One of the darkest rites of passage yet traveled by John Coburn was the long illness and death of his wife, leading silk-screen artist Barbara Coburn. Coburn donated this painting to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in her memory.
It is a major work. The vertical authority go the huge somber forms in Tribe generates its own dark poetry and intensity of presence. The structural inter-relationship of the shapes in. Their timeless visual field creates a powerful dynamic whole.
While the atmosphere of the painting implies grief, resignation and hope, in Coburn's language of symbols it has finally more to do with a statement on our culture, on our world, on our tribe.
"I feel that I am part of a continuing tradition that goes back to the beginnings of European culture but I am also an Australian living on the other side of the world in a country much closer to Asia than to Europe. We are in the process of forming transition and are absorbing many influences. We are in the process of forming our own unique culture. After 200 years, for example, we are just beginning to understand the Aborigines and are realising that they have much to offer us."