Part 1: Important Fine Art
28 November 2012


(1920 - 1999)

oil on canvas

107.0 x 61.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: John Brack 1989

$250,000 - 300,000
Sold for $366,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 27 - 28 November 2012, Melbourne

Private collection, Melbourne


John Brack: Recent Work, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, 14 October – 11 November 1989


Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. II, p. 40, cat. o308, p. 182 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Assembly, 1989 is an important forerunner to The Celebration of 1991 (private collection) using the same small wine table and organization of very tightly packed bright pencils teetering on its top. The stem of the table also links to The Club of 1989 (private collection) and there is a further link to the earlier still life The Fish Shop (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) painted in 1955, where a giant shark's head sits on top of a terrazzo block absorbing the majority of the picture plane.

The configuration of the table and the pencils is at once both a very dark and bright image set against a diffused grey ground. The stem of the table forms an image of a club, a primitive weapon of defense and attack. It also bears an obvious reference to the rocket ship and the outer-space nuclear capsule at 'blast off', therefore triggering an upward movement within the composition. However, the force of the pencils is downwards, all standing on arrow-like points, the table-top separating the two opposing forces. This upward and downward thrust creates significant energy and tension in the composition and this is compounded by the fact that the picture plane is so tightly organized.

Often Brack's pencil works are likened to battle scenes and opposing armies. However, The Assembly composed of unified and glittering multicoloured pencils is highly suggestive of a civilian gathering. The slanting orange front pencil starts a trail of different sequences of both colors and directions, with the glittering heads suggesting a community gathered together with the purpose of survival. There is a 'safety in numbers' mentality to the group, poised as they are on top of a precarious table where they barely fit. The cool grey-blue of the space behind the whole scene, which is really only a domestic interior, does allude to a sense of the greater cosmos, outer space and mankind's transience in the scheme of such a vast and infinite universe.1

1. Based on Helen Brack's notes on this painting, 2012