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 John Coburn  (1925 - 2006)

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Lived/Active: Australia      Known for: painting

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Biography from Deutscher and Hackett Melbourne:
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John Coburn (1925-2006)

In 1963 he held a solo exhibition at the Hungry Horse Gallery in Sydney, where he exhibited thirty paintings and drawings.  After years of working almost exclusively with oils, he also exhibited work executed in synthetic polymer paint.  The flexible nature of synthetic polymer paint allowed Coburn a certain freedom and spontaneity which translates onto the surface through the liberally applied layers of paint.  This is particularly noticeable when compared to the highly constructed works that Coburn would go on to produce.  In an interview with James Gleeson in 1979, Coburn discusses his work The Tower and its relevance to his oeuvre: 'The Tower is a work done, I think, in 1963.  It represents a break from the sort of work I was doing just a few years before that.  I moved from Rose Bay to Warriewood and for the first time in my life I had a studio in which to work.  I took great delight in splashing a lot of paint around and also abstract expressionism, of course, was still very much in the air at that time.'

After rejecting religion during his teenage years, Coburn converted to Catholicism during the early 1950s.  His interest in religious subjects began following discussions with Father Scott, an organiser of the prestigious Blake Prize for Religious Art. Coburn submitted various artworks throughout the fifties, but it was not until 1960 that he was awarded the Prize for his painting The Passion, 1960.  Despite his many depictions of landscapes and the seasons, Coburn is still labeled as a religious artist, as Nadine Amadio discusses 'He could certainly be termed a religious painter as all his art, even when it is not specifically sacred, is religious in terms of being a celebration of creation, of the development of the human spirit, and of the orders of nature.'3
1. Interview between John Coburn and James Gleeson, 30 May 1979, National Gallery of Australia website, viewed 17 March 2014 2. ibid. 3. Amadio, D., John Coburn: Paintings, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1988, p. 7 CASSI YOUNG

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