June Celebration by Peter Upward, 1960

When thinking about the objective of Red Room’s Poetry Object, it was important to me to revolve my writing around an object that could be experienced by many, and yet the interaction can be a private act.

Peter Upward was an Australian artist who contributed to a movement of abstract art in Australia. Born in Melbourne in 1932, educated at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Julian Ashton School in Sydney, he was a member of the ‘Sydney 9’ alongside abstract artists John Olsen, John Passmore and Leonard Hessing.

He painted ‘June Celebration’ in 1960. More information about Upward and ‘June Celebration’ can be found at National Gallery of Australia.

Generally categorised as Abstract Expressionism, and while certainly influenced by the American Abstract Expressionists of the day, Upward’s work during the period of ‘June celebration’ seems to go beyond this as he abandons representation of emotion and is focused on gestural expression, process and form. It’s a minimalism that plays with semiotics and what appear to be symbols. There’s an allusion there of written communication through bursts of Japanese calligraphy-influenced painting.

While a codetta (a small conclusion to a musical theme or section) and coda (the conclusion that looks back to end the musical piece) are most commonly associated with the sonata form of the Classical era, these devices are common in jazz. Upward’s process and form was heavily influenced by jazz.

The poem is in part an imagined conversation between the narrator and/or myself with poet Nathan Shepherdson, or at least a characterisation of him. I’m deeply indebted to him for his poetry and am convinced that his work is vital. 


Jeremy Balius is a Commissioned Poet for Poetry Object

Jeremy Balius is an artist and poet. His poetry, short fiction and visual art has been published in journals and anthologies in Australia and internationally. It has been translated to German, Bahasa Indonesian and Kanji. Read more »

♫ Listen to "Subsumed; June celebration" here »