Thought Forms 1978 [W/P]

Synthetic polymer paint on paper, 37 x 26.5 (mounted)
Signed, dated and titled (verso)
Private collection, Melbourne

This recent addition to the corpus of Arkley’s ‘white’ works on paper points to recurrent themes and interests in the first phase of his career. It is documented by slides in Arkley’s archive, previously thought to show details of Untitled [W20] (c.1974-76) [W/P] (‘White’ W/P, whose left-hand section is very similar.

The title derives from Thought Forms, a book by Annie Besant and Charles Leadbetter, published by the Theosophical Society in London in 1901 (and frequently reprinted). Their argument that ideas and emotions had equivalents in abstract forms and colours is documented as a strong influence on several early modern artists, notably Kandinsky.

Arkley was also interested in Besant and Leadbetter’s book, citing it specifically in his Visual Diary no.1 (Jan.1975), in relation to a projected painting, also to be called Thought Forms. This was presumably the large canvas shown the following year as Primal (Thought Forms), later re-titled: see Organic Model G (Black Square) 1976 [Tolarno]. The black square, prominent at the lower right of the present drawing, is also a feature of the Tolarno painting and the monochrome variant Organic Model G (Black Square) 1976 [Coventry].

= ‘White W/P


  • Gift from Arkley, c.1982-88 (email advice, Jan./Feb.2020)