Penetralia: Art and Psychoanalysis in Melbourne, 1940–2004

Art and psychoanalysis under the scope.

The works of prominent artists including Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan and Vivienne Shark LeWitt will be showcased in an exhibition exploring the link between art and psychoanalysis.

‘Penetralia: Art and Psychoanalysis in Melbourne, 1940 – 2004’ looks at the impact of psychoanalysis on Australian art through the work of leading psychoanalysts practicing in Australia Clara Geroe, Janet Nield and psychiatrist Reginald Ellery. Included in the exhibition, which showcased documentary photographs, architectural models and plans, historical film, video, painting, prints, and drawings, there were works by Charles Blackman, John Brack, Richard Dunn, Joy Hester, Lyndal Jones, Linda Marrinon, Helen Maudsley, Elizabeth Newman, Sidney Nolan, Vivienne Shark LeWitt, Edwin Tanner, Albert Tucker, Danila Vassilieff, Ken Whisson and Caroline Williams.

Geroe, Ellery and Nield started a movement in the 1940s in Australia that took Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic ideas out of the clinic into the wider community.


The exhibition had three dimensions.

The first focused on the stories of the three individuals, selectively looking at how psychoanalytic ideas, theory and practice have influenced intellectual life in Melbourne, in art, architecture and education, well beyond clinical concerns.

The second dimension of the exhibition looked at contemporary expressions of the relationship between psychoanalysis and art, drawing on visual material, representations of the unconscious.

The final component connected themes of past and present.  A series of forums ran concurrently with the exhibition to reflect on the ways psychoanalysis can inform cultural frameworks and explore how ideas about cultural life can expand our understanding of psychoanalysis itself.