ABSTRACT STUDIES c.1960
blue ballpoint pen on paper
20.4 x 12.6 cm
Dobell Album, volume 4, page 224
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Gift of the Trustees of the
Sir William Dobell Art Foundation, 1990
Contact TarraWarra Museum of ArtCopyright
© Sir William Dobell Art Foundation
As a draughtsman, Dobell was always keen to experiment with new media and instruments
when they appeared. Dobell obtained ballpoint pens in the late 1950s when prices dropped. The ballpoint pen was unlike anything he had drawn with. Other artists were frustrated with the line’s lack of variety, its blandness. The new pen did not allow expressive drawing: its line was endless and mechanically uniform, never thickening, thinning, or blotting. However, William Dobell used these narrow limitations to make single-page abstractions.
Stylistically, these drawings were indebted to the late constructivism current in Britain a decade earlier – especially the paintings of Naum Gabo and his circle, including Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and John Wells. Several were translated into small paintings, each showing three of the vertically aligned pale, abstract forms weightlessly suspended like satellites in the indeterminate darkness of outer space.