Recollections on Miriam Stannage by Dr Phillip McNamara

Image credited to the Department of Arts and Culture WA
Image credit to the Department of Arts and Culture WA

GFL Fine Art is deeply saddened by the news of the recent passing of acclaimed Western Australian artist Miriam Stannage. What follows is an article of recollections by her close friend and colleague Dr. Phillip McNamara. 


Miriam Helen Stannage died early Sunday morning (September 11th, 2016). She will be remembered by the art world for her 50 plus years of creativity – in installation, paint, photography, drawing, video and artists books – and affectionately by many artists for her quiet support of their art. Miriam diligently visited local exhibitions for decades, often leaving appreciative reflections in exhibition comments books and taking home catalogues that she inevitably passed on to me for my archives.

Miriam had many long lasting friendships. Ours lasted from 1980 until her death. I first knew of Miriam  through the praises of her brother,  the historian Tom Stannage (who worked with my father on The People of Perth) and a couple of simple line drawings of hers shown at the upstairs Carroll’s Bookshop Gallery in Hay Street.  More formal introductions occurred through my interest in the work of George Duerden, Cliff Jones and the Henry Froudist studio of the mid to late 1960’s.

Untitled – vaccum painting in blue and purple

Cliff and George had both done portraits of Miriam, and a vacuum cleaner spray painting (in greens and yellows) from her 1969 show of abstracts at the Old Fire Station Gallery hung in Cliff’s print making studio. I knew how radical the abstract was for both Perth and Australian art of the period and was smitten. That both these men spoke so admiringly and affectionately about her also impressed me. They informed me that she had been very important for the promotion of modernism in Perth, firstly through setting up her own gallery in 1965 (the Rhode Gallery), and through her work in establishing the Contemporary Art Society with Guy Grey Smith.  They were proud that Bernard Smith had controversially chosen one of her spray painted abstracts as the winner of the 1970 Albany Art Prize. This was clearly an independent and self-actualising person.

I became a very close friend of Miriam when I started writing a thesis about the work of Tom Gibbons – Miriam’s husband. Their conversations about art, film, philosophy, religion, art and the art world were perceptive, informative and fun to be a part of. I visited regularly and continued to do so after Tom’s death in 2012. They were very hospitable; Miriam liked Wagon Wheel biscuits and any cake from Ruby’s Patisserie in Tuart Hill.

Both Miriam and Tom were mentors in teaching me how to see beauty and poignant mysteriousness in ordinary things. Both had a religious sensibility and saw the everyday world as a celebration of the divine. Both were playful, conceptually witty and intellectually quick, whilst also being disciplined in their art practices.

Wildflowers II

I admired many things about Miriam. One was that she was very self-reliant and would go off camping by herself in the wheat belt and National Parks. One of her favourite areas was Cape Le Grand National Park near Esperance, so she didn’t mind a drive. She also had fond memories of the Northam area, where she was born in 1939, and she would go see the wild flowers every year between there and New Norcia (work from some of her most significant series are in the Monastery collection there). A pastel drawing of wild flowers by her was one of the first works I ever bought. She loved native gardens and established a fine one at her home. Miriam was also a keen bird watcher and so liked the fact that many species were attracted to her garden. Delighting in being close to nature Miriam either walked along Trigg beach near Mettams Pool, or around one of several lakes near her home, every day.

She was physically very fit, so it was a shock to be told by her that she had a terminal tumour. More so that it came less than a year after she had been named a State Living Treasure.

The last few months of her life demonstrate many of the traits that I loved. Miriam saw the interconnection – the associations, symbolism and archetypal – in all things. It was innate. Hence when she rang me on Easter Sunday and asked me to come see her in person, as she had something important but sad to tell me, I feared the worst. Miriam was also pragmatic and lived life on her own terms so it didn’t surprise me that when we met she also said that she had chosen not to undertake radical treatment and, though it would be a difficult journey, she would let it take its course. She asked me not to tell anyone else as she didn’t want people fussing.

