Ralph Balson (1890-1964) Non-Objective Painting, 1964

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Lot 6
Ralph Balson
(1890-1964)
Non-Objective Painting, 1964

Sold for AU$ 31,720 (US$ 21,822) inc. premium
Ralph Balson (1890-1964)
Non-Objective Painting, 1964
oil and synthetic enamel on composition board
98.5 x 138.0cm (38 3/4 x 54 5/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Gallery A, Sydney
    Mrs Ann Lewis AO, Sydney (label attached verso)
    The Estate of Ann Lewis AO, Mossgreen Auctions, Sydney, 7 November 2011, lot 125
    Private collection, Perth, acquired from the above

    EXHIBITED
    Paintings by the late Ralph Balson, 1960-64: The third and final Memorial Exhibition, Gallery A, Sydney, 27 May - 14 June 1969; Gallery A, Melbourne, 8 - 25 July 1969, cat. 35
    Ralph Balson: A Retrospective, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne, 15 August - 24 September 1989, then touring; Newcastle Region Art Gallery, New South Wales, 6 October - 19 November 1989; Wollongong City Gallery, New South Wales, 1 December 1989 - 28 January 1990; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 14 February - 1 April 1990; University Art Museum, Brisbane, 12 April - 24 May 1990, cat. 60

    LITERATURE
    James Gleeson, 'Balson still astonishes', Sun, Sydney, 28 May 1969
    Donald Brook, 'Action in the Sixties', Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 29 May 1969
    James Gleeson, 'World of Art: Chance work of a genius', Sun-Herald, Sydney, 1 June 1969
    Daniel Thomas, 'Art: Black is beautiful', Sunday Telegraph, 1 June 1969
    John Henshaw, 'Art: Childhood innocence', The Australian, 7 June 1969
    Elwyn Lynn, 'Painting and Sculpture: All or nothing individualism – and international, too', The Bulletin, Sydney, 7 June 1969
    Alan Warren, 'What is the heart of art?', The Sun, Melbourne, 9 July 1969
    Alan McCulloch, 'Art: Changes in abstraction', The Herald, Melbourne, 9 July 1969
    Bruce Adams, Ralph Balson: A Retrospective, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne, 1989, cat. 60, p. 97 (illus.)


    Until the end of his life, Ralph Balson remained a highly ambitious painter. Throughout his career Balson was not satisfied in working exclusively towards producing a commercially popular style of painting. Instead he restlessly strove to interpret the experience of modernity. In 1963 and 1964 he re-examined several of his earlier painting styles including his Non-Objective series, to which this work belongs.

    In 1955 when Balson turned 65 years of age he left his home in suburban Pagewood and relocated his studio to a converted double garage located on the property of fellow artist, Grace Crowley. For the previous twenty years Balson's works were almost exclusively geometric in style and belong to what art historians refer to as his Constructive paintings. Balson's dramatic break with his earlier geometric style allowed him to embrace a newfound freedom of expression through the exploration of a loose gestural style of abstraction mirroring the increasingly liberated atmosphere of the post-war world.

    Balson viewed the soft dappled light and shadows of Crowley's garden as a visual template for his philosophical interests that included notions of impermanence, change and relativity. For Balson and his fellow non-objective painters, the critical limitation of figurative painting was something he aimed to avoid. By analysing the formal structure of abstract painting Balson invented a new type of visual language that could engage the physical world in a non-literal way.

    Superficially the fields of bright spotted colour forming vertical striations in the painting might resemble the patterns of nature found in Crowley's garden, but for Balson the significance of these forms exist in their ability to represent the invisible laws that govern nature. From the mid-1950s until the end of his life Balson developed a fascination with the underlying existential stream of consciousness found in the writings of James Joyce. This literary influence combined with an interest in Einstein's theory of relativity is what directed Balson to produce his Non-Objective works.

    For Balson an awareness of the contingency of life enabled him to develop a painting style that portrayed the rhythms of flux and change. By combining artists' oil paints and domestic enamels. Balson explored a medium enabling him to produce works containing an overwhelming sense of fluidity and freedom.

    Until the early 1990s Balson's paintings were only known among a small group of curators and intellectuals to whom he remained an important figure. After Balson's death in 1964, many of his works were packed up into cardboard boxes and taken to a storage shed at Gallery A, in Sydney. Over the next five years these paintings formed the basis of three Memorial Exhibitions, the last of which was held in 1969, when and where the collector and gallerist Ann Lewis purchased this work. In 1989 Bruce Adams curated the influential touring exhibition Ralph Balson: a retrospective, which included this work; and as a result of this exhibition, the significance of Balson's work has become widely acknowledged in Australian art.

    Dr Christine Dean
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