David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

27 March 2017

Vale Robert Rooney (1937-2017)

Robert Rooney, Melbourne artist photographer writer reviewer and musician, died last Tuesday, 
21 March 2017.

Robert Rooney was born on 24 September 1937. 
Every artist born in 1937 so far located 
Robert Rooney

Medium                    ballpoint pen on 204 cardboard index cards, 
                                 cardboard box
Measurements         (1-230) 9.8 × 15.0 × 13.7 cm (overall)
Accession Number   2009.501.1-230
Department              Australian Prints & Drawings
Credit Line               National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
                                 Gift of Robert Rooney through the Australian
                                 Government's Cultural Gifts  Program, 2009
Gallery location        Not on display

During the last decade, Robert made colourful paintings from black and white line illustrations derived from a 1937 edition of the weekly French magazine Le Rire (The Laugh/Laughter). 

Robert Rooney, Le Rire: Beard and Baby (PIcq), 2008

Several years ago, on Robert's birthday, we were able to send him the edition of Le Rire published on his actual birth day, 21 Sept 1937. Such fun.


Our first encounter with Robert was in the early 1970s at The Source in central Melbourne.

Others also associated him with that excellent bookshop. 
Sol LeWitt, 1967 :

Ian Robertson, today :

clearly remember buying poetry books from him in Sweeney Reed’s bookshop in Exhibition Street in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s

… I think it was called East End

we always had cryptic conversations and he perpetually wore a small and somehow quite private smile, something was quietly amusing him

in ’89-90 I visited his house with Philip Brophy when putting together an issue of Stuff on Graphics, to which Robert contributed a compendium of quotes from Ed Ruscha

the house was like a 3D spotless scaled up image from a late 1950/early 1960s Australian Home Beautiful pictorial, perfectly maintained… 

the pantry was memorable, with rows and rows of tinned foods and packaged goods as though in preparation for a Nuclear bomb

a glimpse into his room has left an image of packed bookshelves on four walls

From Robert's more recent bookshop associations, pinned to our office wall here, is this Black Square edition of his design for the Sainsbury's Books tote bag.

AAA_Art Archive Australia  

Robert Rooney was the only artist to be included in these two generations of breakthrough exhibitions at the NGV :

The Field in 1968 with Kind-hearted kitchen-garden IV (ref.)

 Robert Rooney, Kind-hearted kitchen-garden 11, 1967

...and POPISM in 1984, curated by Paul Taylor.
(Philip Brophy essay : Re-Generation: Robert Rooney as Pop)

Robert Rooney, Portrait of Paul Taylor, 1984

Robert was also a key inclusion in Melbourne Cool, curated by Daniel Thomas and Mary Eagle at the NGA in 1983.


I have always preferred to work from secondary sources, particularly mass-media ones, rather than paint or draw from the actual subject. Robert Rooney 1986

The sources for Rooney’s highly regarded 1960s abstract paintings were breakfast cereal cut-outs and other found material such as knitting patterns. His work has changed considerably over the years but the one constant, as Charles Green pointed out in 2000, is a ‘love affair with the legible signs of nomadic suburbia (logos, trademarks, street signs).’

From the 1990s Rooney’s hand-painted acrylic pictures have been based on illustrations in esoteric children’s books. More recently he has been concerned with artworks made by children themselves, though it is not his aim to draw or paint like a child. Rooney’s interest is more in ‘modern Art (or Modernism) and childhood, or, if you like, the early childhood of Modernism.’

Acknowledged as one of the most important abstract painters in the landmark 1968 exhibition The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria, Robert Rooney has exhibited widely during his long career. A major retrospective - From the Home Front - was held at Monash University Gallery in 1990.

His work has always had the freshness of youth but also the elegance and intelligence of maturity. It wears wonderfully well, and therefore must be as good as any works of art can be.

- Daniel Thomas 1997


In the 1980s we were able to acquire one of the edition of two Corners, Robert Rooney's photo series of Bruce Pollard's Pinacotheca Gallery, Richmond. Such a treasure. Corners 1/2 is in the collection of the NGV; Corners 2/2 now at AGNSW.

Robert Rooney, Corners, 1972  (click to enlarge)

Two other Robert Rooney photo series are now on show at 
Spare Room 33 in Canberra.

Robert Rooney, Luna Park: St Kilda, January 1975, 1975 

Robert Rooney, Scorched Almonds, 1970 

This exhibition, Serial and Conceptual Photography, opened on Tuesday last, the day of Robert's death. That sad news has reached us only today. Vale Robert.


Robert Rooney, Portrait photographs 1978–1987, Tolarno Galleries, 11 September–11 October 2014

At the 2014 opening of 'Portrait photographs 1978-1987' 
Jon Campbell, Robert Rooney, Doug Hall and a photographer
all photographed, and here regarded

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
someone looks at something...