The prognosis was a couple of months so Miriam didn’t expect to see the catalogue she had been working on with Lea Kinsella published, nor know how the accompanying Lawrence Wilson survey exhibition was received. But she was delighted that Lea had been interviewing her regularly for years and that the survey of her most recent significant series was occurring. It was with great satisfaction that we read and discussed the proofs that Ted Snell and Lea expedited to her.

Blue Poles Debate From Hansard
Blue Poles Debate From Hansard

Her situation became more widely known when the exhibition Miriam Stannage: Survey 2006-2016 opened at the Lawrence Wilson in July. By then she was in Hollywood hospital just down the road. There was much poignancy at the opening when people learnt the reason for her absence. On opening night I took Miriam a video that Michele (my wife) made of the occasion. Miriam had been imagining the day and the various proceedings and so we watched the recording of it many times. It may give people some joy to know that Miriam was very pleased with how the show was hung and the celebrative atmosphere of the opening. She recognised many people in the crowd, was delighted for their continued support, and it sparked many conversations about Perth art and exhibitions she had seen over the years.

One regret Miriam voiced to me was that she didn’t have the energy to write the many letters to friends and supporters that she had thought she would whilst in hospice. Miriam wanted people to know that she was very grateful for the kind comments on her art and she wanted to also encourage many younger artists to keep going! I said I’d pass these messages on.

Miriam faced her last journey with great courage and typical wry humour. When I asked about her funeral and whether she wanted me to say anything she said “Just put a pile of Lea’s book up the back and say ‘If you want to know anything about Miriam or her art, everything she wanted to share is in those books, so buy a copy as you leave.’” She added wryly that her archives – including the diaries she wrote in everyday of her life – had already gone to the National Library with a caveat of 25 years on them, so if you wanted to know more you’d have to wait.

Question & Answer (Q&A International Flag Code)
Question & Answer (Q&A International Flag Code)

Miriam also suggested that, as a last art installation idea and as homage to her Security Notice and surveillance series, I should put a camera sticking up out of the flowers on her coffin and attach an all-seeing eye camera to the front of the lectern. She smiled at the surreal idea that she – as artist – would be with us and “watching with an unblinking eye” as we looked on. She seriously thought about the request for quite a while. She always revised her art before deciding on final configurations, so she played with several ideas before taking the camera poking from the flowers out. She chuckled about the lectern. Eventually she said something along the lines of “There will be children there and some people who might not understand that as an art piece. Who wants to leave a funeral with more questions than answers, perhaps not… there are too many possible reactions and I don’t want to upset people who may already be upset, but it’s a great idea.”  We both laughed at the irony because Guy Grey-Smith, in the early 1960’s, had told Tom Gibbons that “art isn’t made with ideas” then Miriam, from the late 1960’s on, had pursued conceptual art throughout her oeuvre.

I already miss her greatly. I loved her dearly. She is a major Australian artist. She didn’t want to make a fuss… yet the legacy of her art oeuvre will continue to intrigue audiences for many generations on.

Phillip McNamara


Video Preview: Highlights of our Contemporary Collector’s Art Market August 2016

GFL Fine Art’s Communications Manager Olivia Gardner discusses the highlights of our Contemporary Collector’s Art Market Sunday Auction, August 2016. The auction includes works by Howard Taylor, William Boissevain, Marie Hobbs, Miriam Stannage, Ben Stack, Fern Petrie, Elwyn Lynn, Harald Vike, Joanna Lamb, Robert Juniper, Mac Betts and many more.

