Proton-Neutron 1979

Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 203.5 x 78.5 [dimensions as given by Deutscher-Menzies 3/03]

signed and dated [on reverse]: ‘H Arkley 79’

Coll.: unknown

The curved lines and sprayed dots in this canvas – which was included in both of Arkley’s ‘door’ shows in 1979 and 1980 – are in black and silver, over a broadly brushed red ground. According to the authors of Spray (basing their remarks on the artist’s recollections), the work was painted with ‘a commercial striping machine used for car detailing, which Arkley had bought in New York’. However, the source for the pattern was not a Chapel Street coffee-shop table (as also suggested in Spray), but a sample of ‘Contact’ adhesive on a school exercise book, preserved in Arkley’s archive [now in the State Library of Victoria: 2012] (for comments on this source, see Carnival 104).

Following its appearance at the Coventry Gallery in 1980, this painting entered Chandler Coventry’s personal collection. It was subsequently auctioned in 1995-6, 2003 and 2012.When it was shown in Melbourne prior to the most recent auction (Nov.2012), the silver paint-work in the lower part of the canvas appeared to be in slightly damaged (smudged?) condition.

Proton-Neutron 50s (1979) is obviously a closely related work, comprising a virtually unchanged replica of the present painting, alongside a replica of 50’s 1979. However, The Proton Neutron 1980, despite its similar title, is a completely different, essentially monochrome composition.


  • Coll. Chandler Coventry (c.1980-96?)
  • auctioned by Sotheby’s, Melb., 28/11/95, lot 646 (ill.; as ‘Untitled’; est.$4-6,000)
  • auctioned by Sotheby’s, Melb., 17/6/96, lot 88 (as ‘Untitled’; est.$2-4,000)
  • auctioned by Deutscher-Menzies, Sydney, 4 March 2003, lot 75A (as ‘Proton/neutron’ 1979, 203.5 x 78.5; est. $20-30,000)
  • Private collection, Melbourne (according to Deutscher & Hackett 11/12)
  • auctioned by Deutscher & Hackett, Melb., 28 Nov.2012, lot 4 (details and photo as noted here; est.$25-35,000; sold for $19,200 including buyer’s premium)


  • HA Tolarno 5/79, cat.11
  • HA Coventry 3/80, cat.1


  • Spray 29 (ill.) and 31 (quoted above)
  • Carnival 104 and Fig.3.15