WHITELEY

1 x 90 MINUTE FEATURE DOCUMENTARY | 2016

Brett Whiteley is an Australian cultural icon. Nearly a quarter century after his death, there has never been anyone like Whiteley in the history of Australian art. His brief dazzling life was as erratic, combustible and preposterous as it was tragic.

WHITELEY is a visual journey into the life and legacy of one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, Brett Whiteley. Through archive, drama and visual effects, this raw and intimate film shows Whiteley’s driving passion to express himself through his art. 

The film records Whiteley’s life and artistic process and gives us an insight into Australia’s cultural and artistic history. It underlines the importance of nurturing and supporting all young artists who reflect upon and enrich Australian culture.

Whiteley established a productive and credible artistic vortex around which much of our 70s and 80s sense of self-worth as an aggressively creative nation emerged. 

His hedonistic adventures veered well beyond simply being a painter as he earnestly attempted to create a legacy for himself by amalgamating his sometimes exceptional work with his often less than exceptional life.

In his personal life, he adored his wife Wendy but would also have affairs.  Many of his most successful paintings were odes to Wendy and were in no small part successful due to her uninhibited expressiveness before Brett’s devouring gaze.  

When tackling the life of Brett Whiteley, it’s almost impossible not to categorize his public persona into some very distinct types: The pure artist who knew his art history backwards but would cry when one of his own favourite paintings was sold to a stranger; the volatile egotist who could be destroyed by the smallest criticism but who was fearless in painting-large the most intimate of his inadequacies; and the showman entrepreneur who would put on full-tilt glitz and tinsel openings even as he complained about his work not being taken seriously. Whiteley was full of such incongruities and contradictions.

Despite the tabloid headlines, Whiteley’s life as an artist was defined by a vigorous work ethic, an exhaustive commitment to study of the work of others, and a willingness to take risks in his own work. 

In the end and despite his inglorious demise, Whiteley was able to manifest an outstanding body of work that elevated him beyond his notoriety into the international echelons of preeminent modern artists.