Reviews

"Done uses colours the way Gauguin might have done had he been born an Australian. Van Gogh saw the sun in the South of France and tried to wrestle it out of the sky onto his canvas, Done has borrowed a little of that courage and outrageous lack of caution to paint the Australian land and seascape and the things that play or swim upon it or in it."

Bryce Courtenay

commentary in Ken Done - Australia, Sydney Australia, 1988

“Ken Done's painting ... is a highly faithful pictorial record, from sunrise to sundown, of the light, air and the movements of the living things in his life environment, including the sea, the beach, the sandbar, the garden and the interior. There is nothing in Ken Done's pictures that is not beautiful, peaceful and uplifting. No other artist has been so thorough in painting shapes without outlines and capturing shapes as colours. Even Matisse and Bonnard who Ken Done claims to have had strong influence on him were not nearly as thorough in this respect. In Ken Done's paintings, even night scenes are bright and radiant.”

Shinichi Segi

art critic, Ken Done - Major Exhibition Japan, catalogue, Japan, 1991

“Ken Done has long desired to cut across the limiting artificial boundaries that exist between the utilitarian and the decorative, between the practical and the aesthetic. Done has shown that images can leap off the walls of galleries, where they are viewed by few, and into the homes and lives of everyone. His project is to reposition art from elitist spaces into all aspects of daily life. The artist firmly believes that: ‘In the times in which we live it is far too restricting to say that art can only be found in art galleries and not touch people's everyday lives ... I want to use any means that are necessary to communicate to people what I feel about things. There are no rules. And if there are rules, then you may as well break them.’”

Donna Lee Brien

Ken Done - Paintings and Drawings 1975-1987, Sydney Australia, 1992

“Ken Done, as everyone knows, is hedonistic assurance itself. His present show, Paintings from the Cabin, ... shows he's extracted what he's needed from Hockney, Bonnard and Matisse. Done can set grounds awash with rich stains that Bonnard might applaud and divide canvases like Model in Backyard (1985) into areas of rich Matissian patterns... he again and again provides dashing, spontaneous escapes, especially in linear depictions of yachts, jetties, sails, bathers, bridges, and fishermen. His world teems with joyous, really relentless activity.”

Elwyn Lynn

art critic, ‘Calm amongst the frenzy’, The Australian, April 3-4, 1993

“Ken Done is interesting for both his successful careers: as a designer as well as a painter. He has been able to develop his talents and is a very modern artist in that sense also ... a new light coming from different angles to bring art to everyone and not only to an elite few. Done is the symbol of modernity, and Ken a great painter who has not yet finished surprising the world.”

Fran├žois Mitaine

Galerie Mitaine, Paris France, 1996

"Ken Done is one of the great Australian landscape painters: a daring innovator and a brilliant technician. He has targeted a new way of looking at a new land. In his painting he has distilled the vital essence of the great Australian littoral. The bays, the reefs - and above all - the beach. His vision is unique, but it's appeal is universal."

Rebecca Hossack

Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London UK, 2003

“In a near riot of colour and energy, Done artwork celebrates life on the coastal fringe; at the beach, on the harbour and underwater on the reef. He examines water as a social magnet, a gathering place, and as a link across generations of Australians. For Done – as for the people who inhabit one of the driest continents on earth – water in its many forms represents play, fun and freedom.”

Michael Reid

art collector, 'The Art Oracle', The Good Weekend, 2005

“It’s a bit like Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons: if his work is going to be reproduced, he’s in charge of it. If it’s going to appear on placemats, he’ll produce them; if it’s going to appear on tea towels, he’ll design the tea towel. He is in complete control of his iconography and his production, his creativity.”

Geoffrey Smith

Vice Chairman and National Head of Art, Sotheby’s Australia, 'Capturing the market in Australiana', The Australian Financial Review, 2010

In 2002 the Powerhouse Museum acquired Ken Done’s commercial art and design archive of more than 300 items. “As undoubtedly the most popular Australian designer of the twentieth century, and one of the few with an international reputation, Ken Done has a unique place in the history and development of Australian art. The quality and breadth of this archive will be of enormous importance for future researchers and historians of Australian artistic, cultural and social activity in the late twentieth century.”

John McPhee

senior curator of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia, Powerhouse Museum Release, Sydney 2002.

“His images of the harbour and its iconography are part of the common memory upon which we all imagine, and think we know, the harbour city. Colour, light, fashion, tourism – these are the contexts through which I think we understand Ken Done – but something more exists beneath the surface of his work. We need to move beyond these too easily misunderstood contexts, these simplifications, to place his work and the lightness of it into a deeper context that is tied to place and heritage. Is it not time we placed Done into the context of Streeton and Roberts, Olsen and Nolan – all of whom lived by and painted the harbour?”

Glenn Barkley

‘Death by Water’, Attack: Japanese Midget Submarines in Sydney Harbour, catalogue, May, 2012.