Sydney Ball is regarded as one of the true trailblazers of abstract painting in Australia – nationally and internationally renowned for his bold use of colour, form and compositional structure.
UniSA has a longstanding connection to Ball who was an esteemed alumnus, lecturer and patron. Ball was born in Adelaide in 1933 and as a young man in the 1950s, studied at what is now the School of Art, Architecture and Design at the University alongside artists James Cant, John Dowie and Dora Chapman.
In 1962, Ball moved to New York to study painting at the Art Students League under Theodoros Stamos. It was here that he was exposed to the Abstract Expressionist movement, encountering artists including Mark Rothko, Willem
de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.
Ball returned to Adelaide in 1965, bringing hard-edge abstraction to the attention of Australian artists. He became an influential figure and his work was key to The Field exhibition of Australian abstract art held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968, a watershed moment in Australian art history.
It was during this prolific period for Ball that he became a lecturer at UniSA.
In 2013, Ball donated a large body of his masterworks to UniSA. This prestigious gift, comprising more than 30 important works and worth more than $1m, can be viewed in the Sir Eric Neal Library at the Mawson Lake campus.
In the same year, the University awarded Ball an honorary doctorate in recognition of his services to education and the arts.
The Sydney Ball Gift is a phenomenal legacy and the most valuable gift of Australian art ever made to the University.
We pay tribute to Sydney, a passionate artist and a person who never ceased to energetically test the bounds of his practice.
On a personal level, Ball was my lecturer at Alexander Mackie College of Art in Sydney and remained a mentor, friend and inspiration to me.
He was driven by an enduring fascination with colour abstraction and the possibilities of form.
By the end, Sydney had become a grand old man of Australian art; at the beginning he had been a progressive force for radical change in art.
Ball has been the subject of more than 70 solo exhibitions and his work is represented in collections both within Australia and internationally. He remained true to abstraction throughout his illustrious 50-year career.
In 2018, the Samstag Museum of Art will display UniSA’s newest Sydney Ball acquisition Chromix Lumina #10 (2015) in Pridham Hall, City West campus. This work forms part of Ball’s Infinex series of hard-edge paintings, which began in 2010, that see the artist return to the modular style of work created after his time in New York in the 1960s.