The Successful Touchdown

James Gleeson

The Successful Touchdown by James Gleeson


James Gleeson
The Successful Touchdown
oil on canvas
172 x 230 cm

James Gleeson’s The Successful Touchdown of 1990 is a rare hallmark work from a period that he considered to be his best. 1

Its optical scope, vast drama and visual impact are very closely related to his most significant works in noteworthy public and private collections: Lapsed Shadows Recycled to a Capable Coast of 1988 in the Art Gallery of New South Wales; The Opening Gate of 1989 in the Colin and Liz Laverty Collection; The Dance of 1989 in the James Fairfax Collection; The Darkening Stage of 1991 in the National Gallery of Victoria and The Secret Heart of the Headland of 1991 in the National Gallery of Australia. Gleeson’s The Successful Touchdown of 1990 sits squarely within the compass of these magisterial years.

In Gleeson’s view we all should live in a state of dreaming wakefulness. Humans, those inveterate dreamers, imagine then create - ask Einstein, Brain Cox or Leonardo. To these and other luminaries one thing remains clear: reality points out what is; imagination outlines what might be. In any creative journey wonder is imagination’s first step.

Gleeson began to think along these expansive lines in 1938 very soon after he developed his life-long involvement with the subjectivist art and complex theory of Surrealism. In short, Surrealism believed in recuperating the true and creatively free powers of the subjective imagination by relaxing the hold of Realism, imitation, practical necessity and utilitarian thinking. For Surrealists such as Gleeson, original thought, creativity, imagination and artistic visualisation should always slip through the bars of any rationalist prison.

In Gleeson’s mind and the minds of all Surrealists “true” creativity roams well beyond any house-trained domestication - there is something more free and spontaneous about this unique and precious human attribute. Surrealism just wants us to be left alone to our thoughts. In other words, Surrealism allows the free mind to sing in the shower.


This is an extract from the essay by Ken Wach, 2017.


© Gleeson O'Keefe Foundation

Stock Number

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the artist
private collection, Melbourne


Annual Collectors' Exhibition 2002, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, cat. no. 45

Further Information

signed lower right: Gleeson '90
verso: The Successful Touchdown