CENTUM | Featured Contemporary Artists

Featured Contemporary Artists


“These paintings might be seen as both abstract and figurative. They are ‘art about art’, but also meditations on the solitary life of the painter, on the search for inspiration that haunts all artists”

John McDonald


DALE HICKEY (born 1937) Studio Stuff 2008, oil on canvas, 183 x 183cm. $20,000-30,000 © Dale Hickey/Copyright Agency, 2020.

Dale Hickey

Dale Hickey remains one of the last surviving Australian abstractionists and conceptualists from a generation of artists who so defiantly reshaped art in Australia. This generation of artists were leading names in the iconic Field exhibition – a collection of colour field paintings that became a landmark within Australian art history. Hickey, along with 40 other artists, explored hard edge colour and flat geometric abstraction influenced by some of America’s greatest painters of the time. The exhibition opened to much divisive opinion which helped to launch the careers of these artists, specifically Hickey.

Following the exhibition, Hickey experimented with different artistic styles drawing inspiration from Leger, Mondrian, and Motherwell, eventually settling on stripped-down portrayals of his own studio where easels, windows, and studio supplies create patterns of overlapping shapes.

Studio Stuff 2008 is an exceptional example of Hickey’s ability to portray the seemingly mundane with calm complexity worthy of high abstraction. The placement of the easel as though at the altar, flanked by gridded windows and graced by a featureless cup and rolled up tube of paint – solitary symbols of functionality. Hickey plays with perspective – objects appear as though they should topple or roll yet they remain static. He uses trompe l’oeil to create the illusion of both depth and volume with a smooth graphic surface that invites considered contemplation.

Studio Stuff 2008 will feature in our forthcoming Centum auction on 5 May. Originally commissioned by the artist, this is the first time the painting has been seen at public auction.


LOUISE HEARMAN (born 1963) Untitled #640 1998, oil on masonite, 91 x 68.5cm. $6,000-8,000

Louise Hearman

Louise Hearman’s paintings always intrigue, inviting a second, or third, or even fourth look. They appear first as darkly atmospheric landscapes or portraits, but we soon realise that things are not as they seem. We are left to imagine what is glimmering in the half-light or hiding in the shadows and Hearman revels in this ambiguity, always leaving her works as “untitled”.

Hearman works predominantly on a small scale with oil paints, revisiting certain motifs throughout her work – a child’s face, a partly concealed head, glowing beams of light, and often empty stretches of road or vast fields. These images have been collated from moments in her everyday life and brought together in often unsettling compositions. Hearman is a technical master, intently capturing flickers of light that are both beautiful and disfiguring, emphasising radiance yet also darkness.


PAUL BOSTON (born 1952) Two Heads 2006, acrylic on board and plaster, 121 x 81cm. $6,000-8,000

Paul Boston

Paul Boston’s style is uniquely his own. His oeuvre is so incomparable to any other in the Australian art world that he exists almost in his very own genre.

While suffering a bout of hepatitis, Boston was held in isolation at a London hospital where he first started drawing a series of heads. He became intrigued by the marks and how each mark, no matter how small, could translate to something so large within the mind – how we can read so much meaning into something so seemingly slight.

Back in Australia at Preston Technical School, this focus was encouraged by his main art teacher, Dale Hickey. Hickey was mostly presenting ideas influenced by the perspectives of American Clement Greenberg, Conceptual Art, and Bruce Pollard at Pinacotheca which all became significant influences for Boston.

Boston’s work is deceptively simple. Often using a monochromatic palette, he creates forms with thick outlines, used in such a way that they present an interplay between solid and void. The flat surface of the painting is often interrupted by spherical forms, convex shapes, or recesses as seen in Two Heads 2006. There is an interplay between yes and no, dark and light, soft and hard.

“Boston resists playing the visual notes that conventional thinking demands. He chooses instead to put in unorthodox twists and strange conceptual angles that you don’t expect, frissons in logic and perplexing visual discords that will inexplicably build up into a hauntingly resonant beauty. Paul Boston’s works often possess a serene tranquillity that defies verbal description. Outwardly they are so simple…yet so totally absorbing you can get lost in them: they are what they are, records of quiet and unfussed moments of creative contemplation.” – Christopher Heathcote


SUSAN NORRIE (born 1953) Destination Moon (Somewhere) 2008, oil and screen print on canvas, 132 x 141cm. $10,000-15,000

Susan Norrie

Susan Norrie’s practice begins with painting and photography and extends to filmmaking and multimedia installations. Over her artistic career to date, she has developed an art practice that acts as a tool for political commentary. The Asia-Pacific has often been her focus, incorporating the environmental and humanitarian disasters that have impacted on the region.

“I feel that artists are often a barometer of events in the world: they can synthesize socio-political and environmental concerns with powerful visual encapsulations. Blurring the boundaries of fiction and fact, artists can deal with the overload of media information and misinformation with a certain clarity and poetic detachment.” – Norrie, 2007

Since 2004, Norrie has been working with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), exploring the many forewarnings and elemental forces of nature that seem to be demanding a more considered human behaviour. ‘’I believe that the Japanese developed their space program in relation to the Earth as they have such a deep connection with nature,’’ she says. ‘’I also feel that another aspect of the program is looking into alternative and renewable energies, for example capturing solar energy from space.’’

In Destination Moon 2008, Norrie adheres to a monochromatic palette. ‘Dark’ and ‘black’ are words frequently used to describe her work, and this is not without intention.

“When I use black, there is a reason for it” says Norrie. Perhaps here it is a symbol of our uncertain environmental future, an issue that Norrie has addressed repeatedly over her extensive career.