IT EN­CAP­SU­LATES THE DRAMA OF PAR­LIA­MENT AT THAT TIME

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts -

peo­ple who would have thought it was an out­ra­geous de­ci­sion. It was Eric West­brook, who had just started as di­rec­tor of the National Gallery of Vic­to­ria, who made that de­ci­sion.’’

Mor­ri­son says On Par­lia­ment Steps de­picts Wil­liam Barry, a Vic­to­rian La­bor Party politi­cian, who was a staunch anti-com­mu­nist. In 1955, Barry was ex­pelled from the La­bor Party and be­came leader of the Anti-Com­mu­nist La­bor Party, later the Demo­cratic La­bor Party. Dur­ing a ses­sion of par­lia­ment, Barry led his break­away group across the floor in sup­port of a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion that brought down the La­bor govern­ment of John Cain Sr. As a re­sult of this per­ceived treach­ery, 30 pieces of sil­ver were thrown at Barry’s feet. He also re­ceived dead rats in the mail.

‘‘ This work re­ally en­cap­su­lates that feel­ing of the drama of par­lia­ment at that point in time,’’ says Mor­ri­son. ‘‘ Couni­han is an artist who I have a great deal of re­spect for. For many of the painters who’d bro­ken away from re­spectable so­ci­ety in the 1920s and 30s, things like Cze­choslo­vakia in 1968 were deeply trou­bling, but Couni­han, who died in 1986, kept his con­vic­tions right to the very end and those con­vic­tions were about look­ing af­ter the per­son on the street.’’

Oil on com­po­si­tion board, 53.4cm x 91.4cm

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