Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Scoop Homes and Art Winter 2012 Contents 206 HOMES & ART WINTER 2012
JANET HOLMES À COURT
ecently, a woman wrote to offer
Janet Holmes à Court a 1968
painting by WA artist Brian
McKay that her mother had
bought from the artist shortly after its
completion. It was not a typical McKay, the
result of a meeting with the English painter
Frances Bacon and an early flirtation with
his seductive figuration. However, once
confirmed by the artist that it was indeed
the only surviving work of that period –
in danger of being too influenced, he has
destroyed all the others – Janet bought it.
The story says much about her self-
described ‘compulsion’ to collect. McKay is
well represented in her collection and the
opportun ity to have a more comprehensive
holding of his work was too good to miss.
It also reflects the curatorial edge to her
collecting and her visionary ability to bring
works and artists together in the imaginary
museum in her head and in her concrete
gallery, once in East Perth, now in Margaret
River and on the walls of her home.
The McKay was immediately hung in her
home near a 1974 work by Howard Taylor,
not only because they have a common
palette, but also because the artists were
part of the loose collective of painters in
Perth in the early sixties and so their works
from a similar period would resonate nicely.
Although the primary motivation to acquire
is always based on one simple question (“Do
I like it?”), finding connections, developing
themes, identifying influence and building
a comprehensive picture of a favoured
artist’s practice are all important.
Recently she has bought works about
bushfires, not on ly because they pass the
‘do I like it’ test, but also, in her imaginary
museum, an exhibition is forming, with
Maureen Hudson’s Fire Dreaming and
Christine Gregory’s post Margaret River
bushfire paintings alongside other works
already in the collection and some likely
to be acquired. It is a long-term, visionary
approach that amplifies linkages, identifies
trace lines and opens up points of reference.
Looking at one of her favourite works,
a very late Lloyd Rees, she reflects on
how similar the breadth of mark and the
colouration are to late works by Emily Kame
Kngwarreye. In their last paintings both
made works that radiate light and energy.
Clearly another exhibition is forming in the
imaginary museum, possibly titled Last
Works – Encountering Light.
The collection Janet has built over the
past five decades is well known for its
Aboriginal art (not only works by Emily),
but its bedrock is an exhibition she and
her husband Robert saw in London in 1981:
they were so stunned by the works of the
artists from Papunya they bought the whole
show. Those paintings by Clifford Possum
Tjapaltjarri, Turkey Tolson and the other
great masters of the desert included in
the show – titled Mr Sandman, Bring me a
Dream – are now key works in the history
of Australian contemporary Aboriginal Art;
evidence of her remarkable perspicacity.
Along with the large holding of works by
Rover Thomas and Paddy Jaminji and the
collection of early batiks from Utopia, her
collection is now one of the major resources
for any discerning study of the field.
Janet Holmes à Court (inset)
curates her own collection not just
in a museum, but in her own home.
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