The National Art School has been the training ground for some of Australia’s most significant and respected artists. On this page we recognise and pay homage to our alumni who have passed away this year.
Anthony Alfred (Tony) La Spina was a first generation Australian, born to Sicilian parents. His training at the Dattilo Rubbo School of Art in Sydney was interrupted by WWII, where he worked as an interpreter. After the war, he studied at Hetherlies Art School in London before completing his five-year Diploma of Art at the National Art School in 1955 under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. In his final year at NAS he was a finalist in the 1955 Archibald Prize, with a portrait of composer Alfred F. Hill OBE.
He worked as a commercial artist for newspapers including the Daily Mirror before moving to Coffs Harbour, where he spent almost thirty years teaching art at local high schools and Coffs Harbour TAFE, where he instigated the teaching of ceramics courses. Tony retired from full-time teaching in 1990 and moved to the Central Coast, where he continued to paint and teach portrait and landscape painting at the Central Coast Community College. Our thoughts are with Tony’s family and friends.
Vale Dr Peter Pinson OAM [1943-2017]
The National Art School was sad to hear of the death of alumnus Peter Pinson OAM on 25 June. Peter studied at the National Art School and the Sydney Teachers’ College from 1961-1964, where he was influenced by his teachers John McGrath (Design) and Tom Gleghorn (Painting).
In 1968, Peter was the winner of the NSW Travelling Art Scholarship and spent time at La Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris before completing a Master of Art at the Royal College of Art, London. On his return to Australia, he completed a PhD at the University of Wollongong, where he was appointed as a lecturer in 1971. In 1977 he took up a senior lectureship position in the School of Art at Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education after a stint as Chief Education Officer at the National Gallery of Victoria, and in 1986 was named the first Official Military Artist during peacetime.
He joined the Australian Watercolour Institute in 1983 and acted as president 2003-2006. After he retired in 2004 as the Head of the College of Fine Arts (now UNSW Art & Design), he was appointed Emeritus Professor, and in 2008, he established the Peter Pinson Gallery, which focused on artists who established a national reputation between 1950 and 1970. During his many years of teaching and arts administration, Peter maintained his own painting practice, as well as writing a number of monographs on artists Gerald Lewers, Bert Flugelman, Rodney Milgate, John Passmore and Elwyn Lynn.
He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2007 for his service to the visual arts as an educator, painter and writer, and for his contributions to a range of arts organisations, including the Australian Watercolour Institute. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Vale Wendy Loefler [1950-2017]
The National Art School was shocked and saddened to hear of alumna Wendy Loefler’s sudden and unexpected death in Germany over the weekend of 3-4 June. Wendy was an accomplished artist, who after emigrating from South Africa in 1976 with a BA (Social Anthropology) and some study at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, both at the University of Cape Town, worked as a textile designer and teacher. After completing a number of short courses and master classes at the National Art School from 1995-1998, Wendy enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Art, graduating with Honours in Drawing in 2004. She was best known for her large charcoal landscapes of Australia’s Central Desert that she would travel visit annually.
A trip to Antarctica in 2012 provided a new form of wilderness and scale for her to capture. Represented by Australian Galleries, she held a number of solo exhibitions in their Sydney and Melbourne Galleries, and was a finalist in a number of recent art prizes, including the Alice Prize (2016), the Kedumba Drawing Award (2015), the Hazelhurst Works on Paper Award (2015) and the Dobell Prize for Drawing (2012, 2007 & 2006). Her latest exhibition 'Elsewhere', at Australian Galleries in Melbourne, closed on 4 June. Our thoughts are with Wendy’s friends and family, especially her husband Andy and children Tom and Laura.
Vale Burri (Kenneth Gordon Jerome) [1953-2017]
The National Art School would like to pay tribute to alumnus Burri Jerome, a Numbah-Ngnargu man of the Dainghutti Nation. Born in Macksville NSW, Burri completed a Certificate in Fine Art, majoring in painting and drawing in 1981 at East Sydney Technical College. A member of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, his work was exhibited in many group exhibitions, including ‘Aquarius 08’ at Lismore Regional Gallery (2008), at Radio Redfern in Sydney, at the Grafton Regional Gallery, at the Sydney Opera House (1980), in Alice Springs, Byron Bay, Brisbane and in San Francisco (1991).