Investment: art market painted into a corner The Australian Business Review, Monday, June 20, 2016 p17

Following is an article from Monday’s The Australian Business Review acknowledging the effect that the previous government’s 2011 Self-managed Superfund amendments have had on investors and the art market. This has been an ongoing drama for the arts industry since the amendments were introduced and simply requires a basic element of common sense to have the super fund amendments repealed in order to allow the market to return to a healthy state of growth. However, since the coalition came into government, the assistant treasurers – whose responsibility this area falls under – have been Arthur Sinodinos, Mathias Cormann (acting), Josh Frydenberg, and now Kelly O’Dwyer. That makes four assistant treasurers in 33 months, no wonder it is difficult for any change to come into effect. The only permanence over this period has been the bureaucrats responsible for the drafting and administration of the legislation. 


Art market painted into a corner

Article by Michaela Boland, National Arts writer, Sydney.


michael fox the australian
Michael Fox, art adviser, accountant and gallery owner, with two Gloria Petyarre paintings. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

As an accountant, art valuer and nascent gallery owner Michael Fox has witnessed the free falling art market at close quarters.

Self-managed superannuation funds have been shedding their artworks at what has ­become a feverish pace as the June 30 compliance deadline ­approaches, six years after ­Jeremy Cooper’s superannuation review recommended tightening the rules for self-managed fund art collecting.

In 2009 Australian Taxation Office figures revealed the total value of collectibles, primarily art, in SMSF, was $700 million — by 2014 the figure was $385m and it is understood to have dwindled to a negligible amount since.

art market img the australian

The art market has been decimated: prices for Aboriginal paintings, in particular, have plummeted. Fox has consigned for sale in his eponymous gallery two canvases by Utopia painter Gloria Petyarre, once among the nation’s most collectable indigenous artists. He bought them in 2005 for $5000 and is now endeavouring to sell them for $1000 each. “They’re beautiful”, he said, though he is yet to find a buyer.

The Petyarre owner will be lucky if he recovers 20 per cent of his original investment after consignment fees.

Another collector who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was considerably worse off, having spent $800,000 acquiring indigenous art in his superannuation fund.

He now hopes to realise $300,000 in a series of auctions this year as he liquidates all 300 works. “We tried to help the artists,” he said of his buying trips to remote art centres acquiring pieces he intended to house for decades in his superannuation fund.

“Now I’m selling them without ever really enjoying them, they went straight into storage, costing $35,000 to $40,000 a year,” he said.

At auction, savvy buyers sit on their hands if they know a work is owned by a super fund, correctly figuring that the buyer must sell and an even cheaper price is negotiable if a work is passed-in.

This collector is critical of the auction houses focused on volume, saying they just want works to sell irrespective of price.

The Australian spoke to another collector who noticed a work he liked did not sell at a recent auction where it was listed for $4000 to $6000. He offered $2000 and successfully bought it.

From June 30, in line with the Cooper Review recommendations, which received bipartisan support, all art in SMSF must be in secure storage, insured and regularly valued — combined costs few collectors consider worthwhile in the long term.

Aboriginal art was the biggest beneficiary of super fund collecting, so it follows it has been hardest hit.

Fox traces the boom in SMSF collecting to 2007 when the Howard government increased the ceiling on the amount of collectable individual funds could hold.

There was an immediate market uptick: auction records for the year show total art sales topped $175.6m, of which $25m was Aboriginal art.

Generous SMSF rules were not the only contributing factor, with the booming general economy also contributing to higher prices.

Aboriginal art now accounts for about $6m worth of annual auction sales, not including high profile collector sales such as Dutch department store heir Thomas Vroom and pathology millionaires Elizabeth and the late Colin Laverty.

Renowned collectors such as the Lavertys and Vroom can sell their art at a premium on account of their name adding prestige to the provenance of individual works.

Coo-ee Gallery owner Adrian Newstead, once of the country’s most renowned names in the Aboriginal art trade, warned “we’re coming off a bubble … and I don’t even know if we’ve hit the bottom yet”.

Newstead points to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing there were 514 art galleries in Australia in 2000, today he says there are fewer than 250. “Galleries that represent indigenous artists have been hit worst of all; two in every three commercial indigenous art galleries have closed their doors,” he said.

