The red carpet

John (Cecil) BRACK: artist

Not On Display

About the work

For many years Brack was unable to give all his attention to painting, so he made a late start as a practising artist.

Born in Melbourne, he was a clerk after leaving school, attending only night classes for art training and in 1940 he enlisted in the army, serving in the A.I.F. for six years, effectually removed from any concentration on painting.

The army rehabilitation scheme gave him the opportunity to study full-time at the National Gallery Art School and he completed three years of this comprehensive training at the age of twentynine.

It was necessary for him to have a job and for some time he worked as an assistant in the Print Room at the Art Gallery but in 1952 he took up a post as Art Master at Melbourne Grammar School. As this job entailed two teaching days a week there was time for steady creative work and during his ten years the school he was able to hold a number of exhibitions and to give lectures Melbourne University and the Art Gallery. His output was slow compared with some others but restriction of time was never allowed to reduce his requirement of the highest standard.

In 1962 he was appointed Head of the National Gallery School, where he was noted for his administrative ability in improving and modernising the standard, and he held the position until 1968, when he relinquished it to devote his time to painting and printmaking.

Brack remained consistently independent of fashionable styles or movements in art and continued to paint, in his own intellectual way, his sardonic observations of humanistic problems. He was able to invest the commonplace with tension and translate the ordinary things of life into a painted surface where the control measures up to the psychological intensity. Every subject is approached with penetrating intelligence, unsentimental sympathy and his own unconventional integrity.

Unlike many contemporary artists, he pays thorough attention to his materials and applies his high standards of excellence to the technicalities of his paintings.

The contradiction of painting a seemingly realistic description which also yields an exaggeration of inherent characteristics and overtones of complexity is borne out by Brack's statement: 'It has always seemed to me that antinomy is the centre of the world. A painting must contain a reference to reality, and to unreality. A reference to balance and order and to disorder. All our narratives are complicated by the fact that partly they're rational, and partly irrational'.

The Red Carpet is immediately arresting because the subject has been viewed from such a high point to give an exaggerated perspective. It has been painted with meticulous precision and attention to every detail in a manner that becomes ultra-realistic, the relatively smooth quality of the paint surface contributing to this precision.

The figure of the girl is simplified to the extent of becoming rather inhuman, as though it should be considered only as part of the pattern. Attention is drawn to the light tones of the figure, and the angles of legs and feet point insistently to the carpet as the focal point.

In their exact placing all the shapes, floor edges, walls, chair legs and carpet, help to formulate a total balance, with unity being attained by all the elements receiving the same treatment of acute observation. This is intense introspection brought into visual statement by a vivid forceful emotion.

Ella Fry, Gallery Images, St George Books, Perth, 1984

Reference: Anthony Clarke, The Age, Melbourne, June 1983.
The red carpet
Artist/Maker and role
John (Cecil) BRACK: artist
oil on canvas
163.5 x 97.1 cm (sight)
169 x 102.5 x 5 cm [framed]
Credit line
Purchased 1972
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the paintings in our collection.