Free entry

NGV Australia, Federation Square

Level 3

27 Apr 18 – 26 Aug 18

OPEN 10AM–5PM DAILY

Ornamental triangle shape
The National Gallery of Victoria’s inaugural exhibition at its new premises on St Kilda Road in 1968 was The Field, the first comprehensive display of colour field painting and abstract sculpture in Australia. Regarded as a landmark exhibition in Australian art history, The Field was a radical presentation of 74 works by 40 artists who practised hard-edge, geometric, colour and flat abstraction, many of which were influenced by American stylistic tendencies of the time. With its silver foil–covered walls and geometric light fittings, The Field opened to much controversy and helped launch the careers of a generation of Australian artists, including Sydney Ball, Peter Booth, Janet Dawson and Robert Jacks. Eighteen of the exhibiting artists were under the age of thirty, with Robert Hunter the youngest at twenty-one years of age.

Download Labels

Installation view of The Field, 1968

Installation view of Tony Coleing’s sculpture Untitled (detail) in The Field, 1968
© Tony Coleing

Installation view of Tony Coleing’s sculpture Untitled in The Field, 1968
© Tony Coleing

Installation view of Noel Dunn’s sculpture Untitled in The Field, 1968
© Noel Dunn

Installation view of The Field, 1968

Installation view of The Field, National Gallery of Victoria, 1968
© NGV
Photographer: George Mehes

Installation view of The Field, 1968

Installation view of The Field, National Gallery of Victoria, 1968
Photographer: George Mehes
© NGV

Installation view of The Field, National Gallery of Victoria, 1968
© NGV
Photographer: George Mehes

Ian Burn Four glass/Mirror piece, 1968

Ian Burn’s two works from The Field, Two glass/Mirror piece and Four glass/Mirror piece, are completed with an accompanying book of notes and diagrams exhibited next to their respective mirror. The notes describe the mirror’s physical, perceptual and conceptual properties. In keeping with John Stringer’s curatorial decision not to include these in The Field, here the books are also absent. Burn requested that the books be duplicated and ‘placed with the catalogue on a desk, or some such place’. Stringer reproduced the notes, and made them available on request. To honour Burn’s wishes in 1968, we have made available a facsimile of the Four piece/Mirror piece notes.

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

Ian BURN
Four glass/Mirror piece 1968
(a) mirror, glass, wood (b) book: photocopies, 22 pages, cardboard and cloth cover, metal binding
(a-b) (variable) (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of the Rudy Komon Fund, Governor, 2001
2001.559.a-b
© Courtesy of the artist's estate

The Unpublished Essay

The Field curators John Stringer and Brian Finemore initially approached art critics Patrick McCaughey, Elwyn Lynn and Ross Lansell to write for the 1968 catalogue. An essay by Lansell was submitted to the NGV for editing, however, it was not published and instead replaced with an essay by Royston Harpur. Click below to read Ross Lansell’s unpublished essay.

