Auction Highlight Autumn 2015 James Vernon Wigley

Following his discharge from the army at the end of WWII, Wigley joined the 1949 AP Elkins anthropological expedition into central Australia as the official artist. It was from that expedition that he developed an empathy for Australian aboriginals and their life.

After travelling and studying in Europe he returned to Australia and eventually settled in Port Headland in1957 where he formed a friendship with Don McLeod the aboriginal activist. It was then that Wigley commenced recording aboriginal life which was to become the theme for much of his future work.

James Wigley - The Hunter
Lot 53 James Wigley – The Hunter

This painting depicts a traditional aspect of that life. It is the time of the day just before the sun appears over the horizon and is often referred to as Piccaninny Dawn. It’s the time when an experienced aboriginal hunter carrying little more than his traditional hunting implements and a sack over his shoulder chooses to set out on a journey to find a quarry that will provide for himself and other members of his group. He and his dogs appear tiny in the vast landscape which gives the impression of being desolate and unyielding and one wonders how the hunter could succeed in a place so bleak.

The title of the work appears to be a misnomer as the land gives no hint to the inexperienced that is has supported traditional aboriginal life for many thousands of years and if left in its traditional state would continue to provide.

This is a social realist work and was painted in Port Headland a few years before the area would undergo extensive mining that would yield a different kind of bounty. Wigley was to record that change to the region and the displacement of the traditional owners in a masterful work The Arrival of the Machines – The Hunter gives no insight of what is about to occur in the immediate future.

The Hunter is an important work from Wigley’s oeuvre and was included in the exhibition of Australian Landscape Painting 1837-1964 that was held at The National Gallery of Victoria in 1964.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2015 Edith Helena Adie

Lot 70. Edith Helena Adie - Red and Blue Waterlillies Queens Gardens WA
Lot 70 Edith Helena Adie – Red and Blue Waterlillies Queens Gardens WA

When Edith Adie arrived in Australia she was already a highly regarded English watercolourist with numerous accomplishments to her credit. Her specialty was painting flowers in gardens in the landscape. It was important to her that her flowers were viewed in the context of their surrounds and while they were botanically correct, she never intended for them to be seen as specimens alone, they had to form part of the whole.

She had been awarded medals for her pictures at the Royal Horticultural Society and her works had been exhibited at the major venues in London including the Royal Academy, The Fine Art Society and the Royal Society of British Artists. In addition to being widely exhibited, her paintings had been illustrated in the influential arts magazine The Studio.

An adventurous lady for the time, she had studied at The Slade and the South Kensington Art School. She had taught art at Bordighera in Italy and privately from her studio in Kent. Her paintings had been admired and purchased by Queen Mary (Waterlilies in Hampton Court Gardens) and she had been commissioned to paint the rhododendron garden at Dyffryn House in South Wales. Edith Adie was a member of The British Watercolour Society in 1920.

Miss Adie had come to Australia to explore the landscape and paint both the gardens and wild flowers in their Australian setting. When she arrived in Perth in 1916 the Daily News reported, Mundaring Weir, situated amongst the Darling Ranges, is attracting a number of artists and flora collectors. Foremost amongst the former is Miss Edith H. Adie, of London, now on a visit to the Weir for the purpose of painting the Weir itself and some of the surrounding scenery. Mundaring Weir bids fair to become the first of all alluring pleasure places to be found in Western Australia.

Though she spent most of her time painting the wildflowers and scenery of Perth, those works were exhibited in Adelaide in 1917 at The Society of Arts Rooms in North Terrace. The exhibition and referred to by the critics as being, particularly well treated.

Queen’s Gardens was once the site of clay pits and brickworks before being transferred to the City of Perth for the purpose of establishing a botanical garden. The gardens were officially opened and named in 1899 by the mayor of Perth, Alexander Forrest MLA.

Of the 36 works on display in Adelaide only ten were for sale with the remainder being reserved for an exhibition in London. An example of Edith Adie’s work “Oleanders Government House Perth” is included in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2015 George Haynes

It’s a good thing that popularity didn’t come early – because I wouldn’t know as much about painting as I do today. George Haynes.

George Haynes - The Valley Below
Lot 59 George Haynes – The Valley Below

There has never been a strategy to Haynes’ career, he has never become clichéd, and the need to find answers to creating art has been his motivation, particularly the use of colour.

For years Haynes earned his living by teaching and painting plein-air landscapes.

It was the landscape that shaped his ideas on colour and his tendency to bend the rules or shatter them if they did not fit the need. If the tome and warmth of the colour are correct one can paint yon green tree red. If you get the tone spot on and the temperature right there is a good chance it may work, he wrote in an introduction to a catalogue of his work in 2007. All moods are expressable with different colour combinations. In fact I think the pleasure of seeing colours reacting to one another is very similar to the aural pleasure one can get from juxtaposed sounds.

In this picture “The Valley Below” the tone and warmth of his colours are spot on – to use his terminology. The foliage doesn’t have to be green for the viewers to understand that we are flying over a dense and heavily forested valley that covers an immense area. The volume of the landscape is further understood through the hint of water, a lake perhaps, or a river in the center left of the picture plain, seemingly insignificant but very important to quantify scale.

The movement of colour from warm to cool further reinforced the vastness of the area and that the atmosphere is moisture laden. Perhaps we are flying over a valley in the South West or in another region of the planet, maybe Asia or perhaps India.

The subject really doesn’t matter as this is not a literal scene, it is a celebration of colour and a demonstration of the artist’s ability to make important art that can enrich and provide endless periods of discovery for his audience.

George Haynes is an important Australian artist and he has made a significant contribution to the development of art in Australia. His work is represented extensively in the collections of institutions throughout Australia.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2015 Robert Juniper

There is elegance in Robert Junipers landscapes that few of his contemporaries could emulate. He has a style and technique that is quintessentially his, irrespective of the subject. His works are to be studied as the answers are never immediately apparent as this painting After the Bush Fire demonstrates.

Lot 58 Robert Juniper – After the Bushfire

Flight aided Robert Juniper in his depiction of the landscape. From thousands of metres above, in the security of an aircraft, he discovered order out of chaos, and splendour out of the rugged. He was the first Australian painter to consistently apply the aerial perspective to his landscapes and devoted himself to that discipline from 1980 onward. However in 1970 when this work was painted, Juniper was interested in the Japanese screen painters and he started to borrow from them in his landscape composition.

This is one of the first works where Juniper applied Japanese screen design to the Australian landscape. In contrast to the flowing rivers and green mountains of the Japanese scenery, Juniper in this work After the Bushfire depicted the dryness and unforgiving nature of Australia’s outback after being ravaged by fire.

The meandering river of the Japanese screen has been replaced with the meandering fire line of burnt undergrowth. The towering mountains of the Edo masters have been traded for the vague featureless horizon that fails to distinguish between earth and sky. The lush colours and gold leaf of the Japanese have been replaced with a muted palette that identifies with the arid, and the smooth surface of the screens has been enhanced by the impasto that Juniper is so fond of.  

Even though the subjects are diametrically opposed, the sentiment is similar, quiet, still and contemplative. Juniper has managed to apply centuries of Japanese artistic tradition to the Australian landscape, he was the first Australian artist to manage this achievement.

After the Bush Fire is a pivotal work in Juniper’s oeuvre and is an early example of his interest in Japanese composition. It is a fore runner to his 1977 piece The River Dies in January, a large diptych that is included in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW.







Auction Highlight Autumn 2015 George Haynes

Lot 55 George Haynes – The Batavia Moon

Artists statement:

‘Tis but moonlight on the water’- was there ever a more deluded observation? Crunch, Batavia hits the reef and then the disastrous shemozzle. I cannot imagine a more desperate place to end up. If the painting conveys some of this – well and good. Compositionally, I kept the protagonists – the moon, the clouds, the reflections, reef, and ship – well separated – so they are individual, and one sees them one at a time, and to go from one to another is to traverse a canvas of spay sky.
The colour – cold agoraphobia.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2015 John Lunghi

Lot 35 John Lunghi – Untitled

John Lunghi was born in England of Swiss parents and studied at The Central School of Art in London. He moved to Western Australia in 1937 partly at the urging of his friends Jamie Linton and Hal Missingham and mainly because his future wife Barbara, had returned to Perth from London.

Soon after his arrival Gibbney and Sons a commercial art and block-making firm in Hay Street employed him as a graphic artist. He was eventually appointed director of the art department and remained with that company until his retirement in 1975.

As an important member of the local arts community, Lunghi held the presidency of the Perth Society of Artists and was awarded the Festival of Art painting prize in 1958. His work was included in the prestigious Whitechapel Gallery exhibition of Australian art in 1961. Many young artists (including Robert Juniper and Leon Pericles) found employment in Gibbney’s art department while Lunghi was in charge. He is considered to be the link between the older and younger generations of Perth modernists and was a pivotal influence in the career of many painters.

Lunghi used a variety of styles ranging from impressionism through to abstraction – his position with Gibbneys afforded him that privilege, as he was not exposed to the small and conservative art market of the time to provide for his family. He painted for himself and a selected audience, and because of his financial independence he was able to produce outstanding uninhibited works that rarely come before the today’s audience.


