October Still, 1962 signed and dated 'Upward 62' lower right; inscribed 'PETER UPWARD / OCTOBER STILL' verso oil and PVA on board 184 x 127cm (72 7/16 x 50in).
PROVENANCE: Purchased from Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne in June 1987
EXHIBITED: Peter Upward, Rowan Gallery, London, 1-23 November 1962, cat. no. 3 Peter Upward, Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney, October 1963 Peter Upward, Holdsworth Galleries, Sydney, 14 April - 2 May 1970, cat. no. 18 Modern Australian Paintings, Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne, 10-24 June 1987, cat. no. 35 A Century of Collecting 1901>2001, curated by Nick Waterlow, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, 29 March - 28 April 2001, no. 21 Frozen Gestures The Art of Peter Upward, curated by Christopher Dean, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Sydney, 20 October - 2 December 2007, cat. no. 19
LITERATURE: Daniel Thomas, 'Motion Pictures - The Week in Art', Daily Mirror, 1 September 1964, p.46 Elwyn Lynn, 'Over the edge', The Bulletin magazine, 1970 (illus.) Modern Australian Paintings, exh. cat., Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne, 1987, cat. no. 35, p.25 (illus.) Anne Loxley, 'The Laverty Collection', Art and Australia, Spring 1996, vol. 34, no. 1, p.72 (illus.) A Century of Collecting 1901>2001, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, 2001, no. 21, p.13 (illus.) Frozen Gestures The Art of Peter Upward, exh. cat., Penrith Regional Gallery, Sydney, 2007, cat. no. 19, p.55, p.36 (illus.) 'Peter Upward:The frozen gesture', Art Monthly Australia, November 2007, #205, p.20 (illus.)
In the early 1960s, Peter Upward's exuberant gestural abstractions were the most original and expressive non-figurative paintings Australia had witnessed. Painted in 1962, the year Upward arrived in England, October Still is the synthesis of painterly modernism and the artist's interest in Zen Buddhism. This in turn was borne out of his immersion in the sixties counterculture. Asian art was remote from informing anything in 20th century Australian art. But two painters in particular Ian Fairweather (1891-1974) and Upward responded to the philosophical and stylistic characteristics of East Asian art. While we recognise that leading American abstract painters such as Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell and Sam Francis were indebted to the art of Japan, Upward's understanding of Japan is not mediated through his American counterparts; in fact his formative painterly influences were European. Upward's single gesture paintings of the early 1960s attracted immediate critical interest the calligraphic gestures are physical, never timid and represent intuition over reason which is, in itself, a Zen-like paradox when we know that Upward's art is based on deeply considered principles. Other exceptional works from this vital, short-lived period include June Celebration 1960, National Gallery of Australia; New Reality 1961, Art Gallery of New South Wales; and September Tablet 1961, Joseph Brown Collection, National Gallery of Victoria; they too reveal a meditative quality, a fascinating counterpoint that transcends the obvious physical energy of their making.