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Asher Bilu is primarily an abstract painter, but his paintings often defy categorization as their three-dimensionality blurs the distinction between painting and sculpture. He has also created sculptural works and installations in many different media developed as a result of experimentation with new materials and techniques. His work reflects his fascination with light, and his love of music and science, especially cosmology.

He was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in December of 1936. At the age of fourteen he was sent to a kibbutz where he lived until his mandatory army service began in 1954. From the age of eight he studied classical violin, but during his army service the violin gave way to painting and drawing as his form of creative expression. However he has continued his music through study of classical Hindustani music on the Indian instrument, the sarod, which he plays privately. He has not had any formal art training.

He arrived in Melbourne in December, 1956, and quickly settled into a studio, completing work for his first solo exhibition at Allan David’s Dalgety Street Gallery in 1959. This exhibition was followed by two solo exhibitions at John Reed’s Museum of Modern Art of Australia and exhibitions in Sydney and Adelaide which soon established his reputation. In 1963, Bilu moved to London where he lived for two years, exhibiting at the Rowan Gallery in London and Kunst Kring in Rotterdam, Holland. Shortly after his return to Melbourne in 1965 he won the prestigious Blake Prize. In 1967, Sculptron, “the first piece of electronic sculpture to be exhibited in Australia” (Patrick McCaughey, The Age, 11 July 1967) was exhibited at George Mora’s Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne.
In 1970 he won the First Leasing Prize which was an invitational, non-acquisitive exhibition mounted at the National Gallery of Victoria (second prize winner was Brett Whiteley and third prize winners (shared) Jan Senbergs and Alun Leach-Jones). With a first prize of $7,000, the First Leasing was intended to be the richest art prize in Australia at that time. The Encyclopedia of Australian Art's list of Major national art prizes for the year of 1970 shows the First Leasing as second in value only to the Travelodge Art Prize (at $7,500), however the latter was an acquisitive prize and was held after the First Leasing (McCulloch & McCulloch, 1994).

Asher Bilu has had fifty solo exhibitions in Australia, and in London, Rotterdam and Los Angeles. His non-commercial installations are Amaze (1982), first exhibited at United Artists Gallery in Melbourne, later touring to Mount Gambier, Sydney and Armidale; Escape (1992), commissioned by the Melbourne International Festival as an interactive experience for the seven thousand people who visited in ten days; Explanandum (2002), shown to an invited audience in Melbourne and Adelaide; Mysterium (2003), commissioned as a non-competitive work for the inaugural sculpture prize at the McClelland Gallery, Melbourne; Heavens (2006), commissioned by the Jewish Museum of Australia and travelled by NETS (National Exhibition Touring Support) to regional galleries in Mornington, Latrobe Valley and Benalla; In-Visible (2007), commissioned by Wilson Street Gallery, Sydney.

Representation in group exhibitions include: 'Australian Art Today’, touring exhibition to South East Asia (1969), the McCaughey Prize, National Gallery of Victoria (1979), 'Images of Religion in Australian Painting 1942-1988’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (1988), 'I Had a Dream – Australian Art in the 1960s’ (1997), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 'O Soul O Spirit O Fire’, Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane & touring (2001), 'After Van Gogh: Australian Artists In Homage To Vincent’, Mornington Peninsular Regional Gallery (2005) and 'Earthly Reflections of Heavenly Things’, 3 person exhibition with Leonard Brown & Emily Kame Kngwarreye, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2007-08).

He is represented in the collections of The National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne, and many regional galleries and corporations. He was commissioned in 1982 to produce four paintings for the Concert Hall of the Victorian Arts Centre.

His awards include the C.H. Richards Memorial Prize, Brisbane (1965), Blake Prize (1965) and the First Leasing Prize (1970).

Bilu and Ivan Durrant were the initiators of United Artists Gallery, an artist cooperative which included Mike Brown, Dale Hickey, Don Laycock and Peter D. Cole amongst others. The gallery was situated in the room vacated by Georges Mora’s Tolarno Gallery in Fitzroy Street St Kilda and flourished from 1982 till 1985. One of the earliest exhibitions was Bilu’s installation Amaze, a walk through 'sculpture made of paint’ 46 metres long, designed to celebrate the spirit of United Artists Gallery which was to make contemporary art accessible to a wide audience.

Bilu has worked with film director Paul Cox as production designer on several movies – Man of Flowers (1982), My First Wife (1983) Cactus (1984) and Human Touch (2003) which also features Bilu’s two installations Explanandum and Amaze. For the film Vincent: The life and Death of Vincent van Gogh (1987), he designed the scenes to illustrate the paintings of the bedroom and the potato eaters, and painted eleven copies of original Van Gogh paintings to be used for filming.

Bilu lives and works in Melbourne.

Bilu, Luba Note:
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