Robert Owen


Born in Sydney, ROBERT OWEN studied sculpture at the National Art School, Sydney and Graduated in 1962. Owen then lived in Greece from 1963 to 1966 and in London until 1975 when he returned again to Sydney. In 1988, Owen moved to Melbourne and was Associate Professor and Head of Sculpture at RMIT University until 2001.

For decades Robert Owen’s artistic practice has moved between painting and sculpture, forming an intricate dialogue link between these mediums, but maintaining interdependence.  Some of Owen’s earlier works produced in the 1980s are a hybrid of the two; installations such as the important Re-vision (Melancolia) (1987) explore the interplay of the two dimensional and the three dimensional, painting and sculpture, drawn geometries on flat planes and modelled wooden shapes on the floor.  This is an ever-present investigation in Owen’s practice, as he continues to explore colour, form, spatial geometry and light.

His works, however,  have a common thread related to sensual perception and sensation; yet he interprets and paints sensation distinct to describing it. Owen’s three-dimensional painted steel sculptures, the most recent being Thought Forms, are configured, coloured and contorted cubes which are static structures whose relationships of line and space change as the viewer moves around the shape.  They are neither merely mathematical nor poetical, but both. There is an obsessive intrigue in the endless variety of shapes.

Robert Owen has had over forty years experience as an artist and has had over 40 solo and 110 group exhibitions both in Australia and overseas. Owen represented Australia at the 38th Venice Biennale, 1978; was awarded the Australian Council Visual Arts: Crafts Emeritus Award for lifelong service to the visual arts, 2003; and the John Moore’s Liverpool Exhibition 7 UK Prize, 1969. 

Group exhibitions include: Photographic Abstractions, Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne, 2012; Contemporary Australia: Optimism, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2008; New Acquisitions in Context, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2005; A History of Happiness, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2002; Geometric Abstraction in Australia 1941-1997, University Art Museum, University of Queensland, 1997; Spirit and Place: Art in Australia 1861-1996, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 1996-7. 

Solo exhibitions include: Different Lights Cast Different Shadows,The 2nd Balnaves Foundation Sculpture Project, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004; The Text of Light, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria, 2004; Between Shadow and Light – London Works 1966-1975 Monash University Gallery, Melbourne, 1999.

Robert Owen's public commissions include: Rotary Landing, Queensbridge Square, Melbourne for Melbourne City Council in association with Rotary Club of Victoria. Melbourne’s Northern Gateway, Craigieburn Bypass with Architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer for VIC Roads Hume Freeway Development, Victoria in 2004. Memory Pond, fountain, light and text installation for Grattan Gardens Plaza, Prahran, Melbourne in 2001, Discobolus, Hellenic Tribute, Sydney 2000 Olympics, Sculpture Installation, Olympic Park, Homebush Bay, Sydney. Axiom, a Sculpture installation for the New Commonwealth Law Courts, Melbourne in 1998 and Vessel, a Public sculpture for the Nippon Exhibition Centre, Chiba, Japan in 1989.  Robert Owen's more recent public projects include Webb Bridge, Docklands, Melbourne in collaboration with DCM architects and Craigieburn Bypass in collaboration with TCL landscape architects and TZG architects, for which, Robert Owen and DCM Architects were awarded the prestigious Joseph Reed Architectural award for urban design in 2005.

Robert Owen is represented in public and private collections throughout Australia as well as in the British Museum, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Olympic Sculpture Park, Seoul, Korea and the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan. Owen received in 2003 the Australian Council Visual Arts/Crafts Emeritus Award for a lifelong service to the visual arts. 

Major references for Robert Owen are George Alexander, Zara Stanhope & Wayne Tunnicliffe: Robert Owen; Different Lights Cast Different Shadows, published by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2004. Margaret Plant & Carolyn Barnes: Between Shadow & Light; London Works 1966 - 1975, published by Monash University Gallery in 1999 and George Alexander: Robert Owen, Transits, published by Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery in 1988.