John Brack enjoyed creating visual conundrums in his work—between inside and outside, reflection and reality—to question the very nature of representation in painting. In Men’s wear, his first major painting after leaving art school, Brack contrasts an elderly and dour proprietor with a row of inanely smiling shop dummies. A mysterious silhouette in the mirror provides an unsettling note: it is a self-portrait of the artist but can also be read as a reflection of the viewer looking at the painting. The mirror disrupts the illusion of space within the scene, for it is at the rear of the shop, defining the spatial depth of the picture, but also purports to depict what is outside the space of the painting.
Brack was born in Melbourne. After service in the Second World War he studied at the National Gallery School and lived in Melbourne for the remainder of his life. His sharp observations of suburbia established his reputation as one of Australia’s greatest painters of the modern urban condition.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008