Span: Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 36, 1992
Postcolonial Fictions:
Proceedings of the SPACLALS Triennial Conference 1992
Edited by Michèle Drouart

Perth modernism in the 1930s and 1950s: a canonical saga and Robert Juniper's modernism

Christine Sharkey

This paper is about two different phases of Perth modernism and the respective conditions of art practice that impeded the flowering of the first phase in the 1930s, yet sustained the second in the period between 1950-57. The first modernist phase is given more weight, a difficult choice indeed, as both sections were initially balanced.1 My recent research focuses on Robert Juniper and my interest in re-examining the early phase of Perth modernism is an attempt to understand how, if at all, that phase foregrounded the second. I wondered why the first phase was truncated and the second flourished, and if there was any point of comparison or difference that explicated the reception of Juniper's style particularly, and more broadly the 1950s modernism that thrived in Perth. It was only through a reworking of the first period that it became apparent that Juniper's modernism coincided with the precise historical moment when it might be favourably received. In the end I decided that the historical poignancy of the timing of Juniper's artistic entry was elucidated significantly by this closer examination of the 1930s period.

Perth artists and dramatists then believed that art was a weapon that could heighten social awareness and potentially, though indirectly, be an agent for changing and reforming social attitudes. This programme was strongly opposed and resisted by some sections of the Perth community. At stake was the assumption and recognition that images are social constructs which in turn influence society. The first phase explains to some degree why the 1950s, second-wave modernism, although stylistically more radical, was in other respects more homogenized and reinstated the dominance of non-contentious subjects and associations. Although I briefly indicate how the second phase was constituted in broad terms, my focus in this second period is on Robert Juniper, whose links with the first phase are at the same time both tenuous and forceful.

Modernism in the 1950s was about individual style and had a private, rather than a "public" face. Apart from the short-lived 1930s modernist period, there was no organized, collective modernist program until the foundation of two groups by Guy Grey-Smith, the Perth Group (1958-61), and the Contemporary Art Society in May 1965. Modernist painting in Perth was, however, defended and espoused institutionally by Laurie Thomas, the Director of the Western Australian Art Gallery, as it was then called, between 1953-7.

It was the collective, programmatic organization of modernist expression that gave it a radical edge in visual art and dramatic performances in the 1930s. Crucial to the first modernist impulse in Perth, then, was the focus on ideals and ideas which were accepted on a critical and popular level but as I have suggested, also caused a profound dis-ease in other sections of the community. Some of the confusion and difficulty in interpreting this period reflects a wider, ongoing debate amongst regional historians as they consider whether received historical constructions of Perth's history are in some aspects of interpretation, fictional.2

I would ask you to hold and mentally savour two opposing images about ideas. The first, in a short poem by Henry Lawson called Middleton's Rousabout, illustrates how very potent, advantageous and profitable it can be to have no opinions or ideas at all (or at least, if you have, not to communicate them). The second, a short verse from Shakespeare's "A Winter Tale," shows how lethal or life-giving belief can be; the power in this second image is associated with labelling or naming, and that is something that we shall be looking at in the first phase of Perth modernism.

Image 1. Henry Lawson (b. 1867), Middleton's Rousabout 3
Tall and freckled and sandy,
Face of a country lout,
This was the picture of Andy,
Middleton's Rousabout.
Type of a coming nation
In a land of cattle and sheep;
Worked on Middleton's station,
Pound a week and his keep;
On Middleton's wide dominions
Plied the stockwhip and shears;
Hadn't any opinions,
Hadn't any "idears".
Swiftly the years went over,
Liquor and drought prevailed;
Middleton went as a drover
After his station had failed
Type of a careless nation,
Men who are soon played out,
Middleton was:- and his station
Was bought by the rousabout.
Flourishing beard and sandy;
Tall and solid and stout;
This is the picture of Andy,
Middleton's Rousabout.
Now on his own dominions
Works with his overseers;
Hasn't any opinions,
hasn't any idears.

