Friday, April 21, 2017

Tower Hill, Part 2

I'm still processing (both literally and figuratively) the results of recent visits to Tower Hill that prompted my first ventures into the landscape genre.

As previously noted, key points of reference for these archival pigment prints in progress are Romanticism (in particular, the works of Caspar David Friedrich) and Victorian era landscape photography and painting. Foremost among the latter is colonial artist Eugene von Guérard's Tower Hill (1855), presently hanging in Warrmanbool Art Gallery.

Gordon Morrison, Director of the Art Gallery of Ballarat, informs me that in 2018 the gallery will be mounting an extensive exhibition devoted to von Guérard, including rarely seen sketches and working drawings. I can hardly wait, although sadly this will be what Gordon calls his retirement show.

My own von Guérard-inspired project will soon have go on temporary hold as I move onto projects with more pressing deadlines. I'll certainly be returning to Tower Hill, however. Meanwhile, you can view other works from the series by clicking HERE. To see more of Eugene von Guérard's work, including exciting news of a painting that was recently rediscovered, click HERE.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Belated Easter Greetings

I began the above image, a future archival pigment print, over the long weekend. In its present digital form I was able to widely share it as an Easter greeting. Ultimately, however, it's intended to have a lifespan extending beyond this special time of year, which in Australia occurs in Autumn. 

Aside from working on this and other archival pigment prints in the making, I enjoyed some brief, but refreshing time off over Easter. 

With From the Bower - patterns of collecting at Warrnambool Art Gallery up and running, there is time for reflection and a battery recharge before the show transfers to the Art Gallery of Ballarat on 29 July. As befitting an entirely different space, the next leg, to be overseen by AGB exhibition and catalogue designer Brenda Wellman, will likely involve a slightly different take on the concept, with scope for additional artworks and collection objects. 

In my case, the latter will include three more Victorian mourning brooches, including these two, discovered on Easter Sunday in an antiques and collectibles market in Daylesford. The seed pearls encircling the cameo (which doubles as a pendant) and the brooch containing skilfully arranged human hair symbolise tears. The profile format of cameo portraits is a point of departure for my ongoing series of leaf works, also known as a poor man's (or, perhaps more accurately, a poor woman's) cameo. 

To see the third morning brooch destined for From the Bower at the AGB, go HERE.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tower Hill, Part 1

Eugene von Guérard, born Austria 1811, lived in Australia 1852-82, Europe 1882-1901, died England 1901
Tower Hill, 1855, oil on canvas, 68.6 x 122.0 cm. Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria 
On loan from the Department of Sustainability and Environment
Gift of Mrs. E. Thornton, 1966

During our recent stay in Warrnambool (see previous two posts) we visited historic Tower Hill, an inactive volcano at least 30,000 years old. It's part of the town of Koroit, about 18 kms from Warrnambool. From before recorded history, the Koroitgundidj people inhabited the area and their decedents retain strong links to it. The first confirmed sighting of Tower Hill by Europeans was by French explorers aboard the Géographe in 1805. In 1855, an artist I hugely admire, Austrian born colonial artist Eugene von Guérard, famously captured it on canvas (see above). For me, Tower Hill will always be associated with this work, which now hangs in Warrnambool Art Gallery.

In 1892, Tower Hill became Victoria's first national park. Inappropriate use of the land by European settlers, however, (cattle grazing, crop growing, quarrying, tree felling, rubbish dumping - even motor cycle racing) took its inevitable toll. By the mid 1960s, the land was virtually devoid of vegetation and wildlife. Over the course of two generations, it was regenerated with over 300,000 native trees and repopulated with native fauna, including koalas, emus, echidnas and kangaroos which thrive there to this day. Eugene von Guérard's masterwork, with its characteristically meticulous attention to detail, was used as the primary reference for replanting the area. Indeed, a visit to Tower Hill feels uncannily like walking into his painting.