Modern Paint - A Timeline

Modern Paints
Artists in the mid twentieth century encountered for the first time a variety of paints based on synthetically manufactured resins. Prior to this, paints were made with naturally occurring oils and gums.
Modern Paints
For many artists, the new paints reflected the changing world around them. Compared to traditional paints, these paints had quicker drying times, greater durability and better colour retention.
1920s
Nitrocellulose
The 1920s saw the commercial availability of nitrocellulose lacquers, commonly used as automotive finishes, as well as for signage, advertising and furniture. Nitrocellulose paints are fast drying, due to the rapid evaporation of the solvent content. They are typically applied with a spray-gun in multiple, thin layers. However, products designed for brush application were also produced, primarily for domestic use.
1920s
Nitrocellulose
American brand DUCO, first manufactured by DuPont in 1921, was quick to dominate the global market. By the 1930s, DUCO was manufactured in Australia by the British Australian Lead Manufacturers (B.A.L.M) and readily available in paint stores across the country.
1930s
Alkyd
Alkyd paints are a form of polyester resin combined with a drying oil. They were developed as a replacement for oil paints, due to the shortage of linseed oil during World War II. Alkyd resins are commonly used in house paints, often labeled as ‘enamel’, a generic term applied to high gloss paints of all types. ‘Dulux’ was originally the name given to one of the first line of alkyd exterior paints, prior to becoming the name of one of the most recognisable paint companies.
1940s
Polyvinyl acetate
Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) paints made a significant impact on the commercial house paint market when they became available in a water-based form in the 1940s. The main advantage of PVA paint is its solubility in water, making it non-toxic and easy to use, and ideal for the do-it-yourself paint market that was emerging during the mid century. During this time, a few PVA paints specially designed for artists’ use were developed, however many have since discontinued. French brand LeFranc and Bourgeois’s ‘Flashe’ is one of the few examples of PVA artists’ paints that have continued since the 1950s.
1950s
Acrylic solutions
When first developed in the late 1940s, acrylic paints were seen as revolutionary. These paints originally took the form of an acrylic-resin-in-solvent paint, requiring an organic solvent, such as turpentine, to dissolve. American company, Bocour Artist Colours was the first to produce acrylic solution paints for artists. Called Magna®, it was marketed as ‘the first new painting medium in 500 years’. Magna paint is associated with prominent American artists such as Morris Louis, who was one of the earliest exponents of colour field painting.
1950s
Acrylic emulsions
Water-based acrylics were developed by the company Rohm & Haas in America during the 1950s. They produced the first acrylic emulsion product called RhoplexTM AC-33, which formed the basis of water-based acrylic house paints.
1960s
Acrylic emulsions
Permanent Pigments (Liquitex) in America and Pinturas Plasticas (Politec Acrylics) in Mexico are the two manufacturers recognised for developing acrylic emulsions paints for artists in the mid 1950s. By the 1960s, acrylic emulsions gained widespread use and have continued to dominate the paint market around the world to this day.
1960s
The colour revolution
The 1960s heralded the age of bright and vibrant colour, a departure from the pastel colour schemes of the preceding postwar years. Artists embraced the bold colours which came with the increasing availability of a variety of new synthetic pigments. These include azo, phthalocyanines and quinacridones pigments.
The Field Revisited recreates The Field exhibition for its fifty-year anniversary. By reassembling as many of the original 74 paintings and sculptures as possible, this restaging re-examines the exhibition’s impact and significance for Australian art history and allow a new generation to experience it for themselves. Because some works included in The Field are known to have been destroyed, the NGV has commissioned a number of artists, including Normana Wight and Col Jordan, to recreate their original works for The Field Revisited.

Download Labels

Video

Missing works

Prior to the opening of The Field Revisited, the fate of sixty-two of the seventy-four works included in The Field was determined. The search for the six lost sculptures and six lost paintings has not ceased. If you have any information on the whereabouts of these works illustrated below, please contact the National Gallery of Victoria via findthefield@ngv.vic.gov.au
Sydney Ball
Australia 1933–2017
Zanzan 1968
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
188.5 x 158.0 cm
Collection unknown
© Sydney Ball, courtesy of Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne
Peter Booth
England born 1940, Australia from 1968
Untitled painting 1968
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
162.5 x 274.5 cm
Collection unknown*
© Peter Booth
Noel Dunn
Australia born 1933, England and Europe 1961–65
Untitled 1967
painted steel
90.8 cm (height)
Collection unknown
© Noel Dunn
Noel Dunn
Australia born 1933, England and Europe 1961–65
Untitled 1968
painted plywood
196.8 cm (height)
Collection unknown*
© Noel Dunn
Noel Dunn
Australia born 1933, England and Europe 1961–65
Untitled 1968
painted steel
111.8 cm (height)
Collection unknown
© Noel Dunn
Tony McGillick,
Australia 1941–92, Europe 1960–65
Polaris 1968
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
236.0 x 218.5 cm
Collection unknown*
© The Estate of Tony McGillick, courtesy of Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne
Clement Meadmore
Australia 1929– United States 2005, United States from 1963
Wave 1968
steel, ed. 2/4
29.0 x 29.0 x 66.0 cm
Collection unknown
© Clement Meadmore. VAGA/Licensed by Copyright Agency
Eric Shirley
Australia 1919–2008
Encore 1967
polyvinyl acetate on composition board
349.2 x 233.5 cm
Collection unknown*
© The Estate of Eric Shirley
Joseph Szabo
Hungary 1932– Australia 1984, Australia from 1950
Without-within 7 1968
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
165.5 x 150.0 cm
Collection unknown*
© The Estate of Joseph Szabo
Joseph Szabo
Hungary 1932– Australia 1984, Australia from 1950
Without-within 8 1968
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
167.0 x 151.0 cm
Collection unknown
© The Estate of Joseph Szabo
Clement Meadmore
Australia 1929– United States 2005, United States from 1963
Curl 1968
steel, ed. 2/4
38.0 x 76.0 x 35.5 cm
Collection unknown*
© Clement Meadmore. VAGA/Licensed by Copyright Agency
Michael Nicholson
England born 1916, New Zealand 1955–60, Australia 1960–86, New Zealand from 1986
1.6/66X3 1966
aluminium and concrete
313.5 x 99.0 x 43.5 cm
Collection unknown*
© Michael Nicholson

