Arthur Ted Powell

Biography

Early Life and Education

Arthur Edward Powell was born and raised in Neasden, a working-class suburb of London, the only son of electrical engineer Edward George Powell and his Wiltshire-born wife Freda Doreen Lewis, a box assembler at the National Cash Register (NCR) factory in Brent Cross.

He was educated at John Kelly Boys’ Technical College, in Crest Road Neasden where the infamous serial killer Graham Young who used poison to kill his victims was also a pupil. Powell along with other pupils had been off school ill a couple of times with similar painful symptoms as his victims after encounters with Young in the schoolyard. His experiments on family and school friends ultimately saw Young committed to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital in 1962 at the age of fourteen after killing his stepmother. [1] Powell wanted to become a fireman when he finished school but his art teacher at John Kelly Boys School, Robert Lobley, broadened his knowledge of art and encouraged him to enroll in drawing classes at St Martins School of Art.

A part time job mixing colour for boot polish at the Meltonian shoe polish factory after school, on weekends and over term holidays helped develop his fine sense of colour.

Powell studied Fine Art and Advertising Design at Ealing Art College in West London from 1963 to 1968. He was a student in Roy Ascott’s experimental Groundcourse, a method as influential as it was unorthodox in its approach to teaching art. The radical curricula and behaviourist experiments at Ealing between 1961 and 1964 made it one of most controversial art courses in the history of British art education. [2][3] Notable alumni of the Groundcourse were rock musicians Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones (1961-64) and Pete Townshend of The Who (1961-1964), conceptual artist Stephen Wil- lats (1963-) and English psychedelic artist- musician Michael English (1962-). Powell’s work at the time was dominated and influenced by tutors who later went on to have significant influence on British art in the Twentieth Century: abstract artists Anthony Benjamin and Bernard and Harold Cohen, American Jewish Pop artist R.B Kitaj, visiting artists including Austrian Gustav Metzger, a leading exponent of Auto-destructive Art, and the radical thinking of Roy Ascott whose theories on cybernetics were credited with predicting the Internet.

While Powell was a student at Ealing Art College he worked part-time as a cel painter on the 90-minute Beatles’ animated movie Yellow Sub- marine, designed by Heinz Edelmann and directed by George Dunning. [4] He was one of ‘a team of mostly young, unsung artists [who] toiled away in rinky-dink offices in Soho Square, London, for nearly a year’ [5], ‘working long shifts in the ink and paint department’ [6] on what would half a century later be described as a milestone in graphic design inspired by Pop art. American writer and producer Josh Weinstein who worked on the animated TV series The Simpsons, described Yellow Submarine as ‘a subversive masterpiece that gave birth to modern animation’. Powell mostly painted cels for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Nowhere Man sequences, described by Weinstein in 2012 as ‘pop art masterpieces as good and breathtaking as any Warhol or Picasso’ [7]

 

Career

Advertising

After graduating, Powell worked as an advertising art director at Leo Burnett London. He migrated to Australia in 1976 and was employed full-time as an art director and creative director at various agencies in Melbourne, including the local office of US- based advertising agency J Walter Thompson and later their regional offices in Auckland, Taipei, Detroit, London and Bangkok. He worked exclusively on the Ford Motor Company account for twenty years and won numerous international awards for his work. Powell worked on his art in his spare time, recording life on the streets in sketchbooks and city skylines from apartment and hotel rooftops in major cities in Australasia, Europe and America where he lived, visited an worked. These sketches would become visual reference later for future cityscape paintings. Powell returned to Australia in 2004 to embark on a full-time career as a painter and printmaker in rented studio space at Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park, Victoria.

 

Art

Major themes and styles

Australia from an outsider’s view remained a major theme in his landscapes and cityscapes. His early style was representational and later became more experimental and abstracted. Many of his large works are painted in oil or acrylic on canvas. Smaller scale works picking out details of local interest at street level are rendered in pencilcrayoncharcoalwatercolour and gouache on paper. For limited edition prints Powell used traditional methods of monoprintlithographyrelief and reduction linocut printingetching and engraving on stone and steel plates, and more recently digital printing using an Apple iPad program called Brushes.

