Shaun Gladwell

Study for an Art Gallery with staircase and lift access, 1998
oil on canvas
60.0 x 40.0 cm
signed, dated and inscrbed with title (on the reverse)


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Imperial Slacks, Sydney
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998

'Study for an Art Gallery with Staircase and Lift Access' is an early work by the significant Australian artist. It was created and exhibited in 1998 at the Imperial Slacks Gallery, an inner-city artist run initiative that Gladwell co-directed with several of his contemporaries. It marks a dynamic time in the artist's early career and is suggestive of the future directions his practice would take. Painting was central to Gladwell's training and continues to play an important role in his multi-media practice. Moreover, the artist sites painting as a pivotal influence on his renowned digital media artworks.

This intimate oil on canvas flaunts the artist's proficiency as a painter, as well as pointing toward Gladwell's signature interests in the Australian landscape and notions of the sublime. In the dream-like painting, a large cloud hovers above the vast landscape with a staircase and elevator ascending to the amorphous form. The title suggests that this is the artist's surreal imagining of a gallery, an allusion perhaps to the elusive and intangible nature of the art institution for him at that time. Given Gladwell's current status as one of the key figures in Australian contemporary art, the painting is now charged with a delightful irony.

  • Study for an Art Gallery with staircase and lift access

Image courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

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Shaun Gladwell is one of Australia's leading artists in video and time-based media, celebrated for his explorations of site and the body in motion, the Australian landscape and popular culture. At the completion of his MFA at Sydney's College of Fine Arts, a Samstag scholarship took the artist to London where his fellowship at Goldsmith's College, University of London in 2002 backed onto a residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris.

The solo exhibition Kickflipping Flaneur at Artspace, Sydney in 2000 is seen as the breakthrough moment of Gladwell's career. He featured in the Bienial de Sao Paulo Brazil, 2006 and, in 2007 was included in the Robert Storr exhibition at the 52nd Venice Biennale, Think with the senses, feel with the mind - art in the present tense. This is remembered as a paradigm shift for the reception of video art by a contemporary Australian artist; a defining moment that saw a single-channel video with sound seriously regarded as a seminal work of its time and a new addition to the Australian canon. Gladwell further exhibited in the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009. That year he also travelled to Afghanistan as Australia's official war artist.

In 2019, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, staged the major solo exhibition Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow, Gladwell's largest solo exhibition to date. His most recent innovations have been with virtual reality, including the work Orbital Vanitas (2017) which placed viewers inside a skull orbiting the Earth. Orbital Vanitas premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (2017) and was selected for the Cannes Film Festival (2017).