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Saturday, July 23, 2016

MOTH


With today being the first day of (Inter)National Moth Week, it seems appropriate to share the contents of a small package that recently landed in my mail box. The newly published book Moth, by Matthew Gandy, Professor of Geography at the University of Cambridge, includes an image of my painting, Argina astrea Moth Mask, 2007.

This superb little book casts a far wider net than other scientific studies of this underrated and misunderstood insect, encompassing its place in folklore, mythology, literature and art.

Moth is published by Reaktion Books Ltd, UK and distributed in the US by the University of Chicago Press. It is also available through Dymocks, Booktopia, Amazon and other outlets.

My painting, Argina astrea Moth Mask (2007) reproduced in Moth

Moth: front cover

Moth page views (1)

Moth page views (2)

Moth: back cover

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Linocut Workshop at the National Gallery of Victoria

Pictured below are a selection of Moth Women Vigilantes and Winged Women demonstration blocks ready and set for the linocut class I'm giving for NGV members at the National Gallery of Victoria tonight from 6 - 8.30 pm.


The workshops are aimed at beginners. Participants will make their own linocut, which they will learn to print without the need of a press. I'll be running another session next Wednesday evening. Both classes are now sold out. To those who are participating, I look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Studio Visitors


L-R: Madeline, Calvin, Nic, Alex, Alicia and Gillian

Much as I enjoyed my trip to Sydney (see previous two posts) there's no place like home. It's been good to be back at work this week, making slow, but steady progress on a new painting.

On Monday, July 11 I welcomed a special of group of visitors to the Ballarat studio: five students from Huntingtower Co-educational Day and Boarding School, together with their teacher, Gillian Nix. I showed them some examples of my print-based work (currently they are studying linocuts with Gillian). Some students brought along their workbooks; I very much enjoyed seeing the development of their own works. It was a pleasure to meet them all, and I hope they enjoyed their visit as much as I did.

L-R: Calvin, Madeline, myself, Alex, Alicia and Nic. (Photo credit: Gillian Nix)

Madeline, me and Alicia. (Photo credit: Gillian Nix)

L-R: Me, Madeline, Calvin, Nic, Alex and Alicia. (Photo credit: Gillian Nix)

L-R: Me, Madeline, Calvin, Nic, Alex and Alicia. (Photo credit: Gillian Nix)

This was Gillian's second visit to the studio. In 2014 she came with another equally delightful group of students from Huntingtower. I hope that next time it won't be so long between visits.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A visit to the Art Gallery of NSW

Here are a few more pictorial mementos of last week's flying visit to Sydney, beginning with Frida Kahlo's Self Portrait with Monkey, 1943, snapped on Friday, July 8 at the FRIDA KAHLO and DIEGO RIVIERA exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
 
Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait with Monkeys, 1943, oil on canvas 

For me Kahlo’s portraits and self-portraits were the standouts of this small, but substantial show. What a mighty painter she was. Considering the length of the queue to get in (note to self, in future, always book online) I was pleasantly surprised to be able to spend quality time virtually alone with my favourite works. I soon figured out why - ironically, the majority of visitors were spending more time looking at the photos of Kahlo and Riviera than at their actual artworks.

Frida Kahlo, Portrait of Natasha Gelman (1943) oil on canvas

Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait with bed (Me and my doll) 1937, oil on canvas

Later in the day I was surprised and delighted to discover one of my favourite paintings, David Hockney’s Portrait of an artist (Pool with two figures) 1972, on exhibit as part of the exhibition LANDSCAPES OF PLEASURE from Monet to Hockney. With the majority of visitors in the continuous queue for the Frida Kahlo - Diego Riviera exhibition, I had the painting entirely to myself. I sat with it for a long time, not knowing when I would see it again. It's since occurred to me that this may be sooner rather than later. It will very likely be part of the David Hockney 80th Birthday retrospective at Tate Britain next year, which I'm planning to fly over for. I can hardly wait.

David Hockney, Portrait of an artist (Pool with two figures) 1972, acrylic on canvas

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Australian Launch of Winsor and Newton Graphic Markers


It's hard to believe that this time last week (on Thursday, July 7, to be more precise) I was in Sydney attending the Australian launch of the Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers, Promarkers and Brushmarkers at Jasco Headquarters. 

