07 April 2021

the unknown soldier, an unknown painter

                         120 X 90 cm

This is a painting that my brother picked up in a flea market for $35 a few years back. He hung it in an alcove near the entrance to his home, and I have always coveted it. 

The other evening I went by for dinner with him and I saw that he had taken it down and it leaned against a wall looking like a wounded soldier. I said,

"What's up this this?" to which replied,

"I am getting rid of it". 

"Oh, I said, surprised.

"What, you want it?"

My heart leapt up out of me.

"Really? Wow,, how come?"

"I have too many paintings", he said with a kind of sigh. It's true he collects a lot of paintings and things.

I couldn't believe my luck so to mitigate the arrangement I told him I would just keep it in the interim, to which he agreed. But he is so generous; we both knew that he meant for me to keep it.

So, now it hangs over my piano and I am really happy like a small child who was given a cherished teddy bear.

So being the curious type I became interested in the why, of whom, from where about this painting. Luckily there was a faint telephone number on the backside along with the artist's name written in pencil.

The painter's name is Rich Metcalf and he painted it in 1997. I looked him up but found nothing. I looked up MARKWELL PACIFIC, the subject of the picture which turns out to be some sort of food company which still exists.

Why the fuss? Though it is not easy to discern, the light; the luminosity in this modest oil painting is quite remarkable and it begs the question of whether it was done in a studio or on site. The former seems unlikely, but to make such a thing in a studio would reveal a painter with vision and a lot of talent, but I have not found much of that here in Australia. 

Secondly, I really feel something in front of this picture, and isn't that what it's really all about? It is what makes the art of Painting so rare. It's something which music lovers, book lovers experience all the time but in the world of Painting it is rare, especially in this time we live in today with so much digital distraction.

This picture has a simple quality to it, an unpretentious side which speaks to a frankness I don't often experience in today's art world. Perhaps some would find it kitsch because of its subject matter but I do not. It is actually much nicer than the photo suggests. 

It manifests a specificity loyal to its subject matter but it also floods outward beyond the picture and into the world of Art. What I mean to say is that for me, it has a certain kind of beauty sufficient enough to uproot it from its home in parochial Australia to land it back in Europe where it originally came from. 

Here in Australia only the Aboriginals have an original Art form, the kind created from spiritual myth, and conceived in a space between the landscape and the stars. The rest of Art is basically European, and like a family which intermarries for too long, the results are never good over the long term  

The floral landscape, as little as there is, depicts exactly what one sees around the southern tip of Queensland, it has truth, but without that awful photo-finish that one finds rampant these days, here and elsewhere. The water is that of a river moving gently along without a worry in the world, reflecting the  bright white light of Queensland where only fools go out without sunglasses.

Lastly, it seems sad to me that it could be had for only $35 dollars which represents an hour's work here in Australia for a good paying menial job, of which there are plenty. But it is the way it is, so they say. Perhaps I indulge in Romanticism, but hey! Someone down here has to do it.

So my quest will be to sleuth out this artist, I am sure he is out there somewhere, if even in an unmarked grave like an unknown soldier. More to be revealed.


  1. I like that painting too, you have such a good eye!

    1. merci! I am glad you like it too though I am not surprised.