His paintings, described as ‘portraits of the personalities of the landscape’ won the ‘National Parks and Wildlife Service Bundjalung Art Prize’ in 2005 and the ‘Kempsey Show Art Prize’ in 1982. In 1998 Burri settled in the Tweed Valley, where he became a well-known member of the community. Teaching drawing and life drawing classes, his murals can be found throughout Nimbin, and his works were sold in Australia and internationally. As well as being an artist, Burri was an accomplished musician, and was described as a ‘remarkable man of culture’. Our thoughts are with Burri’s friends and family.
Vale Troy Quinliven [1983 – 2017]
The National Art School was sad to hear of the death of talented young artist, alumnus Troy Quinliven on 10 March. Troy completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at NAS in 2007 and went on to complete an Honours year in Painting in 2008. A regular finalist in the Waverley Art Prize, and more recently the Kogarah Art Prize, in 2008 he was a finalist in the Blake Prize and in 2014, the Archibald Prize. Passionate about portraits, in recent years he had experimented with unusual materials such as ash, salt, sand and burnt books to create his works. He shared a studio with fellow artist and NAS graduate Kevin McKay at the May St Studios in
St Peters and held solo exhibitions with Sheffer Gallery in Darlinghurst in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Troy's funeral will be held on Saturday 18 March at St Catherine's Gymea at 11am, corner of Gymea Bay Road and President Avenue, with a wake to follow at the Gymea Bowling Club. His parents Sue and Matt have requested no flowers, but donations will be accepted at the funeral for the Prince of Wales Epilepsy Unit and the Sydney Dog and Cat Home.
Vale Bridget Perry [1984 – 2017]
NAS was very sorry to hear of the recent death of young alumna Bridget Perry, who completed a Bachelor of Fine Art in Printmaking in 2006. Bridget had been working as a freelance painter, printmaker and public/mural artist, working mostly in lino and woodcuts. She held a solo exhibition at Wollongong Art Gallery in August 2016. Our thoughts are with her family and friends, particularly her two young children.
Vale Sydney Ball [1933 – 2017]
The National Art School would like to pay its respects to former staff member Sydney Ball, who taught at the School from 1970 – 1973. Sydney is considered a pioneer in Australian Abstraction, and his long and impressive career has had a formidable impact on Australian Art. Ball spent critical years studying in New York at the Art Students League of NY under Theodoros Stamos, where he met and was influenced by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, among others. When he returned to Australia in 1965, he was a key proponent of hard-edge abstraction,
and his work was included in the influential 1968 exhibition The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria. He held over 70 solo exhibitions nationally and internationally, and in recent years had held a number of important exhibitions with Sullivan+Strumpf in Sydney. His work is held in most major public galleries in Australia, with a large collection at the Samstag Museum of Art at the University of South Australia as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul.
Vale Eric Smith [1919 – 2017]
The National Art School was saddened to hear of the death of former teacher and renowned artist Eric Smith on the 20th of February. Eric started his art career at the age of 17 when he enrolled in Commercial Art and Painting at the Brunswick Technical School and joined the Victorian Artists Society. After serving in the Australian Army during the Second World War, he moved to Sydney, returned to his art practice, and was included in a number of important exhibitions, including the landmark ‘Direction 1’ at Macquarie Galleries, Sydney in 1956 and an exhibition of Australian art at London’s Tate Gallery in 1963. Throughout the 1960s, Eric taught Drawing and Painting at the National Art School, the University of New South Wales and St
George Technical College. Eric won the Archibald Prize three times, in 1970, 1981 and 1982, the Sulman Prize in 1953, 1973 and 2003, The Wynne Prize in 1972 and 1974 and the Blake Prize for religious art six times between 1956 and 1970. In 1995, his contribution to the Visual Arts in Australia was recognised with an Australia Council Emeritus Award. His distinct style, of a thick textural paint and vibrant colour made his work instantly recognisable, and his life and work as an artist was the subject of a 2012 documentary, “Eric Smith: not finished yet – a portrait of a genuine artist’. Our thoughts are with all of Eric's family and friends.
