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John Coburn: Five Decades

  • This event finished on 21 March 2004

17 January – 21 March 2004

John Coburn: Five Decades honours one of the most prolific Australian artists. He explores the richness of colour and a sense of place through organic forms and shapes, influenced by his love and respect of the Australian landscape. Over the years, John Coburn has refined a subtle yet powerful symbolic language in the form of paintings, tapestries and vivid screenprints that reflect his positive and optimistic vision of life; work that enjoys popular and critical acclaim throughout the world. His immediately recognisable and highly iconic form of abstraction is unique.

Born in Ingham, Queensland in 1925, John Coburn has enjoyed a prestigious career as a painter, printmaker, draughtsman, tapestry designer and arts educator (during the 1970’s he was head of the National Art School, Sydney). He is perhaps best known for the Sun and Moon tapestry curtains commissioned for the Sydney Opera House in 1970 – work that has generated much debate of late. Currently, an active campaign is underway for the curtains to be restored to the places for which they were designed, the Opera Hall and Drama Theatre.

In 1972 John Coburn designed seven large tapestries for the JF Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, Washington. His work is held in the collections of Arte Religiosa e Moderna at the Vatican Museum, in all Australian State and national galleries, many regional galleries and universities, and in numerous corporate and private collections. John Coburn has held over 60 solo exhibitions and has been awarded the Order of Australia and an Honorary Doctorate of Literature.

John Coburn: Five Decades is an exhibition of paintings, drawings, tapestries and sketchbooks that examine Coburn’s distinctive style; his lifelong passion for colour, the use of bold shapes, an innate sense of space and an essence of beauty and spirituality in nature.  Curated by jane Watters,S.H. Ervin Gallery, with assistance of arts publisher, Lou Klepac, this exhibition acknowledges and celebrates the remarkable career of John Coburn, one of the leading painters and elder statesmen in the Australian arts.

Public Program

18 January -Lou Klepac Curatorial adviser and author of The Spirit of Colour, the recently released publication on the work of John Coburn.

1 February -Daniel Coburn The youngest son of John Coburn, highlights artworks with family life experience.

8 February -Stephen Coburn Artist, conservator and the eldest son of John Coburn, retraces his father’s career with particular focus on the Sydney Opera House Tapestry Curtains.

15 February –What inspires the work of John Coburn? Arts author, Nadine Amadio, in conversation with artist David Boyd.

22 February –Jazz and the art of John Coburn Music legend Graeme Bell AO, MBE.  and Eva Breuer, art dealer.

29 February –Twenty Years of John Coburn Stuart Purves, Director Australian Galleries, recounts Coburn exhibitions of the past twenty years.

7 March –The Influence of John Coburn Artist Peter Sharp, Sally Candlin, collector and Stephen Ormandy, Dinosaur Designs.

14 March -Nick Vickers, Director, Sir Hermann Black Gallery and David Cook, Paintings Specialist, Christies.

List of works

image: JOHN COBURN  Africa

installation photos: Paul Green