Inherent in Whisson’s oeuvre is a highly attuned artistic intuition, a studied but by no means mechanical relationship to colour and form that favours naïveté as the most honest way an artist can reconstruct the world.
Born in Lilydate, Victoria, in 1927, Whisson studied under the tutelage of leading Melbourne expressionist painter Danilla Vassilieff from 1945-1946. Building upon the strong history of figurative expressionism in Australian art, Whisson's intuitive paintings incorporate symbols, images and abstract marks to bring life to his surreal and uncanny understanding of the physical and metaphysical world. His practice of depicting multiple perspectives of a scene concurrently and flattening a sense of perspective or horizon speak to Whisson’s engagement with sources as diverse as the Cubists to the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi.
Widely regarded as one of the most important Australian painters of his generation, Whisson lived in Perugia, Italy for over three decades from 1977, from where he continued to exhibit regularly in Australia. In 1987, Whisson was awarded the prestigious Visual Arts Board Emeritus Award for substantial contribution to Australian Art, and his work is held in collections around the world including the British Museum, London and the Chartwell Collection, New Zealand, in addition to all major Australian public museums.
In 2012, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne jointly mounted a major retrospective of the artist's work, Ken Whisson: As If
, which traced the evolution of Whisson's career over sixty years. The exhibition was accompanied by a monograph with essays by Glenn Barkley (MCA) and Lesley Harding (Heide Museum of Modern Art).
Ken Whisson is represented by Niagara Galleries, Melbourne and exhibited with Watters Gallery, Sydney from 1980 until the gallery’s closure in 2018. Whisson currently lives and works in Sydney.