Biography

SUSAN DOROTHEA WHITE is a painter, sculptor and printmaker living and working in Sydney.  With a career spanning more than 50 years, she has held solo exhibitions in New York, Amsterdam, Cologne, Munich, Sydney, Adelaide, and other centres in Australia.  She has participated in group exhibitions since 1957, and since 1980 has represented Australia in over 60 biennales and international exhibitions in Europe, UK, Asia, USA, and South America; most recently in a fringe event ‘Sapere Aude - Circuito Off' at the 2013 Venice Biennale.  Her art is held in public and private collections worldwide.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1941, Susan Dorothea White grew up in Broken Hill, NSW.  She was encouraged to develop artistic skills by parents and relatives with a keen interest in the visual arts.  She decided on a career as an artist at age 15 while still at boarding school in Adelaide.  In 1959 she commenced full-time study at the South Australian School of Art (Adelaide), where she was awarded the Drawing and Fine Art prizes for her year.  Moving to Sydney in mid-1960 she continued full-time study for a further one and half years at the Julian Ashton Art School.

Susan held her first solo exhibition in Broken Hill in April 1962 at age 20.  The same year she settled permanently in Sydney, worked as a sales assistant to make ends meet, and married.  The first of her three children was born in 1964.  Rearing children did not prevent Susan from creating - rather the children, the joy of her life, provided inspiration and subject matter.  Much of her work was destroyed during this decade and she was prevented from exhibiting until separating in 1971.  Now a single parent, she worked part-time as a waitress while painting for her solo exhibition at the Adelaide Festival in 1972.  She met her current partner around this time and they married in 1977.  During the 1970's Susan set up a lithographic workshop in her studio and gradually mastered skills in hand printing in multiple colours.  Since 1980 her prints have represented Australia in prestigious biennales worldwide.

Her international exposure began in 1980 with a solo exhibition in Munich, followed by solo shows in Amsterdam (1990), Cologne (1991), and New York (1998). She has received invitations to exhibit her prints, sculptures, paintings and drawings in group shows around the world and has been selected to represent Australia in numerous international biennales, triennales, etc.

During the 1980's she took up sculpture again, carving stone and wood and producing editions in bronze.  Some of her more recent sculptures, inspired by idioms, are mixed-media assemblages that combine wood-carving with everyday materials. 

Susan's painting style has undergone many developmental changes over the years but has always remained figurative.  Her 1988 painting The First Supper, controversial in Australia, was acclaimed when exhibited in solo shows in Amsterdam and Cologne; the image is regarded as a post-modern icon.

Susan held a solo exhibition in New York in 1998, two years after undergoing brain surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma.  Following this exhibition the Hechinger Collection (Washington, DC) purchased her sculpture assemblage It Cuts Both Ways.  In 2005 The Buhl Collection (New York) commissioned Susan to produce a life-size version of her bronze sculpture Stretching the Imagination.

Drawing is the foundation of Susan's art - she always carries a sketchbook with her.  She has produced countless drawings, including a series of over 100 anatomy drawings since 2000.  She was commissioned to write and illustrate a handbook on the principles of drawing: Draw Like Da Vinci (London, Cassell, 2006; published in four languages).  She found that being a left-hander helped her to decipher Leonardo's technique.  From time to time she has taught drawing in the community, including anatomy drawing workshops for the public at the University of NSW.

In June 2013 Susan was selected to exhibit during the 55th Venice Biennale in a curated fringe event Sapere Aude - Circuito Off.  Now in her 70's, Susan continues her art practice, with several works in progress in various mediums.

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» Childhood, student years (1951–1961)
» Early career (1962–1975)
» Mid-career to international (1976–1987)
» Mature years, international (1988–present)