Vale Anne Pata [1950 – 2017]
The National Art School would like to pay tribute to the always elegant Anne Pata, who died on the 8th of February 2017. Anne studied part-time at the National Art School in 1979, where she met her husband Danny, who is now a Drawing Lecturer at the School.
She and Danny generously ran the ‘Pata Studio Residency’ for over a decade, where NAS students were able to stay in their Paris apartment for three months. She was the founding Director of Collins and Kent Fine Art, and also exhibited her own work at Atarmon Galleries. Our thoughts are with Danny and Anne’s friends and family.
Vale Robin Carl Norling [1939 – 2017]
The National Art School was saddened to hear of the passing of alumnus Robin Norling last Friday, 20 January. Robin was a lifelong painter, draughtsman and teacher, and a constant friend to the School, where he completed a Diploma of Fine Art, with Honours in Painting, in 1961. Later in 1961, aged 22 and as a student at Sydney Teacher’s College, he won the Sulman Prize, and in 1962 was awarded the New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship, which allowed him to travel to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East for a number of years. When he returned to Australia, and to teaching art in secondary schools, he began writing and presenting the Young World of Art ABC radio program, which ran for four years.
For almost a decade (1978-1986), he was the senior education officer at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where he curated a number of educational exhibitions and was in charge of the Gallery’s educational outreach for primary and secondary school students. For the past twenty years, Robin had lived and worked at Patonga, on the NSW Central Coast, where he devoted his time to painting and drawing, and running the Bakehouse Gallery with artist Jocelyn Maughan. Last year, the Manning Regional Art Gallery held a retrospective of his work that examined his changing styles over sixty years of painting. His works are held in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Charles Sturt University and the University of Sydney.
Vale Brandon Jacques Trakman [1987 - 2017]
NAS was devastated to hear of the all too early passing of one of our alumni, Brandon Trakman. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Brandon completed a Bachelor of Fine Art (Hons) in Painting at NAS in 2012. He went on to undertake further study at Sydney College of the Arts.
Our thoughts are with Brandon’s family and friends.
Vale Peter Travis AM [1929 – 2016]
The National Art School was sad to hear of the death of alumnus and former staff member Peter Noel Travis AM on 28 November 2016. Peter was well known as the creator of the iconic male brief Speedo swimming costume, and also as a ceramic artist, teacher, designer and kite maker.
Originally trained as a music teacher before moving into fashion design, Peter created the famous Speedo in 1960, which caused the first man to wear them on Bondi Beach to be arrested. Peter first studied Industrial Design at East Sydney Technical College from 1956-1958, and then returned to study sculpture under Lyndon Dadswell from 1960-1962 and Ceramics under Peter Rushforth from 1962-1964. He was the first student to be awarded the new Ceramics Certificate at the ‘Tech’ in 1964. In the late 1960s, Peter travelled to the USA and the UK to further his study in ceramics.
In the 1970s, Peter began working with kites, which he termed ‘flying colour field geometric constructions’, and which he adapted for interior design commissions and performance art events.
He co-founded with former NAS Head of Design Phyllis Shillito the Shillito Design School 1962-1982, and co-founded with John Silk the Festival of the Winds at Bondi Beach in 1978. He was the sole colour designer for Canberra's new Parliament House from 1982-1988, and selected the wood and marble for the main areas of the building.
In 2008, Peter was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to the arts and to innovative visual design as a designer, sculptor, colourist, ceramicist and kite maker, and to tertiary education.
Peter’s work is held in a number of major collections, including the National Gallery of Australia and all the state galleries as well as The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and The Faenza Museum of World Ceramic in Italy. His work featured in the NAS Gallery exhibition Turn Turn Turn in 2015, and this year he donated a beautiful bowl made in 1971 to the NAS Collection. The National Art School sends its condolences to Peter’s friends and family.