Landscapes

Returning to Australia in 2004, Powell accepted an artist residency at Gasworks Arts Park near his home in Albert Park, Victoria, sharing studio space at different times with influential and renown international artists, including assemblage artist Jeff Wassmann, artist Lisa Roet, musician/artist Oleh Witer and conceptual artists Gary Willis and Brook Andrew. This led to a cross-fertilization of ideas and greater experimentation with subject matter, tools and mediums.

At the time, Powell’s work was strongly influenced by two Australian landscape artists. The first was Australian painter and printmaker Fred Williams (1927-1982) who Powell had never met but whose method of reworking the same motif a number of times in a number of mediums and very often over a number of years he adopted. The other was Clifton Pugh AO (1924- 1990) who Powell accompanied on a three-week painting trip to the Kimberley Ranges in Western Australia in 1989.

Fifteen years on, Powell wanted to express something new in a genre that was seen by some curators and art critics at the time as ‘deeply old-fashioned’ and an ‘old man’s art’.
In 2005, he went back to the Kimberley Ranges to camp and paint the landscape for three weeks and find a new direction. The expedition resulted in a large body of new work in gouache on paper for two solo exhibitions, Twenty Days in the Kimberley (2006) and Australian Landscapes (2008). 

Installation and portraiture

Between 2007 and 2009, Powell’s focus moved away from landscapes to more social and political themes across a variety of mediums, genres and styles, including portraiture and installation. This included a multi-media installation created out of discarded factory- made household objects, titled White Trash (2007), and a series of sixteen portraits of residents at the nearby South Port Community Residential Home (2007) as a response to a requirement of his council subsidized studio tenancy to undertake community work.

A private commission of fifteen paintings on the theme of endangered forests of Australia for a prominent Riverina winery in 2006 sparked an interest in land conservation and culminated in
a joint exhibition of animal portraits titled Poetic Fauna in 2009 with fellow Briton, Noosa-based writer and poet Bryan S. Cooper, and saw a momentary shift in Powell’s focus from Australian flora to fauna to preservation and conservation themes.

Cityscapes

The city of Melbourne was to have a profound effect upon Powell’s work, becoming the primary motif from 2009 onwards. Between 2009-2014, he painted Melbourne and its environs at night (Rivers of Light, 2010), as a topographical map

(Mapping Melbourne, 2011), a geographic coordinate (145 Degrees East, 2012), as an historic grid (GRID, 2014) and as a state of mind (Melbourne on my Mind 2014). From a birds-eye view and at street-level, he captured and recorded the changing face of Melbourne as it grew in size, density and character in different mediums and dimensions.

In large works he tilts Melbourne’s urban landscape full against the picture plane in a style evoking a map or aerial photograph. A style reminiscent of not only his early student work but Indigenous Australian art and that of local contemporary artists Rick Amor, Jan Senbergs and John Catapan who had similarly imagined what the footprint of Melbourne CBD might look like from the air.

Urban sketches

Powell placed great importance on drawing and produced many preparatory sketches and drawings in panorama sketchbooks and long concertina notebooks at his studio, on the streets and in cafes near his inner city home and in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand where he had lived, using simple drawing tools and palette. Five boxed sketchbooks tracing the development along the Port Phillip Bay foreshore and capturing the precise layout of the streets of South Melbourne, Port Melbourne and Albert Park are part of the City of Port Phillip Collection and State Library of Victoria Rare Books Collection. Powell is a member of Urban Sketchers.

 

 

Documentary

Artscape: Artists At Work – Gasworks, 30 mins, ABC1, aired September 2 2010.

Filmed over 6 weeks, the documentary gives a rare glimpse inside Powell’s studio and working life.

 

Charity

In 1983, Powell volunteered as a firefighter in the Otway Ranges in Victoria during the Ash Wednesday bushfires, the deadliest bushfire in Australian history (until the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009). He donated a painting to be auctioned at the Art for Life bush fire appeal, at the Melbourne Town Hall in 2009 to raise money for the rebuilding of communities tragically affected by the recent bushfires.