The event also marked the debut of the Moth Women Vigilantes mini-zine, a substantial number of which were acquired by the company. (For more about the zine, see previous three posts).

A huge thank you to the good folk at Jasco for their generosity and hospitality. Being a Winsor and Newton Global Ambassador has been a privilege and a pleasure.

Further snapshots of the evening are below:

My linocut Monarch Butterfly Winged Woman hovers above a table displaying some of the works I created with
the Pigment Markers, including the mini-zine Moth Women Vigilantes ROGUES GALLERY

To the left of the screen are works created by fellow Global Ambassador Bill Hope.
On the right are three more of my Winged Women linocuts

The Winsor and Newton Graphic Markers launch in full swing

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

'Moth Women Vigilantes ROGUES GALLERY' - a new mini zine


On the cutting board: Moth Women Vigilantes ROGUES GALLERY, a pocket-sized zine incorporating the eight Vigilantes recently immortalised in Winsor and Newton pigment markers. (See last two posts).



To preview the completed zine, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Moth Women Vigilantes Hall of Infamy (Part 2)

In a continuation of my previous post, I once more don my Winsor and Newton Global Ambassador hat to document my latest efforts with the Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers. Working on this series of drawings has been such a pleasure. I've found the markers to be extraordinarily versatile, particularly in the way I've been able to build transparent layers. In this respect, the White Blender and Colourless Blender markers are invaluable, enabling the creation of virtually limitless colours and tones. 

As a drawing tool that combines the linear with the painterly, the markers are a perfect fit for my imagery. At this stage, I still feel I've barely scratched the surface in terms of what they can bring to my work, but already foresee them becoming a permanent part of it.

The Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers will be available in Australia from around the middle of this month. I can't recommend them highly enough.

In the final drawings of the eight-part series directly below, four fabulous women from the glorious age of black and white movies are reinvented as Moth Women Vigilantes

5. GRACIE ALLEN



I was first introduced to the work of actor and comedienne Gracie Allen, one half of the beloved husband and wife comedy team of Burns and Allen, when I was in high school in the 1960s. In those distant days, reruns of their TV show were screened weekdays on afternoon television, and if I ran home from school very, very fast, I could just about catch an entire episode. Prior to their long-running TV series, George Burns and Gracie Allen appeared in vaudeville, featured in numerous films and had their own hugely popular radio program. In its best-known running gag, Gracie even ran for US president in 1940, as leader of the Surprise Party. The Moth Women Vigilantes are not alone in believing the US could do a lot worse.

Gracie Allen was a highly intelligent woman, the polar opposite of her screen persona. Even when she was playing dumb, a skewed kind of wisdom was frequently imbedded in what the equally brilliant George Burns termed her ‘illogical logic’.

The Moth Women Vigilantes are proud to number Gracie Allen among their latest recruits, an occasion commemorated in this Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker drawing 

6. PAULINE FREDERICK



Pigment Marker drawing No. 6 introduces Pauline Frederick.

A seasoned stage actress, Frederick was a late starter to silent movies at age 30. The medium well suited her; she was also one of the first actors to venture into talking pictures.

Throughout her career she was known for her portrayals of strong, authoritative women. She never shrunk at playing unsympathetic roles that other actors feared would damage their images and careers. In this respect, Bette Davis was later compared to her.

In 1920 Frederick appeared in the title role of Madame X, the story of a woman on trial for murder, who conceals her identity in order to protect her family’s reputation. She would forever be associated with the part.

By the time sound film was established, Pauline Frederick had graduated to matriarchal roles, often in a supporting capacity. In This Modern Age (1931) she played a young Joan Crawford’s mother. The resemblance between the two was frequently remarked upon, with many feeling that the symbolic acting torch was being passed to the next generation. Certainly the influence of Frederick is apparent in Crawford’s subsequent work, and even her choice of roles during the 1930s and 40s.

Frederick was an actor’s actor, a pioneer of early cinema, and a role model for the female stars who would follow her during Hollywood’s Golden Years.

Almost forgotten until recently, Pauline Frederick’s initiation into the Moth Women Vigilantes Hall of Infamy has earned her a permanent place in the spotlight

7. ASTA NEILSEN



Until I visited the Berlin Museum of Film and Television in 2012, I had only the seen work of actor, writer and painter Asta Neilsen once before, in G. W. Pabst's Joyless Street (1925). Her co-star in the film is a young Greta Garbo, then on the cusp of international screen stardom. In her day Neilsen was equally renowned, and a considerable influence on Garbo, who declared that Neilsen taught her everything she knew.

