The Wheeler Centre
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If you remember the 1980s in Australia, you remember Ken Done.
His bold, buoyant works of art – especially his sunny depictions of Sydney landmarks – are linked in the minds of many Australians with a spirit of 1980s optimism and entrepreneurialism. People decorated their homes, their beds and their bodies with Done’s colourful paintings, prints and designs. His name became a much-loved and instantly recognisable global brand. These days, the generation of kids that coveted Ken Done doona-covers and beach towels are adults leading a cult revival. They want Done on their walls, and in their wardrobes.
'I think, for me, painting should be more like poetry. It should give you pleasure over time. I don't try to do paintings to shock people, because I think we are in a sense unshockable.'
But Done’s story is not all glittering harbour scenes and vibrant, tropical fish-printed boardshorts. His new memoir, A Life Coloured In, tells the story of his early career in advertising and ascent to global fame – but also of stressful legal cases and a shock cancer diagnosis. Through it all, Done has continued to paint, attaining overdue critical acclaim for many of his recent works.
Done spoke with Penny Modra about art, design, the creative impulse and the era that defined him.