Michael O'CONNELL (designer)<br/>
<em>Curtain</em> (c. 1934) <!-- (front view) --><br />

linocut on linen<br />
176.0 x 176.0 cm irreg.<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Gift of Kathleen Montgomery, 1994<br />
CT390-1994<br />
© Michael O'Connell/DACS, London. Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
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Michael O'CONNELL (designer)
Curtain (c. 1934)
Media Release • 23 Sep 13

NGV Collection Focus: Textiles of Michael O'Connell

As part of a recent refurbishment of the NGV’s 19th and 20th century Australian Art galleries, an upcoming NGV Collection Focus display will showcase the vibrant print designs of Michael O’Connell, one of Australia’s most significant modernist textile designers. Textiles of Michael O’Connell charts O’Connell’s transition from producing early figurative works to a fascination with classical motifs, Australiana and abstraction.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV said: “This display is a highlight of the 19th and 20th century Australian Art galleries, which have recently been remodeled and, for the first time, will include decorative arts and fashion items. O’Connell is remembered for his exceedingly contemporary designs with their modernist forms.”

British-born Michael O’Connell lived and worked in Melbourne from 1920-37, initially working as a photographer and painter before beginning to design fabrics for furnishings and fashion garments in 1929. From his studio at Beaumaris, O’Connell produced woodblock and linocut printed textiles, experimenting with technique and form in a medium unexplored in Australia at the time. His textiles possessed unconventional vibrancy – what he called his ‘natural, swinging style’. Their bold forms and stylised figures, which danced across the fabrics, were startlingly new.

Several Melbourne department stores and specialist outlets readily sold O’Connell’s fabrics, which were recognised for their individuality and modernity. Colourfully executed early designs featured expressive nightclub, dancing and party scenes, while later work emphasised Australian flora and fauna, and adapted Aboriginal motifs. These fabrics found a market in fashionable homes and featured in interior magazines alongside works by Fred Ward, Cynthia Reed and Ola Cohn. During his time in Melbourne, O’Connell became an inspirational and influential advocate of simple modern design through his writings and textile practice.

Textiles of Michael O’Connell will present seven of O’Connell’s textile works from the NGV Collection.

NGV Collection Focus Textiles of Michael O’Connell will be on display from 14 September until late 2013 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square. Open 10am–5pm, Tues–Sun. Entry is free.