Robert HUNTER, Untitled Enlarge 1 /1


Australia 1947 – 2014

Untitled 1970-76 Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint, cotton thread and pencil on canvas

Primary Insc: signed and dated reverse support l.l.c., red fibre tipped pen "R H/ 70-76"
Dimensions: 158.5 h x 158.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1976
Accession No: NGA 76.344
Image rights: © Robert Hunter. Licensed by Viscopy

Since his first white on white paintings of the late 1960s, Robert Hunter has revealed the subtle nuances and almost infinite variations that are achievable within a minimal-conceptual framework. In Untitled, for example, Hunter imposed a predetermined geometric scheme on the canvas, which was systematically implemented by attaching a grid of cotton threads and applying a thin layer of light grey house paint, before, finally, drafting a regular matrix of horizontal, vertical and diagonal pencil lines.

Yet, what at first glance may appear strictly regimented, on closer inspection reveals a multitude of irregularities in the execution. As the direction of the light shifts, so do the pencil-like shadows cast by the slightly straying threads. The small variations in each hand-drawn line gradually aggregate so that the initial perception of uniformity and rigidity collapses as the viewer’s eye moves back and forth across the painting’s resonating surface.

In his work, Hunter draws impetus from critical developments in American art of the 1960s, whereas Robert Owen associated with the British Constructionists when he lived in London in the late 1960s. As their name suggests, the Constructionists continued a European tradition of abstract art established in the early 20th century by Constructivism. A favoured object was the wall relief sculpture, mathematically conceived and fabricated from materials such as aluminium and perspex. Owen aligned himself with the group’s endeavours in his ‘kinetic reliefs’ and in his major piece, Terminus #2.

Steven Tonkin

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002