The National Gallery of Victoria’s inaugural exhibition at its new premises on St Kilda Road in 1968 was The Field, the first comprehensive display of colour field painting and abstract sculpture in Australia. Regarded as a landmark exhibition in Australian art history, The Field was a radical presentation of 74 works by 40 artists who practised hard-edge, geometric, colour and flat abstraction, many of which were influenced by American stylistic tendencies of the time. With its silver foil–covered walls and geometric light fittings, The Field opened to much controversy and helped launch the careers of a generation of Australian artists, including Sydney Ball, Peter Booth, Janet Dawson and Robert Jacks. Eighteen of the exhibiting artists were under the age of thirty, with Robert Hunter the youngest at twenty-one years of age.
Ian Burn’s two works from The Field, Two glass/Mirror piece and Four glass/Mirror piece, are completed with an accompanying book of notes and diagrams exhibited next to their respective mirror. The notes describe the mirror’s physical, perceptual and conceptual properties. In keeping with John Stringer’s curatorial decision not to include these in The Field, here the books are also absent. Burn requested that the books be duplicated and ‘placed with the catalogue on a desk, or some such place’. Stringer reproduced the notes, and made them available on request. To honour Burn’s wishes in 1968, we have made available a facsimile of the Four piece/Mirror piece notes.
The Field curators John Stringer and Brian Finemore initially approached art critics Patrick McCaughey, Elwyn Lynn and Ross Lansell to write for the 1968 catalogue. An essay by Lansell was submitted to the NGV for editing, however, it was not published and instead replaced with an essay by Royston Harpur. Click below to read Ross Lansell’s unpublished essay.