Ray Crooke was studying art at Swinburne Technical College in Melbourne, when World War II interrupted his studies. He was later employed in a number of different occupations, including two years on Thursday Island, during which he worked for the Diocese of Carpentaria. This provided an experience crucial to his subsequent development as a painter, with his subject and treatment reminiscent of Gauguin. Crooke was an official war artist in Vietnam in 1966, and won the Archibald Prize in 1969.
Crooke's works exhibit his love of, and affinity with, his subjects. Using a few basic pigments, the artist seeks to capture the daily life and spirit of the tropical North of Australia. In his individualistic style, Crooke paints realistic yet creative works, being unsurpassed in his ability to catch the characteristic qualities of light in this part of the country.
STOCKYARD, NORMANTON, c.1966, with its flat decorative style, creates a simplistic image of the isolation of the Queensland outback. This is not a landscape of myths and heroes, but one where ordinary people and manufactured objects blend into the timeless countryside. The dark colours, relieved only by the pastel blue of the stockman's shirt, emphasise the heat and stillness of this remote corner of Australia.
The individual is less important to the artist than the all-embracing light. Silhouetted against the hot sky, the features of the stockman are invisible to the viewer.