Women and The Field

A notable omission from The Field was women artists – only Janet Dawson, Wendy Paramor and Normana Wight were included. Five decades later, we are acutely aware of this imbalance when recreating a facsimile of the original exhibition. During The Field Revisited, there will be a display of colour field and abstract works by Australian female artists featured on Level Two at NGV Australia (Opening June 2018).
Normana WIGHT
Untitled - blue to orange 1967
colour screenprint
76.1 x 56.0 cm (sheet)
ed. 7/10
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Supporters of Prints and Drawings, 2014
2014.20
© Normana Wight
Lesley DUMBRELL
November 1982
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
183.0 x 211.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1983
AC4-1983
© Courtesy of the artist
Normana WIGHT
Untitled - double curve grey 1968
colour screenprint
76.7 x 56.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Supporters of Prints and Drawings, 2014
2014.21
© Normana Wight
Lesley DUMBRELL
Violet morning 1978
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
91.5 x 183.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Michell Endowment, 1978
DC40-1978
© Courtesy of the artist
Normana WIGHT
Untitled 1967
colour screenprint
56.3 x 76.5 cm (sheet)
ed. 2/9
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Supporters of Prints and Drawings, 2014
2014.19
© Normana Wight

Key Works

James DOOLIN
Artificial landscape 67/5 1967
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
129.6 x 101.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1969
87-6
© Lauren Doolin McMillen
John PEART
Corner square diagonal 1968
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
229.2 x 227.6 x 12.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with funds provided by the National Gallery Society of Victoria, Governor, 1985
AC11-1985
© Courtesy of the artist
Col Jordan
Daedalus - series 6 1968
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
164 x 170 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1969
Clement Meadmore
born Australia 1929, lived in United States 1963–2005, died United States 2005
Up and over 1967
painted steel
31.0 x 40.7 x 60.1 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1969 (69.102)
© Clement Meadmore/VAGA, New York. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
Janet Dawson
born Australia 1935
Rollascape 2 1968
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
150.0 x 275.0 cm irreg.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts/Craft Board, Australia Council, 1988 (1998.2)
© Janet Dawson/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
Tony McGillick
Australia b.1941–92
Arbitrator 1968
Synthetic polymer paint
on shaped canvas
Four pieces: 287 x 406cm (irreg., overall); 167.5 x 167.5cm (irreg., each)
Queensland Art Gallery
Purchased 2007 with funds from the Estate of Vincent Stack through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
Queensland Art Gallery Collection
© The Estate of Tony McGillick, courtesy of Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne
David Aspden
England 1935– Australia 2005,
Australia from 1950
Field 1 1968
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
245.0 x 152.5 cm
Private collection, Brisbane
© Karen Aspden
Dick Watkins
October 1967
diptych: synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Gift of Garry Pursell 2008
© Dick Watkins
Photo: AGNSW