Banksia 1938 signed and dated 'F.C. Hinder '38' lower right egg tempera on paper 38.5 x 23.5cm (15 3/16 x 9 1/4in).
PROVENANCE Mr. Daniel Thomas, Adelaide Australian and European Paintings, Drawings and Prints, Part I and II, Christie's, Melbourne, 29 April 1997, lot 14 (illus.) The Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy Collection, acquired in 1997
LITERATURE Renée Free, John Henshaw, Frank Hinder, The art of Frank Hinder, Phillip Mathews, 2011, pp. 59-60, 61 (illus.)
In 1938 Frank Hinder was minding the Grosvenor Gallery, Sydney, occasionally meeting Margaret Preston who also painted banksias in 1938. Hinder's luminescent tempera heralds a new era. Banksia studies began in 1937, the year he held his first exhibition in Australia. This aimed to show Sydney, and his colleagues in the creation of Sydney modernism, Grace Crowley and Ralph Balson, his American training in Dynamic Symmetry. It also prompted reflection on how to characterise Australia, and make it part of international modernism. In America, Hinder had transformed a drawing of an arm and shoulder into a lily by turning it upside down, adding colour and texture, retaining the sense of living growth. Different textures articulate this work, the drawing studies, and a larger painting - rubbery stems, wood-like or soft transparent flowers, prickly leaves.
For Hinder, holding a mirror to nature was the first step. Banksia is a flower piece, but not a bunch of flowers, not a still life. The oval cutout suggests a fragment of nature in which everything is linked - the work is a meditation on connections and relationships, a dance of intertwining parts in depth. Biological living complexity is transformed into a harmony suggesting the light of reason, mathematical order, beauty of the spectrum. The colours of banksias are just the first red-orange-yellow colours of the spectrum, a poetic parallel Hinder is revealing. All the colours are present, though, with only touches of blue and violet. To make visible science and philosophy was Hinder's stated belief in the purpose of art. Dynamic Symmetry, the method which expressed his personality, united the dynamism of growth with order and resulted hopefully in beauty. Beyond the Cubism of his colleagues, Hinder's emphasis on dynamism and light were the basis of his personal style.
Different species of the genus Banksia are characterised by cylindrical spikes of tiny flowers varying in shades of yellow, gold, orange, pink and red. Here the reddish upright forms, with vertical lines (true to appearance) look like Banksia ericifolia (heath banksia), as do the tube stems and the leaf pattern, different to other banksias. The yellow rectangles could indicate Banksia integrifolia (coast banksia) with lime-yellow spikes, which turn orange, tan, brown with age. Hinder just hints of violet and brown, drying up and decay. The rounded flower forms may be a generalised impression of banksia types, another viewpoint, another stage of formation. Autumn-winter season makes banksias a rich source of nectar for wild life (including Hinder's favourite rainbow lorikeets), and this richness is hinted at in the fullness of colour. The oval form compresses and brings order to the strength of this hardy unruly native growth. One yellow flower thrusts forward, shining a light into our minds, celebrating banksias and Australian sunshine.