The North of Western Australia has provided numerous subjects for Allan Bakers paintings and this image of a stockman is one of the more imposing.
The impressive figure is to the forefront – he is a solid man of undetermined age who exhibits an air of confidence that only one skilled in his chosen field can exude.
Baker required, through the use of light and shadow, the viewer’s inspection of this person before allowing the eye to drift to the activity behind.
The landscape is featureless and the buildings are positioned to create depth. There is a gentle breeze causing an undergarment to dance in reply in a seemingly surreal moment. The woman in her billowing red dress struggling to hang the bed sheet on the clothesline adds extra activity and a touch of humour to the scene, as she stretches to her limits to complete the task at hand. Breeze and a bed sheet do not make good companions when a clothesline awaits.
We could consider that the woman and stockman are partners and he is waiting for her to finish her work before setting out together for a home out of picture. It is the end of the day after all as the shadows are long and darkness is encroaching from the east.
Allan Baker tells stories. They are not always instantly obvious but after considering the image the narrative develops and he engages the viewer in so subtle a manner. Far from being a portrait of a stockman he has captured a moment in the day and though he has provided many of the answers – he allows the viewers to add a bit themselves.
Baker has never involved himself with paint quality or texture; it is mainly chiaroscuro, design and story no matter how subtle. This picture shows him at his best and it is an important painting to his oeuvre.