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'Antipodean' continues painting, training hor -

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'Antipodean' continues painting, training horses

Reporter: Mark Bannerman

KERRY O'BRIEN: When the horses lined up for today's cup, one of the keenest spectators would have
been 80-year-old artist Robert Dickerson.

Along with Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd and John Molvig, Robert Dickerson was part of a group of
artists called the Antipodeans.

In the 1950s they alternately delighted and outraged art critics with a series of works that
revolutionised Australian art.

Each year the group has thinned.

And now only Dickerson is left.

But don't think he's going quietly.

Each day Bob Dickerson works on his fitness, his art and his very serious ambition to breed and own
a Melbourne Cup winner.

Mark Bannerman reports.

MARK BANNERMAN: It's just after dawn, and Bob Dickerson is preparing himself for the only work he
has ever truly loved - painting the world around him.

ROBERT DICKERSON: You go places, see things and think, "Gee, isn't that marvellous?

I could make a record of that, you know.

I'll go home and paint it."

MARK BANNERMAN: It's not a regime you might expect from an 80-year-old artist, but this man was
born to surprise.

Describe the man that you know as Bob Dickerson for me, just a couple of words.

ROBERT DICKERSON: I couldn't possibly do it!

Describe myself.

MARK BANNERMAN: Why not?

ROBERT DICKERSON: I don't even think - you know, it's pretty hard to describe yourself.

I'd like to think I was something great and nice, but I know I'm not.

MARK BANNERMAN: In life, as in art, Bob Dickerson is brutally honest.

As he puts himself through his routine, he could feel satisfied with the knowledge that over 60
years he has created art that is now part of the Australian psyche.

In paintings like the Tired Man, the Lost Child and the marvellously acidic picture he called The
Gossips.

He has created a unique view of the world.

But the past is not Bob Dickerson's domain.

JENNY DICKERSON: You see paintings all the time when you're with him.

You'll be walking along and he'll say, "There's a woman sitting on a seat I could paint," or,
"There's a man with two pairs of glasses on, one over the other, I could paint that," and he's
thinking about paintings all the time.

ROBERT DICKERSON: Well, it's about achieving - making your life have a purpose, I suppose.

MARK BANNERMAN: Achievement and getting things done is what it's all about.

This morning he'll spend a short time at the horse training facility he's built on his farm
watching his horses being conditioned.

Even here he has a goal.

ROBERT DICKERSON: I came down here for one purpose - to have a race track built and training
stables where I can get a horse good enough to win a major race at one of the big race meetings.

Hopefully the Melbourne Cup.

MARK BANNERMAN: As it happens, 1,000km south in the city that hosts the Cup, an exhibition of
Dickerson's latest works are being prepared.

Does he want to talk in depth about them?

Well, no.

In fact, you get the distinct feeling he's moved on, absorbed already in his next creation.

When you come over here each day, some artists, we imagine, wait for inspiration.

But you seem to do it a different way, you come over and you work.

ROBERT DICKERSON: Yes, I just use like a plumber will pick up his spanners and hammers and goes to
work.

He doesn't wait for inspiration, does he?

MARK BANNERMAN: This down to earth view of art perhaps reflects Dickerson's working-class origins.

Having left school at 14, the young artist worked in factories, supplementing his wages with boxing
before joining the Air Force.

But the art world didn't sit up and take notice until the late 1950s.

KYM BONYTHON, ART DEALER: He was a star turn of the Air Force amateur boxers up in Darwin when I
was there.

And little did I dream when I used to watch him competing in the rings that 20 odd years later I
would be exhibiting and so enthusiastic about his work.

MARK BANNERMAN: For all his fame, Dickerson's relationship with the art world has always been
spiky, as this interview from the 1960s about the Paddington art scene shows.

INTERVIEWER: A lot of people seem to think that the atmosphere in a place like this is faintly
bogus, do you think it is?

ROBERT DICKERSON: Faintly?

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think it is bogus?

ROBERT DICKERSON: I think it's completely bogus.

INTERVIEWER: Why?

ROBERT DICKERSON: There's a lot of people flocking to Paddington that don't do anything.

They are not interested in painting, they're interested in living off painting and living off the
people who paint.

MARK BANNERMAN: I think you've said before that there is often too much theorising about art, is
that right?

ROBERT DICKERSON: I never even think about it.

The theory of art is absolutely absurd.

No such thing.

Is there a theory of the world?

Can they explain anything?

No they can't.

No, I don't believe in theories.

MARK BANNERMAN: But even mavericks must make a living and tonight Bob Dickerson is doing what you
suspect might is the toughest job of all for him, attending the launch of his latest exhibition.

MAN: This is the first time I've opened a private exhibition and Bob I'm delighted to do it for
you.

MARK BANNERMAN: Aside from the usual gloss of opening night, the people here clearly feel a warmth
for the artist and just a little awe for the uncompromising view of the world that he sets down.

MAN #2: Sombre, sombre.

MAN #3: He might be a man who hasn't got much love in his life.

WOMAN: Some of them make me feel uncomfortable.

I think they're provocative paintings and they make you think.

MARK BANNERMAN: Many people looking at your paintings have said there is often a sense of
isolation.

ROBERT DICKERSON: Well, we are isolated.

We're all individuals.

No matter how much or how close we are to people, we're still isolated.

You're an individual, that's all I'm painting.

Not a lonely person, a person's a unique thing, you know.

MARK BANNERMAN: And Bob Dickerson certainly is one of a kind.

Back from Melbourne and on his farm, he could take time out to watch the horses he owns being
trained.

He could do any number of things.

He doesn't.

This evening he's out on the track doing the hard miles, preparing himself for work like the
fighter he once was and still remains.

Is there any possibility that you could run out of ideas, things to paint?

ROBERT DICKERSON: No, it would be impossible to run out of ideas and things to paint, absolutely
impossible.

Because things change all the time, you know, people are always there.

MARK BANNERMAN: Can you imagine a time when he may not paint?

ROBERT DICKERSON: No, because when people say to him, "Why don't you retire?"

He says, "And do what, take up painting?"