19 Dec 1909 - 15 May 1977
Carl Plate was educated at East Sydney Technical College in the early 1930s before travelling in Europe, the United Kingdom and America from 1935. His time abroad expanded his appreciation of international modernism and propelled the cosmopolitan outlook on life and art that were to have a significant influence on his subsequent work in Sydney.
Plate returned to Sydney in 1940 and established himself as an advocate for modern art through his work as an artist and association with the Contemporary Art Society, as well as his management of the Notanda Gallery in Rowe Street. The Notanda Gallery had been established in 1936 by Plate’s sister, the sculptor Margo Lewers on Bauhaus principles as a centre for design, and re-fashioned by Plate as a gallery for Australian and international modern art.
During the 1950s, Plate’s own painting practice was not stylistically consistent. He oscillated between figurative components to deeper explorations of abstraction in his work as he attempted to “crystalize …an abstract feeling that something exists beyond material evidence – to make visual the non-visual.”
Cocoon is a good example of Plate’s early abstraction, and forms part of a body of work where he drew on animal and insect subjects to create compositions of modernist fracturing. There are certain affinities between the web-like geometric construction of this painting and works by a broader group of Australian contemporaries, including Margo Lewers and Frank and Margel Hinder, William Rose and Clement Meadmore. Their works share with Plate’s a sense of tension, energy and dynamic unity that were drawn from their exploration of the movements of the modern world.
oil on Swedish board
48.3 x 64.3 cm
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. "Carl Plate ‘56"
Australian Collection Benefactors’ Fund 2018
Not on display
© Estate of Carl Plate