'Fine Australian and European Paintings', Sotheby's Australia, Melbourne, 25 August 1998, lot. 39
Private collection, Sydney
"We are new people in an old continent and we still have a lot of looking to do" (John Olsen)
The work of John Olsen requires little introduction, as it seems to already occupy a significant place in the Australian consciousness. The artist has spent a lifetime in unwavering pursuit of his own unique vision of the Australian landscape. In Olsen’s work there is no foreground, middle ground and background schema, nor any concern with “human scale.” Instead he employs simultaneously the contrary vantages of the naturalist and the geographer or, to put it another way, the viewpoints of the frog and the eagle.
'Early Morning Frog Movements' is a sublime example of a significant strand of Olsen's practice, in which he pulls focus on the complex inhabitants of the wetlands and the microscopic ecological drama that unfolds just beneath the surface. Acknowledged as a master watercolorist, Olsen's paintings are marked by joyous colours and energetic lines. In 'Early Morning Frog Movements', his characteristically quizzical line and irregular squiggles and dots deftly render countless organisms, large and minute. It is Olsen's signature blend of line, colour and form that envelops the viewer through its swirling perspective.
In an era of abstraction and postmodernism, Olsen has rigorously stuck to nature as his subject. Even when he is referring to the outback landscape, usually noted for its austerity and inhospitality, Olsen’s imagery teems with life. Plants, birds - and in particular, frogs - began to feature in his works during the 1970s and 80s when he travelled extensively across the country, giving new insights into Australia's regional and desert landscapes. The artist became fascinated by the torrential weather patterns which see environments barren at one moment, and bursting with life the next. Frogs appear from the underground, and fish start to swim.
Image courtesy of Tim Olsen Gallery and the artist