COMPOSITION IN BLUE, 1958

Important Australian + International Fine Art
Melbourne
24 April 2024
29

YVONNE AUDETTE

born 1930
COMPOSITION IN BLUE, 1958

oil on plywood

129.5 x 85.5 cm

signed and dated lower right: 58 Audette
signed, dated and inscribed with title verso: 1958 Composition / IN BLUE / Audette

Estimate: 
$80,000 – $100,000
Provenance

Private collection, Sydney, acquired directly from the artist c.1960
Thence by descent
Private collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

Even today, at the age of ninety-three, Yvonne Audette conveys the spark and curiosity of the young woman who painted this commanding work in 1958. Always one to chart her own course, Audette had travelled from her hometown of Sydney to New York in 1952 at the tender age of twenty-two, before leaving, three years later, for Europe. Having immersed herself in the riches of the burgeoning Abstract Expressionism movement and a city that was beginning to assert itself as a global art centre, she was on the hunt for something new. After a period of travel in Spain, France and Germany, she settled in Florence and later, Milan, commuting between the two cities to make work, and it is here, surrounded by the history and culture of life on the Continent, that she came to develop and refine her own unique language.

As Audette’s style and confidence grew, her abstractions freed themselves from the blocky, angular forms of her Constructions of 1955 – 57 – with their ‘muscular confidence’ and allusions to the glass and steel of the modern skyscraper1 – and by 1958 her work had emerged, as if from a chrysalis to the airy and more lyrical form of paintings such as Composition in Blue, 1958. The history of the artist’s new home and its ancient built environment is also evident in her shift to working on board at this time; the hardness of the wood providing a sense of resistance that is evident in the overlaid vertical and horizontal brushstrokes that effectively construct the painting. Working in direct contradistinction to the fashion for the ‘splash and daub’ approach of Action Painting, Audette placed her panels against the wall of her studio, where she could return to and work upon different compositions over an extended period. With its multiple layers and rubbing back to reveal the pentimenti2 of previous work, it is clear that Composition in Blue has been deliberated over and carefully constructed; its exquisite surface a result of mental rather than physical energy. In effect, the layers of intention, thought and labour that Audette crafted in Composition in Blue, echoed the layers of time and marks of occupation that she experienced in Italy: ‘the dry patinated surfaces, the crumbling textures, the light and colour of the art and architecture about her’.3 As she later recalled, ‘It was important to leave the ghost or the myth of the underlying form.’4

As a classically trained pianist who was especially appreciative of Bach5, music also greatly influenced Audette’s imagery across the years, especially the form of the cantata (from Italian cantare, ‘to sing’), which served as both title and loose framework for multiple works. With this in mind, the assertive lines of Composition in Blue can also be read as a kind of free-wheeling visual score; each calligraphic mark directing a range of voices which come together in an imaginary aural journey of harmony and discord. As our eyes roam the work’s surface, settling on clusters of considered, deliberate marks, we experience this journey visually, as we seemingly move in and out of space, registering the dominant strokes of blue, cream and chestnut as oscillating backwards and forwards or as places for potential pause. 

1. Heathcote, C., ‘Yvonne Audette: The Early Years’ in Heathcote, C. et al., Yvonne Audette: Paintings and Drawings 1949 – 2014, Macmillan Art Publishing, Melbourne, 2014, pp. 52 – 53
2. This expression was first used by Bruce Adams in Adams, B., ‘Walls and Ciphers: The Inscriptive Abstractions of Yvonne Audette’ in Ewington, J., Yvonne Audette: Abstract Paintings 1950s & 1960s, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1999, p. 9
3. Adams, B., ‘Yvonne Audette: The Later Years’ in Heathcote, C. et al., op. cit., p. 148
4. Audette, Y., interview with Bruce Adams, 13 November 1998 in Adams, B., ‘Walls and Ciphers: The Inscriptive Abstractions of Yvonne Audette’, op. cit.
5. Adams, B., ‘Walls and Ciphers: The Inscriptive Abstractions of Yvonne Audette’, op. cit.

KELLY GELLATLY