Tony McGillick, Juxjacent 1968, spray acrylic on shaped canvas
Tony McGillick, Juxjacent 1968, spray acrylic on shaped canvas, UTS Art Collection

In the late 1960s, Australian artists joined an international movement towards non-objective painting. Defined by their bold use of colour and simplified geometric forms, these artists sought to break the rigid frame of traditional painting and disrupt a window-like field of vision.

The early shaped canvases were remarkable for their material and conceptual originality. They were curved, skewed and modular and established painting as a sculptural, rather than purely illustrative, discipline. Paint was poured onto the surface of the canvas or applied with little trace of brushstrokes or the artist’s hand. The use of quick drying acrylic or pigment dispersion paints was an innovative departure from oil as a medium and sought to elevate industrial materials to the level of aesthetics.

This selection of works from the UTS Art Collection features paintings originally acquired for the former UTS Kuring-gai campus designed by David ‘Don’ Turner from the NSW Government Architects office. In that context, the brightly coloured and shaped canvases were a dynamic counterpart to the raw concrete and bush setting of the campus.

As part of the international trend in 1960s colour-field painting, the Australian artists featured here were also responding to earlier developments in 20th century art and scientific knowledge which reframed our understanding of the role of the eye and mind in the act of seeing.

Today non-objective painting remains a significant area of enquiry and experimentation in contemporary Australian art, while the works themselves continue to contribute to the cultural life of the campus.