Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stigmodera jewel beetle woman

It seems like a year, rather than just a couple of weeks, since Shane and I were in Adelaide and longer still since Stigmodera jewel beetle woman first saw the light of day. In fact, the work was completed just before we left for South Australia. It was only after we returned that I remembered the species of jewel beetle (Classification: Coleoptera: Buprestidae) from which the Stigmodera jewel beetle woman evolved is from the Adelaide Hills, where Carrick Hill House is located. (See previous post and scroll down). It's very likely that clusters of Stigmodera beetles were observing us (at least, if they had nothing better to do) as we explored its sweeping garden. Most adult jewel beetles feed on the nectar from flowers and those at Carrick Hill are currently blooming in all their springtime glory.

Pictured below: completed Stigmodera jewel beetle woman, 2014, watercolour and pigmented drawing ink, 41.91x 29.72 cm, followed by two images of the work in progress:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A visit to Adelaide, Part 2

Following are more pictorial highlights of our recent sojourn in Adelaide.

Shane in the Morgan Thomas Gallery of the magnificent Art Gallery of South Australia

DK admiring the J. W. Waterhouse painting Circe Invidosa, 1892, oil on canvas

The Arts and Crafts movement is showcased in the Art Gallery of South Australia's basement,
including the Morris & Co. tapestry The Adoration of the Magi, purchased by the gallery in 1917 

The original State Library of South Australia

Some of the library's treasures

Shane admires the view from the first floor level of the State Library of South Australia

Back in bayside Brighton, their art deco cinema seems to have a more secure future than our Astor Cinema in Melbourne

Shane and wooden companion awaiting coffee outside one of Brighton's delightful cafes
that have sprung up in recent years

One of our favourite places in South Australia is the historic property Carrick Hill, located at the foot of the Adelaide Hills in suburban Springfield. Carrick Hill House was completed in 1939. It was the home of Sir Edward Hayward and his wife Lady Ursula (née Barr-Smith). The house, its contents and grounds remain largely intact. For me, Carrick Hill’s greatest draw card is its extraordinary permanent collection, especially the twentieth century British art, including works by Stanley Spencer, Augustus John, Gwen John and Jacob Epstein. After Sir Edward Hayward’s death in 1983 (his wife had predeceased him) the house was bequeathed to the state. You can read about the property HERE and its collection HERE.

Part of Carrick Hill's superb garden

Robin Rogers and Shane Jones approaching Carrick Hill house

Carrick Hill entrance hall

Paintings by Stanley Spencer: Monkey Puzzle Tree and Sunflowers

Bust of George Bernard Shaw, 1934, by Jacob Epstein

Albert Einstein sculpture captured in a linocut by Australian artist Eric Thake
paired with the original work (1933) by British sculptor Jacob Epstein 

Robin and Shane viewed from Carrick Hill's fine oak staircase

Setting off to explore Carrick Hill's garden 

On the way home from Carrick Hill my uncle was keen to show us the grave of composer Percy Grainger. I’ve always found old cemeteries fascinating, but had never before visited Adelaide Cemetery. By sheer accident, I discovered the grave of Adelaide born writer and artist Barbara Hanrahan. Back in the 1980s I met her on a couple of occasions, once at the Print Council of Australia, where I worked as an administrative assistant, and some time later when I was printing in the access workshop of the former premises of the Australian Print Workshop in Fitzroy. She was a warm gentle, person, and it was a thrill to meet her. I’m a longtime admirer of her books and artwork, which had a considerable influence on my early work so coming upon her grave was especially poignant.

