An image of Syncopation no 5

Peter Upward

(Australia 29 Sep 1932 – Nov 1983)

Syncopation no 5

Other titles:
Syncopation
Location
20th & 21st c Australian art
Further information

'Everything is done in one movement … with musical impulse, the same musical impulse as musicians when they improvise. My paintings are a series of chords and notes'.
Peter Upward 1972

Peter Upward's interest in jazz, especially bebop, is encapsulated in the colour and gestures of his 1959 painting 'Syncopation no 5'. Syncopation, a musical term applied to a steady backbeat overlaid with an irregular rhythmic melody and/or harmony, has been adopted and employed by the artist in his lively application of oil onto canvas. It is one of a series of works that Upward created during the late 1950s and early 1960s (including the Gallery's '(Abstract)' and 'Surry Hills Green') which were influenced by the progressive cultural ideas of Sydney and its artists, writers and musicians. With a tertiary, earthy palette and large, expressive yet controlled brushwork, 'Syncopation no 5' is also lyrically resonant of the Australian landscape.

'Syncopation no 5' firmly establishes Upward's reputation as a highly original and underrated figure in the history of Australian painting. While the artist's work is often categorised as 'abstract expressionist', it should be noted that his practice was influenced by a number of varied and unique sources; besides music these included reproductions in international books and journals, his readings on Zen spirituality (particularly the book Studies in Zen by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki) as well as Chinese and Japanese calligraphy.

Peter Upward was born in Melbourne in 1932 and spent much of his childhood at Warrandye, attending an alternative school where he was briefly taught by Danila Vassilieff. He commenced studies in art at Melbourne Technical College in 1951 but soon left for Sydney, where he studied at the Julian Ashton Art School under John Passmore, who encouraged his interest in abstraction. After returning to Melbourne, Upward began making regular trips to Sydney from 1959 and rapidly became immersed in the bohemian culture of Kings Cross. He later established a studio in Brougham Street, Woolloomooloo, and in 1961 co-founded the Sydney 9 group with fellow abstractionists John Olsen, Clement Meadmore and Stanislaus Rapotec.

Place of origin
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Year
1959
Media
Painting
Medium
oil on board
Dimensions
95.0 x 215.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l., black oil "Upward 59".
Credit
Mollie and Jim Gowing Bequest Fund 2013
Accession number
163.2013
Copyright
© Estate of the artist