We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Syncopation no 5



Peter Upward


29 Sep 1932 – Nov 1983

  • Details

    Other Title
    Place where the work was made
    Sydney New South Wales Australia
    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on hardboard
    95.0 x 215.0 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated l.l., black oil "Upward 59".

    Mollie and Jim Gowing Bequest Fund 2013
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Peter Upward

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Peter Upward

    Works in the collection


  • About

    'Everything is done in one movement … with musical impulse, the same musical impulse as musicians when they improvise. My paintings are a series of chords and notes'.
    Peter Upward 1972

    Peter Upward's interest in jazz, especially bebop, is encapsulated in the colour and gestures of his 1959 painting 'Syncopation no 5'. Syncopation, a musical term applied to a steady backbeat overlaid with an irregular rhythmic melody and/or harmony, has been adopted and employed by the artist in his lively application of oil onto canvas. It is one of a series of works that Upward created during the late 1950s and early 1960s (including the Gallery's '(Abstract)' and 'Surry Hills Green') which were influenced by the progressive cultural ideas of Sydney and its artists, writers and musicians. With a tertiary, earthy palette and large, expressive yet controlled brushwork, 'Syncopation no 5' is also lyrically resonant of the Australian landscape.

    'Syncopation no 5' firmly establishes Upward's reputation as a highly original and underrated figure in the history of Australian painting. While the artist's work is often categorised as 'abstract expressionist', it should be noted that his practice was influenced by a number of varied and unique sources; besides music these included reproductions in international books and journals, his readings on Zen spirituality (particularly the book Studies in Zen by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki) as well as Chinese and Japanese calligraphy.

    Peter Upward was born in Melbourne in 1932 and spent much of his childhood at Warrandye, attending an alternative school where he was briefly taught by Danila Vassilieff. He commenced studies in art at Melbourne Technical College in 1951 but soon left for Sydney, where he studied at the Julian Ashton Art School under John Passmore, who encouraged his interest in abstraction. After returning to Melbourne, Upward began making regular trips to Sydney from 1959 and rapidly became immersed in the bohemian culture of Kings Cross. He later established a studio in Brougham Street, Woolloomooloo, and in 1961 co-founded the Sydney 9 group with fellow abstractionists John Olsen, Clement Meadmore and Stanislaus Rapotec.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

Other works by Peter Upward

See all 15 works