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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Leaf Insect Woman

Leaf Insect Woman, 2016, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm

Throughout history so many women have been rendered invisible that the metamorphosis of untold numbers into Leaf Insects, arguably the finest disappearing artists in the insect world, was probably inevitable.

In their former lives as homo sapiens, most of these women had become adept at blending with floral wallpaper patterns. As homo insecta, their camouflage is so convincing that predators can scarcely distinguish them from real leaves. Like the insects from which they evolved, they have even learned to rock backwards and forwards in the manner of windblown leaves.

Save for the unnatural history illustration above, there is very little documentation of this singular Homo insecta.

To view developmental stages of the work, scroll down:

Left: Specimen of Phyllium pulchrifolium; right: Leaf Insect Woman penciled in

Detail of Phyllium pulchrifolium 

Progress view 2

Progress view 3

Progress view 4

Progress view 5

Progress view 6

Progress view 7

Progress view 8

Progress view 9 (detail)

To learn about Phyllium pulchrifolium, the amazing Leaf Insect Woman's equally extraordinary ancestor, go HERE.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

For Shakespeare's 400th birthday and Autumn's onset

A leaf from one of William Shakespeare's books, The Sonnets (Sonnet 73) and one of mine, Leaves of Absence (Memory #19):

Memory #19, 2016, archival pigment print 

Sonnet LXXIII

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. 
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
   This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Memory #17

Featured in this post are selected development stages of Memory #17, a work in progress from Leaves of Absence, an ongoing series of archival pigment prints. For the benefit of first-time visitors to this blog, all of the leaves were sourced from Eucalyptus trees in the Victorian Goldfields town of Newstead and all of the works focus on the virtual absence of Chinese women from the goldfields during the Australian gold rush. (In 1861 the Australian population included 38,337 Chinese men, but only eleven Chinese women). My research includes an investigation of historic Chinese hairstyles.

Initially each leaf is pressed for only a short period - a few days at most - just enough to ensure a flat surface, but not long enough for its colour to fade. A clear acrylic sealer is then applied to both sides of the leaf. At this point (donning my Winsor and Newton Global Ambassador hat) I draw a simple outline onto the surface with a white Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker. The silhouette is completed with a black W&N pigment marker. Although this is by no means the finished work, it is a key stage in its development.

Now the digital component begins. The leaf is photographed with my iPad and a series of filters are applied, all of them from iPad apps and most of them used very differently from the purposes for which they were originally designed. Not for the first time, I have to thank my friend, distinguished iPad artist Deborah McMillion for her suggestions, observations and app advice.

It is not uncommon for me to make dozens of digital proofs, often over a period of several weeks - sometimes months - before arriving at one that meets my satisfaction. This one is no exception. The proofs below (1-4 from bottom) show some variations of the same image in order of its development. Like the other works in the series, Memory #17 is intended to suggest old photographs or postcards, which, like memories, have faded with time.

Selected works from Leaves of Absence will be part of a forthcoming artist book. (See Moth Woman Press HERE and HERE).










Thursday, April 14, 2016

Frog-legged Leaf Beetle Woman

According to the Book of Beetles (edited by Patrice Bouchard, Ivy Press, Great Britain, 2014) the Frog-legged Leaf Beetle (sagra buqueti) from which this newly-discovered homo-insecta evolved is one of the world’s largest, most colourful leaf beetles. Despite its considerable size (20-39 mm) and distinctive appearance, little is known about the beetle in the wild. However, other equally colourful and sizeable species of the genus Sagra can be found on climbing vines in the jungles of Asia. (See image second from top). The remaining images in this post are progress views of my recently completed unnatural history illustration of the Frog-legged Beetle Woman, culminating with the finished work. 









Completed Frog-legged Leaf Beetle Woman, 2016, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mekong Delta Blues


Virginia Woolf and the Lighthouse, 1992, oil pastel on paper 76 x 55 (pictured above) is an early work that was initially exhibited in my first solo show at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, in 1992. The exhibition focused on the creative lives of three writers: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Since then the drawing (now in a private collection) has rarely seen the light of day. However, it has just been granted a new lease on life in an entirely different context. Christopher Minko from the Cambodian-based band KROM has selected the work as the basis for the cover art of the group's latest album (layout by Anya Minko):



As described on their Facebook Page, KROM is: 'a band in Cambodia, based in Phnom Penh, with a unique blend of Delta blues sound with traditional Khmer. KROM - elusive, exclusive and reclusive'.

The 12-track KROM album Mekong Delta Blues is out now on the Musik and Film label and is available online for digital purchase through Amazon and iTunes. The Amazon link, which also features an insightful review of the album by J. Newman, is here:

KROM comprises Christopher Minko (guitar, co-songwriter, vocals) sisters Sophia Sophia Chamroeun (lead vocals, co-songwriter, Khmer lyrics) and Sopheak Chamroeun (lead and harmony vocals) Jimmy Baeck on slide guitar, sax and accordion and Mao Sokleap on keyboards. The band is entirely self-funded and, as Christopher Minko has stated, they walk a complex path. At times their wide-ranging music touches on the dark side – especially in regard to social issues that need to be addressed (for example, the human slavery that is still widespread in Cambodia).

KROM - Songs from the Noir and the Mekong Heart, a documentary about the band, is soon to be released. Made as a labour of love by Tim Purdie and Bunhom Chhorn, it is the subject of an episode of ABC television’s Australian Story. Christopher tells me the movie will also be doing the film festival circuit in Melbourne this year – an update on this is promised once the details of dates, times and venues are confirmed.