Newstead has called on the government to invest in supporting Aboriginal art and bring an end to ruthless undercutting whereby remote aboriginal art centres, which are supported with federal funds, sell directly to collectors.

He says this wholesale selling, more common after the introduction in 2010 of the 5 per cent Resale Royalty Tax on artworks over $1000, has driven many Aboriginal art dealers to close their doors.

He slammed the ALP’s arts policy, which vows to scrap the federal government’s discretionary Catalyst arts fund and return $70m to the Australia Council.

Newstead said Catalyst was a terrific, nimble initiative and the Australia Council represented a death by committee approach.

Art valuers have experienced an surge in business on account of the SMSF deadline, with many collectors deciding to acquire art from their funds and realise a loss on paper rather than sell work at a loss on the market.

Several valuers told The Australian they had been flat out for years working through the backlog. The action houses have been criticised because as prices for individual artworks have fallen, they have raised their buyer’s premium from 20 to 22 per cent and 25 per cent.

Sellers also pay negotiable 10 per cent consignment fees while auction houses have been negotiating ever lower pre-sale estimates, with the enticement that the lower you list a work, the more interest it is likely to generate.

Owners complain that if an artwork does not sell, the minimum asking price hangs around online perpetually clawing down the price that can be achieved.

One small upside to the SMSF changes is the artworks once collected by funds and locked away have been released for people to enjoy.

Newstead said, “to make a painting more desirable it has to be seen and to put it away is death to art. To increase the value of art you put it on your wall, have dinner parties under it and people who like it ask ‘who’s that?’.”

Accessed 20-06-2016 via

Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Akio Makigawa

Lot 65 Akio Makigawa - Untitled
Lot 65 Akio Makigawa – Untitled

It is little known that the acclaimed Australian sculptor Akio Makigawafirst began his career here in Perth having travelled from his hometown Kyushu, Japan in 1974.

A skilled yachtsman, he moved to Perth with the intention of working an apprenticeship as a sail maker with Taskers where he had hoped to eventually learn enough to support himself to sail around the world.

It was through sailing that Makigawa met with the sculptor Tony Jones, and it was Jones who encouraged him to enrol in Claremont Technical College during the sailing off-season to nurture his artistic inclinations that he had left behind in Japan.

Makigawa’s time in Perth was important, not only did he meet his wife Calier at Claremont Tech., the education he received here would shape and define the unique style of work that he became so popular for.

“His Perth art education brought the young Japanese sailmaker into contact with Western-trained teachers and artists-in-residence whose backgrounds were, like his, elsewhere. …In Perth, Makigawa learned to measure his emerging practice against a cultural lineage that extended from the organic vitalism of Henry Moor to the Greenbergien formalism espoused by post-war British sculptors like Antony Caro.” (Adams, 2013, p. 115)

It was specifically his early solo shows at the Fremantle Arts Centre in 1979 and the Fremantle Art Gallery in 1980 that marked the beginning of the national and international attention Makigawa would grow to receive.

He became renowned for his artistic ability to capture the balance and poise of nature, the simplicity and elegance inherent in the materials he used. He had all the makings of the stoicism of his Japanese heritage, refined by the notions of contemporary western form. He was notorious for this instinct for the spirit of things, “mute, impassive marbles, in Makigawa’s hands, became profound representations of sublime human drama – the cyclical journey of life.” (Adams, 2013, p. 115)

This early figurative sculpture by Makigawa is an excellent example of his exquisite sense of symmetry, assured presence and his unique ability to recognise the opportunities of the material he selected.

His cultural background and acute bond with nature is evident in the elegance of the sculptured subject. The line of the neck tilting upwards so as to meet the onlooker with an admiring gaze offers an introverted and unimposing gesture which, as many have said for Makigawa’swork, emanates a quiet peacefulness or zen like quality. The stone itself seems to embody this character and the tones within the rock compliment the light and shadows that undulate the face.