Image 2. From "A Winter's Tale":4
"There may be in the cup
A spider steep'd, and one may drink; depart,
And yet partake no venom, (For his knowledge
is not infected): But if one present
the abhorr'd image to his eye, make known
how he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides
With violent hefts: I have drunk, and seen the spider."

The first phase of Perth modernism between 1930-40, has been substantially described and documented in various articles edited by David Bromfield in "Aspects of Perth Modernism 1929-1942." Further light is thrown on this period in the Craig, Davis, Gooding and Nile articles edited by Jenny Gregory in Western Australia between the Wars, 1919-39 and by Janda Gooding in her exhibition catalogue, Western Australian Art and Artists 1900-1950. Gooding's work surveys and analyses the persistence of the Western Australian Landscape tradition in this century.

The early phase of radical modernism in art and literature, was associated mostly with clubs and movements such as the Workers' Art Guild, the Left Book Club, the Modern Women's movement, and The Movement against War and Fascism.5 The Workers' Art Guild was the axis of creativity for radical modernist art and theatre. Painters included Max Ebert (Herbert McLintock), Harold Vike, the photographer Axel Poignant, architect, poster-designer and publicist John Oldham, and less obviously, John Lunghi, who exhibited on several occasions with the Workers' Art Guild. It was Lunghi who was the immediate connection between the old and new phase of Perth modernism insofar as that related to Robert Juniper, who became his protege.

In the 1930s, Perth - a small city that was an exchange house for a largely rural economy rather than the huge metropolitan "centre" associated with modernism - was imaged by Portia Bennett, John Oldham, and Harold Vike. Fred Flood photographed the modernity of the few high-rise buildings; John Oldham drew them, and images of modern technology became common. It is difficult now to see how these images were viewed as radical.

Bridging the two modernist phases was the conservative modernism in the landscapes and portraits of Elise Blumann, a German refugee (arr. Fremantle 1938), who also painted nudes that were considered by many to be rather bold. She held three exhibitions in Perth in the 1940s.6 Elizabeth Durack also practised a Dobellian expressionism in some of her Kimberley portraits of the 1940s, before turning to abstract expressionist landscape in the 1950s. Neither were associated with the Workers' Art Guild.

The second modernist phase includes painters such as Howard Taylor, Guy Grey-Smith, Ernest Philpot, Robert Juniper, Brian McKay, and Elizabeth Durack.

Robert Juniper was born in Merredin, Western Australia in 1929. He spent 1938-49 in England, mostly with his family, although they returned to Western Australia a year or so before him. He left school at the age of fourteen to train in commercial art at the Beckenham School of Industrial Design in Kent. Not long after his return to Perth, Juniper's work was encouraged and supported by the Director of the Western Australian Art Gallery, Laurie Thomas. This institutional support, added to the patronage of John Lunghi, Dr Salek Minc and others, augered well for the early reception of his work into the canon of Western Australian visual art, culture and history.

Although I have traced and developed in some detail the process and progress of Robert Juniper's entry as an artist in Perth, after 1949, I can convey only summarily the evidence of my research in this paper.7 It suggests that Juniper's integration into the Perth artistic community was considerably eased by a fortuitous meshing of people and events. This created the social and commercial scaffolding within which his practice could flourish and this intricate network was in place within six years of his arrival in Perth. It could, therefore be predicted that, all things being equal, his future career as an artist was not likely to flounder. By the time the Skinner Galleries opened in Perth in 1958 he had consolidated a notable profile as a very talented young artist. Rose Skinner further promoted his work, his persona and his - and other Perth artists' - modernism in the period between 1958-65, 8 pushing the profile of a belated Perth modernism to a point that had not been tolerated, although it had been witnessed previously in the 1930s.