Powell donated paintings to various charities, including the Lighthouse Charity Trust for their Annual Lighthouse Art Auction December 2010 at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA). The proceeds from his paintings and others donated by colleagues respected and prominent in advertising and art helped Lighthouse continue to care for young people in need. 

 

Group exhibitions

2015 Do what you Love, staff and alumni exhibition with Michael Peck, Brigid Heller,
Julie Wajs, Michelle, Mantsio, Carlos Pagoda. Clement Meadmore Gallery, Australian Academy of Design, 26 June

2015 From Nature, a showcase of organic sculpture. Artists: Anne Learmonth, Joanne Linsdell, Lloyd Godman, Maria Simonelli, Shogetsudo Koryu, Ted Powell, Ursula Dutkiewcz, Tricia Sabey, Kris Coad, Kim Simon & David Waters, Georgie Seccull, Tanja George, Emily Karanikolopoulos, Alexander Esenarro Santafe, Margaret Wilson & Matt Dux, Christopher James, Mary Hughes & David Hughes, Ivana Perkins, Brigit Heller, Bette Erskine, Andrew Rogers, Cornelia Konrads Gasworks Arts Park 11 - 12 April

2014, What I know Now, staff and alumni exhibition with Michael Peck, Brigid Heller, Godwin Bradbeer, Michelle, Mantsio, Carlos Pagoda. Clement Meadmore Gallery, Australian Academy of Design, 15 August

2013, Structure, Gasworks Arts Park resident artists exhibition. Artists: Ana Paola Aguanta, Brook Andrew, Craig Barrett, Dani Bryant, Kris Coad, Kon Dimopoulos, Ursula Dutkiewicz, Tanja George, Janet Marnell-Brown, John Meade, Paul

Meehan, Ivana Perkins, Ted Powell, Tricia Sabey, Benjamin Storch, Oleh Witer. Gasworks Arts Park, 12 November -December 1. 

2011, Recent Acquisitions, Port Phillip City Collection, 2010-2011. Artists: Hether Shimmen, Sunita, Phulmaya and Sahili Tamang, Peter Daverington, Paul Cox, Penelope Davis, Kate Just, Cathy Henenberg, Lisa Roet, Katherine Boland, Marc McBride, Josephine Rowbury, Matthew Gardiner. St Kilda Town Hall, 30 November - December 29.

2009, Aqueous Bloom, a Gasworks artist’s exhibition of sculpture, installation, ceramics and painting reflecting on water in its various states. Artists: Craig Barrett, Kris Coad, Ursula Dutkiewicz, Kay Goldfinch, Mathew Harding, Liz Low, John Meade, Jamieson Miller, Ted Powell, Lisa Roet, Tricia Sabey, Michael Sibel, Julie Squires, Oleh Witer, Frederick White (guest artist). Curator Rebecca Coates. Gasworks Art Park, 11-27 September.

2007, Contamination, a Gasworks artist’s exhibition of sculpture, installation, ceramics, painting and illustration responding to Gasworks Arts Park’s contaminated environment and its planned remediation. Artists: Craig Barrett, Kris Coad, Ursula Dutkiewicz, Mathew Harding, Ann James, Sophia Legoe, Jamieson Miller, Ted Powell, Lisa Roet, Anne Ronjat, Tricia Sabey, Michael Sibel, Julie Squires, Oleh Witer, Richard

Thomas (guest artist/consultant). Contributed poem by G. Crossan, 2007, Gasworks Art Park, 18-28 October.