Not since our first visit to Newstead have I felt so drawn to a place, to the extent that it has not only inspired an entirely new body of work, but also prompted a change in its direction. In the spirit of intrepid Victorian travellers and photographers, the 19th century German Romanic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich and the colonial landscape paintings of Eugene von Guérard, I've begun a series of archival pigment prints of Tower Hill, my very first ventures into the landscape genre. (More images to follow in a future post).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A mourning brooch from Port Fairy

Directly after Tim Gresham documented From the Bower: Patterns of Collecting at Warrnambool Art Gallery last Saturday week (see previous post) Shane Jones, Kathryn Ryan, Paul Logsdon, Gaye Britt, Tim and I visited Wishart Gallery in nearby Port Fairy. There I discovered this treasure, a striking example of Victorian mourning jewellery. The glass oval inside the gold plated frame contains strands of fine, intricately arranged human hair. It swivels to reveal a cluster of tiny dried leaves.

Some online research promptly conducted by Gaye Britt revealed that they are shamrocks, suggesting that the person memorialised by the brooch is of Irish heritage. This is in perfect keeping with the town's Irish Gaelic roots. (Gaye is shown above examining the brooch in the garden at Wishart Gallery, as Tim looks on).

It's too late to include the brooch in the current leg of From the Bower, but it will certainly be joining my small collection of mourning jewels for the show's Ballarat run from 29 July - 17 September.

Mourning jewels were a key point of reference for my Knots and Braids series (1998 - 2004). Lately I've been thinking of revisiting the imagery, so the discovery of the brooch feels like a kind of omen - at least, that's how I've decided to interpret it!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

FROM THE BOWER: the opening night and morning after

On Friday evening, March 24, we celebrated the official opening of From the Bower: patterns of collecting at Warrnambool Art Gallery. It was immensely gratifying to see the combined efforts of Loris Button, Carole Wilson, Louise Saxton and myself come to fruition at long last. The exhibition was launched by the Lady Mayoress of Warrnambool, Cr Kylie Gaston (second from right). On the far right is Acting Director of Warrnambool Art Gallery, Murray Bowes.

Louise Saxton and Loris Button (first and second from left, directly below) listen to the opening address

- along with Carole Wilson (below, far right) and the rest of the opening night crowd.

Directly after the speeches, Carole asked Tim Gresham to take some snapshots of the Bowerbirds as a memento of the exhibition launch. The following three photos are by Tim. Directly below, L - R,  are myself, Loris Button, Carole Wilson and Louise Saxton. In the foreground is Louise's Porcelain Garden. 

Below, we stand in front of my linocut installation, Iron Butterflies. In the background, centre, are collages by Carole Wilson.

The last time we stood in front of our combined collections wall, it had just been installed by Carole and Shane (see last post).

Directly below, Shane Jones views two of my Homo-insecta watercolours. To their right is a triptych by Carole Wilson.

The following morning, Tim Gresham documented the show.

While he worked, Gaye Britt (pictured below), Kathryn Ryan, Paul Logsdon, Shane and I and took the opportunity to view the show again, minus the previous evening's crowd.

Nevertheless, there was a steady stream of visitors the whole time we were there.

The documentation process continued...

Meanwhile, Louise Saxton and her husband, Colin, also called in for a second look at the show. Pictured below, L - R: Paul Logsdon, Kathryn Ryan, Louise, Colin and Gaye Britt.

Below: Paul Logsdon and Shane Jones. Artworks and collection objects are mine, Loris Button's and Louise Saxton's.

After opening night and the many lovely people we met, for Shane and I, the greatest pleasure of our long weekend at Warrnambool was spending quality time with old friends. From left, flanking my Tattooed Faces Sampler (1997) are Gaye Britt, myself, Kathryn Ryan, Paul Logsdon and Tim Gresham. Photo credit: Shane Jones.

Shane also took the following two shots. Directly below, I'm checking out my Iron Butterflies, an installation of cut out linocuts.

-  then taking a closer look at the combined collections installation, which includes selections from my hair ornament, insect, lino block, mask and shadow puppet collections.

Below, Tim sets up another shot. On the far wall are three of Carole Wilson's artworks and on the partition, far right, is a shadow box containing objects from the collection of Loris Button.

Below, from right: Three collages by Carole Wilson and an installation view of my Cabinet of Moth Masks.

A lively group of students arrived. They were particularly engaged with the combined collections wall.

