David Muir Artist’s Biography
In search of the abstract
The day David Muir turned 14 he transferred from Brighton Technical School to the same institution’s Arts College, hoping to become a professional painter. Brief experience as a junior artist at Rickards Advertising Agency convinced him that commercial art was not for him.
Continuing his art studies at Caulfield Technical College (Monash University Faculty of Fine Art) David also studied photography at night and became an active member of the CTG Film Society. These interests became of primary importance when he left the college to earn a living, first as an assistant at Latrobe Studios, then as junior photographer and printer to the internationally renowned architectural and industrial photographer Wolfgang Sievers, from whom he learned more about lighting and recording images than any school at the time could impart.
David’s artist friends during his youth included Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, Leonard French, George Johnson, Clement Meadmore, Peter Upward and Dick Watkins, all of whom influenced him with their individual styles.
Moving to Sydney in 1954, David progressed into the world of filmmaking, becoming a professional cinematographer for Ajax Films at age 20, then establishing himself at Film Australia, where he shot several films on the arts, such as Festival in Adelaide, on the first Adelaide Arts Festival and Portrait of an Australian, which screened at film festivals throughout Australia and at Edinburgh.
Throughout the 1950s David had continued painting and photography in his spare time. Finally in 1961 he took a long, hard look at his painted works and decided to quit painting. His photographic work (both still and moving) where he could ‘paint with light’ was superior to his work on canvas. No longer distracted by part-time painting, he developed his photographic work and began to concentrate on abstract, rather than subjective qualities, inspired in part by the Bauhaus and the great photographer Man Ray.
Approach to Sculpture, featuring his now internationally acclaimed friend Clement Meadmore, was the first film David independently directed and photographed. It premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in 1962 and then was screened at the Venice Festival of Art on Film.
In 1962 David moved to Europe. During 12 years there he shot many art films such as Francis Bacon Paintings, JMW Turner and The Pre-Raphaelite Revolt, as well as covering the first Hong Kong Arts Festival and filming Opus – some aspects of Art and Culture in Britain today, which won him the cinematography award at Barcelona. While living overseas, David showed his semi-abstract photographs at solo exhibitions in Stratford East (London) and Blakenese (Hamburg) where his artworks were purchased by both private collectors and institutions internationally.
Back in Australia in 1974, David developed his expertise on Australian art over several years while researching at national, state and regional galleries and libraries throughout Australia.
He wrote 41 films in the Australian Eye series on Australian paintings. With his painterly eye, he was an ideal choice to script, direct and photograph these programs, one of his innovations being that oil paintings were shot under polarised light to counteract glare from glazes, which had previously reduced reproduction quality, even in still photographs. The series was produced by Film Australia, in collaboration with major galleries, and screened repeatedly by ABCTV.
His sound interviews with artists (such as Russell Drysdale and Fred Williams) for this series are now treasured for research in the National Library, Canberra.
David has contributed a great deal to visual education and appreciation via talks he has given at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (Harvard, USA) University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, the Art Galleries of NSW and South Australia, plus his articles in Art And Australia - and most importantly through the films he has made. He has painted screen pictures of the visual arts on a broad canvas, including films such as The Rough and the Smooth, a one-hour TV documentary on Australian Impressionists Tom Roberts and Charles Conder.
His present exhibition, Everyday Abstractions, necessarily showcases only a small fraction of his work over the past 67 years. These days, he continues creative photography, still searching for abstract qualities in the digital medium.
Oct.2018 David is now also writing Two Case Man, his memoirs of an active life photographing in 30 countries.