Important Australian + International Fine Art
25 November 2009

Peter Booth

born 1940

oil on canvas

112.0 x 81.0 cm

signed and dated verso: BOOTH 2004

$80,000 - 120,000
Sold for $96,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 12 - 25 November 2009, Melbourne

Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
Laurence Fuller, London


Peter Booth, Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney, 21 June – 16 July 2005

This work was the subject and inspiration for the Trilby Beresford Film, Possession(s), directed by Jim Lounsbury and starring Max Cullen, Laurence Fuller and Asher Keddie.

For further information and to view film trailer visit:

Catalogue text

In the arena of Australian art, Peter Booth is a giant. One of the few Australian artists represented in the three major New York collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, Booth is widely considered to be the most important contemporary artist working in Australia today.

In a career that has included representing Australia at the Venice Biennale (1982), inclusion in all important surveys of Australian 20th century art such as; Creating Australia: 200 years of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia; Federation: Australian art and society 1901-2001, National Gallery of Australia; and culminating in the major 2003 retrospective exhibition, Peter Booth: human/nature, National Gallery of Victoria, Peter Booth has contributed enormously to the rich visual culture of Australia.

From his early, dark, minimalist abstractions with which he gained initial notoriety in the groundbreaking 1968 exhibition The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria, through to his more recent figurative expressions, Booth creates powerful, challenging and ultimately incredibly desirable images which are keenly sought and tightly held by collectors and major institutions.

The strength and power of Painting, 2004 (Man with Bandaged Head), the work on offer, is palpable. But like so many of Booth's images, formulated over years of development, the strength lies not so much in the initial 'shock', but with the ensuing waves of other possible readings it evokes. These possibilities are further expanded by this particular figure's appearance in earlier works, notably in the foreground of the major work in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Painting 1981, a work which has been exhibited widely in important museum exhibitions in Australia, London and Venice.1

The tension between our first confrontation with the bandaged figure and the subsequent sensations of pathos for, even some recognition of sensitivity within, the character makes this such a successful work. And as we look upon the painting, venturing into the space behind the bandages, the focus of the work internalises: in reading the mind of the figure we are offered a portal to see within ourselves.

This notion of the mirror to one's soul, with themes of the nature of power and frailty, desire and control, so deftly captured within Painting, 2004 (Man with Bandaged Head), adds a further dimension to the history of this particular painting. Following its original acquisition at Booth's 2005 solo exhibition at Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney, the picture became the 'main character' of the 2009 Trilby Beresford short film, Possession(s).

It was more the effect that this painting had on its owner, the actor Laurence Fuller and indeed the director, Jim Lounsbury, which inspired the film. Possession(s) investigates the power of desire, blind attraction and the will to possess. As Jim Lounsbury explains, 'When I first saw the painting on which this short film was based, I was consumed by a range of emotions. It was visceral. Peter Booth had affected me at a deep level and I knew that if there was any way to convey the desire to possess something so moving... to capture the necessity of interacting with art, and how that human need can be perverted and become all consuming... If I could capture a small sliver of that feeling, I knew I could create a moving piece of art. From that original inspiration, Laurence and I wanted to make a film centred in the world of art, with the emotional taste of obsession as a backdrop.'2

1. Painting 1981, 197.5 x 304.0 cm, Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales, illus in Smith, J., Peter Booth: human/nature, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, cat. 28, p. 67
2. Lounsbury, J., Director's statement for Possession(s), Grace Productions, 2009