L - R below: Paul, Gaye, Shane and Tim.

Below: an installation view of collection items of Loris Button and Louise Saxton (L - R). Second from right are artworks by Loris Button (part of her Travelling Tales). On the far right are my Homo-insecta watercolours.

A detail from one of the large vitrines, containing collection items from all the artists.

Below are my Homo-insecta watercolours

- and Vignette Vitrine, a box box of Shadow Women.

Tim Gresham's installation views will be featured in the near future.

From the Bower continues until 12 June. For details of opening times, scroll to the end of the last post or go HERE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Pictured above: four happy artists, L - R: myself, Carole Wilson, Louise Saxton and Loris Button, snapped last Thursday on Day 2 of the installation of From the Bower - patterns of collecting at Warrnambool Art Gallery. Behind us is the exhibition's centrepiece, a huge wall work combining aspects of our private collections, constructed with consummate skill by Carole Wilson and Shane Jones.
Photo credit: Ren Gregoric.

L - R: Deborah Klein, Exhibitions Curator Ren Gregoric, Carole Wilson, Louise Saxton and Shane Jones
Photo credit: Agostina Hawkins

Directly below are some progress views of the install taken earlier in the day.

Carole Wilson and Shane Jones

As Carole and Shane beavered away on the wall work, Loris, Louise and I set about arranging additional collection objects and artworks in one of two large display cabinets.

On the middle shelf above and below, pages of my unbound artist book, Leaves of Absence, are paired with the hand painted Eucalyptus leaves that were the basis for the artwork, together with the antique flower presses in which the leaves were pressed and dried.

On the shelf beneath Leaves of Absence are tantalising glimpses of objects from the collections of Louise Saxton, Loris Button, Carole Wilson and myself, including one of my personal favourites, Loris's book of art deco wallpaper samples.

Below: A still life on the top shelf. The mannikin was a gift from my late mother when I was budding teenage artist. Needless to add, I've owned it for a very long time!  The miniature desk, doubtless an apprentice piece, was discovered at an antique market in Daylesford. The faux book, which has a secret compartment, was made by my late father as a gift for his sister, my Aunt Eileen. The vintage map and antique books are from the collection of Carole Wilson.

More of Carole's map collection can be seen in the view below.

Loris and Louise did a magnificent job of installing other collection items, most of them relating to the domestic realm, in the second vitrine. I'm particularly enamoured of Carole's miniature sewing machines (middle shelf, far right).

Above L - R: Loris Button, Agostina Hawkins, Ren Gregoric and Louise Saxton

Below is a detail of the finished display. The raffia sewing basket on the bottom shelf belonged to my mother. The remainder of needlework-related objects in this view are from the collections of Loris and Louise. Personal favourites include Loris's film canister containing buttons from four generations of her family and Louise's Sydney Harbour Bridge commemorative d'oyley (bottom row front, second and third from left).

As work continued apace on the wall piece, Iron Butterflies, an installation of cut-out linocuts, also began to take shape:

Iron Butterflies (directly below) is a suite of linocuts inspired by my collection of antique hair ornaments, a number of which are also in the show.

Agostina Hawkins, WAG's Curator of Collections, painstakingly installed the work. Meanwhile, on the far left, two Homo-insecta watercolours wait patiently in the wings.

The multi-faceted exhibition that is From the Bower took three days to install. I had to leave at the end of the second day in order to prepare for the Australian Zine Showcase at NGV International (see previous post) so I haven't yet seen the completed installation. If the photographs sent to me by fellow Bowerbirds and messages from those who've already seen the show are anything to go by, however, it's all come together beautifully.

From the Bower opened to the public on Saturday, 18 March.

Opening night is this coming Friday, 24 March, from 6 pm. If you're in town, do come in and join us for a celebratory glass of wine.

From the Bower - patterns of collecting
Warrnambool Art Gallery
26 Liebig Street
Warrnambool Vic
Free entry
Weekdays 10 am - 5 pm
Weekends and Public Holidays 10 am - 3 pm

The exhibition runs until Monday, 12 June.

From the Bower - patterns of collecting will travel to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, where it will run from 29 July - 17 September.