QAGOMA acknowledges the loss of greatly respected Brisbane artist, Madonna Staunton.
Known principally for her delicate collages and small
contemplative of works on paper, Madonna established her reputation during the
1970s and worked right up to late 2019 even in ailing health.
Staunton’s indomitable and generous spirit had a remarkable
capacity to change and adapt, reintroduce and renew. She loved to give new life
to previously unloved pieces of found paper, images and things, combining just
a few bits and pieces in restrained, cool harmony. As former curator, Tim
Morrell stated, “The play between randomness and precision animates virtually
all Madonna Staunton’s assemblage work. Her sensitivity to tonal and formal
arrangement always remains acute during this process and the results are
Born in Murwillumbah, New South Wales in 1938, she made
Brisbane her place of work, first exhibiting her paintings with the Royal Queensland
Art Society from 1956 to 1961, and then the Brisbane Contemporary Art Society
from 1966 to 1971. From the mid-1970s, Staunton abandoned painting and
concentrated on collage, assemblage, and related media, for which she became
known, though she also returned to painting in recent years.
Staunton was the subject of 30 solo exhibitions in her life
time, and a contributor to many more group shows.
A major survey exhibition was organised by the Queensland
University of Technology and shown at the Queensland Art Gallery and at Perc
Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville in 1994. ‘Madonna Staunton: Out of a Clear
Blue Sky’, was presented at QAG in 2015, highlighting her late return to
painting alongside collage, assemblage and works on paper. Most recently, Brisbane’s
Milani Gallery undertook a survey of her work from 1964 – 2019, to the delight
of her many admirers. Given her sustained output, often under considerable
physical limitations, her work is held across the country in many major public and
Always happier to seek a quiet life, Madonna’s contribution
was recognised with awards including the National Women’s Art Award, Centre
Gallery, Gold Coast in 1989. In 1996 she was awarded a Medal of the Order of
Australia for service to the visual arts.
In a world that now seems obsessed with consumerism, Madonna’s quiet and considered works give such a sense of calm – the artist always having that sense of knowing when best to stop. With her passing, we acknowledge Madonna’s major contribution to Australian modernism over the last five decades.
Feature image detail: Madonna Staunton Untitled 1968