2006 Landed, Gasworks Art Park, 16-30 July. 2005 Discovery, Gasworks Art Park, 18-26 June.

 

Solo exhibitions

2015 Astral Plane, Angela Robarts-Bird Gallery, August 31-20 September

2014 Melbourne on my Mind, Melbournestyle gallery, 5-26 October

2014 GRID, Angela Robarts-Bird Gallery, April 28 - 18 May

2012 145 Degrees East, Angela Robarts-Bird Gallery, 26 March -

2011 Mapping Melbourne, Angela Robarts-Bird Gallery, 21 March-April 10

2010 Rivers of Light, Angela Robarts-Bird Gallery, 3-23 May

2009 Poetic Fauna, Angela Robarts-Bird Gallery, 4-24 May, poems by B.S. Cooper, 2009

2008 Australian Landscapes, Angela Robarts- Bird Gallery, 7-27 April

2007 South Portraits, Angela Robarts-Bird Gallery, March 19 -April 8

2006 20 Days in the Kimberley, Angela Robarts-Bird Gallery, March 20 -April 7

 

Commissions

2015 Australian Property Management

2008 Italian Chamber of Commerce

2006 Dal Broi Wines 15 large works on canvas for exhibition titled Talking Stick, at Red Deer Station, Tanuda Barossa Valley SA

 

Collections

2014 Victorian State Library, Rare books collection

2011 Port Phillip Council Collection 2010 Westgate Bridge Authority

Private collections in Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Singapore, London, Bangkok, Tokyo, Detroit, Amsterdam, South Africa, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Germany, Greece..

 

Contributed works

2014 Diabetes New Zealand, Mardi Gras fundraising event/auction, Auckland, 26 July

2014 Organisation Passion About Kawau auction, Kawau Island, New Zealand,
15 February

2011 Lighthouse Charity Trust exhibition and auction, 9 September

2010 Lighthouse Charity Trust exhibition and auction, 6 December

2009 Art for Life bush fire appeal, Melbourne Town Hall, 27 March

 

Floor talks

2014 Artist's Talk, 2pm Saturday Oct 18, Melbournetsyle Gallery Upstairs

 

 

References

[1] Emsley, John, ‘Graeme Young’, in The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison, Oxford University Press, 345, ISBN: 0192805991

[2] Emily Pethick, ‘Degree Zero’, Frieze magazine, Issue 101, September 2006. http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/degree_zero/. Retrieved July 25 2014

[3] ‘So, what did you learn at school today?’ by Will Hodgkinson, The Guardian (UK), 19 April 2009. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/apr/19/ art-schools

Retrieved July 25 2014

[4] Yellow Submarine (1968) Full Cast & Crew

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063823/fullcredits?r ef_=tt_ov_st_sm

[5] Cohen, Karl, ‘The Beatles' Yellow Submarine Turns 30: John Coates and Norman Kauffman Look Back’, Animation World Magazine, Issue 3,4, July 1998. 

[6] Weinstein, Josh, ‘How the Beatles' Yellow Submarine gave rise to modern animation’, The Guardian online, Monday 19 November 2012.

[7] Weinstein, Josh, ‘As great as any Picasso’, The Guardian UK, 20 November 2012,19.

[8] Gustav Metzger, ‘Auto-Destructive Art, Machine Art, Auto-Creative Art’ (London, 23 June 1961), in Metzger at AA (London: Destruction/Creation, 1965).

[9] ‘Analogue: Incidents in the Life of Roy Ascott’, Border Crossings magazine, Issue 127, August 2013

[10] Sinclair, Jenny, Sorrowful Crossing, The Age, October 9, 2010. http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/art-and -design/sorrowful-crossing- 20101007-169dp.html

Retrieved July 25 2014

[11] Recent Acquisitions [Catalogue of an exhibition of recent Port Phillip City acquisitions, 2010-2011] held at the City of Port Phillip Town Hall, 30 Nov-29 Dec, St Kilda.

[12] State Library of Victoria rare books collection

Williamstown, July 2012. [http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/primo_library/libweb/action/ dlDisplay.do?vid=MAIN&reset_config=true&docId=SLV _VOYAGER3183192]; Voyager of the Seas and Beacon Cove [http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/primo_library/libweb/action/ dlDisplay.do?vid=MAIN&reset_config=true&docId=SLV _VOYAGER3183177]; Melbourne South Bank

[http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/primo_library/libweb/action/ dlDisplay.do?vid=MAIN&reset_config=true&docId=SLV _VOYAGER3183183] 

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