Remembering Laotse (Shaving off a second), Brett Whiteley
  • Artist
    Brett Whiteley
  • Born
    1939
  • Died
    1992
  • Title
    Remembering Laotse (Shaving off a second)
  • Date of Production
    1967
  • Medium
    pencil, pen and ink on paper
  • Dimensions
    66.4 x 56.2 cm
  • Credit Details
    Gift of Jerry Van Beek, 1968

Brett Whiteley

Remembering Laotse (Shaving off a second)

Trained at the Julian Ashton School Sydney, Whiteley furthered his studies in Europe. He returned to Australia in 1961 but subsequently traveled extensively in the United States and Asia. From the mid 1960's many of Whiteley's portraits were explorations of the psyche. Showing a fascination with the notion of alchemy and the transmutation of substances, Whiteley's self portraits often included heads that were fractured or appeared to be in the process of being distorted into another self. This work is no exception.

Considered by some to be the first philosopher of the Taoist School, Laotse (old Master or teacher) is believed to be responsible for a body of sayings that came to be known as Tao Te Ching that are related to living the simple life and to becoming one with nature and the universe. Whiteley's inclusion of the following text gives us an insight into his personal aspirations at the time the work was created:

Remembering Laotse …….

He is to be made to dwindle (in power)
Must first be caused to expand
He who is to be weakened
Must first be made strong
He who is paid to be low
Must first be exalted to power
He who is to be taken away from
Must first be given
This is the subtle light
Gentleness overcomes strength
Fish should be left in the deep pool
And sharp weapons of state should be left where none can see them!!!