Meanwhile, three teasers from the film can be viewed on You Tube:

For further information, KROM Phnom Penh’s Facebook Page is here:

https://mobile.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001272020782&tsid=0.4106789075303823&source=typeahead

Friday, April 8, 2016

A visit to Canberra, Part 2

Aside from its marvelous museums, my favourite thing about our capital city is the easy, graceful manner in which it cohabits with the natural world; perhaps more so than any major city I’ve ever visited.

The highlights of our daily walks along the banks of Lake Burley Griffin to and from the National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery and National Library of Australia were our encounters with some of the locals:

Shane in (top left photo) black swans, moor hens and ducks

A favourite haunt was the NGA Sculpture Garden, a haven of serenity: 

Auguste Rodin, Pierre de Wiessant, Eustache de Saint Pierre, Jean d'Aire and Andrieu d'Andres from
The burghers of Calais, 1985-86, cast 1967-84

One afternoon Shane and I stopped to admire two of Auguste Rodin’s nude studies for the Burghers of Calais, (c 1885-86, bronze, cast by Georges Rudier Foundry Paris, 1974).


Climbing the back of the lefthand figure at a rate of knots was this exquisite caterpillar:


Eagled-eyed Shane was the first to spot an extraordinary sight: a second caterpillar, semi-cocooned inside the mouth of the same figure. It’s a shame we won’t be around for its transformation into a butterfly and its maiden flight - an enchanting sight I’ll only ever get to see in my mind’s eye.


Foreground, centre: Emile Bourdelle, Penelope, 1912 with feathered visitor;
Background: Mark de Suvero, ik ook ('me too') 1971-72

Dadang Christanto, Heads from the North, 2004 (detail) See also image below
Background, centre: Henry Moore, Hill arches, 1973


Only one waterlily was in bloom, but it was a beauty 

Leaf litter

Burt Flugelman, Cones, 1982, stainless steel (detail)

Anthony Gormley, Angel of the North (life-size maquette), 1996, bronze


On the steps of the National Library of Australia (the statue of the monkey to my
left commemorates the Chinese Year of the Monkey). Photo by Shane Jones

Connection to the natural world is reinforced by the above sculpture (foreground): Fire and Water by Judy Watson;
Sound designer: Michael Hewes

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A visit to Canberra

Shane and I spent most of the Easter break in Canberra. The primary focus of our stay was an exhibition of 130 works by renowned Australian painter Tom Roberts, mounted by the National Gallery of Australia. One of this country’s finest artists, Roberts (1856-1931) was a member of the legendary group of Australian Impressionists known as the Heidelberg School.

The show opened in early December and attracted record-breaking visitor numbers throughout its run. It ended on Easter Monday, but numerous works can still be viewed on the NGA website. To access the works, which are divided into key periods, go HERE and click on Gallery.

Pictured below is one of Roberts's most iconic works, Shearing the Rams, 1890, oil on canvas on composition board, 122.4 x 183.3 cm. Collection: National Gallery of Victoria:

The NGA’s extensive permanent collection was an added bonus. The following is a random, eclectic selection - a mere smidgen of the gallery's myriad treasures.

A work that never fails to enchant is Heri Dono’s Flying angels, 2006, polyester resin, clock parts, electronic components, paint, wood, cotton gauze:

Details of Flying Angels:


Catching an angel's shadow (photograph by Shane Jones):

Walking David Hockney’s A Bigger Grand Canyon, 1998, oil on 60 canvases (20.7 m 7.44 m overall). Photo by Shane Jones:

Below: plunging into Hockney’s A Diver, 1978 (AKA A Diver, Paper Pool 17) paper pulp (12 panels) Sheets: 91.4 x 71.1 cm; Overall: 182.8 x 434.3 cm. Photo credit: Shane Jones.

We were delighted to see so many of Hockney’s works on display. Below, Shane views An image of Gregory, 1984-86 and Caribbean tea time, 1987. To his left is Roy Lichtenstein’s Nude with blue hair from the Nudes series, 1994:

Three works by David Hockney. Left: An image of Gregory, 1984-86, from the Moving focus series, lithograph, screenprint, collage, hand painted frame. Right: Caribbean tea time, 1987, folding screen from the Moving focus series 1984-87, lithograph, screen print, stencil, collage, paint, plastic and wood. Right: An image of Celia, 1984-86, from the Moving focus series, lithograph, screenprint, collage, hand painted frame:

An artist I’ve long admired is Annette Messager. This is Mes voeux (My vows) 1989, gelatin silver photographs, coloured pencil on paper, string. The images of body fragments reference ex-votive offerings:

Another commanding lense-based work is Christian Boltanski’s haunting Pourim reserve, 1989, gelatin silver photographs, tin biscuit boxes, wall lights:

Like Heri Dono, Tina Modotti recognises the power of puppetry as a conveyer of social and political narratives. Pictured below is her Hands of marionette player, Mexico, 1926, gelatin silver photograph:

Unknown artist: Comb (Kerem Seker) c. 19th century, from the Torres Strait Islands, Queensland:

Yessie Mosby, Kulkalgal Ya people: Dhoeri (Initiate) Masig (Yorke Island) Torres Strait Islands, Queensland. (2010, bamboo cane, twine, natural earth pigment, goose, cockatoo and cassowary feathers):

Yessie Mosby, Kulkalgal Ya people: Dhoeri (Priest) Masig (Yorke Island) Torres Strait Islands, Queensland. (2010, bamboo cane, twine, natural earth pigment, goose, cockatoo and cassowary feathers):

The NGA’s Pacific art collection mainly comes from Melanesia (New Guinea, Vanuatu New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands). The objects in the space below are of deep cultural significance. Many contain ancestors and bush spirits and once provided a magical connection between the living and the dead.

Viewed from above, Shane studies the intricately carved Ancestor pole (bisj) c. 1960s, wood, ochres and bast, originating from the Omandesep, Asmat people of Papua, Indonesia (foreground right):