Barbara Hanrahan's family grave, Adelaide Cemetery

A small selection of Barbara Hanrahan’s work can be viewed HERE and there is a short biography HERE. To hear Hanrahan herself speak about her work, click HERE.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A visit to Adelaide

Left-right: Godwin Bradbeer and Shane Jones at Melbourne Airport

We are not long back from four eventful days in Adelaide, South Australia. My Uncle Robin, with whom we stayed, had been urging us to fly over for the exhibition Dorrit Black: Unseen Forces, at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Due to unusually heavy fog, our Melbourne departure was delayed and we grumpily prepared ourselves for a long wait, trying hard not to think of how much this would cut into our precious time in Adelaide. It was at this point we discovered fellow artist Godwin Bradbeer (a friend and former colleague from my teaching days in the RMIT University Drawing Department) was also Adelaide-bound. We hadn't seen him in ages and the extended waiting time (thankfully, in the end it was only an hour and a half) flew by as if t'were mere seconds.

At Adelaide Airport my uncle was patiently awaiting our arrival. Robin lives in the seaside suburb of South Brighton, an area that has been a constant in my life. I’ve been coming here since I was a child, when my late grandparents lived around the corner in Lewis Street. (Their house has only recently been demolished). A long walk on the beach a block from Uncle Robin’s house is a prerequisite and always opens a floodgate of memories.

Shane on Brighton Beach

Robin and Shane on Brighton Pier

The following morning Shane and I set off for the Art Gallery of South Australia and the exhibition we'd flown all this way to see.

Adelaide-born Dorrit Black (23 December 1891 - 13 September 1951) is one of the finest modernist painters and printmakers this country has produced, a key figure often unjustly overlooked in the history of Australian art. She was one of the artists whose distinctive prints I studied when teaching myself lino cutting in the early 1980s, so I was very much aware of her work. But until seeing this stunning exhibition, which comprised over 200 works, I had no idea of its extraordinary range and scope. Its evolution continued right up to her untimely death in a car accident in 1951. Based on the evidence of her last paintings, Shane and I are convinced that still finer work would have been ahead of her.

Dorrit Black, Mirmande, c.1928, Mirmande, France, oil on canvas, 60 x 73.8 cm, Elder Bequest Fund 1940. 
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. 

Dorrit Black The Bridge, 1930, Sydney, oil on canvas on board, 60.0 x 81.0 cm, Bequest of the artist, 1951. 
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. 

Dorrit Black, Music, 1927/8, colour linocut, London or Paris.  

Dorrit Black, The acrobats, 1927-1928, colour linocut, printed in colour from 
four blocks on thin cream paper, 25.1 x 17.7 cm image; 25.8 x 23.8 cm sheet (irreg.)
editon no: 7/50

Four linoblocks for The acrobats. Lino blocks mounted on hardboard with Perspex, 
25.4 x 21.6 x 0.3 cm each block, collection Art Gallery of NSW,
gift of the artist's sister, Mrs Helen Finlayson 1967

Dorrit Black, The mountain lake, c. 1935, colour linocut on Japanese paper, 
29.7 x 20.7 cm (comp.) 35.6 x 26.5 cm irreg. (sheet). Edition 6/50

Dorrit Black, Argentina (The Spanish dancer) c. 1929, colour linocut, 
18.8 x 16.0 cm (image) 23.9 x 21.2 cm irreg. (sheet)

Such is the shameful state of neglect of this artist I found it difficult to find images to download here. The Art Gallery of SA has published an excellent, extensive catalogue, which I understand will soon be viewable online. Once it becomes available, I’ll add a link to this post. Meanwhile, you can read a little about the Dorrit Black exhibition HERE and about Dorrit Black herself HERE.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze

The sun, whose rays
Are all ablaze
With ever-living glory,
Does not deny
His majesty —
He scorns to tell a story!
He don't exclaim,
"I blush for shame,
So kindly be indulgent."
But, fierce and bold,
In fiery gold,
He glories all effulgent!

I mean to rule the earth,
As he the sky —
We really know our worth,
The sun and I!
I mean to rule the earth,
As he the sky —
We really know our worth,
The sun and I!

Observe his flame,
That placid dame,
The moon's Celestial Highness;
There's not a trace
Upon her face
Of diffidence or shyness:
She borrows light
That, through the night,
Mankind may all acclaim her!
And, truth to tell,
She lights up well,
So I, for one, don't blame her!

