Author(s): Dore Ashton
Renowned New York art historian and critic Dore Ashton's new book on the Australian artist David Rankin's 'New York Years' provides illuminating insights into the development of the numerous themes expressed in the paintings and sculptures he has created over recent decades. Its 288 richly illustrated pages amply document this range of ideas. While Peter Carey's introduction offers important glimpses of Rankin's youth and earlier career in Australia, Ashton develops this narrative and then extends her analysis into subsequent years after his marriage to poet Lily Brett and their move to a New York still redolent with the influence of Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and many others, about whom Ashton has written extensively. Dore Ashton's text is interspersed with extended quotes from the artist himself. These affirm the genesis of his art in a long-term investigation of Buddhist thinking and calligraphy, and knowledge of Western literary sources such as the writings of James Joyce, Primo Levi, Walter Benjamin and poets like the American Wallace Stevens. Always sympathetic to politically conscious responses to tragedy as they are expressed in art, Ashton admires this aspect of Rankin's work as it appears in series such as his Dona Nobis Pacem and Jerusalem Wall paintings, and the more recent Enniskillen works which reflect on tragic events in Ireland which affected his own family.