Richard Dunlop was born on 24 December 1960 about 100 metres from where he established his first art studio in his teenage bedroom in Amarina Ave, Ashgrove, Brisbane, a suburb in which all of the streets are named after flora (including poisonous varieties). The leafy surrounds of the suburb are routinely assumed by critics as the impetus for the artist’s idiosyncratic way of depicting sub-tropical botany teeming with life and metaphorical loadings about cycles of beauty and tragedy.
Dunlop began exhibiting in Brisbane in 1985, painting at nights while employed by the Queensland Education Department. First as a teacher in south-western Queensland, then as a prominent curriculum developer, he obtained three degrees, including a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Queensland in 1992. Some overseas curriculum development assignments took him to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Tonga, and East Timor working for various international aid agencies and the United Nations.
The artist’s daughter, Hannah was born in 1990, and his son, Sebastian in 1993, to Anne Gambling, who now lives in Switzerland.
Dunlop continued to exhibit with a range of successful commercial as well as not-for-profit artist-run galleries in Brisbane throughout the late ‘80s and mid-1990’s, by which time he was invited to join Ray Hughes Gallery, a gallery renowned for its cultivation of world-class painters. He agreed to exhibit exclusively with Hughes until 2003. In 1999, Dunlop relocated to Switzerland, with the following year resulting in the dissolution of his long-term relationship with Anne Gambling. He returned to Australia as a sole father to the two children of the relationship.
In 2003, Dunlop met his current partner, Kylie Elkington, a highly accomplished artist in her own right. In 2003, following a retrospective of Dunlop’s paintings, the artist re-connected with his home town by also joining the stable of Jan Murphy Gallery, as well as Hughes. This caused a major rift with Hughes, resulting in an ongoing dispute which attracted years of national news coverage and was resolved through court battles all in Dunlop’s favour. Released from the monopoly of a single dealer relationship, the artist continued to have regular major solo exhibitions with Jan Murphy Gallery, and other commercial galleries in various states of Australia – Michael Reid, Tim Olsen, Hill-Smith, Despard, James Makin, and Greenhill Galleries, while his works also featured in various institutional travelling survey exhibitions.
Dunlop attained a second PhD in Art from Griffith University in 2007, this time earning the University Medal for Academic Excellence at PhD Level for 2007.
The artist exhibited periodically overseas in the early to mid-2000’s – with solo exhibitions in Zurich, Tokyo, Auckland, and London, and in group shows in New York, Milan, Los Angeles and Toronto. Nevertheless, his work remains very unfamiliar to audiences beyond Australia, apart from the attention of a handful of international collectors with multiple works from various series of the artist’s 30-year career.
Dunlop currently lives and works in Deloraine, Tasmania.
“Richard Dunlop is one of those rare artists who is interested (as art history is peppered with) the forms and cycles of nature – its intrinsic beauty and its destructive tragedies, which of course, embraces human nature. Each painting contains a microcosmic world. For thirty years, he has never wavered from what is now being internationally heralded as a ‘return to beauty’ in art.” – Cathyann Coady, Victorian College of Art, Melbourne University, 2015
“The function of the artist is to describe the world in the first person: this is my set of experiences. If you get twenty-five or thirty artists like Bill Robinson, Joe Furlonger and Richard Dunlop who describe their world in the first person and you weave them together you start to get some sort of fabric of our society. I’ve got a basic belief that the eccentrics, the mavericks, the one-offs are the real artistic mainstream.” – Ray Hughes, former Art Dealer