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Australian art

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Arbitrary trisection with figtrees and later enthusiastic additions

circa 1964-circa 1965


Mike Brown


08 May 1938 - 09 Apr 1997


'Arbitrary trisection with figtrees and later enthusiastic additions' 1964-65 was shown at Mike Brown's solo exhibition 'Paintin' a-go-go!' at Gallery A in Sydney in 1965. It was infamously shut down by Detective Frank 'Bumper' Farrell and members of the Vice Squad over public complaints of indecency. Brown had fearlessly set out to shock, amuse and offend the art establishment and supposed 'art lovers', in works that were intentionally obscene and absurd. To this end, Brown drew attention to what he perceived to be a commercialised and conservative art world in Sydney during the 1960s.

Brown's colourful and outrageous marriage of text and imagery disregarded aesthetic conventions, his psychedelic pop art style defying the po-faced and dominant abstraction of the time. Although tame compared to the content of the other paintings displayed, 'Arbitrary' was later used in court as evidence during Brown's trial under the Obscene and Indecent Publications Act of 1901. Brown was acquitted, however, the censorship and prosecution signalled a low point in Australian art, which prompted the artist to leave the city.



circa 1964-circa 1965

Media category


Materials used

synthetic polymer paint on hardboard


122.0 x 122.0 cm board

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. corner, green synthetic polymer paint ".../ Mike Brown/ 1964-5".


Gift of Noel Hutchison in memory of Katherine Hutchison 2015


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mike Brown

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • Paintin' a-go-go!, Gallery A (Sydney), Paddington, 12 Nov 1965–24 Nov 1965

  • Pop to popism, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Nov 2014–01 Mar 2015

Referenced in 1 publication


Wayne Tunnicliffe, Pop to popism, "'The easel did not go pop: it went bang!'", pg. 137-186, Sydney, 2014, 155 (colour illus.), 301, 323.