In the early phase of his career, Robert Juniper and other Western Australian painters developed their styles in isolation, far away from Melbourne and Sydney which were the perceptible centres of the Australian art scene.
Juniper became thankful for that remoteness as it allowed him to develop at his own pace, free from the effects of fashion and the art movements that were sweeping through those centres.
He did have doubts about not being on the east coast, and they surfaced from time to time, but soon passed as he felt that he was able to grow as a painter. Juniper also had a teaching career that provided for the family and afforded him the freedom to paint as he wished – “I can think of nothing worse than going into the studio and thinking I’ve got to feed the family.”
In an interview with Laurie Thomas in 1969 Robert Juniper said, “I think it is a painter’s duty if not his goal to be himself – to paint from his own experience, what’s inside him and not from the glossy magazines.” Thomas considered that Juniper had a poetic feeling for the Australian landscape. “I feel that I’m developing what I feel is an indigenous thing – indigenous to Western Australia – because I don’t feel any strong influence from anywhere else,” was another quote from the Thomas interview.
Juniper is correct in his assessment as his work is free from outside influence, though others have been influenced by his work. His success as an artist ensured that he would not be free of imitators as they hitched a ride on his success and rather than be irritated by the others he treated it as a form of flattery.
With this work “Clay Pan”, Juniper has painted a detail of a landscape with no horizon line and minimal figurative elements. He was more concerned with the subject’s texture and experimenting with different materials to create the feeling of being in the presence of a clay pan in high summer. He has succeeded effectively.
As with most of his work, the human influence or presence is never over looked and reminders of earlier habitation is on display. On this occasion it is in the form of a discarded window frame in the upper center of the composition and what could be considered as a road surface and roof lines surrounding the subject.
The Perth metropolitan area has many small pockets of clay and this work was probably inspired by observing a similar subject close to his home in Darlington.