Vale Cameron Sparks [1930–2016]
The National Art School is very sad to hear of the loss of alumnus and former staff member Cameron Morbey Sparks. Cameron studied a Diploma of Art Education, specialising in painting at East Sydney Technical College (now the National Art School) from 1949-1953, and studied again in 1956.
He was known mainly as a watercolourist, and won many watercolour awards, but also practiced oil painting and printmaking, primarily etchings, linocuts and woodcuts. He held a number of solo exhibitions, first at Macquarie Galleries in the 1960s and 1970s, in country centres including Armidale and Goulburn, and in recent decades at Artarmon Galleries, most recently in 2009. He was a finalist in the Wynne Prize in 1972 and 1974, and was a finalist in the 1979 Archibald prize.
Cameron also curated an exhibition of David Davies’ work for Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in 1984.
Cameron was keenly involved with secondary and tertiary arts education, teaching in NSW secondary schools from 1960-1969, returning to the NAS as a painting and drawing teacher from 1970-1980, and at a number of TAFE art colleges from 1984 -1987. From 1982 to 1984 he was employed by the TAFE History Unit to document and catalogue the National Art School Collection. His actions were instrumental to the understanding of the School’s history and built the foundations for what is now the modern NAS Collection and archive.
The National Art School would like to send its best wishes and thoughts to Cameron’s daughters, Catriona and Rachael, and their families. Cameron’s wife Betty sadly predeceased him in 2012.
Vale Betty Rooney [1929–2016]
The National Art School was sad to learn of the death of Elisabeth (Betty) Ursula Rooney in March 2016. Betty was an important figure in the revival of printmaking in the post-war period. Born in Sydney in 1929, in 1950 she completed a Diploma in Art, majoring in Painting at East Sydney Technical College (now the National Art School). In the last year of her studies, Betty began making etchings under the influence of one of her teachers, Herbert Gallop, and soon discovered that printmaking was her calling.
Printmaking in Sydney at the time was in a state of stagnation, and so Betty largely taught herself how to make prints via experimentation, by reading the books of British printmaker S.W. Hayter and consulting with other printmakers. Her first etching press was given to her in 1954 by Bim Hilder, and she went on to produce a distinctive oeuvre of over 400 etchings spanning more than five decades.
Betty was a founding member of the Sydney Printmakers group that was formed as part of the 1960s printmaking revival, and was also the co-founder with Joy Ewart of the Willoughby Workshop Arts Centre in 1961, where she taught many etching classes. She later returned to East Sydney Technical College to teach printmaking. Her prints were often bitingly satirical – she was passionate about Sydney’s heritage interested in urban conservation and development. She made a number of ‘comparison prints’, using re-worked etching plates to show the evolving face of the cities of Sydney and Newcastle, the impact of development on the environment and its impact on its inhabitants.
Rooney’s prints are held in a number of major collections, including the National Gallery of Australia and the British Museum as well as the Art Gallery of NSW. The National Art School sends its condolences to Betty’s friends and family, as well as the wider Printmaking community.
Vale Kerrie Lester [1953 – 2016]
The National Art School is sad to hear of the passing of Mosman-based artist Kerrie Lester, who lost her battle with leukaemia on Tuesday 5 April 2016. Kerrie was renowned for her distinctive hand-stitched canvas paintings, ceramic sculptures, prints and collages that depicted fleeting scenes of everyday life, as well as her bright and vivacious personality.
Kerrie’s first solo exhibition came shortly after finishing her training at the National Art School and Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education in 1975. She held more than thirty solo exhibitions, and contributed to over one hundred and twenty group exhibitions over a forty year period, including the 1979 Biennale of Sydney, Australian Perspecta in 1981 and 1985,
and a record sixteen years as a finalist in the Archibald Prize.
In addition to her work as an artist, Kerrie was an influential art educator, lecturing at NAS from 1990-1991 and teaching NAS short courses for over ten years until 2014. She also taught at the City Art Institute, Willoughby Workshop Arts Centre, the College of Fine Arts UNSW (Now Art & Design) and Seaforth Technical College.
Her work is held in many regional galleries, corporate and private collections across Australia, as well as in the Australian National Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia.