Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia born 1938

Curtain 1996 Place made: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, various media, synthetic polymer paint, apron on paper

Primary Insc: ' STAUNTON '96 ' lower left
Dimensions: 91.0 h x 65.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2007
Accession No: NGA 2007.394
Image rights: © Madonna Staunton
  • Madonna Staunton is a senior contemporary artist of national standing who lives and works in Brisbane. Born in 1938, she has had a long and distinguished career. Her work conveys an intuitive formal sensibility with poetic resonances of time past, fragility and physicality. A love of materials, textures and tactile experiences was cultivated at an early age by her mother and grandmother, which has continued throughout her career. Although she began as a painter, collage and assemblage have become the core of Staunton’s artistic practice with her use of elements of the everyday such as furniture, clothing, signs and coat-hangers.

    Curtain 1996 shows a combination of assemblage and painting and reveals both a formal decisiveness and echoes of the tactile and personal. The use of a discarded skirt carries with it a sense of an absent body, a suggested presence of the past, with subtle undertones of the feminine, domesticity and loss. The sense of humanity that the skirt suggests is contrasted with the numbers and the letter Q stencilled onto the painted background. These, Staunton has noted, relate to the idea of numbers as a means of identifying people, and the dehumanising effect of this.1 Their displacement from symbolic order and language also alludes to a world beyond the work, to the metaphysical, the dislocation of association and memory.

    Yet the content and its diverse resonances do not outweigh the formal considerations and refined aesthetic sensibility in Staunton’s art. The initial impression of Curtain is of a balanced composition with the centred placement of the black drawstring bag. The repetition of the slightly off-square rectangle in the bag, the skirt and the frame
    also demonstrates a calculated geometric formalism. At the same time the work as a whole appears unforced in the way that Staunton’s unique sensibility allows aesthetic experiences to come from objects of the everyday.

    Catherine Bennetts
    Intern, Australian Painting and Sculpture
    from the Australian National University
    in artonview, issue 53, autumn 2008

    1 Ihor Holubizky, ‘Madonna Staunton: sorting through … organising things, in time … through time’, Madonna Staunton, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2003, p. 22.

    in artonview, issue 53, autumn 2008