• Painting

    Painting (1977)

    Peter BOOTH

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    Notes

    In 1977, Booth exhibited Painting 1977, one of the most startling and powerful paintings in the history of Australian art. When it was first shown at Pinacotheca gallery in Melbourne, the gallery director Bruce Pollard declared it ‘beyond taste’, so radical did this work appear in the context of then-current minimalist and conceptual art. Booth’s aesthetic was his own, borne out of a genuine response to the private need to engender more emotion and context into his paintings.

    The cloaked figure can be interpreted as the artist-everyman-prophet forced to begin a journey into an apocalyptic world as a consequence of humankind’s self-destructive violence and greed. The white dog can be read as a symbol of a new life force, and the sculptural profile as a symbol of the decay of civilisation. Other objects are interspersed with enlarged fragments from nature, echoing Booth’s belief that the part and the whole are but one and interchangeable.

  • We inhabit the corrosive littoral of habit

    We inhabit the corrosive littoral of habit 1940

    James GLEESON

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    Notes
    James Gleeson’s cold landscape and decomposing face present an emotionally charged metaphor for the corrosion of the world and the human mind between the world wars. Like the surrealist writer Andre Breton, Gleeson believed that surrealism, which privileged the world of the subconscious imagination, could be a weapon against the malaise in civilisation that had led to the rise of oppressive totalitarian regimes and the madness of war.

Landscape and environment

Visions of a world in crisis

Artistic representations of the landscape and environment include strange and imaginary visions of a world in crisis.

  • An apocalyptic vision

    Peter Booth’s Painting 1977 has been described as one of the most startling and powerful paintings in the history of Australian art5. Certainly when it was first exhibited in 1977 in Melbourne it presented a radical aesthetic and an emotionally charged vision of a world in crisis.

    The cloaked man, his eyes red with grief, appears to be embarking on a journey into an apocalyptic world brought about through humankind’s self-destructive ways. The white dog can be read as a symbol of a new life force, and the sculptural profile as a symbol of the decay of civilisation. Other objects are interspersed with enlarged fragments from nature, echoing Booth’s belief that the part and the whole are but one and interchangeable.6

  • A world wearied by war

    James Gleeson’s painting We inhabit the corrosive littoral of habit 1940 also uses symbol and metaphor, this time to lament a world wearied by war. Gleeson’s cold landscape and decomposing face presents an emotionally charged metaphor for the corrosion of the world and the human mind between the world wars. Gleeson believed that surrealism, which privileged the world of the subconscious imagination, could be a weapon against the malaise in civilisation that had led to the rise of oppressive totalitarian regimes and the madness of war.

Endnotes


  • 5 Jason Smith in Jason Smith, Robert Lindsay and John Embling, Peter Booth, Human/Nature, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003.

    6 Jason Smith in Jason Smith, Robert Lindsay and John Embling, Peter Booth, Human/Nature, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003.