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Kenneth Jack: Normanton Station

Kenneth Jack, Normanton Station and other works

Kenneth Jack

The Artist

Kenneth Jack was born in Caulfield, Victoria, in 1924 and was initially schooled at the Melbourne High School. World War Two, and service with the RAAF interrupted Jack's studies with he worked as a survey draftsman in New Guinea, Borneo and Morotai. Following his return and demobbing, Jack attended the Teachers College, Melbourne and studied to teach art at the RMIT in 1951. Whilst working as a full-time art instructor for the Victorian Department for Education, he learned printmaking and refined his drawing and painting skills. In 1956, Kenneth Jack founded the Painting and printmaking department in the Art-School at Caulfield Institute of Technology (now part of Monash University) and headed both departments until 1968 when he resigned to take up full time painting. In 1983, Jack was a founding member of of the Federal Government's ArtBank Board.

Kenneth Jack is represented in many collection worldwide. His works are included in the Royal Collection and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; Cincinnati Art Museum, US, Dunedin Art Gallery, New Zealand, the National Gallery of  Victoria and National Gallery of Australia, and the Australian War Memorial holds a significant collection of over 500 works of art created by Jack whilst in the service of the RAAF. During his career, Jack has also won a number of artistic awards. These include the Perth Prize for Painting  in 1953 and the Rural Bank Prize for art three years in a row from 1968. Kenneth Jack was a member of a number of governing boards and was awarded Member of the Order of Australia in 1987 and an MBE (Member of the British Empire). Kenneth Jack passed away in 2006.

Normanton Station by Kenneth Jack Paddle Steamer Gem 2 by Kenneth Jack

Old Academy by Kenneth Jack St James Cathedral, Melbourne by Kenneth Jack

The Works of Art

Kenneth Jack's works of art focus on Australian landscapes, its buildings and waterborne transport. In a series of prints focussing on the old buildings of Australia, you can gain some sense of his inspiration for the powerful element of space , depth, earthiness, structure and colour that effected him deeply. Normanton Station, was created for a series of prints based on historic out-back buildings. The print shows what seems to be a large shed-like covering and a typical pre-federation structure isolated in a wide flat landscape under a crystal clear sky. The only sign of life is a single figure next to a locomotive engine and carriage.  It is a very striking image that portrays a sense of realism. Paddle-steamer Gem No 2, depicts another of Jack's favourite subjects- transport. Here, he details a paddle-boat steamer. The work is a lithograph print, executed in 1975 and is a limited edition run of thirty. Jack manages to conjure up the atmosphere of the location with the reflection of the steam-boat on the water  as it passes through a wooded landscape, perhaps on the Murray River.

Two other lithographs in the University of Canberra's art collection concerns buildings in Melbourne. St Jame's Cathedral and the Old Academy are striking for their portrayal of their red-brick colouring. Unlike Normanton Station and Paddle Steamer, these works feel more like studies; they lack the realism that can be seen in the Normanton Station print.

Something should be said about Normanton Station itself given that it is the most realistic of the Jack's works in the UC Art Collection. Normanton is one of the two termini for the Gulflander Outback Railway. This line travels 154 kilometres between Croydon,  and Normanton on the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland. The railway was built in the 1880s to link the site of Croydon (then in the midst of a local goldrush) with the coast and was mainly used for freight. Initially it operated four times a week but this gradually whittled down to a weekly trip. It has become a favourite tourist trek and operates every Wednesday morning mid February to late December.

Gulflander Normanton Station