Born 1943, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, died Melbourne 2002, Australia
The symmetry of Paul Partos’s career as a painter, bracketed within two landmark exhibitions of Australian abstract art, both at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) – ‘The Field’ (1968) and ‘Fieldwork: Australian Art 1968–2002’ (2003) – resonates with the artist’s use of a border in his canvases to frame, in his words, ‘the allusive [sic] world of felt experience’. Contained within the self-imposed physical and conceptual limits of a square or rectangle, Partos’s canvases reveal intense passages of his inner life, expressed in markings ranging from quietude and restraint to exuberant expressions of form and colour, universalised in the process of painting.
Paul Partos arrived with his family in Western Australia in 1949, he and his brothers spending an initial six months in a Perth orphanage before being reunited with their parents for the move to Melbourne, an experience that coloured his life and art. From 1959 to 1962, Partos studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology alongside fellow students Robert Jacks, Guy Stuart, George Baldessin and Gareth Sansom. Following his critically acclaimed, sell-out first solo exhibition in 1965 at Gallery A in Melbourne and Sydney (curated by James Mollison) and later inclusion in ‘The Field’, Partos became interested in conceptual art, resulting – after two years in New York (1970–72) – in austere, sparsely painted works. Although never entirely absent in his work, sensuality returned to his paintings in the late 1970s.
In the 1980s, Partos experimented with etching, finding satisfaction in creating surfaces that matched his paintings in richness and sensitivity. In 1987, he left his fourteen-year teaching position at the Victorian College of the Arts to paint full time, exhibiting with Sherman Galleries in Sydney and Christine Abrahams Gallery in Melbourne from 1992. The beauty and vitality of his last exhibitions with these galleries (2000 and 2001 respectively) drew particular praise from an art world where abstract painters occupy a persistent presence in contemporary art.
Paul Partos was represented in important solo and group exhibitions in Australia and abroad, among them ‘Minimal Art’ (NGV, 1976); ‘The Work and its Context’ (San Francisco Museum of Art, 1978); ‘Australian Perspecta’ (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1981); ‘Eureka’ (Serpentine Gallery, London, 1982); ‘The Field Now’ (Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne, 1984); ‘Windows on Australia 1’ (Australian Embassy, Tokyo, 1995); ‘1968’ (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1995); and Clemenger Award, Triennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art (NGV, 1996). In 1992, he was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship Grant. His work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, major state and regional collections and in several important corporate collections.
The Estate of Paul Partos comprises a number of works spanning the artist’s career and a comprehensive archive of written and visual documentation. The Estate provides material for researchers, curators and students interested in the artist and Australian art from the late 1960s until 2002.
Sherman Galleries Goodhope & Hargrave, Sydney
Art Chicago 1999 (Art Fair), Chicago, USA
Sixth Australian Contemporary Art Fair, Melbourne
Geometric Painting 1941 - 1997, University of Queensland, Brisbane
Windows on Australia I, Australian Embassy, Tokyo
Surface for Reflection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
The Field Now, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne
Eureka, Serpentine Gallery, London
Australian Perspecta, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
The Work and Its Content, San Francisco Museum of Art
The Field, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney