While in St Ives as a young artist after the war Bob Law earned his living as a shepherd and lived in a croft overlooking the sea. When not painting and drawing images based on an elevated almost map like perspective of the area he was whittling furniture from driftwood. The skill he acquired then lay dormant for 30 years while he concentrated on painting. In the early 1980s he returned to the furniture but this time as a form of sculpture.
The painting 'Blue black indigo black' in the Gallery's collection, dates from the mid 1970s when Law was concerned with imaging the void by making black paintings with extraordinary depths in which layers of blue and indigo reward the close observer as the apparently black field dissolves into veils of transparent space. He called some of them 'Nothing to be afraid of'; an ironic reference to an earlier series called 'Who is afraid of Barnet Newman' but he also described them as fields for contemplation. These paintings are at once nothing and a portal to infinity.
The sculptures based on a shepherd's pastime mostly reflect upon that other carpenter in Nazareth. There was 'Christ chair in ultramarine', a sly reference to Klein here but also a continuation of a long visual tradition where the empty chair denotes the absent owner. 'The Last supper' includes a Christ Chair in which the back is made in the shape of a cross under a roof denoting Christ as the church. Judas is the broken chair while the others are all the same solid square chairs.
In a way this can be thought of as a form of iconoclasm the figures are not portrayed directly only symbolically identified but it so strongly sets the scene that the viewer automatically completes the image in their imagination. In this way we all get the last supper of our own imagining.
19.0 x 107.0 x 30.0 cm overall approx. :
a - Christ's chair; 10 x 81.3 x 20.4 cm; each chair
b - Christ's chair; 18.5 x 8.4 x 8.9 cm
c-n - 12 chairs; 15.3 x 8.1 x 8.3 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
© Estate of Bob Law
Shown in 1 exhibition
The British show:
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 19 Feb 1985–24 Mar 1985
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 23 Apr 1985–09 Jun 1985
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 05 Jul 1985–11 Aug 1985
- Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, Melbourne 26 Sep 1985–05 Nov 1985
- National Art Gallery, Wellington, Wellington 05 Dec 1985–26 Jan 1986
Referenced in 4 publications
Anthony Bond, Bob Law, 'Recalling Bob Law', pg.218-224, London, 2009, 170-71 (colour illus.), 222, 223 (colour illus.), 224.
Michael Desmond, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Abstraction', pg.16-59, Sydney, 2006, 42 (colour illus.).
The British show, Sydney, 1985, 91 (colour illus.), 91-93.
Bob Law, Newlyn, 1999, 19 (colour illus.).