David van Nunen


Australian artist David van Nunen was born in Grafton, on the northern coast of New South Wales, in 1952. He graduated from the National Art School in 1974, holding his first solo exhibition that same year, and subsequently obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts in 1981.

In 1980, he was awarded a six-month tenure as artist-in-residence at the Power Studio, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, under the aegis of the University of Sydney. He was also artist-in-residence at the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory in 1990 and at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, for three months, in 1991. Since 1974, van Nunen has held 25 solo exhibitions and participated in over 70 group exhibitions, including international surveys of Australian contemporary art. He has several art awards to his credit, including the prestigious Sydney Morning Herald Art Prize, which he was awarded in 1981. His commissions include a major 4.5 metre tapestry of Obirri Rock, which hangs as the centrepiece at Darwin International Airport.

Van Nunen exhibits regularly in Australia, America, Europe and Mexico and has been a guest lecturer at such institutions as Georgetown University and the Australian Embassy in Washington DC, the National University in Mexico City and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Van Nunen is represented in major public collections in Australia and overseas, including the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and the Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam, as well as in corporate and private collections in Australia, the USA, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico and the Netherlands.

An artist of immense vitality and verve, David van Nunen’s work, over the past three decades, has contributed to the formation of a fresh vision of the Australian landscape. Acclaimed as one of Australia’s outstanding colourists, van Nunen is renowned for his vivid and evocative images of Sydney Harbour and its foreshores, as well as Australia’s wilderness areas, national parks and botanic gardens. The lush, verdant vegetation of Australia’s sub-tropical rainforests is similarly a recurrent theme in van Nunen’s imagery, influenced by his early childhood in Queensland and on the northern coast of New South Wales. His work also frequently includes references to the urban landscape, such as the jagged teeth of the Opera House and the unbroken curve of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Whatever his subject, van Nunen’s paintings are rendered with the vibrant palette and bold brushwork reminiscent of European fauvism of the early 1900s.

Among the prime exponents of the plein air (outdoor) landscape painting tradition, van Nunen has consistently pursued an individual vision and a unique personal style which have made his work immediately recognisable, earning him a prominent position in Australian contemporary art. The artist’s integration of both abstract and figurative elements in his work prompted the late eminent Australian critic, Elwyn Lynn, to hail the artist as ‘a major force in his confrontation of reality with abstraction.’

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David van Nunen