The favourable conditions of Juniper's early art practice - immediate employment as a commercial artist and various channels of support for his work - were compounded by the ripeness of the historical moment of his arrival in Perth. Given the long history - that is from foundation to 1950 - of the prevalence of traditional pastoral landscape imagery, Perth was ready for a change in style. Such change as was possible might be progressive, fresh and lively, but it could not disrupt seriously the inherently conservative social fabric and values of the people of Perth. Any style that was ideologically distinctive, if the history of the 1930s was to repeat itself, would have a slim chance of survival. The 1950s Perth modernist phase had the advantage of being institutionally rather than popularly received at first, reversing the receptive pattern of the first phase of modernism, which was popularly and critically well received but institutionally repressed. The second phase also broke dramatically with the academically informed three-point perspective and depictions of "nature" that the public, and until the arrival of Laurie Thomas, institutional curators explicitly preferred.9

The two modernist phases that I have just outlined interrupted the prevailing visual imagery that dominated Western Australian culture. This imagery, with a few exceptions including one to which I shall briefly refer, can be classified within the genre of romantic landscape. Within that category there were variants: pastoral and semi-rural bush scenes, romantic landscape inclusive of river scenes, leisure images by Crawley Beach, views of Perth water, ocean views, and forest-scapes indicative of the beauty of the giant karri and jarrah forests of the South-West of Western Australia.

A significant exception to this benign pastoral genre which has not been remarked upon can be seen in the prints of Henri Van Raalte. His work is of considerable interest because it portrays precisely that shadow or pending malignance that is supposed to be absent, and indeed is, largely, in Western Australian imagery. Typically, his treescapes are eerie, frequently anthropo-morphically weird renderings of the giant jarrah and karri trees of the South-West of Western Australia. A melancholic, pessimistic view of nature pervades a vision informed by something closer to the darkness and terror of the romantic sublime than the sensibility of abundance and light inscribed in pastoral, "promised land" images or bush idylls. These images were prevalent not only in Western Australia but in much Victorian and New South Wales imagery. However, whereas the Heidelberg School also included images of what I would classify as "the little Aussie battler" genre, these are remarkably absent, (given the tough struggle for survival in periods of the early history of this state), in Western Australian imagery.

In "Western Australian Art and Artists 1900-1950" Janda Gooding argues that the dominance of a landscape imagery of tranquillity and abundance valorised the preferred self-image of Perth's conservative hegemony, so supporting the notion of a manufactured harmony.10 Jenny Gregory, in her Introduction to Western Australia Between the Wars, 1919-1939 also refers to a constructed "happy " image:

"Our understanding of Western Australian Society between the wars is enhanced by the knowledge that those who controlled that society were possessed of sufficient strength and power to manufacture the image of a tranquil and harmonious society that would remain in place right through the post-war years and be sustained into the 1960s."11 (my emphasis)

Tom Stannage, reminding one of the idealistic professionalism of the Perth modernists of the 1930s, believed that history could be "a weapon in the armoury of social change."12 How close this vision is to Workers' Art Guild Members whose motto was "Art is a Weapon." In "The People of Perth: A Social History of Western Australia," Stannage explores the deep structures that fabricate the social conglomerate that makes up the city of Perth. A major theme of that history, he states, is:

"the acquisition, maintenance and excercise of power and the social consequences of its distribution... It is the bonding agent that enables us to make sense of Perth's past. The past is not inert."13

That same excercise of power and the social consequences of it directly affected the two phases of Perth modernism that I have described, but in different ways. The first phase of modernism faltered after direct police intervention and concerted attempts at social and cultural control; the second was linked to arts institutional and private support that facilitated a re-emergent, non-ideoligically aligned, and therefore longer-lived, if unusually belated, modernism.

Explicit in Janda Gooding and Tom Stannage's positions is the view that the prevailing, sanctioned imagery in Western Australia (Your images 1-4) masked an underbelly, a dark side of a regional social-scape in which no effective counter-culture could thrive, and poverty, inequities, and hardship were glossed over. Tom Stannage, in Embellishing the Landscape,14 points out that the "abundance, beauty, tranquility and harmony" of their imagery, was widely and popularly circulated through the The Western Mail in the 1930s and 1940s.

