George Gittoes

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George Gittoes
George Gittoes 2.jpg
George Gittoes
Born 7 December 1949
Sydney, Australia
Occupation Film director, producer, writer and artist
Years active 1970–present

George Noel Gittoes (7 December 1949 – present) is a major Australian social realist artist and filmmaker. In 1970 he was one of the founders of the Yellow House artists’ cooperative in Sydney. After the Yellow House finished, he established himself in Bundeena and since then has produced a large and varied output of drawings, paintings, films, and writings. Gittoes’ work has consistently expressed his social, political and humanitarian concern at the effects of injustice and conflict. Until the mid-1980s, this work was chiefly done in Australia. But in 1986 he travelled to Nicaragua, and since then the focus of Gittoes’ work has been largely international. He has travelled to and worked in many regions of conflict, including the Philippines, Somalia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Bougainville, and South Africa. In recent years his work has especially centred on the Middle East, with repeated visits to Israel and Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In 2011, he established a new Yellow House, a multidisciplinary arts centre in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Among many prizes, Gittoes has twice been awarded the Blake Prize for Religious Art.

Early life[edit]

Gittoes was born 1949 in Brighton le Sands and grew up in nearby Rockdale, a southern suburb of Sydney, Australia. His family, though not rich, was comfortably middle class. Gittoes’ maternal grandfather, who lived in the area, was a semi-professional racehorse trainer, and was a significant influence in Gittoes’ childhood. Gittoes' father, Claude, was a public servant, who rose to be Secretary of the Department of Main Roads. His mother, Joyce, was an artist and potter. Both parents encouraged George and his sister, Pamela, 7 years his elder, as artists. Gittoes completed his schooling at Kingsgrove North High School, and began an Arts degree at Sydney University. However, an encounter with the visiting American art critic Clement Greenberg led to Gittoes' abandoning his studies in order to spend time in America. In New York Gittoes came under the influence of the social realist artist, Joe Delaney, whose work was influenced by his involvement in the civil rights movement. Gittoes’ art similarly veered towards the political, and in the US he began the Hotel Kennedy Suite, inspired by opposition to the Vietnam War.


George Gittoes has set up mobile studios for three decades, creating works in regions of conflict and upheaval around the world. He has worked in North America, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, the Sub Continent, Far East, Asia Pacific and Africa, creating works in both traditional and digital mediums, still and moving images, within a matrix of cultural interfaces.

For years, he used his drawings to bring awareness to previously unknown landmines in the Middle East.[1]

"Why do I do it? As far as choosing the roads I have travelled, I have this instinct that if I get comfortable, the work will lose its 'sting', so I go out of the comfort zones and into the wilderness to find my art. In the past it was the natural world where predators fed on gentler creatures. In the contemporary context, I go alone into a different kind of human wilderness – Rwanda, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq – not to contemplate nature, but the basics of humanity..."

—George Gittoes

A comprehensive public solo exhibition of his work, Witness to War, appeared at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas, in April 2011.[2]

Gittoes has travelled to many places for his art, including: Nicaragua, the Philippines, Somalia, Sinai, Southern Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Western Sahara, Cambodia, Laos, Mozambique, South Africa, Congo, Rwanda, Yemen, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Russia, Europe, UK, Bougainville, Philippines, China, Taiwan, Tibet, Timor, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He often travels to countries experiencing conflict and social upheaval, and uses these experiences extensively in his art.


Throughout 2011 and 2012 Gittoes produced six Pashto language Dramas; Moonlight and Starless Night in Pakistan, and Love City, Talk Show, The Tailor's Story and The Simurgh in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

In late 2011 Gittoes established the Yellow House Jalalabad in the South of Afghanistan. This is a multi disciplinary arts centre similar to the original Yellow House of 1971 in Sydney, in which he participated. It is the base for Buraq films which was established by Gittoes with Afghan filmmakers to produce high quality Pashto language films. The YHJ features a cinema, traveling tent circus, rainbow painting studios, Secret Garden Cafe and Rose Theatre outdoor stages.


Gittoes' service to Australia has been recognised by the award of Member of the Order of Australia (1997) "for service to art and international relations as an artist and photographer portraying the effects on the environment of war, international disasters and heavy industry".[3]

He was also awarded the Centenary Medal (2001) "for service as an internationally renowned artist".[4] He was given an honorary Doctorate in Letters by the University of New South Wales in 2009.


  • Tracks of the Rainbow (1982, director and cinematographer)
  • Las balas de las poetas (1987, director and producer)
  • Soundtrack to War (2005, director and cinematographer)
  • Rampage (2006, director)
  • The Miscreants of Taliwood (2009, director and writer)
  • Love City, Jalalabad (2013, director and writer)[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Strauss, David Levi (July–August 2010). "George Gittoes with David Levi Strauss". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 3/7/12.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ Dillon, Noah (Jul–Aug 2011). "George Gittoes: Witness to a War". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  3. ^ It's an Honour – Member of the Order of Australia
  4. ^ It's an Honour – Centenary Medal
  5. ^

External links[edit]