The Three O’s: Orban, Olsen and Ogburn

ogburn 1990With over ninety works drawn from major institutions and private collections, The Three O’s: Orban, Olsen & Ogburn, reassesses the creative paths of three unique artists.

Curated by Emma Collerton, this exhibition explores the legacy of Desiderius Orban and that of two of his students, John Ogburn and John Olsen. Both later taught at Orban’s studio before blazing their own trails in Australian Art.

With the outbreak of World War II, paintings by modern masters including Cezanne, Dali, Picasso and van Gogh featured in the travelling Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art which became stranded in Australia. The opportunity to acquire them was largely dismissed.

The eventual change in this attitude to modern art can in part be attributed to the arrival in Australia of World War II refugees such as Hungarian born artist and writer Desiderius Orban. His publications Layman’s Guide to Art, Understanding Art and What Is Art All About? were highly influential and continue to be so.

In 1940, he established a studio at Sydney’s Circular Quay that became a haven where creativity was championed. Orban’s mantra was “art equals creativity”. He celebrated the idea of the artist as innovator.

His views on creativity spread through his teaching as well as through his highly influential publications Layman’s Guide to Art, Understanding Art and What Is Art All About? These ideas were influential in the development of his many students, most notably Olsen and Ogburn.

Both Ogburn and Olsen attended Orban’s classes, and later taught and ran his studio while he was abroad, and each in his individual way continued the ideas championed by Orban.

While Olsen nurtured a high profile career with commissions and appointments to gallery boards, Ogburn by contrast retreated from the Sydney art scene and was pivotal in the establishment of Harrington Street Artists’ Co-operative Gallery, which became a platform to showcase his work and that of his students. It remains a hive of artistic activity to this day.

The Three O’s: Orban, Olsen and Ogburn
Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat
On Exhibition to 19 January 2014
Free entry

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Image: John Ogburn, Reclining Nude 1990