In time the gap between image and rhetoric and the reality of people's lives would become so great that the image would be taken for the reality. Amy Heap and Fred Flood were the very important interpreters of a profound conservatism in Western Australian life.15 [My emphasis]

Some of the contradictions that surround this first phase of modernism to this day are connected, in some way, to the inference that the Western Australian people could be bluffed into denying their own perception of reality. If they could, why? We need also to ask whether personal or collective cowardice permits such a gap between the image and the reality, or, whether, alternatively or concurrently, a well-grounded fear creates a symbiotic nexus for the illiberal use of power in a neo-colonial society.

One of the hints of dis-ease about this 1930s period is the difficulty in recovering accurate accounts of events and the reluctance of interviewees to register or re-activate bad memories, even many decades later. Of this period David Bromfield has said:

Those radicals who were members of the Communist Party were often embarrassed by their former credulity; those who profited by radicalism in the thirties and abandoned their adherence to it are as unwilling to discuss the era as those who now feel betrayed by them.16

The silence, the reluctance of those who do remember, to register complaint, criticism, or indeed to elaborate at all, suggests on the one hand that something is amiss. On the other hand it raises ethical questions of interpretation for the historian, for it may be that even though things were amiss, they were resolved to the degree where no parties wished the hard historical facts to be perpetuated in the communal collective memory, of which history is the repository. This amounts, of course, to censorship of historical canons and I shall later, quoting from Terry Craig, suggest that both conservatives and radicals preferred the "happy" history that is objectified in the benignant pastoral imagery that dominated regional cultural canons. I shall also raise for consideration, before the end of this paper, the view that suggests that the denial of unhappy circumstances typically occurrs in traumatised persons.

For the moment, I would like to emphasize that at a critical level, the Workers' Art Guild plays and art exhibitions were well reviewed and received. Paul Hasluck, under the pen-name of "Polygon" reviewed Workers' Art Guild plays in "The West Australian," and judged them in annual drama festivals. He wrote enthusiastically and favourably about the Workers' Art Guild production of "Till the Day I Die" and "Cannibal Carnival" and his critical reviews raised both the standards of, and increased the audiences for, Workers' Art Guild performances.

Terry Craig, in "Radical and Conservative Theatre in Perth in the 1930s," states that Hasluck "[r]ecognized the Guild's potential as a forceful and provocative alternative to Perth's moribund theatre and supported some of its ideals."

It was art critic Charles Hamilton's style to negotiate with the public on behalf of modern art. Frequently this included long explanations of the aims and interests of modern artists. He reviewed the visual arts not only in the 1930s but was still the critic for "The West Australian" in the second phase of modernism in the 1950s - as tolerant then of Juniper's modernism as he was of Herbert McClintock's radical surrealism in the 1930s - praising his (McClintock's) "integrity and adventurousness."17

There were few difficulties, and derogatory labels in connection with the Workers' Art Guild artists or actors were not used by conservative critics (i.e Hamilton and Hasluck). Their discrimination between new ideas and worthwhile art-forms was not contaminated by the rhetoric of repressive labelling; they were liberal in a critical judgment that was not obscured because of ideological difference.

Why then, was the art produced by the Workers' Art Guild, characterized as it was by new creative life and energy, opposed? Why were the creative people involved subjected to police investigation? Should this intervention be interpreted as a form of harassment, or as a legitimate, warranted checking out of elements so subversive that they threatened the safety of the state or nation? It seems to me from the available evidence, much of which is secondary but which includes some references to Federal, State, and ASIO files, that the latter possibility was exaggerated. There were no signs of civil disorder or disruption in any of the secondery accounts of the period. It is possible that in time full access to original files on these people will be possible and a different assessment may be warranted with new evidence. In the interim, it is difficult to view the measures taken to control Workers' Art Guild members as anything but a means of controlling a canon that appeared to serve the interests of a small, neo-colonial community.

