Brett Whiteley created Bather on the Sand along with many of his other famous beach works in the halcyon summer days of the 1970’s.
In a period of transistor radios, low slung swimwear and Reef sun oil – after the flower power exhibitionism of the 1960s – 70s youth wore their freedom with nonchalance.
Whiteley spent most of his life near the sea and his most productive years were in his studio in Sydney’s Lavender Bay.
His fascination with the sea married with his other great love of figurative drawing.
Many of Whiteley’s nudes were depicted either on the beach, by the pool or bathing and it was this everyday subject matter that lent a kind of domestic surrealism to his work.
Bather on the Sand depicts a young tan marked sunbather, her body anchored to the sand.
Whiteley’s lines are spare and definite, his subject’s limbs elongated and inverted, contorted into an impossible almost grotesque arrangement.
Colour is used smoothly and sparingly with careful clusters of detail applied to key elements – the face, breasts, armpits and the clock radio – Whiteley uses these elements to strike harmony within the chaos.
Of his technique, Whiteley said in 1981: “To draw on the beach with a sharp stick, and let the waves come up and erase it is a wonderful way of learning how to draw economically.”
Bather on the Sand is Whiteley at his best - frenetic and visceral but also sensuous and clever.
Bather on the Sand along with other significant works by Whiteley and his contemporaries are on display throughout the summer season at Bendigo Art Gallery.