Tony Woods: Archive (book review)

coverCelebrating a career of more than fifty years Tony Woods: Archive is a fitting tribute to pioneering Melbourne-based contemporary artist and filmmaker Tony Woods.

Born in Hobart in 1940, Anthony (Tony) David Woods developed an interest in the visual medium at an early age. Initially focusing on landscape watercolours, he soon became interested in figurative work.

In 1968 he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship, spending two years living and working in New York City where he developed an interest in abstraction, inspired by the environment around him. Following the loss of his entire New York studio due to a fire, Woods returned to Australia.

Starting afresh, Woods recommenced painting and in later years developed an interest in super 8, video and sound recording.

Since 1962, Woods has staged many solo exhibitions across Australia and has been featured in numerous significant group exhibitions and is represented in major public, institutional and private collections in Australia and overseas.

Since the 1980s, Tony Woods has lived and worked in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.

More than 12 months in the making and edited by curator Andrew Gaynor, this 239-page hardback volume presents a comprehensive retrospective of Woods’ artistic achievement containing 198 reproductions of his artwork dating from 1962 to the present day with the majority from Woods’ own private collection.

Also featured is previously unseen written correspondence received during the artists’ five decade career including the two page letter from the Director of The Harkness Fellowships informing him of his Award.

Tony Woods: Archive is introduced by Woods himself in Work for the Eyes to do and provides an overview and an insight into his personal and professional life form Woods’ unique perspective.

The following chapters provide different perspectives and opinion on his life and art through seven thought provoking essays: Dr Sheridan Palmer documents Woods’ early life and career in The Structure of Shadows.

Palmer also contributes Tony Woods – bonsai and barn doors documenting Woods’ return to Australia in 1969, including his friendship with fellow artist Brett Whiteley and his interest in still life, portraiture and a return to shadows and light sources.

In Dr Gary Willis’ essay Tony Woods – Harkness Fellow, New York 1968-69 provides an overview of Woods’ New York years, while Lesley Chow explores Woods’ fascination with light and shadows in both painting and Super 8 film in Anything that moves: Tony Woods’ light paintings.

Alex Selenitsch offers a step-by-step guide to appreciating Woods’ abstract works from the 1990s, in Tony Woods in Abstract. Tony Woods – the Field Recordings by Phil Edwards delves into Woods’ more recent interest in recording the sounds around him

The final essay is provided by Jake Wilson who discusses Woods’ Super 8 film work in Neighbourhood Watch: Film & Videos by Tony Woods.

Included with each copy of Tony Woods: Archive is a DVD featuring Work for the Eyes to Do –  a 55 minute documentary on Tony Woods’ life and career compiled by filmmaker Miriam Johnson and producer Roy Chu.

The documentary features a number of interviews with Woods himself alongside many of those who have contributed to this book including sculptor Stephen Walker, musician Nick Lyon, Australian poet Vivian Smith, art collector Terry Whelan and author Sue Backhouse.

Work for the Eyes to Do also features artists Jon Cattapan, Godwin Bradbeer, George Davis, Max Angus, Nick Selenitsch and John Aslanidis.

The DVD also includes excerpts from Woods’ Super 8 films Reel Light; Frames; Cat Lover; Past Events; Light on white; To dream; Eyeballing; and Colour my World.

For connoisseurs of Australian contemporary art, Tony Woods: Archive is a must have addition to any book collection. Published by and distributed by Australian Scholarly Publishing (ASP), it is available from all leading bookstores and retails for $79.95.

For more information about Tony Woods, visit: for details.

Image: Tony Woods: Archive book cover