For it was the labelling, in the absence of publically accessible evidence that contributed to the demise of the Workers' Art Guild. Terry Craig, in "Radical and Conservative Theatre in Perth in the 1930s," says that the Workers' Art Guild came to be regarded "as nothing more than a Communist mouthpiece with the avowed intention of overthrowing the existing social order." The word "communist" was a minefield in Australia and it took on all the destructive aspects of naming whereby labels became an excuse not to describe correctly, and therefore an excuse to summarily dismiss anything connected with that label. Paul Hasluck was an associate member of the Workers' Art Guild and its chairman, Keith George, had no "communist" affiliations and was described consensually as a man of extraordinary creative ability and social sensitivity.18 Many of the rank and file Workers' Art guild members had nothing to do with communism.

Craig continues:

Anyone who associated with it [The Workers' Art Guild] was obviously a "red." Members came under attack from every Establishment source, from Government House, Parliament, the Churches, the Police Force, and from the descendants of the best-known founding families, "those souls of priceless rarity, pioneers of our state." 19

Guild artists such as Herbert McClintock, Harold Vike,20 and John Oldham21 were directly scrutinized by the criminal investigation branch of the West Australian police department. John Oldham used satire as a political tool in his poster work22 John Lunghi was also presumably known to the police because of his membership in the Workers' Art Guild and because of his close association with Harold Vike and Herbert McClintock with whom he exhibited in 1939.23 Harold Vike had also worked at Gibbneys periodically from 1934,24 and he and McClintock were well established as Gibbneys' artists when John Lunghi started there in 1937. John Lunghi knew of their active involvement in the Communist Party and that the criminal investigation division of the state's Police Departments had paid a "visit" to Vike on Gibbney's premises.25 It is doubtful whether any of these artists deserved the lethal, totalitarian, protagonistic associations that the term "communist" in Australia invoked, notwithstanding McClintock's pranksterish calls to revolution in Melbourne, (prior to his return to Perth) that solicited the attention of the Victorian Attorney-General and State police. However, John Lunghi, with his immediate connections to these artists, could scarcely have failed to warn the young Juniper how very difficult artistic survival could be in the then small city of Perth.

In view of these facts, Terry Craig's conclusion in "Radical and Conservative Theatre in the 1930s," that there was "no societal division in Perth, as there was overseas, mirrored in the radical and conservative theatres of that time,"26 is surprising:

In fact in Perth it was quite the opposite. Both the Repertory Club and the Guild concentrated mainly on their own repertoires, but there was an open and unblushing co-operation between the two. The Repertory Club made its premises available to the Guild, and supplied scenery, props and lights at a peppercorn rental, regardless of class or politics. Actors and audiences alike moved freely between theatre groups. The Workers' Art Guild offered rehearsal space and manpower. They even exchanged directors and plays and collaborated in the annual drama festival.27

Craig's evidence suggests that both theatres were consensually and mutually supportive of each other, acting in the liberal and tolerant fashion one would expect as a matter of course, in any democracy.

How then do we make sense of the darker reality: why did the Churches, State Government, founding families and police instigate an interventionist policy in a situation where conservatives and radicals worked co-operatively and constructively together? Indeed they seem to have fulfilled the prophecy of that ancient radical poet, Isaiah, as they continued that lion's roar for justice and equity for the poor, inclusive of those marginalized by lack of power and blocked from any meaningful participation in society. The roar - too strident no doubt at times as Polygon on occasion pointed out - was listened to by increasingly larger audiences attracted by Workers' Art Guild exhibitions and theatre. The co-operation that occurred between the conservative and radical theatres suggests, metaphorically at least, that:

the wolf did live happily alongside the lamb,
the panther lay down with the kid,
calf and lion cub fed together
a little boy led them...
and they did no hurt, no harm. 28

I am now going to change tack slightly and refer briefly to a sociological study completed in 1991 by Eileen Pittaway, Refugee Women Still at Risk in Australia. 29 I think this work gives an analogical clue to the strange events and silences 30 that surrounded Perth's period of radical modernism, to that mystifying blurring of image and reality previously referred to by Tom Stannage, and I quote again:

In time the gap between image and rhetoric and the reality of people's lives would become so great that the image would be taken for the reality.

