Ken Done @ Casula Powerhouse

Rebecca Varidel
27th May 2021

This July through to October, the industrial interiors of Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) will come alive in a colourful and unabashed celebration of Australia as they play host to two stunning exhibitions by artist Ken Done.

With a career spanning 40 years, Ken Done is arguably one of Australia’s most famous artists, known best for his bright oil and acrylic paintings depicting Australian fauna and flora, as well as iconic places like the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef.

As well as being our most recognizable artist, Ken Done is also one of the most commercially successful. After opening his first gallery in the Rocks in the 1980’s, Ken and his wife Judy had the idea to appeal to the continuous stream of tourists passing through the area by designing and selling swimwear, homewares and T-shirts. Tourists couldn’t get enough of it, and soon locals couldn’t either. So successful was the venture, that during his heyday in the 80s and 90s his empire included 15 shops and over 150 staff. His brand seemed so ubiquitous it was almost as if there wasn’t an Australian household that didn’t own at least a Ken Done mug, doona cover, T-shirt or tea towel.

Liveable Art: Stories of Done Art and Design (24 July – 3 Oct) takes a deeper look at this side of Ken’s career, bringing together a large collection of Done designed clothing, accessories, stationery and homewares for a public exhibition. Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre have been working with people across Australia and internationally who have cherished their Ken Done items at home over the years. The stories from these collectors have been captured and will feature in the exhibition, alongside a wide range of Done Art and Design products.

“Ken Done is a fascinating cultural phenomenon,” said CPAC Director Craig Donarski. “His works captured the way we see ourselves as Australians, and how the world also viewed us. He single-handedly created the brand Australia in a way that had never been done before, or since.”

“Liveable Art: Stories of Done Art and Designwill be a special exhibition for us because Ken’s products held such a special place in the hearts of those people who owned them. We’ve heard from people all over the world who have held onto their Done products and the stories they’ve shared about them will be on show to help paint a picture of the ever-lasting legacy that Ken Done has had on our cultural identity,” added Donarski.

Paintings You Probably Haven’t Seen: Selected Works 2000 – 2020 a touring exhibition featuring a selection of paintings executed by the artist between 2000 and 2020, largely from his own private collection, will run alongside the Liveable Art exhibition. Many of these works reflect Ken’s personal relationships with those closest to him and his immediate surroundings, primarily his home on Sydney’s Chinaman's Beach.

The two exhibitions will be tied together in a unique illustrated in conversation talk with the artist. On 31 July, An Evening with Ken Done will see Ken sit down with CPAC Director Craig Donarski to reflect on his career to date, his wife Judy and his family business, as well as other fascinating stories that have informed his incredible career. Accompanied by some incredible archival footage this will be an evening to learn more about the colourful life of the artist and his impact on the art world today.

Located on the banks of the Georges River, the Casula Powerhouse is a multi-disciplinary arts centre. Showcasing six galleries and featuring a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Casula Powerhouse is a premier art space in South West Sydney. Boasting a 321-seat theatre, Casula Powerhouse plays host to a range of theatre and cinematic productions each year.