Contemporary Art Society, Queensland Branch, 1961-1973 : a study of the post-war emergence and dissemination of aesthetic modernism in Brisbane

Fridemanis, Helen (1989). Contemporary Art Society, Queensland Branch, 1961-1973 : a study of the post-war emergence and dissemination of aesthetic modernism in Brisbane B.Sc Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Fridemanis, Helen
Thesis Title Contemporary Art Society, Queensland Branch, 1961-1973 : a study of the post-war emergence and dissemination of aesthetic modernism in Brisbane
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1989
Thesis type B.Sc Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Total pages 232
Language eng
Subjects 410000 The Arts
210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Formatted abstract
Brisbane of the 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence and dissemination of aesthetic modernism in the theories and practice of twentieth century European art movements which began infiltrating some Melbourne and Sydney art groups before the 1920s and again in the late 1930s. One result was the 1938 foundation of the Contemporary Art Society in Melbourne followed by the NSW Branch in Sydney in 1940, then branches in Adelaide and Hobart.

The purpose of this study was to examine the hypothesis that aesthetic modernism had emerged in artistic enclaves in Brisbane before 1960, culminating in the formation of the Contemporary Art Society in 1961. In that year the Contemporary Art Society assumed a major role in furthering the rise and synthesis of modernism and disseminating its concepts and practice to other artists and to the public of Brisbane.

The initiative to form a Queensland Branch of the Contemporary Art Society arose from interaction between diverse modernist forces which had converged on Brisbane by 1961. The influx of artistic and academic people to Brisbane by that time had increased the need for a forum for intellectual and social involvement in the arts. The Contemporary Art Society, along with several other community groups, fulfilled the role of providing a forum for informed debate, promotion and dissemination of aesthetic modernism.

Of the artists who converged on Brisbane at this time, Jon Molvig and Roy Churcher became the nuclei of two temperamentally different art groups that enriched the local art milieu in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was during this period that art reached its zenith in the Brisbane community. Group exhibitions of contemporary modernist work became a continuous and visible feature of the 1960s when the public was exposed to the experiments by Queensland artists. New galleries opened and new art competitions were introduced. The culmination of artistic achievements during the early 1960s was responsible for certain cultural changes in Brisbane from the mid-1960s.

Through the Contemporary Art Society, communication with southern artistic movements had resulted in a more immediate awareness in Brisbane of recent trends elsewhere. By 1967, influences from America were again changing not only the concept of aesthetic modernism but Australian culture. It was coincidental that this emergence and dissemination of aesthetic modernism was occurring in Brisbane during a period of major social change internationally. Vietnam demonstrations and the associated counter-culture had repercussions which manifested themselves throughout Australia by 1970. Although the visual arts were not thematically dominated by these social upheavals, the spirit of daring did challenge all conventions including the practice of painting on canvas. By the 1970s, these social changes and their impact on aesthetic modernism had transformed the character of Queensland Branch of the Contemporary Art Society.

As this social revolution was agitating the reactionary ruling elite in Queensland, inroads into the Establishment were being made through the creative arts. Simultaneously the economy flourished from the mid-1960s in Queensland. The State Government responded by appointing its first Director of Cultural Activities, by proceeding with the new Art Gallery and Cultural Centre on the south bank and by closing the Central Technical College art school which re-opened in a more enlightened atmosphere at Seven Hills. The University of Queensland bent to pressure and introduced its first course in Fine Arts.

The CAS fell on more difficult times, its role being usurped by the flurry of cultural activity within the Establishment. The Society had successfully contributed to the modernist movement which instigated cultural change in Brisbane but, troubled by internal uncertainty and diversity, the Queensland branch ceased to operate in 1973.
Keyword Contemporary Art Society. Queensland Branch
Art, Australian -- Queensland
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