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Hi, I’m Stephen Scheding. I’m about to read part of the preface of my book A Small Unsigned Painting published by Random House in 1998. It’s an art mystery, a who-dun-it – who done the small unsigned painting that I had bought at an auction and, then, who done the bullet in the head of the person I discovered was the first owner of the painting.
A few years ago, after 25 years of collecting Australian paintings, I decided to put virtually my entire collection, consisting of about 100 works, up for auction at Sotheby’s in Sydney. At the time I had been diagnosed as an incurable collector. Collecting had become an addiction. My particular narcotic was collecting and researching paintings by lesser-known Australian artists.
The images I collected tended to be on the quirky, ‘cerebral’ side. I was particularly interested in artists working in Sydney between the wars who appeared to be covertly expressing the ‘modern’, psychological spirit of the times while working stylistically within the prevailing realist tradition.
Such works had been relatively inexpensive to purchase. While collecting art is often associated with wealth and glamour, my collection had been put together using a fairly ordinary income. And, whenever I was faced with a choice between a brand new car and art, the latter always seemed to win and I would stick with my ancient, dilapidating station wagon.
The reason for my decision to off-load the collection was that my life had become rather crowded. I was also working full-time as a psychologist, as well as writing articles on art and illustrating on a freelance basis. I needed more time to complete projects which had been on the back burner for years. Something in my life had to go.
So, I decided I would no longer collect paintings. I would rid myself and be free of this collecting disease by going cold turkey.
For about 18 months after the Sotheby’s auction, I was liberated from that morbid, obsessional behaviour common to addicts. I even thought I was cured. The psychologist had healed himself. I continued to look at paintings but without being overwhelmed by an uncontrollable urge to own one of them.
And then, I saw a small, unsigned painting…
ABOUT STEPHEN SCHEDING:
Stephen is the author of A Small Unsigned Painting (1998) and The National Picture (2002) and writer and illustrator of the children’s books Uncle Mick’s Magic Trick (for getting rid of monsters); Ten Thousand Sheep (get driven home); King Kilbert (The Indolent). He is also the Art Consultant at Scheding Berry Fine Art
“I have had two Varuna 3-week fellowships to assist in completing two art books and this has assisted greatly. I consider Varuna to be a national treasure.” Stephen Scheding
A Small Unsigned Painting (1998)
The National Picture (2002)
Uncle Mick’s Magic Trick (for getting rid of monsters)
Ten Thousand Sheep (get driven home)
King Kilbert (The Indolent)
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