Auction Highlight Terence John Santry

Lot 14 Terence John Santry – Near Edgecliff Station

Townscapes and landscapes and the creatures that inhabited them, all form part of the imagery that John Santry is famous for.

One of the first Australian artists to paint rural and urban scenes, his drawing skills and discipline allowed him to capture the areas he frequented, in a style unique to himself.

With his figure studies, he was able to find that hint of larrikin that permeates Australian society. His pastoral landscapes (that were usually painted on a Saturday) contain a serenity and stillness that became his hallmark.

Before the arrival of the émigré artists from Europe, the landscape was the main source of inspiration for the locals. Santry along with fellow members of the Northwood Group would pack their kits on most Saturday mornings and head to the countryside to paint. They wouldn’t return until dusk. George Lawrence, Lloyd Rees and Roland Wakelin were the other members and Douglas Dundas occasionally joined in.

They were sober trips, full of fun and work, with the ritual baked rabbit, pickled onion and bread roll being the meal of the day. The camaraderie between the group remained until the last. At some times they were each others crutch and at others a source of amusement. Wakelin would say. “what’s the point in having friends if you can’t poke fun at them.”

Drawing skills and figurative work set Santry apart from the others. He conducted drawing classes from his home on Thursday afternoons and two of his early students were Brett Whiteley and Michael Johnson. He thought Whiteley was a talented showman with a great ability to draw portraits and Johnson equally as gifted though quieter.

Both established profiles much higher than Santry but he was never envious and drew comfort from his early and significant influence in their development.

Santry didn’t pursue critical success and never worked with large canvases. He had little need, as he was able to capture the breadth of the landscape on a small panel and the spirit of a person with a few brush strokes. He wasn’t a showman he was just quiet and disciplined, with a fine sense of humour.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2015 John Coburn

Lot 34 John Coburn – Earth Dance

In 1969 in an interview with The Canberra Times John Coburn stated that “I don’t think art is created in isolation; an artist, to me, is someone in tune with the environment around him.” (Juddery, 1969) This came at a time when Coburn had fully realised his individual style, one that Australians and international collectors have become so enamoured with still today.

He described that “What I do is intuitive … I simply paint these things to explain the world to myself.”[i]

While so much of Coburn’s work involved religion and Catholicism as a subject there is no denying, as you look to his oeuvre, that his work moved to a depth beyond this to function as a form of introverted and spiritual exploration, showing the artist’s necessity to connect and make sense of the world around him.

Coburn’s original work in the early 50’s began as figurative; however, it quickly evolved into abstract forms concerned with the urban environment and soon turned to the environment in all senses of the word.

He noted that “during the 50’s you could say that art was generally concerned with emotions, with expressing feeling and it did this through its relationship with nature,”[ii] an ethos which has seemingly spurred throughout Coburn’s work over the decades.

In his mature years the artist returned to figurative forms within the realm of his typical abstracts, “I’m calling the series, Ah, What is Man? Not so much in a biblical context as a simple poetic statement about the evolution of man’s awareness of himself and his soul and his being in the world.”[iii] A testament of the artist’s growth and spiritual evolution spanning his career.

Coburn carried with these notions of nature and spirituality his definitive use of radiant colour and expression which he developed early on.

As we look now to his 1984 artwork Earth Dance we experience in perfect harmony all of these nuances a-typical of Coburn’s work.

Here we can see the maturity and highly developed technical skills of an artist who has dedicated decades to consistent practice.

There is a sense of depth and continuity in the landscape depicting the artists ability to thrust the background forward so that it is not ignored, the background becomes a form in its own right, just as equally the symbols in the foreground radiate with life.

In brilliant symmetry we experience a sense of celebration of nature, and of life and renewal within the landscape.

We can see Coburn’s distinct ability to capture so many element in a single frame – in an abstract painting that is at once a simple horizon and floating shapes, at depth is an illustration of much more; a feeling, an atmosphere, sounds and shapes, it is a life force – it breathes life, animation, and celebration.

“Because Coburn’s work is largely about change, growth, renewal, progression and transformation, there is an inherent movement in his painting. This is most obvious in his nature paintings. With his impeccable eye for placement the shapes are allowed their life movement. So here the dance of life takes place through, above and below the earth.”[iv]

Works Cited

[i] [i][i]Juddery, B. (1969, January 22). Having his say on canvas. The Canberra Times1969, 13.

[iii] Amadio, N. (1988). John Coburn, Paintings. Roseville, N.S.W.: Craftsman House, 188.

