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Margaret Early, AutumnTitle

In storage

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia



Winner Calleen Award 1982

Accession number

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

Margaret Early was born in 1951 in the New England region of New South Wales. She received a BA from the University of Sydney (1972); a diploma from the Shillito School of Design, Sydney and a Postgraduate Diploma from the prestigious St Martin’s School of Art in London. She has an extensive exhibition history dating from the mid-1970s and has shown regularly with Sydney’s Robin Gibson Gallery since 1999. As well as being an artist she is a highly acclaimed children’s book author. She lived in Mosman in Sydney when she submitted her winning work.

Autumn was one of only three gouaches (the other 2 were also by her) in the predominately oil-based entries (37 from 56 total) of that year. Landscape again proved to be the most popular theme and here too Early stood apart from the majority. Autumn is a relatively small work (69.5 x 50 cm) and while its title implies some landscape connection the real subject of the painting is the beautifully patterned surface on which sits a selection of leaves. While the pattern is ostensibly the background its carefully controlled yet visually frenetic activity places it clearly as the area with which the artist is most concerned. The black and blue components read as a tiled floor. References to images of late Mediaeval and Renaissance interiors provide a rich source and Early is able to capitalise on her knowledge of these to produce a pictorially dramatic work. The floor is not flat but rather a series of horizontal layers united by the overall patterning. The slight tonal variations in blue between each layer imbue movement in and out of the picture plane. This is cleverly contrasted with the lateral thrusts of each layer pushing across the spatial configuration. The leaves are scattered not just over the surface but also through it producing a dialogue between the abstract and the real, the geometric with the organic. This is a visually rich painting, layered both pictorially and conceptually.