Arthur BOYD
Australia, 1920-1999
worked England, Italy, and Australia, from 1959

Skier on a starry night, 1986
oil on canvas
154.0 x 123.0 cm
inscribed lower right: Arthur Boyd

Arthur Boyd: the Bundanon Paintings, Von Bertouch Galleries, Newcastle, 19 September – 12 October 1986

Boyd’s landscapes seldom include any evidence of modern technology. They are places of refuge, of peace and quiet, set apart from the everyday world. As such they are often imbued with a mysterious quality and a power of timelessness. Man has made few if any marks on the landscape he depicts.

Bundanon, and the Shoalhaven landscape, represented for Boyd, a refuge from the everyday and the impact of the modern world on his life. However, this is an unrealistic ideal. In Skier on a starry night, the banks of the Shoalhaven are depicted in night shadow, dark, rich colours reflected in the water. This band of bush and its reflection wedged between a brilliant starry night with the sky and stars reflected in the stillness of the river. Into this peaceful night time scene comes a bright green speed boat pulling a water-skier, its jarring colour at odds with the otherwise subdued colour scheme. You can almost hear the roar of the motor and the rush of the skier dragged over the still water amidst the quiet of the starry night. Perhaps even the shouts of pleasure and encouragement of skier and those in the boat. It is a violent disruption of a peaceful landscape, and one which Boyd found disturbing.

In his last great series of paintings, huge Shoalhaven landscapes painted in the mid-1980s, the river becomes the pleasure ground of sunburnt bathers, frequently depicted copulating on the sand. They are joined by some of Boyd’s more disturbing imagery from his early 1940s paintings, including Peter the muzzled dog, and a scapegoat. The Shoalhaven landscape they depict is apocalyptic. In Skier on a starry night the peace of Boyd’s night time landscape has only just been disrupted. It is a small sign of the changing world.

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