Sourced from the Three Springs area, 300km north of Perth, the stone and subsequent sculpture is synonymous with his time here in Perth and is a tangible representation of this important period of growth in his career as an artist.

It is a rare item and the first from this era of Makigawa’s body of work to come to auction.


Adams, B. (2013). Marking the journey: the art of Akio Makigawa. In Akio Makigawa (pp. 113-121). Melbourne: Carlier Makigawa.


Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 John Beard

Lot 24 John Beard - Untitled I
Lot 24 John Beard – Untitled I

In order to appreciate Beards unique style of painting, as is the case with any acclaimed artwork, it is important to understand the context from whence it came.

John Beard, much like many of our favoured Australian artists from the same era, is an adopted Australian who made his way down and across the continents until settling, at first in Perth, and later Sydney – where he remains today.

Born in Aberdare, Wales, in 1943 he is a by-product of his Celtic ancestry, nurtured by an“ancient, often ravaged, perennially colonised … land of mines and chapels. The visual imprint is of an interminably grey place where silver skies merge and mingle with laden seas. It is a place where time past and present is inextricably intertwined, where the young Beard began to experience the world, his cultural endowment full of the old and the new.” (Wright, 2009, p. 663)

After receiving the Welsh National Art Scholarship at the age of 19, Beard studied at the Swansea College of Art and later studied at the University of London, and the Royal College of Art, London.

In 1965 he won the British Arts Council International Prize and Commission. He taught in the UK extensively before making his way in 1983 to Curtin University – or the Western Australian Institute of Technology, as it was known at the time – where he became the Senior Lecturer, Head of Painting.

Beard spent six years in WA, and it was in his last year here that this monotype Untitled I was produced. It came after a period of great success and warm regard in the artistic community in Perth, where he produced massive works out of his Fremantle studio the likes of The Gods (1984-85),a massive landscape as viewed from the perspective of the outsider now in the collection of the University of Western Australia.

His large scale works produced in the mid 80’s exhibit the interest he had in neo-expressionism at the time, blurring the boundaries between abstraction and figuration which he well accomplished, however, this monotype produced four years later – during the year that he resigned from Curtin University to pursue a travelling sabbatical from Australia to Portugal, New York, Lisbon and all over – reveals a transformation in his style, one that he would fully accomplish during his time in Adraga.

It shows a shift from the heavy impasto works that he was already becoming noted for, towards an expression of interest in the nature of the paint and medium he was using, an exploration of the ways in which he could apply his innate reception of landscape and nature in new and compelling ways.

He would come to note, in Adraga, that “I realised that paint to me was really like the sea. There’s this pliable material that could be thick and lumpy, solid like a through of water, or it could be vaporous, frothy like the crash of a wave. It could be opaque or it could be transparent; all of these different qualities. It could be still, just shimmering, it could be moving so quickly that you felt there was an incredible vibrancy about it. The totality of this experience of rock and water had this evanescence, which you felt; it came right up to you, to the top of the cliff.”

Beard returned to Australia in the late 90’s and settled in Sydney, the accomplished artist has since won the Archibald and Wynne prize among many others. He has perpetually challenged his style and medium and continues to produce the work of an artist whose eye has traversed and encompassed a worldly view that few achieve in a lifetime.


Wright, W. (2009). Headland. Art & Australia, 661-667.



Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Mike Parr

Lot 38 Mike Parr - Echolalia (The Road)
Lot 38 Mike Parr – Echolalia (The Road)

Mike Parr is a seminal figure in the contemporary Australian art scene. He is best known for his emergence as a performance artist and concept artist in the late 1960’s producing hundreds of performance and multimedia pieces during an important era for the development of that genre within the Australian art scene.

It was a time when performance art was not acknowledged as a visual art, which might explain why Parr emerged with such force.

