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Robert Dickersons unique style has become synonymous with Australian figurative painting. A member of the Antipodeans, Dickerson saw the beauty of referencing the world and human figures around him, presenting them with a pared-back rawness that is inherent to his works. Jennifer Dickerson records in her publication entitled Robert Dickerson: Against the Tide that the artist had an impoverished upbringing, juggling menial day jobs whilst painting on newspapers every night without fail.1 The incessant urge to paint came out of necessity and had not waivered more than half a century on, even with his roaring success. Dickerson was not impressed by sales figures and marketing tactics but was always compelled to paint his surrounding world uninterruptedly.2

The lone figure is a subject that Dickerson returned to time and time again, becoming a hallmark of his oeuvre. Though the title of The Interview implies a certain narrative, the nature of this is deliberately ambiguous. We do not know if the sitter is the interviewer or the interviewee, if the interview is about to commence, is already underway, or has just concluded. Yet the subjects grimace and broken gaze trailing off to the darkened floorboards instantly resonate with us. Dickersons lone figure is carved out with angular brushstrokes that capture the raw clarity of the everyday, complemented by a monochromatic palette. The pensive subjects shoulders bolt up towards his ears; his arms are folded and his crossed legs expose his stock and skin.  There is always more behind the faces of Dickersons subjects; a mystery or unresolved tale engaging the viewer in contemplative conversation.  As former director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Hal Missingham wrote, the most endearing thing about Bobs pictures is that they are about humans, not effigies or abstractions, not cerebral adventures but a straight-out interest in people and their astonishing situations and commitments.3

Dickersons ability to capture the fleeting moments of everyday experience has contributed to his broad and enduring appeal.  Rather than painting myths or fantasies, Dickerson has always preferred to capture real subjects of people in the working world.  



1. Dickerson, J., Robert Dickerson: Against the Tide, Pandanus Press, Brisbane, 1994, p.32
2. Ibid., p.115
3 Artists Profile: Robert Dickerson, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, accessed 25 May 2021:

Clementine Retallack, BA



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