Robert ROONEY, Superknit 5 Enlarge 1 /1


Melbourne, Victoria, Australia born 1937

Superknit 5 1970 Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Dimensions: 152.5 h x 244.0 w cm framed (overall) 154.7 h x 246.3 w x 6.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1979
Accession No: NGA 79.2548
Image rights: Courtesy of Tolarno Galleries

Having slowly and systematically eliminated the figure from my paintings between 1961 and 1966, it suddenly occurred to me that the material I had been collecting for my own amusement, some of which I compiled into handmade illustrated booklets for a couple of ex-art school friends, Rosemary and John Adam, could be the basis for ‘serious’ art.

The collage elements in these ‘entertainments’, as I called them, were culled from the extraordinary range of objects that people left in second-hand books – ranging from a bookmark in the shape of a woman’s stockinged leg to poems and drawings. I also collected illustrated publications on Swedish club swinging, exercising in the bath and other curious activities. But I was particularly interested in pictures or diagrams that resembled abstract art.

Included in this mass of material were two books on knitting. Looking through them, I realised that the various knitting patterns could be reduced to a basic curve and straight lines.

The pencil drawings that I did for the Superknit paintings were plotted on 1/4-inch graph paper using a cardboard template for the repeated curves. The negative outlines in the paintings were the result of ‘drawing’ the patterns on raw canvas with 1/4-inch masking tape.

As with the serial/cereal paintings that preceded them — the Slippery seal (1967) and Canine capers (1969) series, in which I used brightly coloured cut-outs on the back of Kellogg’s boxes as stencils – I regarded the Superknits as serious hard-edged abstractions, while recognising the absurdity of basing them on knitting patterns.

Robert Rooney 2002

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