[iv] Amadio, N. (1988). John Coburn, Paintings. Roseville, N.S.W.: Craftsman House, 138

Auction Highlight Autumn 2015 Norman Aisbett

When oil was struck on the Rough Range Number 1 oil well on December 4th 1953 William Walkley, the founder of Ampol Exploration, was said to have celebrated by walking down Martin Place in a bright red ten-gallon hat, cheered all the way by well wishers.

The strike heralded a different era for mining in Western Australia and some might say it was the humble beginning of a north-west mining industry which has become the foundation of WA’s economy and its identity today.

Perth was a different city at this time, not only in its appearance but in the way people operated here – it was a simpler time.

As far as mining exploration went in Australia no well had struck anything much resembling oil at the time. It is said that the staff on Rough Range-1 were a little under-equipped to deal with the strike. “The geologist on-site collected the samples in empty beer bottles. Fortunately (thanks to the climate of the Exmouth Gulf in early summer) there were plenty of these around.”[i]

The Western Mail sent their staff artist, Norman Aisbett, on a three week tour of the Exmouth gulf and Derby to document the exciting progress at Rough Range-1. Aisbett returned with hundreds of sketches, thousands of ant and mosquito bites and plenty to say about the American roughnecks he encountered while staying at the Rough Range-1 site.

These observations were recorded in an article published in the Western Mail December 9th 1954. Aside from the harsh working conditions the arid north provided, Aisbett noted that the roughnecks “when they come off their “tour of dooty,” get their individual, cellophane-wrapped, frozen T-bone steaks – T-bone steaks an inch and a half thick and flown in from civilisation at what must be frightening cost.”[ii]

It certainly was not an ill-funded endeavour with Ampol Exploration teaming up with California Texas Corporation (CALTEX) to pledge a £1,500,000 oil exploration agreement in May 1951.[iii]

The West commented at one point that drilling operations commenced “on a prayer.” In fact, the discovery of oil at Rough Range-1 was quite serendipitous. The site was moved for logistical reasons 250 metres west of where it was originally planned.

Lot 50 Norman Aisbett – Afternoon Tour Rough Range Number 1 Exmouth Gulf

When they had finished extracting oil at Rough Range-1 they commenced drilling across Rough Range, Rough Range South and Cape Range to no avail. Eventually the original location for Rough Range-1 was drilled “Everyone was shocked and bitterly disappointed when no. 10 was also dry … If Rough Range-1 had been drilled at the site originally selected there would have been no oil discovery and a very different history of Australian resources development.”[iv]

When we look to Aisbett’s image of the roughnecks at Rough Range-1 we get a sense of the gravity of the work involved in these early days of mining exploration. From the brightness of the afternoon sun on the workers backs to the sheer magnitude of the equipment they’re manoeuvring, this artwork gives its viewer a sense of presence in this historical moment for WA and the nation and is a testament to the artist inert eye for observation and detail.

The painting was gifted by the managing editor of West Australian Newspapers Ltd  in 1956 to the chairman of CALTEX during his visit to Perth – no doubt as a reminder of this industrious era of oil exploration.

The artwork returned to WA this year and stands as a relic of an age of great prosperity, a symbol of things to come for the Cinderella State and, looking back now 60 odd years later, a reminder of the simple beginnings of an industry responsible for the great wealth and development of the nation.

Works Cited

[i] Skyes, T. (2003, December 31). The Rough Deal at Rough Range. Retrieved April 24, 2015, from Pierpont.

[ii] Aisbett, N. (1954). Oil Mining. Western Mail, 4-5.

[iii] The West Australian. (1951). Search for oil in the north-west. The West Australian, 1.

[iv] Playford, P. (2003). The Rough Range Oil Discovery – 50 Years On. Geological Survey of Western Australia.

Auction Preview: Autumn 2015


GFL will offer a compelling and thorough collection of works from historical and contemporary Australian and international artists this autumn in our forthcoming major fine art auction. Among the works is a selection of rare and important pieces relating to Western Australia including Norman Aisbett’s oil painting of roughnecks drilling for oil at the Rough Range Number 1 Oil Well in Exmouth Gulf. And Edith Helena Adie’s watercolour painting of red and blue waterlillies in Queen’s Gardens in Perth.

Evening Session I – Lots 1 to 110
Tuesday 26th May at 7.00pm

Evening Session II – Lots 111 to 237
Wednesday 27th May at 7.00pm

Wilkinson Gallery
GATE 1 – Claremont Showgrounds
1 Graylands Rd, Claremont
Western Australia

Saturday 23rd May 11:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday 24th May 11:00am – 5:00pm
Monday 25th May 10:00am – 6:30pm