Pittaway surveys the torture and trauma inevitably suffered by refugee women. She works within the definitive boundaries of torture set out in a document by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1975:

An act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by, or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed, or intimidating him or other persons. (UNHCR 1975)

Torture is divided into three categories, medium, high and low wherein its defining characteristics are clarified. Some - and I stress that a number were absent - of the defining charactereristics of low level torture31 were present in the surveillance, interrogation and work losses experienced by members of the Workers' Art Guild. Happily, none of the secondery or high level characteristic features of torture were present as far as I can guage from secondery source evidence. However the sustained low-level trauma that was used suggests that co-erced compliance rather than free assent was operative.

Part of the process of recovery from trauma and reintegration may have made it very difficult, and perhaps unwise, for that trauma to be relived and perpetuated in the historical memory of a small community. This is a vexing question, because the silence allows the continuation of co-ercive power relations: the telling of what really occurred can either precipitate the level of trauma or torture imposed, or bring about a remedial resolution. The risk factor of either failure or higher levels of trauma being experienced before remedies are possible is very high. The general reluctance of refugees to "tell" would account for the reticence of those who knew the Workers' Art Guild period in Perth in the 1930s, inclusive of those who were subjected to coercive pressure to conform. This would also account for Terry Craig's claim that of all the people he interviewed about this period, both conservatives and radicals without exception, saw no conflict.

[They] were of the opinion that there was no sharpening of class divisions "and no real confict in Perth apart from the odd hiccough now and then - we were all in it together." Perth, they were quite adamant, was the secure, tolerant, confident and egalatarian society that Bolton and Hasluck suggest, with no more or no less difference of opinion than can be expected in a democratic society.32

Since writing the abstract for this paper I was most interested to see that Raymond Williams, in "The Politics of Modernism" - published posthumously in 1989 - refers to two distinct phases of modernism: the first a radical one, followed in many cases by a degutted phase, a period when the fire has left the belly and modernist forms are in fact stylistic shells devoid of connective links to social conditions and life issues and aspirations. The radical impulse of an avant-garde modernism in the second phase is overtaken by industry and commerce, and forged into a "new" commodity for easy packaging and smooth consumption.

Williams suggests that modernism is symptomatic of the breakdown of integrative communal organization:

The original innovations of Modernism were themselves a response to the complex consequences of a dominant social order, in which forms of imperial - political and corporate-economic power were simultaneously destroying traditional communities and creating new concentrations of real and symbolic power and capital in a few metropolitan centres.33

The documentation in "The Politics of Modernism" does not suggest that Williams had any knowledge at all of the two phases of modernism in Perth, Western Australia! Yet, in several respects, Perth modernism seems to be archetypal in its patterning with other 20th century modernisms.

The effect of these two phases, Williams goes on to argue, was that the radical impulses of early 20th century modernism were absorbed and realigned within the power structures and centres of Western capitalism. So harnessed, "a dual face of modernism evolved."

The second, later face was that which was analysed, packaged, and institutionalized by both multi-national sponsorships and an intellectual elite in museums and cultural centres. It was an homogenized modernism. 34