One of his most renowned early works involved him seated calmly in front of an audience before beginning to attack his forearm with an axe, unbeknownst to the audience that he in fact suffered the loss of his arm as an infant and was wearing a prosthetic arm filled with mince and fake blood.

He is noted for performance works involving a great deal of stress to the physical body, such as an installation of the artist in a gallery for days without food and water, or 100 Breaths a visual/multimedia work during which, with 100 breaths, Parr breaths and holds a different etching to his face. As he suffers loss of oxygen in the bloodstream, his face – the focal point of the video – naturally disfigures and the viewer is subjected to the stress he is inducing on his body. In another work Parr’s face is sewn with thread to disfigure it into an expression of disgrace.

There is a stark contrast between his confrontational performance work and his pensive etchings. On one hand, Parr’s performance work is visceral, physically demeaning, abrasive and deeply concerned with notions of eliciting strong physical responses as well as cognitive; however, he also focuses on notions of memory and subjectivity.

It is these notions of memory and subjectivity that carry through to his etchings, what is lesser known about Parr is his love of drawing, lines and form. While he was making splashes in the 70’s for his controversial performances, he returned to his love of drawing in the 1980’s.

Parr began print making in 1987 when he was invited to create a print for the Bicentennial Folio (a joint commission of the National Gallery of Australia and the Australian Bicentennial Authority) and he has been creating prints ever since.

This work, Echolalia (The Road) – which can also be found in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia – delves into those notions of memory and subjectivity. “Parr has been fascinated with observation and the possibilities and responses of memory distortions. His ‘landscape’ prints are such depictions – memories of views passed by.” (National Gallery of Australia, n.d.)

Echolalia means a repetition of speech, or in this case, when applied to the notion of the road, the repetition of line can be seen as the landscape rushing past the window of a moving train or vehicle – an idea Parr was interested in – or delving deeper, one could interpret any metaphorical meaning of repetition, and road, in the context of space, time and existence.

Although he is best known for his bizarre, confronting and ground breaking performance works, artworks such as this etching by Parr are rare and coveted by the arts community.


National Gallery of Australia. (n.d.). Mike Parr. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from National Gallery of Australia Website:


Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Nigel Thomson

During his brief life, Nigel Thomson fulfilled the enigmatic lifestyle of the struggling artist. He would fly by the seat of his pants, improvising and surviving based on his skills as an artist. Constantly on the search for adventure, his curiosity and drive sent him on a journey that would see him evolve as one of Australia’s lesser known, but no less important, contemporary artists of the 20th century.

Thomson was born in Mosman, New South Wales in 1945.As a boy, it is said that he lived near and passed by daily, the site where missing Sydney boy Graeme Thorne had been buried. It was a shock to the community and is an experience attributable to the development of Nigel’s style – a hyper realistic exploration of the ways that the seemingly meaningless can have sinister undertones.

He left school by the age of 15 and travelled before enrolling in the Julian Ashton School of Art. After graduating in 1965 he had a few unsuccessful shows in Sydney and finally ended up in Perth in the late 1960’s. It is here that Thompson began to flourish – while still maintaining a vagrant lifestyle, he hitchhiked across the Nullabor and spent his first night here on a park bench. Regardless, he secured a job in no time as an art teacher at a secondary school in Pinjarra. “With no documents and no qualifications that he could prove … He clinched the job with three drawings he had worked up the night before his interview.” (McDonald, 2004, p. 9)

Thomson became heavily involved in the arts community in Perth; he was especially active with the WA Contemporary Art Society where he was eventually appointed president in 1970. He won several prizes during his time here and taught evenings at Perth Tech. while preparing for exhibitions. The most noted being a solo show at Skinner Gallery in October 1972. The exhibition was well received with six works sold, one to the English actor Moira Lister who invited him to contact her should he ever find himself in London. And with that, he was off to London.

