Age no barrier to learning

Eileen Whitehead will graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy one week shy of her 74th birthday.

Eileen Whitehead will graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy one week shy of her 74th birthday.

Eileen has been interested in art as a hobby and has painted her whole working life.

Growing up in London during World War II, Eileen’s paintings are influenced by that war and the wars she has seen since.

In 2006, at the age of 65, she enrolled at ECU to study a Bachelor of Visual Arts, and then went on to do honours with her research focusing on prisoners of war.

Her PhD thesis explores visual art brought to Australia by north-East European migrants after World War II.

The research found a number of factors influenced the non-recognition of migrant art – including the poor reception of abstract art in Australia post-war and the protection of Australian artists.

“The impact of European abstract expressionism that migrants introduced in the 1950s had a lasting effect on Australian modern art, together with the innovation of their contemporary sculpture, which changed the urban landscape of Australian cities,” Eileen said.

Support for mature age students
While initially being nervous about enrolling in University as a mature age student, Eileen said she has found ECU to be a very supportive environment.

“It’s a wonderful university. The help I have received from the academics is amazing, and even people at ECU who haven’t been directly involved with my studies have been so helpful.

“Enrolling as a mature age student can seem a strange and frightening experience, but we started a mature age network of students which brought us all closer together,” she said.

Eileen will graduate alongside her School of Communications and Arts classmates at a ceremony at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday, 31 January 2015.

New projects
Now that Eileen has completed her PhD thesis she will have time to start painting again.

“After working with some wonderful migrant artists during my PhD research I’d also like to write a book about Western Australian migrant artists,” she said.

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