John Coburn 1925-2006, Curtain of the sun, Sydney Opera House

Artist: John Coburn 1925-2006   Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Australia
Title: Curtain of the sun, Sydney Opera House  
Date: 1973   EMu user since 2009
Medium: colour screenprint    

John Coburn 1925-2006, Curtain of the sun, Sydney Opera HouseJohn Coburn completed his gouache designs for the stage curtains of the opera and drama theatres of the Sydney Opera House in early 1969. Both closely interrelated tapestries Curtain of the sun and Curtain of the moon were woven at the celebrated workshops of Pinton Freres in Aubusson, France during 1970-71. The commission was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by Coburn and resulted in the creation of arguably the finest set of tapestries produced by an Australian artist.

The designs for the curtains were subsequently developed into prints, a medium in which Coburn’s achievements have been largely overlooked (his wife Barbara was also an accomplished printmaker).

Curtain of the sun and its companion curtain are highly characteristic of Coburn’s essentially decorative, stylised expression. Their sources can be traced to such disparate influences as the Australian landscape, his religious beliefs and an interest in ancient mythology.

Coburn’s highly emblematic forms are imbued with a quiet spiritualism and an organic vitality. Their condensed symbolism alludes to the transcendental mysteries of nature as the means of defining human existence.

The motif of the sun as the source of life and energy is a vital and constant theme in his work. It has become both cipher and monogram, a potent symbol of the artist’s continuing pursuit of ideas embodied in a universal logic.

Acknowledgements: QUT Art Collection / Purchased 1974