Thomson exhibited extensively during his travels through England and Europe in the 70’s, he exhibited especially through the Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, London – during the height of its popularity. During this time he fully realised his style of critical realism that he would become most noted for in Australia during the 80’s and 90’s after his return to Sydney in 1979.

Twice winner of the Archibald Prize, Thomson’s works are unapologetic and meticulously crafted with the intent to evoke. In another exhibition in Perth in the 80’s one critic called his works “’an unpleasant mixture of violence, callousness, insanity, terror and anxiety.’” (McDonald, 2004, p. 5)Somewhat valid although harsh descriptions of Thompsons works, however, once you begin to consider the context behind his works, each image opens a vault of interpretations with words more like ironic, witty, sardonic and clever springing to mind.

He consumed news headlines and popular culture incessantly, was possessed by the need to expose the hypocrisies of modern society and does so with subtle integrity. The sheer fact that Thomson’s works can elicit such powerful responses is only a testament to his staple within the canon of important contemporary Australian artists.

In this image, painted in 1985 during the apex of his career, we can see the subtle dichotomy between light and dark, innocence and menace. Upon closer inspection, the viewer will notice the delicate nuances that make Thomson’s work so intriguing. Once the eye looks past the unsettling large dog in the darkened foreground that overshadows the seemingly innocent child, you begin to notice the stuffing pulled from the teddy bear, the punctures in the doll, the menace behind the innocence of the child, and the innocence in expression behind the menace of the dog, you begin to question which subject is really in danger here.

The breadth of Thomson’s work is not extensive; he destroyed a large portion of his early works “describing them as acts of undergraduate humour or potboilers.” (McDonald, 2004, p. 7)

This, combined with his early death due to cancer in 1999, cut short a very promising body of work. In the past two decades since his death only four works have been offered on the secondary market making owners of his paintings the envy of any serious collector of contemporary Australian art.

Olivia Gardner


McDonald, J. (2004). Nigel Thomson Critical Realist. Manly, NSW, Australia: Manly Art Gallery & Museum.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Stacha Halpern

Lot 26 Stacha Halpern - Laura
Lot 26 Stacha Halpern – Laura

Stacha Halpern’s paintings are not easy to forget he would bound into them with an energy and verve that didn’t stop until they were completed. They leave an indelible impression in one’s mind and love them or hate them one never forgets them.

Halpern returned to Australia in 1966 but the reception his work received was disappointing for him. The scrap between the abstractionists and antipodeans was still in play and despite a successful career in France, the Australian public wasn’t ready for a naturalised expatriate whose images seemed to have a foot in both camps – figurative with the antipodeans and expressionist with the others. It would take almost three decades before the public was able to step up to the mark even though Halpern had champions along the way, desperately wanting to help the others to see.

Stan Rapotec, another émigré would say of his own career, after he was mistaken for an overnight sensation “…. I firmly and strongly believe now, that to build up an artist in any field you need twenty years of struggle – struggling, battling, performing, experimenting, exercising and, yes, exposing oneself in one’s work to the full brunt of criticism.”  Halpern had already served an apprenticeship in Paris – he had achieved prominence and success there in just fifteen years but that didn’t count in Australia, he still had his time to serve and one can be confident in saying that he would have given the time, as above all else – including his Polish birthplace and his European successes – he considered himself to be Australian.

Unfortunately Halpern didn’t have another 20 years to give and died through heart disease in 1969 – three years after his return.

Halpern’s position and effect in the international art scene of the 60’s is finally being respected in Australia. A Parisian art critic referred him to as an example of what young French artists should aspire to; he hung in galleries alongside Rothko, Guston and Frankenthaler. His works were exhibited at group and solo shows in Paris, Rome, New York, Amsterdam, Basle and Milan. And unlike many of those Australians that preceded him to Europe, he was to have a real effect in the international art scene, particularly in Paris.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Robert Juniper

In the early phase of his career, Robert Juniper and other Western Australian painters developed their styles in isolation, far away from Melbourne and Sydney which were the perceptible centres of the Australian art scene.

