John Coburn had an abiding interest in the Australian landscape. Its inspiration ranged from the lush, green tropics of North Queensland, where he was born, through the Outback and into the Northern Territory, as he imbued each painting with the feel and spirit of the place. Primordial Garden, 1965-66, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, is a major example of the former, while Sun Ritual, 1983, through its forms and colours of the ancient earth, blends Aboriginal references with Coburn’s own closeness to the land.
Always interested in making large works, the mural-like dimensions of Coburn’s Sun Ritual give it a surprising intimacy in that they draw the viewer into it. Placement, space and edges are as central to the painting’s success as the references to the pulsating sun, plains and distant mountain ranges. Coburn, too, was a master of visual drama.