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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Page: 112


Mrs MOYLAN (Pearce) (21:49): On 7 January 1929, Robert Juniper was born in the Western Australian wheat belt town of Merredin. It was a childhood deeply connected to the Australian landscape, as Robert's father worked on the pipeline project and the family lived on the track. It was a childhood spent closely observing the colours, patterns, flora and fauna of the natural environment. This Australian milieu undoubtedly had a significant influence on the important body of art Robert Juniper created during his 83 years. Sadly, Robert passed away at his home in the Perth Hills on 20 December 2012, cared for by his loving wife, Patricia, and surrounded by the natural landscape he so loved and which inspired much of his work.

The writer Gustave Flaubert once advised fellow author Guy de Maupassant:

Even the slightest thing contains a little that is unknown. We must find it. To describe a blazing fire or a tree in a plain, we must remain before that fire or that tree until they no longer resemble for us any other tree or any other fire. That is the way to be original.

Robert Juniper found the 'little that is unknown' in art and created unique work which powerfully expressed images of the world he so keenly observed. Juniper's repertoire included sculpture and stained-glass work. Some of his lasting legacies are the 14 soaring stained-glass window walls and the design for a five-metre tapestry for the new St Patrick's Cathedral in Bunbury. These extraordinary works were completed for the consecration of the cathedral in 2011. It is a great tribute to Robert Juniper that he undertook this commission following a debilitating stroke. What shines through this and other images created by Juniper is his sense of humour and playfulness. If you look closely at the stained-glass windows, you will identify local fauna and flora and even a dog lying quietly in the corner in his depiction of the Last Supper.

The art of Robert Juniper will continue to delight and inspire as it can be found in all major Australian public collections. Robert received many honours including an Order of Australia and in 1998 he was recognised as a State Living Treasure.

I had the great privilege of interviewing Robert Juniper for a story I wrote in 1987, just before the America's Cup. He told me that he had always painted and that he had won a prize for his collage of a Dutch scene during kindergarten. Perhaps that is what spurred him on. He said to me, 'My mother wanted me to be an engineer or a surgeon, but she couldn't afford the university. Otherwise I might have been a frustrated doctor buying other people's art.' Well, thank goodness that Robert Juniper did take up art as a career because it has inspired and given great joy to so many people. It leaves us, as Australians, a lasting legacy of the wonderful landscape. He lived in that landscape, and that landscape lived in him and through him in the many wonderful works that he painted.

It is not just the art of Juniper that will live on. Robert was well known, as I said, for his great sense of humour and for his generosity to the community and for the many causes that he so generously donated to, including diabetes. Robert was an inspiration to many. He was generous in teaching others the art. He will be sadly missed, and I take this opportunity to extend my deepest sympathy to his wife, Patricia, his family and his many friends.