A last look at Ken Searle Unmasked

Bidding reserve: Highest bid so far $250

This is the S0-talented Ken Searle






This is the mask Ken Made




Title of mask

Title: The Golden Mean


before ken decorated it, the mask looked like this






Ken on making art

“I see my city paintings as maps, and also as portraits,” Ken said.

“My aim is to portray place, and people who are part of that place. The finished printing should express the complex and unique nature of the subject, both through the images which it presents, and through the composition itself. I feel that the inhabitants of an urban area make their own interpretation of their place through time (past and present) by the various and overlapping ways in which they organise and utilise public and private spaces. In this way, a city is a vast living communal artwork. My job is to try to capture representative images of this artwork and reassemble them so that the viewer can see them conveniently all at the same time within a frame.

“My method is to walk into a painting, letting the area itself shape the form and content of the portrayal.

“For two or three months I explore the area, gathering information. I collect maps, research local history, and try to get a feel of the community by talking to people. Conciously and subconsciously I select, edit, and compose as I walk around looking at things and decide where to work on site and which images to portray. I keep a notebook and jot down compositional ideas as they come to me.

“As I explore, I paint and sketch on site, producing 60 or more finished sketches in oil paint, crayon, pencil and charcoal. While I sit on the street working on these preliminary sketches, I pick up the area’s interpretation of itself. This will be reflected in the composition,’ Ken added.

“In depicting an urban area, I need to find the keys to its singular identity. The first two keys are topography and architecture. As I study the topography of a place, I also have to work out the topographical orientation of my composition. Unlike the traditional landscape painter, I don’t just position myself in one place and portray everything I can see in one ‘view’. But this doesn’t mean that I can portray a random jumble of images. There has to be an overall orientation, to provide unity to the viewing points. The architectural key to the community includes the new housing developments, as well as car parks and shopping malls, murals and suburban fences. It is through the architecture that we discover the third and most important key to an urban area.

“This is the demography – the kind of people who make up the place.”


About Ken Searle

Ken is a self-taught artist who began exhibiting in the mid 1970s  at Watters Gallery in East Sydney, where he has held many solo exhibitions. He has also had solo exhibitions in Melbourne, Adelaide, Geelong and Ballarat, and has participated in more than 100 group exhibitions. Examples of his work can be viewed on the Watters Gallery website.
As an artist, he is best known for his large paintings in oil on canvas, depicting the suburban and industrial areas of a number of Australian cities. As well, he has painted the landscapes of the Western Desert and of the southern coastline. Ken’s paintings are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of NSW, and many regional galleries and private collections.
Ken Searle has also worked as illustrator and designer of a number of innovative non-fiction picture books with Indigenous and environmental themes.

His experience as a designer and book illustrator began when he and author Nadia Wheatley were working as consultants at the school at Papunya (an Aboriginal community in the Western Desert, Northern Territory). While assisting the Anangu staff and students to develop resources for the Indigenous curriculum that the school had developed, Ken designed and helped illustrate the Papunya School Book of Country and History – a collaborative account of the history of this internationally-famous Western Desert community, told from an Indigenous perspective. Acknowledged as a groundbreaking work in terms of both its visual and written text, the book won a number of awards, including the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books in the 2002 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, and the History for Young People section of the NSW Premier’s History Awards for 2002.

Ken was also the designer of When I was Little, Like You (Allen & Unwin, 2003), a picture book by Papunya author/illustrator Mary Malbunka, with whom Ken worked as mentor for long periods, both in Alice Springs and at his Sydney home.
With Walking With the Seasons in Kakadu, Ken Searle was the illustrator as well as designer. The text, by environmentalist and teacher Diane Lucas, reflects the many years she spent working with Indigenous people in the Kakadu area. As research for the illustrations, Ken explored the flood plain of Kakadu – gathering plant specimens, taking photographs and sketching the landscape. In 2004 this picture book was shortlisted for the Australian Award for Excellence in Educational Publishing.
The picture book, Going Bush, was the result of another unique collaboration. In 2005 Ken Searle and Nadia Wheatley ran an innovative environmental education project with 16 children from Muslim, Catholic and state schools in Sydney’s south-west. The poetry and art of the students is showcased in this book, alongside Ken’s own artwork and an environmental text by Nadia Wheatley. Going Bush won the Wilderness Society Picture Book Award in 2007 and was shortlisted for the Human Rights Award for a non-fiction book.
His more recent work as an illustrator and designer can be seen in Playground. Compiled by Nadia Wheatley with the support of Indigenous consultant Dr Jackie Huggins, this sumptuous book presents the voices of more than 100 Aboriginal Elders and young people talking about their experiences of growing up and learning.

He also illustrated the amazing Australians All, written by Nadia Wheatley.

Some of the awards he has won are

Shortlisted, Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2012
Kedumba Drawing Award, 2011
Adelaide Perry Drawing Prize, 2009
New South Wales Parliament House, Commission, 2005
Ballarat University and Ballarat City Council, Commission, 1997
Visual Arts Board Overseas Studio: Besozzo, 1984

Nadia wearing Ken’s beautiful golden mask




Now, all you need to do is scroll down through our taster exhibition of Ken’s other work, follow the links to see more, then make your bid. And remember, if yours is the highest bid when the auction ends, every cent you pay will go to our charities, and you will become the proud owner of a precious Ken Searle Original!


For more about ...

Ken Searle

follow this link to Sydney University where he was, for a time, artist in residence.


and you can learn more about the work he and Nadia Wheatley did at the Papunyah school here 




Other work






Mask bidding reserve: Highest bid so far $250

8 Bids

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