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Peter Upward was born in Melbourne in 1932. He began his studies in art at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology before transferring to the Julian Ashton School in Sydney, where his interest in abstraction was fostered by John Passmore. After completing his studies, the artist had four productive years in Melbourne where he developed his style of gestural abstraction, which was uncommon in Australia at the time. In 1960 Upward moved to Sydney and formed the group ‘Sydney 9’ with other leading abstract artists including John Olsen, John Passmore and Leonard Hessing. In 1962 he moved to London, but his new works, inspired by astrology, beat poetry and action painting did not receive the same level of success. Returning to Sydney in 1971, Upward began teaching at Sydney Technical College and expanded his technique.
Upward’s expressive, gestural line and far reaching influences – from Japanese calligraphy to American abstract expressionism- led to recognition as a leading Australian artist of the time. After his untimely death in 1983, at the age of 51, a survey exhibition was organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, on show in 1984. His work is still considered very important in the history of Australian art, and a second retrospective was presented by Penrith Regional Gallery in 2007. Upward’s work is included in the major state collections and a number of private and corporate collections in Australia and overseas.