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Geoff Dyer - Tribute

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 15 October 2020

Tags: Arts, Condolence

Geoff Dyer - Tribute, Cassy O'Connor MP, 15 October 2020


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, last week, Tasmania lost a living treasure. I rise tonight to mark the passing of Geoff Dyer, one of Tasmania's most important and celebrated painters, one of the great and colourful Tasmanian characters.

There is a Geoff Dyer-shaped hole in the fabric of Salamanca where so many of us would have bumped into him and had a chat. He was larger than life and dearly loved.

Geoff exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions, nationally and internationally, going right back to 1970. His artistic legacy highlights the wild beauty of the Tasmanian landscape, exploring the sorts of rugged, remote places that many other born and bred Tasmanians would rarely go to.

Over the decades, Geoff traversed all points of the compass on this island with his easel and his paints, from the isolated islands of Bass Strait to the dense forests of the Franklin River. His fire landscapes are some of my favourites. They are so striking with their scarlet, black, pink and gold colours that you can almost smell the smoke.

As a painter, Geoff Dyer was highly intuitive, painting entire pictures with an innate and wild creative flow and very rarely coming back to rework them. Despard Gallery, which exhibited Geoff's paintings for many years, had this to say on his passing -

Geoff was an inspiring force within the contemporary Tasmanian art scene, recognised nationally through his commanding interpretations of the landscape. Geoff lived and breathed painting, constantly driven to make his mark and share his love of depicting the landscape in its many forms and ambiences.

Geoff had a highly celebrated professional career spanning over 50 years with countless solo exhibitions nationally, as well as exhibitions in Singapore, Wang Dong and New York. His work is held in numerous important collections including the National Portrait Gallery, Artbank, the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

He has been hung in the New South Wales Art Gallery over 20 times as a finalist in the Archibald Prize, the Wynne Prize and the Sulman Prize. Most notably, Geoff won the Archibald Prize in 2003 with a portrait of author, conservationist and friend, Richard Flanagan. Geoff is only the second Tasmanian to ever win the Archibald Prize.

He is remembered for his portraits. Some of his other subjects include David Walsh, Bob Brown, Christopher Koch and Graeme Murphy and in this place is his truly striking portrait of former Labor premier, Paul Lennon, which hangs over the foyer.

Ms Archer - It's striking.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is a striking portrait because it really captures the man. It captures his brashness and his uncertainty. It is a very fine portrait of someone who you would not describe as pretty.

There was an exhibition last year at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, dedicated to his portraits, but Geoff was at heart, a landscape painter, one who devoted his entire life to interpreting and bringing to canvas the moods of his beloved Tasmania with equal accomplishment in both oil and water colour.

Apart from his enormous contribution to the world of art and the way we perceive this island's landscape, Geoff was known by friends as being a truly great person, a very much larger than life character, and a rogue of a man, described by his long-time friend and fellow very fine landscape painter, my dear ex-husband Stephen Lees, as having an incredible humanity. He could relate to anybody, anywhere. The sort of person who seemed to know everybody, everywhere they go.

Stephen described his friend as an almost Dickensian figure, or a bit like Oscar Wilde with a great wit and at times, even a bit pugnacious. He felt a deep and genuine love for people from all walks of life and was held in high regard across different groups through his involvement in the worlds of sport, politics and culture. He was a fixture at Salamanca.

Stephen Lees highlights that people like Geoff, who are connected to all layers and groups within society, are really important to our culture. They become like a glue that binds these different groups together.

Geoff Dyer was a true raconteur. He is remembered for his big Tasmanian heart, his skill with words, his quite wicked sense of humour, his love of a drink, his energy and his ability to engage in conversation on all manner of topics with all kinds of people. According to Stephen, his warmth and his wit made him a magnetic person, as well as his love for people. Because of Stephen I knew Geoff quite well for a time there too and every time you walked into a room where Geoff was, it just lit up, so big was his character.

On behalf of the Tasmanian Greens, I pass on my warmest and most sincere condolences to everyone who loved Geoff and there are so many, and particularly to his family, his partner Krysia, his daughter Kelly, his brother David and his sister Lou.

Geoff Dyer will be deeply missed, not only for his incredible paintings but also for the profound impact he had on the lives of everyone he touched. Geoff Dyer was 73 years old when he passed away. Vale, great Tasmanian painter, Geoff Dyer.