Tony Irving



Title: Tony Irving
Duration: 8:44
Year: 2012
Director/DOP: Peter M Lamont
Assistant Producer: Jacinta Cashen
Music: Peter M Lamont
Description: Short film biography on Australian painter and illustrator Tony Irving

It’s day 9 of a long run of hot days and Tony is telling me he lives in the dark ages and has no air-conditioning. While he leads a modern life in a lovely home in Melbourne’s highly sought-after rag-trade district of Richmond, I get a strong sense that Tony reveres the old, the decaying and otherwise crumbling remains of human endeavours. We talk about how he lived behind a country property in Warrandyte, making a living doing drawings for advertising clients. When he was finished he’d go down to a little row-boat on the Yarra River and paddle himself upstream to the Post Office to mail them off. For a man who illustrated trucks when illustrators were cheaper than photographers, Tony still has the glint-in-the-eye and quick wit of that much younger man.

He tells a story of a friend who was sifting through dusty books at an old second hand shop in Tasmania while on holidays. He discovers two large bound volumes from yesteryear that explain to men how to become popular and how to behave. Straight out of an episode of Mad Men, the books feature  full-page sketch illustrations of scenarios (in which men might aspire to associate themselves with) and low and behold, they are attributed to Tony Irving.

I feel a bit like I’m in the presence of a living legend and it’s kind of spooky seeing these old volumes and hearing stories about the beginnings of post-war Australian contemporary art. Tony Irving creates vivid and objective representations of the urban landscape. While his paintings are filled with life, they also display the slow decay through neglect or just simply old age. They pose questions to the viewer; what on earth are those people doing with all that string? What went on in the rooms of that Twin Peaks style motel just a stone’s throw from the famous ‘Open Country’ home that spawned greats like Arthur Boyd and John Perceval.

There is an exactness about Irving’s work; he speaks of developing a science of colour arrangement on the pallet, the way his brushes are lined up like the Queens Guard and this sense of order is apparent in his work. Things don’t appear without a reason and while they often represent urban decay, there is no chaos in his work. Just an almost eerie a sense of calm – Perhaps a nod to the inevitability of time.

Tony Irving is represented by Eva Breuer and has works listed on The Stock Rooms.