Ah, pray make no mistake,
We are not shy;
We're very wide-awake,
The moon and I!
Ah, pray make no mistake,
We are not shy;
We're very wide-awake,
The moon and I!

The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze, by W. S. Gilbert.
From The Mikado, 1885, music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, lyrics and libretto by W.S. Gilbert.*
Illustration: Deborah Klein, Untitled, 1992, woodcut on oriental paper

*To hear this glorious song (performed by Shirley Henderson as Leonora Braham
 in the movie Topsy-Turvy, 1999, directed by Mike Leigh) click HERE.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Homo-insecta in Melbourne and Mildura

As my forthcoming exhibition at the Art Vault in Mildura draws ever closer, I’ve been taking a temporary break from the current watercolours (which are intended for a different project) and returned to cutting lino.

Lino block in progress: Cossodes Lyonetii Moth Woman, 2014, 30 x 30 cm

The solo exhibition, Homo-insecta will be my first for many years to consist entirely of prints. I’ll be showing selected linocuts from the artist book of the same name, along with other new works that hark back to the Moth Masks series of prints, paintings and drawings (2007-2009) from which one of my first fairy tales, The Story of the Moth Masks, 2008, sprang.

As some of you may be aware, many of the moths that appear in my work were sourced from the CSIRO website Australian Moths Online. I thought I’d just about mined out this astonishingly rich site – but then I found this fine specimen, which became the basis for Cossodes Lyonetii Moth Woman.

Cossodes lyonetii White

The completion of the cutting has just about coincided with the end of winter in this part of the world, so the timing is perfect. It’s been particularly cold, even for Ballarat, and the weather has played havoc with the consistency of my printmaking ink. Initially I thought it was the ink that was at fault, and even discarded a tube of it. But after comparing notes with fellow printmaker Loris Button, who is based in nearby Creswick, I discovered she was having identical problems. Already the weather has started to warm up.  With a substantial amount of printing still to do for the exhibition, I’ve never anticipated springtime so eagerly.

Ready to print: Cossodes Lyonetii Moth Woman, 2014, lino block, 30 x 30 cm

Homo-insecta opens at the Art Vault on November 26 and runs until December 15.

Meanwhile, a gentle reminder that on Saturday week four prints from the Homo-insecta portfolio will make their Melbourne debut in the exhibition Near Neighbours, where they will rub shoulders with works by distinguished printmakers from Australia and New Zealand. 

For more about Near Neighbours and to preview some of the work, scroll down to my Blog Post dated August 10 or click HERE. Better yet, join the artists and curators Rona Green and Paulette Robinson for a celebratory drink at the opening at St Heliers Street Gallery, 2-4 pm on Saturday, 6 September.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Bad and Beautiful Blister Beetle Woman

 Blister Beetle Woman, 2014, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm.

Before, after and in between recent MIFF screenings we somehow found time to capture another insect womanThis was no mean feat, as the dark and dangerous Blister Beetle Woman is truly the femme fatale of the homo-insecta world.

Blister Beetles (Coleoptera) from the Meloidae family are named for their defensive secretion of a blistering agent, Cantharidin, a poisonous chemical that causes blistering of the skin. It is used medically to remove warts. Many Blister Beetles (including this example) are conspicuously colored, alerting would-be predators to their toxicity.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Pictured above: the fully formed homo-insecta, followed below by a series of images sequentially charting her evolutionary progress in reverse.

Blister Beetle Woman (detail)

Monday, August 18, 2014

MIFF, Melbourne Art Fair and Resonance

As of yesterday evening, the Melbourne International Film Festival is over for another year. I always feel a bit sad to see it end, especially when I’ve enjoyed it as much as I did this one*. It’s the one of the few times of the year that I give myself permission for a little guilt-free time off work. But with several deadlines looming, needs must; I brought a pile of homo-insecta linocuts with me to Melbourne, intending to hand colour them in between trips to the cinema and on the rare days we didn’t have a film to go to. It worked out surprisingly well; MIFF became a sound structure around which I was able to create an effortless and satisfying balance between work and play.