The clips of Neilsen at the Berlin museum indicate an actress of astonishing range. The museum cites her as the first international female movie star. Her most significant contribution to film, however, was the naturalism she brought to screen acting. (In the early days of cinema many actors were recruited from the stage, and their delivery tended towards the overly theatrical). 

Asta Nielsen’s screen career began in 1909. She made a handful of films in her native Denmark before moving to Berlin, where she shot over 70 films between 1911-1937. Many were ruthlessly cut in the US, where censors condemned her performances, in particular her dance routines, as ‘erotic’. As a result, her work was never widely seen or fully appreciated there.

A solid theatrical background ensured Neilsen would have no technical issues with the advent of talking pictures. The talkies never appealed to her, however, and she transferred her talents to writing and painting. In 1937, after the rise of Nazism, Asta Neilsen was forced to return to her native Denmark. 

Following my return to Australia, I made it my business to track down as much of her work as possible. From the Munich Filmmuseum I ordered several DVDs, including The Militant Suffragette (1913) and her singular version of Hamlet (1921) in which she plays the title role, not by playing a man (as actresses including Eleonora Duse had previously done on stage) but by playing a woman disguised as a man.

The Pigment Pen-ultimate drawing directly above memorialises Asta Neilsen's induction to the Moth Women Vigilantes Hall of Infamy.

8. DOLORES DEL RIO



The final instalment of the Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker mini-series reimagines illustrious film, theatre and television actor Dolores Del Rio as a Moth Woman Vigilante.

Del Rio was the first Mexican actress to gain acceptance in mainstream American films. Her film career began in the silent era and includes several masterpieces, including Raoul Walsh's superb What Price Glory? (1926). However, many of her roles reflected Hollywood's clich├ęd views of ethnic minorities. Other films merely showcased her luminous beauty, but gave little indication of her considerable range as an actress.

Del Rio's voice recorded well and Hollywood deemed that her accent would not be an impediment to a successful career in talking pictures. Among her successes were Bird of Paradise (1932) and Girl of the Rio (1932). In Flying Down to Rio (1933), she was overshadowed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their first on-screen pairing (although, to be fair, who wouldn't be?) She faired rather better in her final American leading role in Journey into Fear (1942), which also featured her then-partner, Orson Welles in a script he wrote with co-star Joseph Cotten.

It was only after Del Rio's return to Mexico, in what is regarded as its golden age, that she was able to undertake roles that matched her ability. Her Mexican films include Wild Flower (1943) Maria Candelaria (1943) Las Abandonadas (1944) and The Unloved Woman (1949). She was awarded her country's equivalent of an Oscar four times, and was also proclaimed 'first lady of Mexican theatre'.

She occasionally returned to Hollywood to take on strong supporting roles based at last on her acting ability. Her later US films include John Ford's The Fugitive (1947) and his Cheyenne Autumn (1964).

Despite the belated accolades awarded her by her former adopted country, including the San Francisco Film Critics Award (1981) and the George Eastman Award (1982) Del Rio retained her base in Mexico. Her final film was The Children of Sanchez (1978). 

Dolores Del Rio's achievements, barely touched on here, have earned her a rightful place in the Moth Women Vigilantes Hall of Infamy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Moth Women Vigilantes Hall of Infamy (Part 1)

Wanting to explore the possibilities of the archival Pigment Markers Winsor and Newton have invited me to try, I've set myself a little project. Its focus is the Moth Woman Vigilantes, the nefarious gang of masked women who sporadically appear in my linocuts, zines and one soon-to-be artist book.

Drawing from a lifelong love of cinema, I've been working on a series of pigment marker drawings in a small sketchbook. Photographic portraits of a variety of screen actors, some of them dating back to the silent era, were points of departure for a new group of Moth Women Vigilantes.

My choice of markers: black, white blender, colourless blender and a range of warm and cool greys, reflects the bygone era of the silver screen.

