Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2013


(1921 - 2013)

oil on canvas-board

30.0 x 40.0 cm

signed upper right: JEFFREY SMART

$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $78,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 30 - 28 August 2013, Sydney

South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 2 May 2000, lot 80
Private collection, Sydney


Jeffrey Smart, South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne, 15 August 1975, cat. 13


Quartermaine, P., Jeffrey Smart, Gryphon Books Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1983, cat. 648

Catalogue text

From the very beginning, Jeffery Smart's work revealed an eye for the unusual found in the everyday. This could not be more apparent than in Storage Tank, 1975 where the prosaic has been transformed into a visual essay of tantalizing appeal, cheeky, with touches of the poetic and the terrifying. If notions of science fiction intrigue, then the curious imagery and latticework clouds will fascinate. And 'PEPSI', with its Ying and Yang logo, adds to the visual wit, so characteristic of Smart's art. He once said,'The truth is I put figures in mainly for scale, the way Corbusier always drew a figure beside his buildings'.1 He then made the cautionary addition, 'You have to be very careful because as soon as you put a figure in a painting the viewer's eye goes straight to it, like a magnet'. It certainly does so in Storage Tank, even if it is not'too interesting ... never beautiful or sexy'. The purpose of scale is unquestioned, but what could be more miniscule than the figure on the apartment balcony, and why? Scale is only part of the tale. While Smart readily explained the mechanics of his paintings, he inferred or disguised his ideas, their meaning or narrative in multiple ways.

The storage tank is bloated and bulbous in proportion. Allied to the PEPSI logo, it dominates the human being almost to the extent of extinction. Does cola rule the world? While the line of apartments to the right acts as a compositional wall to contain the recession, even they are small fry against the tank. Its tremendous presence, in turn looking like a submarine landed in our midst, raises other notions of being submerged - by consumerism, in soft drink? Smart espoused his creed in the words,'The subject matter is only the hinge that opens the door, the hook on which one hangs the coat. My only concern is putting the right shapes in the right colours in the right places.'2 'It is' he added,'always the geometry'. That is but half the story, for shapes and colours and right places tell tales, as they do so well in Storage Tank. Smart's compositions offer brilliant essays in balance, disturbing dominance notwithstanding. Intentionally, he made the tank so big that it sits uncomfortably within the composition. As seen, so felt.

1. Capon, E., et al., Jeffrey Smart Retrospective, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1999, p. 92
2. Quoted in McGrath, S., 'Jeffrey Smart', Art and Australia, vol. 7, no. 1, June 1969, p. 34