- Excellence Award 2009
- Nursing Rocks 2009-10
- I'd Rather Be (picture book) 2008
- The Learning Circles 2008
- Toddler Totem Trails 2007
- From Dreamtime to Sorrytime 2008
- River of Reflections 2007
- Nativity Scene 2006
- Sun Canticle II 2006
- Primordial Garden II 2006
- Paradise Garden II 2006
- Parkland Petals 2006
- Foyer Piece - Woodlands Van Park 2006
- The Welcome Wall 2005
- Well Travelled Trunks 2004
- Mosaic Tables JCU Campus 2002
- McCoral Reef Mural 2002
- McCoral Reef Play Area 2002
- Sample Ashton 2D works
- Ashton art works 3D
- Comments welcome
Sun Canticle II - Mosaic Tribute to John Coburn 2006
In 2006, with John Coburn and his wife Doreen's consent and support, JCU adapted three of John's iconic designs for mosaic works. Sun Canticle II was installed in Federation Place and fondly renamed by owners of the heritage building, Sharyn and Tony Denyer, Coburn on Sturt.
Mosaic Tribute by JCU
John Coburn info and JCU connection
The idea to make large public art tribute pieces to honour one of Australia’s most significant living artists, John Coburn was an idea simmering for some time. As an undergraduate, Dr. Linda Ashton studied this Australian artist’s prolific works and held an affinity for the tropical colours and organic shapes which echoed their common N.Q. origins. While he has worked with varied media, it seems Coburn’s art had never been transformed into large mosaic - at least not with the artist’s permission. The suitability of his repeated energetic shapes and separated colour-based designs makes them ideal for mosaic - in an enduring public art medium. So too, his designs with their enclosed, defined shapes and clear outlines are brilliant for digital paint experiments using Adobe photoshop technology. Coburn would have had endless fun if the technology had been available in his active art making years. In 2006, under Dr. Ashton’s guidance, students in the School of Education have been fortunate to study Coburn designs and learned how to re-create his style using computer image manipulation software.
Australian artist John Coburn is celebrated for his distinctive style of abstraction. Depicting the beauty of nature and the spirituality of land, Coburn has refined a subtle yet powerful symbolic language in the form of large-scale paintings, tapestries and vivid screen prints. While he has won national awards for some religious works, many others are a celebration of creation rather than overtly religious in intent. Young John Coburn lived in Halifax where his mother owned a clothing shop and kept a colourful tropical garden. John attended Halifax primary School and then All Souls’ Boarding School in Charters Towers for high schooling until he was 14. In 1938 John attended a national scout jamboree in Sydney- a trip that was to change his life. It was the year Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened and the city’s galleries and celebrations were at a post WW1 peak. John saw his first Drysdale painting and knew what he wanted to be. He returned home he began work in Innisfail as a bank teller until he was 17. On a trip to Townsville he bought his first set of oil paints and though already a prolific drawer he became addicted to colour. At age 17, John began his WWII service in the navy where he learned morse code in English and Japanese, in a matter of months. After the war he remained in naval service, travelling the Qld coast on a supply barge, visiting many coastal islands, Torres Strait & New Guinea. Here his colour palette exploded. An aptitude test on exiting the navy suggested he would not be suited to the life of an artist and should continue bank work or, at best, become a stone mason. John returned to Sydney and became a successful painter, and for two years, was Head of the National Art School.
The art of John Coburn is a brilliant blend of balance, discipline, and complex simplicity. Colour, shape, repetition and contrast are used to create stylised works of precision, and, most importantly, harmony. Writers often refer to his symphony of colour, monolithic organic shapes, intentionally selective palette. the lush tropical landscape and garden memories of his childhood in N.Qld. His works are arrangements of highly refined and sometimes glowing shapes and have been described as luscious, evocative, essentially natural or organic depictions of love and respect for environment. In 1991 James Cook University conferred the artist with an honourary Doctorate.
Tapestries of the Moon and Sun were adapted for summer and winter curtains in the main performance hall of the Sydney Opera House.
In one interview John said ... “Appearances are distracting. What you feel about a thing or a person is important, not what it looks like, I don’t want to teach people to see. I want them to feel. I like my shapes to be ambiguous - deliberately ambiguous. I usually begin with lots of drawings. Then colour. What is colour? Colour … even when we cannot see it, is everything. It is life.” (Coburn interview excerpt).
Making direct contact with the artist and his wife Doreen, has been an exciting and productive step for all concerned. We thank John and Doreen for their enthusiasm for these tribute pieces and for willingly giving us permission to reproduce and adapt his original designs in the various experimental and final products which have emerged. The intent always was however, to honour the unique style of John Coburn and to produce lasting tributes to him. Two of his designs, in 2006, are in their fortieth anniversary year.John
Coburn was a gentle and humble man who has devoted his life to painting and art education and who is acknowledged as one of Australia’s greatest contemporary artists. We are privileged to honour him in 2006 as a special North Queenslander whose works serve astangible guardians of the landscape with a strong environmentalist conscience. Coburn’s art appears to have achieved the rare quality of being eternally contemporary.
For further information contact
Dr. Linda Ashton 0419713242