1. LOUISE BROOKS


A rebel herself, Louise Brooks is a worthy inductee to the MWV Sisterhood. One of the cinema's finest actors and also a superb writer, Brooks is best known for her indelible portrayal of the seductress Lulu in Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s master work, Pandora’s Box (1929). She is equally commanding as the title character in Pabst’s, hard-hitting social drama, Diary of a Lost Girl (1929). For film enthusiasts, Brooks's remarkable essays, collected in the book Lulu in Hollywood (1982) are an essential read.

Reinvented as a member of the MWV, Louise Brooks is pictured above, with W&N markers providing a sense of scale. 

2. ALLA NAZIMOVA


Russian-born Alla Nazimova immigrated to America in 1905. She was a distinguished theatre actress who specialized in the works of Chekhov, Turgenev and Ibsen. (Dorothy Parker, a frequently acerbic critic not given to gushing) proclaimed her the greatest Hedda Gabler she had ever seen). Nazimova also forged an impressive career in silent films, making a number of successful features for Metro Pictures (the forerunner of MGM) in the 1920s.

In recent years I acquired a copy of the Greta Garbo movie, Camille (1936). A bonus on the DVD is Nazimova’s visually arresting version of the same story, made in 1921. The early Art Deco production and costume designs by Nazimova’s friend, Natacha Rambova (future wife of the film's co-star, Rudolph Valentino) are astonishing. In many ways I prefer it to the justifiably celebrated, but more conventional 1936 film.

Another woman ahead of her time, Alla Nazimova joins the growing ranks of Moth Woman Vigilantes in this second Winsor and Newton pigment marker exercise. 

3. BETTE DAVIS


The initiation of screen and stage actor Bette Davis into the prestigious Moth Women Vigilantes Hall of Infamy is long overdue.

A favourite movie of mine is All About Eve; it's distinguished by a diamond-sharp script and a fine ensemble cast. But the standout performance is delivered by Bette Davis. She's so damn good as Margo Channing it's hard to believe that she wasn't the first choice for the role (it was originally intended for Claudette Colbert). My personal list of favourite Davis films is far too lengthy to fit here, but also includes Of Human Bondage (1934) Dark Victory (1939) The Letter (1940) The Little Foxes (1941) and Now, Voyager (1942).

In her long career, Davis frequently lived up to her reputation for being difficult. Like the Moth Women Vigilantes, she didn't suffer fools gladly and always fought long and fierce for what she believed in. Davis sought for truth and honesty in her roles. Moreover, she was never afraid to appear unsympathetic or unglamorous - never more so than in her portrayal of the grotesque, crazed title character in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Reputedly she even did her own makeup for the film.

With the exception of her newly acquired MWV mask, this Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker drawing shows Bette Davis much as she appeared in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? right down to the insect brooch adorning her beret.

4. MYRNA LOY


The fourth W & N Pigment Marker drawing celebrates screen and stage actor Myrna Loy.

As is the case with many a talented actor, Hollywood took a long time to know what to do with her. In many of Loy's early films, she was stereotypically cast as femme fatales, Asian or Eurasian characters, for example, the evil daughter of Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932).

In 1934 she appeared opposite actor William Powell in Manhattan Melodrama, best known as the film notorious gangster John Dillinger viewed just before he was shot dead outside the cinema. (Allegedly, Loy had been his favourite actress).

Myrna Loy had already made over eighty movies before she appeared in the Thin Man (1934). The movie, based on Dashiell Hammett's celebrated detective novel, would jump-start her career. 

Initially head Louis B. Mayer refused to cast her opposite William Powell as urbane husband and wife sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. He regarded Loy as a solely dramatic actress, not capable of handling the film's sophisticated comedy scenes. But director W. S. Van Dyck recognized her latent comic gifts and held out for her.

Loy and Powell would prove to be one of cinema's longest-lived pairs. They went on to make another twelve films together, including five sequels to the Thin Man, between 1936-1947.

Throughout the series, Nora is Nick's equal. She matches him in intellect, guts and nerves, wisecrack for wisecrack, cocktail for cocktail. Their natural, easygoing rapport, mutual respect and affection (which Loy and Powell shared in real life) rang so true that many people mistakenly believed they were really married.

Despite her long, distinguished career, Loy was never nominated for an Academy Award, an oversight deplored by the Moth Women Vigilantes. Believing the Honourary Oscar she received in 1991 was too little, too late, they have awarded her their highest honour: induction to the Moth Woman Vigilantes Hall of Infamy.