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Keith Looby

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Keith Looby (born 1940 in Sydney, Australia), is an Australian artist who won the Archibald Prize in 1984 with a portrait of Max Gillies.

Early life and education

Looby was raised in the Sydney suburbs of Newtown and Bondi. He studied at East Sydney Technical College (now The National Art School) from 1955–59, where his teachers included John Passmore and he soon became part of the Sydney Push. He travelled overseas in 1960 and lived in Italy and London until 1967. In 1964, he held his first solo exhibition at the Carpini Gallery, Rome. An elaborate pencil drawing was exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in the 1960s.

Australian history and Suburbs of the Sacred

Looby produced two books of drawings and illustrations on the history of Australia: The History of Australia in 1976, with poet David Campbell, representing the history of Australia up to the arrival of the English, with songs and poems inspired by the drawings and by Aboriginal myths and rock engravings of the Sydney Hawkesbury area; and Black and white history of Australia in 1979, in which he interprets aspects of Australian history, beginning with Indigenous Australia before European settlement, and the subsequent effects of settlement on Aboriginal Australia, among other episodes of foundational mythology, Ned Kelly, The Goldfields, The Bush etc.
In 1988, Australian political activist, socialist historian and cultural commentator Humphrey McQueen wrote Suburbs of the Sacred, Transforming Australian Beliefs and Values, an "examination of Australian suburban culture through the artwork of Keith Looby".


Looby has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales multiple times between 1974 and 2000:
{ class="wikitable"
Anne Summers
Paddy McGuinness
A. D. Hope
Blanche D'Alpuget
Manning Clark
John Bloomfield's Arta Eaten
Bill Hayden
Max Gillies (Winner: Archibald Prize 1984)
David Combe and the portrait
Anne Summers: God's police dolls
P. P. McGuinness with Paddy doll
Keith Looby
Jan Senbergs
David Campbell
Rupert Lockwood
Other notable awards include the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1973 and the Sulman Prize in 1974. In 1981, Looby received an Australia Council New York studio residency, whilst in 1973–1974 he was artist in residence at the Australian National University. In 1992, Looby was named Canberra Artist of the Year.

Looby documentary

In 2019, the artist was the subject of a documentary film Looby,{{Cite newslast=Frostfirst=Andrewdate=2020-02-13title=Being an outsider artist is a noble pursuit – until nobody exhibits your work Andrew Frostlanguage=en-GBwork=The Guardianurl= co-directed by Nick Garner and Iain Knight, produced by Merilyn Alt and Sean Murphy. The documentary featured interviews with McLean Edwards, Julie Ewington, Max Gillies, Adam Hill (aka Blak Douglas), John McDonald, Humphrey McQueen, and Damien Minton.

Personal life

Looby was married to Helen Beresford, with whom he has two children, and abstract artist Kerry Gregan, with whom he has a son.
Keith Looby lives with his partner April Pressler on Sydney’s lower north shore.
  • Suburbs of the Sacred, Transforming Australian Beliefs and Values, Penguin, 1988, 269pp.
  • External links

    • Looby on IMDb

    Category:1940 births
    Category:Australian painters
    Category:Archibald Prize winners
    Category:Living people
    Category:People from Sydney
    Category:Blake Prize for Religious Art winners

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