John Brack 1920-1999
John Brack’s painting style was conservative early on in his career, but developed into use of simple, outlined people and objects that were purposely unadorned and drab. The colours he used also complemented this theme and were used as a reflection on the conventionality of daily life at the time.
His work came to prominence in the 1950s with Australian contemporary scenes of post-war Melbourne such as the well-known ‘Collins St, 5 pm’ showing masses of people making their way home from work. It is a classic example of his use of dull palettes to emphasize ordinariness of everyday routine with the figures almost all the same. ‘The Bar’ painted in 1954 also reflected this social commentary, lampooning the then tradition of the ‘six o’clock swill’. This habit was brought about by laws at the time requiring pubs and bars to close by 6 pm, causing an unseemly rush of patrons to get just one last drink before closing time. These paintings were commenting on an imagined Australian ideal, often set in the worklife of city places, or in the growing suburbs of post-war Melbourne, where he painted scenes depicting social norms of ordinary citizens.
Later, Brack’s style and subject matter changed again to abstract works using everyday objects to represent the same commentary on modern-day lifestyles. Examples of this are ‘Battle of the Etruscans’ painted in 1975 using pencils and what looks like table knives or palette knives, and ‘Pens’ painted in 1977.