The hand colouring was completed somewhat ahead of the time I’d allotted for it (see August 10 blog post) and so I seized the opportunity to continue with the fledgling homo-insecta watercolours. By the festival’s end two more of these were nearly completed. The finishing touches to the second were applied earlier today. (Both will feature in future posts).  

But it hasn’t all been MIFF and work. On Saturday afternoon Shane and I drove to Maroondah Art Gallery to see Resonance, Craig Gough’s dazzling solo exhibition (is there another living colourist as fine as he?) At 2 pm Craig gave an informal, entertaining and enlightening floor talk, which, thanks to his enthusiastic audience, generated into a lively discussion specifically about his work and broader issues including abstraction versus figuration and acrylics versus oil paint.

From left: Craig Gough's Primary and Spacial Blue, both 2013, acrylic on canvas 

Back in the dim, distant 1980s, Craig was one of my painting and drawing lecturers at uni. Many post-art school years afterwards, and several MIFFs ago, we recognized Craig and his partner, artist Wendy Stavrianos queuing next to us at the Forum Cinema for Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I (2000). I hadn’t seen Craig since my graduation and it was our first meeting with Wendy. We had a great natter that night (I seem to remember the previous screening was running overtime). Coincidentally, some weeks later Shane and I were curated into an exhibition with Wendy at Charles Nodrum Gallery: The Painted Fold. It gave us anther opportunity to connect with she and Craig – and so an enduring and treasured friendship was born.

Wendy Stavrianos offers a Turkish Delight to an appropriately delighted Shane Jones.
Background, left-right: Maroondah Art Gallery Curator Lisa Byrne, Craig Gough and Assistant Curator Clinton Greenwood

Wendy, Lisa and Craig

Coinciding with the film festival was the biennial Melbourne Art Fair, which we visited on the last day, prior to the early evening screening of our last MIFF film.

The art overload begins. Photo credit: Shane Jones

I must admit to having mixed feelings about the Art Fair. To my knowledge, Art Overload has never actually killed, or even hospitalized anyone, but feel certain there must have been some close calls. Still and all, we really enjoyed the experience this time around. These days I have my head down in the Ballarat studio and lead a comparatively isolated existence; the fair provided an opportunity to see a great deal of what is out there under one enormous roof. Inevitably we bumped into several acquaintances and friends, including Polixeni Papapetrou, Godwin Bradbeer, Jackie Hocking, Rachel Hancock, Margaret Snowden, Adriane Strampp and Peter Lancaster. Stopping periodically for amiable conversation broke up the time, effectively preventing a potentially fatal art overdose.

Shane takes a breather before taking on the second level

I even bought an artwork, from Arts Project, one of our favourite stands: a wonderful drawing by Bobby Kryiakopoulos of the Wicked Witch of the West, as portrayed by Margaret Hamilton in the move The Wizard of Oz.

For the first time, there were two adjuncts to the Art Fair, the Not Fair (which we didn’t get to, although the venue, the Grace Darling Hotel, is fairly local to us) and Spring.1883 at the Hotel Windsor, which featured 20 galleries, each exhibiting in suites over four floors, a brilliant, fun, creatively challenging idea that was wholeheartedly embraced by all the galleries concerned. 

Our last MIFF movie was The Great Museum, a documentary about the famous Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, its extraordinary collection and the people who work there. So the twin themes of visual art and film finally converged and our marvelous MIFF fortnight ended on a perfect note.

Pictured below: our favourite après movie hangout: the Festival Lounge at the fabulous Forum Theatre.

*Our 2014 MIFF movies:
Life Itself
The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga
An Honest Liar
Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars
The Story of my Death
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden
Rhomer in Paris
Trespassing Bergman
The Great Museum
Amour Fou