Installation view of Lesley Drumbell’s work on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.   Image: Sean Fennessy

Lesley Dumbrell

Lesley Dumbrell
(b. 1941, Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

For more than forty years, Lesley Dumbrell has been refining her technique of geometric abstract painting, injecting colour, light and emotion into a precise painting style typical of the colour field painters of the 1960s. As a pioneer in this traditionally male-dominated field of painting, Dumbrell is frequently associated with the Australian women’s art movement of the 1970s. Rachel Kent, CEO of Bundanon Trust and former Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), Sydney, has described Dumbrell as ‘one of Australia’s leading exponents of abstraction’.

Dumbrell’s style has evolved over the course of her long career, with the artist citing Bridget Riley, Jesús Rafael Soto and 1970s Op art as early influences on her work concerning the nature and behaviour of human visual perception. Whereas the grid became a foundation of her early works, Dumbrell’s paintings later evolved into more fragmented and colourful spatial compositions not dissimilar aesthetically from the game of pick-up sticks. For Melbourne Now, Dumbrell presents a series of new works continuing her explorations of colour, optical effects, abstraction and visual friction. Since 2015, Dumbrell has been moving towards a more three-dimensional practice; as such, these new works are not only works on paper in their own right, but also studies for future sculptures.

Dumbrell studied fine art at RMIT University between 1959 and 1962, where abstraction was an immediate line of enquiry. In 1966 she began teaching at Prahran Technical College alongside Peter Booth, Virginia Coventry, James Doolin, Alun Leach-Jones, Clive Murray-White and Lenton Parr. Two years later, she left teaching to paint full-time and held her first solo exhibition at Bonython Gallery in Sydney. Since then, Dumbrell has exhibited all over Australia as well as internationally. Her work has been included in major surveys, including Shades of Light at the Ian Potter Museum of Art (1999–2000), Towards Colour at the McClelland Gallery (2002), Good Vibrations at Heide Museum of Modern Art (2002), Imagining the Apple at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (2004) and Abstraction: Celebrating Australian Women Abstract Artists at the National Gallery of Australia (2017). Her work is held in major collections around Australia, including those of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, National Australia Bank and Artbank.