Sydney Ball (b. 1933)


Sydney Ball was one of the trail blazers of colour-painting in Australia. He studied under Theodore Stamos at the Art Students League, New York in 1963 and through Stamos came into contact with members of the New York School including Rothko, de Kooning, Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Lee.Krasner. During this time he saw works by Hans Hofmann, Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland whose large canvases and strong colour influenced his work. His first colour abstract paintings named the "Band" Series were exhibited at the Westerly Gallery uptown 57th St, New York in April 1964. They were of vertical lines of oil colour on canvas, these bands of colour later in 1964 were housed in a circle within a square and were the beginning of the "Canto" Series. Using the theme based on Ezra Pound's poems of the same title, the circle was used as another vehicle to contain colour and as a mandala symbol of infinity reflecting Ball's interest in Eastern philosophy and in particular his Zen beliefs.
Returning to Australia in 1965, Ball continued with the Canto paintings and an exhibition of these works followed at The Museum of Modern Art, organised by the Director, John Reed. Success of this series soon followed and after several exhibition's of the Canto's the Persian Series were begun, the curved bands of the works loosely emphasized Islamic Architecture, as well as the architectural decoration of Persian Miniatures. This group of paintings paraphrasing Islamic architectural motifs into rhythmically decorative bands of colour were a reductive "hard edge" process that allowed for the inner and outer spaces to become more "focal" as images and not merely as flat grounds supporting an image. Victoria Lynn in her introduction to a survey of Ball's prints 1964-1988, "A Jubilant Light", writes of the Persian series of prints: "Ball pushed the border decoration of eastern art into the centre stage as it were. What once framed a narrative became the compelling subject of the print, emptied of its history." (Sydney Ball, June 1997)

Patrick McCaughey, 'Sydney Ball and the Sixties', Art and Australia, vol.7 No 4, 1970;
Victoria Lynn, Sydney Ball: A Jubilant Light, Wollongong Art Gallery, 1989;
Swingtime - East Coast, West Coast Works from the 1960s-70s, The University of Western Australia, Exhibition Catalogue. 1997.