Juniper became thankful for that remoteness as it allowed him to develop at his own pace, free from the effects of fashion and the art movements that were sweeping through those centres.

He did have doubts about not being on the east coast, and they surfaced from time to time, but soon passed as he felt that he was able to grow as a painter. Juniper also had a teaching career that provided for the family and afforded him the freedom to paint as he wished – “I can think of nothing worse than going into the studio and thinking I’ve got to feed the family.”

In an interview with Laurie Thomas in 1969 Robert Juniper said, “I think it is a painter’s duty if not his goal to be himself – to paint from his own experience, what’s inside him and not from the glossy magazines.” Thomas considered that Juniper had a poetic feeling for the Australian landscape. “I feel that I’m developing what I feel is an indigenous thing – indigenous to Western Australia – because I don’t feel any strong influence from anywhere else,” was another quote from the Thomas interview.

Juniper is correct in his assessment as his work is free from outside influence, though others have been influenced by his work. His success as an artist ensured that he would not be free of imitators as they hitched a ride on his success and rather than be irritated by the others he treated it as a form of flattery.

Lot 68 Robert Juniper - Clay Pan
Lot 68 Robert Juniper – Clay Pan

With this work “Clay Pan”, Juniper has painted a detail of a landscape with no horizon line and minimal figurative elements. He was more concerned with the subject’s texture and experimenting with different materials to create the feeling of being in the presence of a clay pan in high summer. He has succeeded effectively.

As with most of his work, the human influence or presence is never over looked and reminders of earlier habitation is on display. On this occasion it is in the form of a discarded window frame in the upper center of the composition and what could be considered as a road surface and roof lines surrounding the subject.

The Perth metropolitan area has many small pockets of clay and this work was probably inspired by observing a similar subject close to his home in Darlington.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Mac Betts

Lot 3 Mac Betts - Desert Journey
Lot 3 Mac Betts – Desert Journey

It is often thought that painters seek fame and fortune and while those blessings have been imposed upon some, to earn their keep from their training seems to be the highest reward that most painters seek – Mac Betts achieved that status and it was only late in his career and upon his passing, that his contribution to the development of painting in this country is being properly acknowledged.

Instead of remaining at his home in England to forge his career, he travelled and began to explore the world at large. Mac disliked the English weather and craved sunshine and warmth and his first excursion from home allowed him to lecture in art at the Ahmudu Bello University in Northern Nigeria for eight years.

From there he began trekking again and painted in Spain and Northern Africa before finding his way to Western Australia in the early 70’s. He became the senior lecturer in painting and drawing at Curtin University and remained in that position until his retirement in 1992.

From that time on, he was able to devote himself to painting full time. His work was exhibited on a regular basis across Australia, through various galleries in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth including the prestigious Holdsworth, Bonython, Editions and Delaney Galleries.

Lot 41 Mac Betts - Dalgarna Hill Evening
Lot 41 Mac Betts – Dalgarna Hill Evening

George Haynes was to remark “it is fortunate that popularity came later in my career as I wouldn’t know as much about painting as I do now. “ Betts is another of those who can make a similar claim, as his work never stagnated to meet the demands of his audience. It continued to evolve and develop to reflect his requirements as a landscape painter.

Lot 12 Mac Betts - Maritime II
Lot 12 Mac Betts – Maritime II

He never commenced a painting with a preconceived idea and would let the image develop. When the canvas invoked the memory of a place once visited, he would lay down the brushes and apply the title. He carried his travels in his head and always had a steady stream of subjects from which to draw.

The highly regarded artist Elizabeth Ford was in wonder of Betts use of colour. “A visit to his studio inspires me for months” she once said in the presence of Mac and myself. And Mac in his unassuming manner just nodded an acknowledgement of the compliment and continued to work.