It is highly probable that the 2nd modernist phase in Perth flourished because, in the main, the subjects were of landscapes or people. There was no connective or collective ideological program, hence the objections that did arise were on the level of visual legibility and departure from "nature." Even though the style of the later modernism was more radical, perhaps with the exception of McClintock's surrealism, inflammatory associations and alliances were confined to the Workers' Art Guild modernism of the 1930s. Furthermore, the new "modern" painterly style of the 1950s - semi-abstract tending increasingy to abstract by the end of the decade - heralded a return to landscape imagery. Robert Juniper's painting between 1950 and 1957 was exceptional in that it broke abruptly with past landscape imagery and also with the re-interpretation of it in a contemporary idiom, as in much of Howard Taylor's and Guy Grey-Smith's work of these years. Juniper focussed on small groups of people, two or three in the main. Often they were engaged in some shared activity: attending the theatre; fishing or mending sails; drinking in the Palace Hotel; family groups or groups of native children simply being together. The private face of these images can, I think (without assuming to definitively interpret Juniper's work or intentions), be read in a way that Joe Skinner, co-owner of the Skinner Galleries, perceptively suggested not long before Juniper's death. In a short interview with Frank Devine in the Financial Review, 35 Joe Skinner recalled Juniper's pre-landscape imagery where he dreamed of a happy, enchanted, integrated world, a world where people and work were the subject of his free-floating imaginative fantasy. The private face of these images was not, then, too far removed from the basic impulse towards a similar romantic vision held two decades before by the Workers' Art Guild. But this was overlooked. As frequently occurs with Juniper's work, viewers are mesmorized by the sensuous, attractive colours, his technical dexterity and simplicity of subject. The deeper structure and direction of his work tends to be bypassed, perhaps because it is fragile and is expressed in dream-like, rather than strident images. His images, then, before his abstract period (1958-61), were exquisitely lyrical and winsome, depicting as they did ordinary people doing ordinary things. Little wonder that they were quickly and enthusiastically commended at both curatorial and popular levels. Neither is it surprising that his painting would, by 1962, become commodified to the point where the demand for his work through the Skinner Galleries exceeded the amount he could supply.

The second phase of Perth modernism coincided with the mushrooming of entrepreneurial galleries and marketing practices in Australia. These were a phenomenon of the mid-1950s to early 1960s and Rose Skinner was amongst the most brilliant dealers of them all. It was possible within her venue to be stylistically radical, but not ideologically radical, as Guy Grey-Smith was soon to learn. After 1962 he was excluded from the Skinner venue, because of ideas about artistic self-management which did not concur with those of Rose Skinner. The subject matter of Grey-Smith's work, predominantly landscape, was never a difficulty. Juniper had learned the difficulties of radicalism not only through John Lunghi, but through the traumatic experience of his young wife, Robin Juniper, who was asked to resign from the staff of The West Australian in 1957. She had written an article deploring the resignation of Laurie Thomas which claimed, in effect, that his resignation was a result of the crusty gentlemen on the Art Gallery Board getting it wrong once again. Although in my view the Thomas resignation has been over-simplified, 36 the effect nonetheless was that by the time Thomas resigned, Juniper's modernism was given a rare institutional imprimatur. He had also received an explicit and timely warning as to the possible effects of having any strong ideas or opinions in Perth.

The radical impulse of Brian McKay's early modernism, also a departure from the gum-tree tradition, was tried out in London, not Perth. To sum up it could be fairly claimed, I think, that the tough battles for modernism had been fought in the 1930s. By the time of Laurie Thomas' skirmish with the Board in the 1950s he had, to a fair extent (though at a high cost to himself) institutionalized modernism. This in turn facilitated the easier commodification of a second wave of modernism that in turn contributed to the re-instatement of more homogenized imagery. Though formally radical then, this second phase (before 1958) lacked the overt, deep structures that informed the early Perth modernists. It depended on the individual creative wellsprings of artists without the bonding of communal ideals, which for a short period at least, inspired and integrated the artistic production of the first phase.

University of Western Australia.


1. Although originally both sections were evenly weighted time constraints necessitated heavy editing. The title of the paper has therefore changed accordingly.

2. This debate is summarized in Jenny Gregory's Introduction to her edition of Western Australia between the Wars, 1919-39, Studies in Western Australian History XI, (Nedlands , WA: Centre for Western Australian History, Department of History, University of Western Australia, 1990).

3. Quoted from Henry Lawson, The Ballad of the Drover and other verses. first published Angus and Robertson 1918; this edition 1988, 31-32.

4. Quoted from Marion Halligan, Spider Cup (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin, 1990). (Assisted by the Literature Board of the Australia Council.)

