Roger Kemp

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Francis Roderick Kemp OBE (Eaglehawk, 3 July 1908 - Melbourne 14 September 1987), known as Roger, was one of Australia's foremost practitioners of transcendental abstraction. Working in the tradition of Wassily Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and František Kupka, he developed a system of symbols and motifs which were deployed in his non-figurative paintings so as to reveal cosmic mysteries, striving in particular to explain man's place in a universal order.

He was born in California Gully to Cornish Australian parents, Frank Kemp, a gold miner, and Rebecca Kemp, née Harvey. Both the Kemps and Harveys were devout Methodists and proud Cornish people. In 1913 the family moved to Melbourne after a mining accident. The Cornish were well known for their singing and most Cornish Australian boys at that time joined youth choirs, Kemp being no exception. In 1920 his father died after being hit by a car.[1]

After 20 years of isolated development and unrecognised innovation, Kemp came to prominence in the 1950s as the leader of a small Melbourne-based avant-garde of Geometric Abstractionists, including Leonard French, George Johnson, Inge King and Leonard Crawford. Increasing attention and critical acclaim saw them vilified by a rival circle of figurative artists associated with the Contemporary Art Society, who formed a controversial exhibiting group, called the Antipodeans, in order to check the spread of abstract art in Australia.

In 1971, while on a trip to Britain, Kemp visited Cornwall, the land of his ancestors. While there he purchased a book on Cornish history (Daphne du Maurier's Vanishing Cornwall). It is a remarkable fact that neither his wife nor his children knew about his Cornish ancestry.[2]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Christopher Heathcote, The Quest for Enlightenment: The Art of Roger Kemp, 2007
  2. ^ Christopher Heathcote, The Quest for Enlightenment: The Art of Roger Kemp, 2007