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UNSW has recognised the achievements of one of the "giants of Australian art" John Olsen, with a studio named in his honour.

The celebrated 88 year-old landscape artist and former Archibald Prize winner, attended the official opening of the John Olsen Studio at UNSW Art & Design’s Paddington campus with his children, Tim and Louise Olsen, both graduates of the faculty.

Tim is one of Australia's most recognised art identities and gallery owners and his sister, Louise, is a leading designer who co-founded Dinosaur Designs, the global, handcrafted resin homewares and jewellery brand, with her partner and fellow UNSW Art & Design graduate, Stephen Ormandy.

Dean Professor Ross Harley acknowledged the University’s shared history with the family and their “ongoing individual and creative contributions to the faculty".

“John is a national treasure who has devoted his wisdom and energy to developing and nurturing the arts in Australia,” Professor Harley said of Olsen, who once taught at East Sydney Technical College, a precursor to UNSW Art & Design.

During his speech the celebrated artist committed to coming back to the studio once a year to share his experience with current students.


Family dynasty: John Olsen with his son Tim, daughter Louise and her partner Stephen Ormandy and their daughter, Camille. Photo: Momo Image

“There is high casualty rate for artists,” he said. “There is a big difference between being cosseted at art school with your contemporaries and the reality of being a working artist. I’d like to come and talk to them and ask them, ‘Now you’ve got all the training, what next?’”

Reflecting on his career Olsen said; “I’ve pursued this extraordinary path, and it really is a path, because anyone who is involved in the arts sees the world in a different way. Your lives are not just a sequential boredom or an arid warehouse … you are always creative, you are always thinking of possibilities.

“This is a great honour and a milestone. There will be many years of students using this studio. I’m most grateful that I was thought of.”

UNSW Chancellor David Gonski said the studio is a celebration of “one of the giants of Australian art and the national psyche”.

“John is an artist who has transformed the way we view our landscapes, our country and our very selves. The John Olsen Studio is an enduring testament to the bond between a wonderful family and an outstanding university.”