5. David Bromfield, ed., Aspects of Perth Modernism 1930-1940 (Nedlands, WA: Centre for Fine Arts, University of Western Australia, 1986) 14.

6. For further information on Elise Blumann see David Bromfield, Exhibition Catalogue, "Elise Blumann: Paintings and Drawings 1918-84," Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, WA 1984 and Carolyn Polizzotto, Approaching Elise (Fremantle, WA: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1988).

7. This research is in Chapter 3 of my Ph.D thesis in process.

8. Skinner Gallery Archives, Perth.

9. See Janda Gooding "A Gallery for all?" in Jenny Gregory, 98-99. See also Alan Vizents, "The Hall of Mirrors: The Art Gallery of Western Australia 1950-70" in David Bromfield, ed., Essays on Art and Architecture in Western Australia. (Nedlands WA: Centre for Fine Arts, University of Western Australia, 1988) 62.

10. Janda Gooding. Western Australian Art and Artists 1900-1950. (Perth WA: The Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1987) 80.

11. Jenny Gregory, ed., Western Australia between the Wars, 1919-39, 108, 12.

12. Gregory, ed., requoted from page 10 (see original sources 15, footnote 76).

13. Tom (C.T.) Stannage. The People of Perth: A Social History of Western Australia's Capital City. Perth City Council, WA, 1979, 9.

14. Tom Stannage, Embellishing the Landscape: the Images of Amy Heap and Fred Flood 1920-1940 (Fremantle, WA: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1990).

15. Stannage, Embellishing the Landscape, 12-13.

16. Bromfield, ed., Aspects of Perth Modernism 1930-1940, 14, footnote 6.

17. David Mc Neill, Herbert McClintock, in David Bromfield, ed., Aspects of Perth Modernism 1929-40 (Nedlands WA: Centre for Fine Arts, University of Western Australia) 36.

18. Terry Craig, "Radical and Conservative Theatre in Perth," in Gregory, ed., 112.

19. Craig, in Gregory, ed., 108.

20. Julian Goddard, Harold Vike, Kingstream Fine Art Pty Ltd, 1990, 19.

21. Julian Goddard, "John Oldham" in David Bromfield, ed., Aspects of Perth Modernism, 1929-1942. Centre for Fine Arts, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, WA. 1986, 40-41.

22. Julian Goddard, "John Oldham," in Bromfield, ed.

23. Craig in Gregory, ed., 107-108.

24. Goddard, Harold Vike, 19.

25. Goddard, Harold Vike, 48.

26. Craig, in Gregory, ed., 116

27. Craig, in Gregory, ed., 116

28. Adapted from Isaiah, 11:1-10 (tense changed to past).

29. Eileen Pittaway, Refugee Women Still at Risk in Australia: A study of the first two years of re-settlement in the Sydney area, 1991.

30. The same power dynamics seem to be operative in families. Re traumatized incest victims and the tendency to detoxify bad memories so that they will not become "pernicious" see Louise do Salvo, Virginia Woolf: The impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work (Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1989) 125, 145, and on the forced "cover-up" situation of persons in dependent power positions, see page 151.

31. Pittaway, 26. Low level degrees of torture are defined as:

*. harassment, such as early morning house searches by the police or military
*. having their home "bugged" or mail opened
*. being denied the right to work
*. children being denied the right to attend school
*. having their goods and assets taken by the state.
*. having to leave the country without personal belongings
*. living in limbo in a country or camp of first refuge while waiting to hear if a third country will offer permanent residence
*. constant fear about the well-being of close relatives left behind
*. the inability to contact relatives left behind

32. Craig, in Gregory, ed., 113.

33. Raymond Williams, "The Politics of Modernism," 1989, 131.

34. Williams, "The Politics of Modernism."

35. Undated press clipping.

36. Alan Vizents, in Bromfield, ed., 62-66.

New: 7 January, 1997 | Now: 19 April, 2015