Important Australian + International Fine Art
30 November 2011


(1925 - 2006)

oil on canvas

121.0 x 167.0 cm

signed lower right: Coburn
titled, dated and inscribed verso: JOHN COBURN / “ISLAND IN THE SUN” (OIL) / 1989

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $24,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 23 - 30 November 2011, Melbourne

Commissioned directly from the artist
Private collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

Commissioned directly from the artist in 1989, Island in the Sun is a celebratory and vivacious painting which explores John Coburn's lifelong engagement with the subject of the garden, and by extension, the rainforest. From early examples such as Primordial Garden 1965-66, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Coburn's vital and dynamic treatment of the landscape has its source in the fecund terrain of north Queensland where he was raised. Drawing upon Coburn's recollection of the luscious colours and forms from his mother's garden, throughout his career Coburn was to revisit the subject of the garden as a site of exultation and resurrection.

Produced following a residency in Paris, Island in the Sun demonstrates a radical departure in Coburn's work. Partially concealed behind the central tree-form is the subtle outline of a figure whose presence maybe traced to the impression made on the artist by Tintoretto's creation paintings in Venice. Having now reached the height of his success, Coburn had begun to produce works which were informed by a creative freedom and authority. As noted by Lou Klepac, Coburn 'had now reached a stage in his development as a painter where all influences and experiences merged, enabling him to establish a new and more private rapport with his paintings. He had mastered the complexities of the creative process and was no longer dependent on the demands of a particular style.'1

Oft-stated was Coburn's desire, particularly with these later paintings, to make people feel rather than see. Island in the Sun, like its companion, Rainforest and Mountains 1987, impresses upon the viewer the closeness and hushed silence of the rainforest. Like the enormous philodendron leaves from the garden of his childhood, Island in the Sun overwhelms and encloses, vibrating with the passion and joy for which Coburn's work is so deservedly admired.

1. Klepac, L., John Coburn: The Spirit of Colour, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2003, p. 92