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Interview with James Gleeson 1979

The James Gleeson oral history collection. National Gallery of Australia.

James Gleeson interviews Australia’s major artists

Lesley Dumbrell interview

listen to the interview on Sound Cloud

16 October 1979 [unknown location]

James GleesonFlowers is your 1961 coloured aquatint, done as a student at—
Lesley Dumbrell: That’s right, yes. Yes, that’s got a story but I won’t tell it to you now.
James Gleeson: Why?
Lesley Dumbrell: Well, it’s an anecdote. It’s interesting in that when I was in my fourth year at RMIT Tate Adams, who taught me printmaking, was very enthusiastic about my prints. He suggested I should submit it for an exhibition that was going to England of young printmakers or something. So I think that at that stage Jim Mollison was at Gallery A in Melbourne and he had something to do with organising it. I can’t remember now. Anyway, for some reason he had it and it didn’t go into this exhibition to England but Jim kept it in the Gallery for a while, for about a year. Then he rang me one day and said, ‘No, look, you know, we’ve still got this print of yours. You might as well come and get it’. So I did go and get it, as far as I can recall. That was the first time that I’d ever submitted anything for anything professional.
James Gleeson: I see.
Lesley Dumbrell: It was just very odd that the link was through Jim Mollison that that was so. When I saw this turned up in your collection I thought, ‘That is absolutely weird, because I don’t know where it’s comes from’.
James Gleeson: Well, it came from Gallery A in Melbourne.
Lesley Dumbrell: It says it comes from Gallery A in Melbourne but I can’t understand how it has because I thought I collected it. But perhaps I didn’t, you see, and it’s been there all that time.
James Gleeson: Fourteenth of the ninth, ’76.
Lesley Dumbrell: Yes. It’s only just, I suppose, that Jim Mollison’s now the head of the National Gallery, but it just seemed odd to me. You always remember your first things, you know, that ever happened to you.
James Gleeson: Yes, of course.
Lesley Dumbrell: For it suddenly to turn up again is very odd.
James Gleeson: Well, as part of our repository collection at this point it’s a quite important part. Lesley, I think that covers it very well unless you’ve got anything else you’d like to add.
Lesley Dumbrell: No.
James Gleeson: That really is excellent coverage.
Lesley Dumbrell: Well, no, the only thing I’d say beyond that is that words are difficult. As I said to you before, you can only say what you think about yourself and I am looking at work now that I did two or three or four or five or six years ago. Obviously for all painters it’s always the painting on your easel at the moment that’s concerning you.
James Gleeson: The most important, yes.

Flower, 1961, etching 48 x 38 cm, Currently in the collection of the Australian National Gallery