Exhibitions

Larter Family Values

31 August - 5 November 2006

The creative relationship of Richard and Pat Larter is a narrative of intertwining intellects, as well as bodies. It is in part, the classic story of the artists and the muse, but then the muse in turn becomes an artist nurtured by the person who she first inspiried.

Warning: this exhibition contains nudity

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The creative relationship of Richard and Pat Larter is a narrative of intertwining intellects, as well as bodies. It is in part, the classic story of the artists and the muse, but then the muse in turn becomes an artist nurtured by the person who she first inspiried.

In 1962 the artist Richard Larter, his model and wife Pat, immigrated to Australia with their three children. Shortly after their arrival they settled in Luddenham, in what was then the rural outskirts of Sydney. Two more children were born, Richard taught at both Liverpool and Penrith High Schools, and began to establish a career as an artist.

Because they were physically distant from the stimulus of London and Paris, as well as Sydney, the Larters relied on reading and personal experimentation to make their art. The farm at Luddenham was a focus for the creative work of Richard Larter's painting, Pat's performances and their later work in film. There is at times a naivety in their quite sexually explicit work, as though the rural distance gave access to freedom that could have been difficult in the suburbs.

This exhibition traces the relationship between the Larters and the intermingling of life and art. It draws on paintings, film, mail art and other ephemera including the taped recordings of performances.

Pat Larter

Patricia Larter (née Holmes) was born in England in 1936. Her father died when she was child and her mother supported the family by taking in borders at their home in Canvey Island at the mouth of the Thames. When she was fifteen Pat left school to work in the office of a London insurance company. On the day of her job interview she met Richard Larter. He introduced her to Marx Brothers movies and art. She encouraged him in a direct and honest response to ideas, without boundaries. She became his model, his muse, as well as the mother of his five children. After they immigrated to Australia and settled in Luddenham Pat joined Richard in creating performance pieces, some of which they filmed. In 1974, when Richard was teaching in Auckland, she joined in his Art School performances, and also exhibited her own work for the first time in the Inch Exhibition of International Mail Art. After returning to Australia she established a reputation as an international mail artist.

In 1979 she joined with Terry Reid and Cees Franck to create Art Core Meltdown, a major mail-art event at the University of Sydney Union. She had always joined with Richard in making films but in 1975 her first solo film, Men, became a tightly edited critique of sexism. After the Larters moved to Yass in 1982 she continued her mail art, but became increasingly interested in painting and making other works on a larger scale. In her abstract works she was in part influenced by the paintings by Aboriginal women from Utopia, while many of her figurative works investigated aspects of male sexuality. She first exhibited at Legge Gallery in 1992 and was beginning to achieve substantial success as an artist in Australia in 1996 when she was diagnosed with cancer. She died on 14 October.

Her work is represented in the National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, QUT Art Collection and other distinguished collections.

Richard Larter

Richard Larter was born in England in 1929. He formally studied art at St Martin's School in London towards the end of World War II, and later benefited from classes at the Toynbee Hall and the Contemporary Art Society. Because his mother's family was French he had a natural interest in French culture and spent some time in Paris in the later period of the War. In 1950 he travelled to Algiers, an experience that gave him a life-long appreciation of Islamic abstract form and colour.

In 1951 he was he was working at an insurance company in London, where he met the young Patricia Holmes. After their marriage and the birth of the first of their five children, he enrolled in Shoreditch Teachers' Training College and became a high school art teacher.

The Larter family came to Australia as assisted immigrants in 1962 and Richard was employed as a high school art teacher by the NSW Department of Education. His arrival coincided with the reform of the NSW high school syllabus where, for the first time, every high school student must study some art.

At first he taught at high schools in Chatswood and Burwood Girls', before moving to Liverpool Girls' and then Penrith on the outskirts of the city. The family bought a small house on a large bush acreage at Luddenham, and here the Larters made art. Richard Larter's paintings were not at first accepted by public galleries, but after he was a warded the Berrima Prize in 1965 he approached Frank Watters whose gallery still represents his work.

By 1973 he sufficiently succeeded as an artist to cease school teaching, and after residencies in Auckland (1974) and Armidale (1978), the family moved to Yass in 1982. He and Pat continued to make art in Yass until her death in 1996. In 1996 both Richard and Pat Larter were included in the Adelaide Biennial and they were honoured in the Melbourne Super 8 Film Festival.

His work is well represented in the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries and many regional and university galleries (including the QUT Art Collection) as well as numerous other distinguished collections.

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