, notebooks and photographs, interwoven with reconstructions, animations, archival interviews and rare footage.
25 years after his untimely death, there has never been anyone like Brett Whiteley in the history of Australian art. A talented self-taught illustrator and painter, he was catapulted out of Sydney at 20 when he won a travelling art scholarship to Italy. So began a stellar career which saw him budding in Europe, flourishing in London, and almost disintegrating in New York.
Returning to Australia in 1969, Whiteley helped to define the young nation’s unique creative voice, as it emerged from colonial conservatism and independently entered an ambitious, cosmopolitan era. Whiteley combined the influence of Lloyd Rees (his own Australian role model) with eclectic inspirations gathered overseas, forming an illuminating personal style that propelled him into the global limelight.
Whiteley’s constant muse was his wife, Wendy. Both a catalyst for his creative passions and a witness to their incendiary consequences, she remains the sole custodian of his artistic legacy. When they met, she was an art student, almost 16, and 17-year-old Whiteley was instantly spellbound by her.
Together, the wide-eyed teen sweethearts grew into international art rockstars, with Brett’s increasingly complex and contradictory persona swinging them between triumph and disaster. Wendy was the subject of some of his most famous and popular paintings, and was the mother of their only child, Arkie.
Like so many brilliant artists, Whiteley’s ambitious ascent to dizzying heights would eventually meet with a tragic downfall. Having built a tower of artistic statements exploring monumental ideas like Love, Evil, War, Beauty and “Endlessnessism”, he irretrievably fell from it.
Whiteley’s artworks were made across just 30 years, but their ongoing impact on Australia’s creative culture is extraordinary: he blazed a trail that still lights a path forward for a new generation of artists.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
Philanthropy: How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?Brett Whiteley was one of Australia’s most important artists; a two-time winner of the prestigious Archibald, Sulman and Wynne art prizes, making history in 1978 when he was awarded all three. His contribution to Australian art was significant, and his influence is still being felt today.We believe that an examination of Whiteley’s work and life is the perfect tool to invigorate and excite a generation of emerging artists and bring new audiences to the arts, while revisiting the role of the arts in the creation of Australia’s cultural identity. We want our film to engage audiences in Whiteley’s life and artistic process, and provide insight into Australia’s cultural and artistic history. The basis of WHITELEY’s Impact Campaign Vision is that the film will also serve as a launchpad for a more expansive conversation about the role of artists and the arts in our society, and how we can support their professional creative practice, wellbeing, and mental health.With the ongoing reduction of State and Federal support of the arts in Australia, philanthropic support is more vital than ever to the preservation of Australia’s cultural richness. A philanthropic program is one of the few ways we can share Brett Whiteley’s legacy whilst supporting the continuing advancement of visual arts in Australia.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
This film records Whiteley’s life and artistic process and gives us an insight into Australia’s cultural and artistic history. The outreach for this film centres on promoting awareness and appreciation of Brett Whiteley’s body of work (and by extension, Australian art), and nurturing a greater understanding of the importance of artists’ contributions to our own cultural history.
Our examination of Whiteley’s work and life contributes to a national conversation that:
● Invigorates and excites a new generation of emerging artists
● Revisits the role of the arts in the creation of the Australian identity and culture
● Builds support for and appreciation of the contribution of the arts sector to social, cultural, economic and political life in Australia
● Engages new audiences and encourages a renewed enthusiasm for Australian art amongst the broader community
● Campaigns to revive more rigorous Arts funding from various government sectors
● Promotes the significance of Australian art and cultural history to an Australian and International Audience
● Inspires and educates people to engage with Australia’s arts culture by fostering emerging talent in the art community
● Promotes respect for the work and social contribution of artists and creative professionals, and foregrounds the financial and mental wellness challenges they face.
● Promotes artmaking as a form of self-expression and a way to maintain mental wellbeingWe can measure this outreach impact by:
● Curriculum inclusion and engagement by educators (secondary / tertiary / public institutions), gallery attendances, digital uptake and social media participation
● Collaboration with galleries, social institutions and community arts organisations to leverage screenings of the film to support their existing programs, and gather their data on engagement
● Audience attendance figures at festivals and screenings
● Direct feedback from galleries, schools, and artistic institutions
● Attendance / participation by politicians, policymakers and influential lobbyists
What is your education and outreach strategy?
With its engaging content and capacity to reach a broad audience, WHITELEY has a role to play in reframing the importance of the arts in an education context. Too often, teaching of the arts is viewed as an optional extra, but some of the most successful educational systems regard it as essential. Professor Robyn Ewing from the University of Sydney has reflected that "creativity, problem solving and developing our imagination" are as important as literacy and numeracy "if we expect kids to solve the problems of the 21st century". A 2015 report from the University of Warwick, Britain, reviewed the way that creativity is being "squeezed out of schools". Australia faces a similar pattern with a decline in the number of public schools offering arts subjects; fewer specialist art teachers; and less time devoted to arts in the curriculum. As a consequence, fewer creative and cultural opportunities exist for young people, with those from poorer backgrounds most disadvantaged by the trend. The broader concern is that an education model that ignores creativity also fails to meet the broader needs for innovation and growth of our society and economy. Through the schools component and broader screening / panel / event series with education bodies and art galleries, we would like to re-engage the education sector in the arts and also provide a valuable tool for engaging students into the arts.
An outreach campaign is in development, with partnerships sought that can use the film in strategic and creative ways towards achieving the impact goals. Elements include:
• Screenings in metro and outer metro areas and regional Australia including education institutions and the network of small private galleries across Australia who can use the film to build support for emerging Australian artists.
• Inclusion in major cultural events / film festivals
• Development of innovative and engaging website with behind-the-scenes clips and ancillary content that can be used in an education setting.
• Creation of educational materials for schools and universities.
We will consult with educational professionals to ensure that the film and ancillary material is utilised in schools and universities, further extending the reach and longevity of the campaign.