oil on board
29 x 90 cm
Laurence Hope was born on 9 March 1927 in North Sydney , near the Harbour. His parents Norman Thomas and Gertrude Hope, originally from Brisbane , were both artists with a pioneering spirit. They provided a rich home environment encouraging a love of literature, music, art and exploration. Laurence Hope's formative artistic experience resulted from the outdoor painting trips he made with his parents as well as working in their commercial printing studio. Printing with inks, using line, texture and rapid painting techniques became significant in Hope's paintings on paper in the 1940s.
During 1941-1944 Laurence Hope attended the East Sydney Technical College . His instruction by Douglas Dundas, Herbert Badham and Lyndon Dadswell was traditional in its approach and Hope found it restrictive. In 1944 Laurence Hope left the confines of the college and family life to pursue his youthful sense of adventure. He travelled north to Brisbane where wartime restrictions were still in force. In Brisbane Hope experienced a sense of revelation with city life and its disparate elements. For him it was a time of upheaval, a time of conquest and a time of exploration.
Laurence Hope's arrival in Brisbane signaled his beginnings as a painter. His dedication to painting was obsessive and his inquiring mind led him to produce works with a psychological focus. Images such as Girl in Garden (1945) and Lovers (1946), with contrasts in light and dark, reveal that strange romantic quality prevalent in Hope's works at the time.
In Brisbane Laurence Hope met the poet Barrett Reid, one of the founders of the Barjai group of writers and poets. Hope aligned in thought with this group whose emphasis was on 'creative youth' and freedom of expression. Hope's paintings were illustrated in issues of the Barjai literary magazine alongside poetry and articles by Laurence Collinson, Charles Osborne, Barbara Patterson (later Blackman) and Judith Wright. In 1945 Laurence Hope was one of the founding members of the Miya Studio group of young artists whose beliefs were considered avant-garde by the establishment.
In 1946 Hope and Reid hitchhiked to Melbourne , Sydney and Adelaide in search of contributors for the Barjai magazine. It was eventful for Hope as he met John and Sunday Reed at Heide , Sidney Nolan, the Boyd family, John Perceval and Joy Hester. Hope was exposed to Nolan's Kelly paintings as well Hester's Face paintings and was deeply impressed by their direct and authentic approach. In the late 1940s Laurence Hope met Charles Blackman who came to respect Hope's artistic outlook.
Between 1949 and 1951 Laurence Hope journeyed north to work and paint in tropical Queensland . He produced small paintings under difficult circumstances in tents, on the road, in the jungle and on job sites. Vibrant and light filled paintings of Townsville (1949) and Jungle Birds (1951) are representative of the works exhibited at Brisbane 's Moreton Galleries in 1949 and the Johnstone Galleries in 1952. Laurence Hope's exhibition at the Johnstone Galleries was personally and financially successful. It enabled him to travel to Melbourne where he resided for 10 years.
In Melbourne Hope's friendships with Charles and Barbara Blackman, John Yule and Georges and Mirka Mora as well his involvement in the Contemporary Art Society , provided the necessary support network he required to succeed as an artist. Melbourne 's inner urban confines and artistic milieu provided Hope with new material in which to explore themes specific to city life. City Dwellers , Lovers in Bed (1954) and Married Couple (1954) are emblematic of the contemporary focus on the figure. Laurence Hope's articulation of the human condition captured the solitude and immediacy of the moment.
Hope's paintings are dramatic in their intensity and his bold use of colour heightens their psychological impact. This is aptly demonstrated in The Conversation (1957), Lovers in a Landscape (1957), Lovers -John and Sun (1961) and Lovers (1962) where the artist focuses on the themes of isolation, love and fear. The strange quality of Hope's work with its disturbing sense of poetry leads one to question the foundation and fragility of life itself - relationships, emotions, human interaction and the spirit which emanates out of one's persona.
The Melbourne years elevated Laurence Hope's status as an artist. In 1963 he embarked on an international career travelling to London and Paris . In Perceval in Woods (1963) and Double Image (1963) Hope creates a sense of intrigue viewing people from a distance. Each person, whether John Perceval the artist or the anonymous lovers, is momentarily enclosed in a specific time frame, alienated and vulnerable. In the following years Laurence Hope's paintings, although influenced by travels within Europe , North Africa , Mexico and Cambodia retained their high-keyed drama and sense of purpose. Akin to the figures he portrayed Hope struggled to overcome the personal and mundane tasks in his day to day world. He succeeded with major exhibitions in London and a retrospective at the Commonwealth Art Gallery in 1972.
During the last two decades Laurence Hope's expeditions have culminated in visual statements which are both vivid and sensual in their application. As in Wuthering Heights (1984) and Lovers in Athens (1998) the artist evokes feelings of introspection and passion. He presents life in all its nuances, tragedy and sophistication. Laurence Hope's perceptions of human emotion have become an abiding theme inextricably bound up with his life's journey .
Curator, Laurence Hope Retrospective
University Art Museum, 2001