It was in the middle of the 1950s that Passmore began to move from the figurative motifs that had previously occupied him into wholly abstract forms. His participation in the landmark exhibition 'Direction I', held in Sydney in 1956 and which included works by John Olsen, William Rose, Eric Smith and Robert Klippel - all past students of Passmore - heralded his commitment to 'the act of painting as a form of meditation in itself'. Speaking many years later about Olsen, Passmore said:
"Olsen was tenacious and a very good thinker ... he said a totally new way of seeing things had taken over ... it's got a completely new lot of rules now ... you are not looking at nature at all. You are looking at a theory about painting. What one does is a painting. It is not nature at all. He seized on that ... I had my old way and Olsen's new way, and for a while they did get mixed up with one another."
Reviewing Passmore's exhibition at Terry Clune gallery, where 'Red ochre' was first shown, in March 1960 shortly before his departure for Europe, James Gleeson wrote:
"... there is a kind of apprehension in his work. He paints as though all his senses were extended to their fullest range of receptivity in an effort to understand the reasons for this apprehension. Vulnerability has given him an extraordinary sensitivity and has made him into one of the most important painters this country has yet produced."
Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000
oil on hardboard
107.0 x 122.0 cm
Signature & date
Signed l.r., oil "JP". Not dated.
A.H. Smith Bequest Fund 1960
Not on display
© John Passmore Museum of Art
Where the work was made
Shown in 9 exhibitions
Farewell Exhibition of Old and New Works by John Passmore (1960), Clune Galleries, Sydney, Mar 1960 -
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Mar 1961–23 Apr 1961
Recent Australian Painting:
Australian landscape painting 1837-1964, National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Melbourne, 29 Oct 1964–19 Dec 1964
The Australian Landscape (1972-73):
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 03 Mar 1972–03 Apr 1972
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 04 May 1972–04 Jun 1972
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 04 Jul 1972–04 Aug 1972
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 05 Sep 1972–01 Oct 1972
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 14 Nov 1972–17 Dec 1972
- Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle 17 Jan 1973–11 Feb 1973
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 01 Mar 1973–01 Apr 1973
John Passmore Retrospective (1984-1985), Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, 12 Jul 1985–18 Aug 1985
New Directions 1952-1962, Lewers Bequest and Penrith Regional Art Gallery, Emu Plains, 08 Feb 1991–24 Mar 1991
I had a dream: Australian Art in the 1960's, National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne, 25 Apr 1997–16 Jun 1997
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Referenced in 15 publications
Christine France, New Directions 1952-1962, 'New directions 1952-1962', pg. 7-19, Sydney, 1991, 26 (colour illus.), 44. cat.no. 70
Kym Bonython and Elwyn Lynn, Modern Australian Painting, 1970/1975, Unknown, 1976, 71 (colour illus.).
Elwyn Lynn., The Weekend Australian, 'Retrospective puts Passmore in order', Sydney, 29 Dec 1984-30 Dec 1984, page unknown.
Kym Bonython, Ross K Luck, Laurie Thomas and Elwyn Lynn, Modern Australian painting, 1950/1975, Adelaide, 1980, 71 (colour illus.).
Unknown, Ian North and Daniel Thomas, Australian landscape 1802-1975, 'The Australian Landscape', Adelaide, 1972. cat.no. 47
Ian North., Special exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia: Seventh Adelaide Festival of Arts 1972, 'The Australian Landscape', Adelaide, 1972. cat.no. 46
Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 243 (colour illus.), 301.
Simon Pierse, Art and Australia (Vol. 42, No. 2), 'Recent Australian painting: Australian artists in London in 1961', pg. 226-235, Sydney, Dec 2004-Feb 2005, 235 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce, John Passmore 1904-84, Sydney, 1984, 18, 78 (colour illus.). cat.no. 51
Jennifer Phipps (Editor), I had a dream: Australian art in the 1960s, Melbourne, 1997.
Art Gallery of South Australia, The Australian landscape, Adelaide, 1972. cat.no. 47
Modern Australian painting, 1960/1970, Adelaide, 1970, 33 (colour illus.). colour plate no. 31
Author Unknown, "You beaut country": Australian landscape painting 1837-1964, Melbourne, 1964. cat.no. 43
Unknown, Australian Painting Today, London, 1963, 75 (colour illus.).
The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 09 Mar 1960. NOTE: incorrectly titled 'Yellow Ochre'