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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A visit to Melbourne


Yesterday we delivered my lino block to the Australian Print Workshop, well ahead of time for the APW Collie Trust Exhibition in March 2021.

For several months, right up to yesterday morning, I’ve intermittently tinkered with the image, trying to second-guess any issues that might arise during the printing process. I couldn’t help myself, despite the ever-present danger of overworking or otherwise stuffing it up. Understandably, it was a considerable relief to save the block from myself and place it in the hugely capable hands of APW master printer, Simon White. This will be the third time I’ve worked with Simon. He also editioned my prints for the 2014 APW Summer School and IMPRESSIONS 2018, the APW’s biennial fundraiser. Collaboration with Simon is always a pleasure and also tremendously instructive.


Shane and I were surprised at how relatively quiet the Melbourne streets are, despite the gradual opening up of the city. As a result, we were able to run our remaining errands a lot faster than usual, including stocking up on art supplies from St. Luke Artist Colourmen.

 
A highlight of our day trip was Rona Green’s delightful exhibition, currently on view in the upstairs gallery of Australian Galleries Stockrooms in Derby Street, Collingwood. 


Before heading home we made a side-trip to Williamstown for afternoon tea with our dear friend, Leigh Hobbs. We were well ahead of schedule and managed some quality time by the ocean beforehand, followed by a stroll around Williamstown’s lush Botanic Gardens. It sure felt good to breathe the sea air again. It’s been awhile. 





Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Looking forward 2


In this brief follow-up to Looking forward (Blog Post Monday, September 28) are the latest updates on my future exhibitions, most of them originally scheduled for 2020, but postponed until 2021.

The George Collie APW Award Exhibition at the Australian Print Workshop, a joint survey of my prints and those of fellow award recipient, the late Barbara Hanrahan, has now been confirmed for Saturday, 6 March - Saturday, 3 April 2021.


Revised dates for Backstories, my solo show at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, were also recently confirmed. The exhibition will run from Wednesday, 7 April - Friday, 23 April. The opening event is on Saturday, April 10 2021.


My residency at Geelong Grammar remains penciled in for May 2021, dates TBC.


As previously posted, my solo show at Queenscliff Gallery will run from Sunday, June 3 - Monday, June 21 2021.


Dates for a third solo show, at Gallery on Sturt in the second half of 2021, are still TBC.


The above information may be subject to further changes. Nevertheless, as things gradually open up in this part of the world, it’s heartening to have something more concrete to work towards.


In that spirit, pictured top is my newly completed drawing, Looking forward, 2020, ink and gouache on Khadi paper, 21 x 15 cm.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Rückenfigur

Deborah Klein, current work in progress, a triptych as yet untitled.
Acrylic on linen, 40.5 x 30.5 cm (each panel).


I have to stay alone in order to fully contemplate and feel nature. The painter should paint not only what he has in front of him, but also what he sees inside himself.

Caspar David Friedrich


Recently I discovered by sheer chance that the dominant motif in my work for well over two decades has a name. It’s “Rückenfigur”, or “figure seen from the back”. Why did I not know this before? The subject dates from antiquity, but the term originated in the German Romantic Movement of the 19th century and is most closely associated with the painter Caspar David Friedrich, whose work I’ve long admired. In fact, his paintings were the main catalyst for my current body of work, a series of anonymous figures I call “Journeywomen”.


Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818.
Oil on canvas, 94.8 x 74.8 cm, Kunsthalle Hamburg.


The history of figures viewed from behind spans the entirety of visual culture, including graphics, cinema and photography. Among the painters who have employed the Rückenfigur in their works are Rene Magritte, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Gustave Courbet, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres andmost notably and consistently, another of my favourite artists, Vilhelm Hammershøi.


Vilhelm HammershoiInterior with Young Woman Seen from the Back, 1904.
 Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50.5 cm, Randers Museum of Art.


The Rückenfigur is often portrayed as an outsider, reflecting a mood of quietude, self-containment and isolation, although she doesn’t necessarily travel alone. Paradoxically, she invites us to share her journey and see the world through her eyes, to the extent that we almost become her.

What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, ca 1597.


I’m fairly well versed in the ever-evolving history of  “rear view portraits,” yet this feels like a real light bulb moment. I am amazed at how empowering it is to to know that there is a collective name for them. To my mind, it validates and unifies this somewhat scattered tradition. Moreover, the Rückenfigur addresses a particularly divisive time in our history, when our state of disconnection - from ourselves, from each other and from the natural world - seems greater than ever before. 



Only connect! That was her whole sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.

– E. M. Forster, Howards End, 1910.


Photo credit for above image: Shane Jones.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Lost and found

 

This painting was missing, presumed lost, for a couple of years. In the months following last year’s move, I discovered it in a storage box we had believed to contain packaging materials. (It did, but the individual components of the painting were safely packed underneath). 


The work was a finalist in the Geelong Painting Prize in 2002 and toured in the curated group show, ‘The enchanted forest - new gothic storytellers,’ in 2008-2009. 


I even wrote a fairy tale based on it. An early draft of the story was published in my first blog post. You can read it HEREThe final version of the tale was subsequently included in my book, There was once... the collected fairy tales (2009).


I’d more or less resigned myself to never seeing the painting again, so much so, that I still find it hard to believe it’s back in my possession.


Pictured top: Swarm, 2002, acrylic on 32 oval canvases, paired. Large: 25 x 20 cm each; small: 15 x 20 cm each. Overall dimensions approx. 172 x 194 cm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

THINKING OF PLACE II - further travels


Today’s blog post brings news I’ve been remiss about sharing earlier: the group exhibition, THINKING OF PLACE II, originally conceived for the international print symposium IMPACT 10 in Santander, Spain in 2018, is currently on exhibit at Northsite Contemporary Arts in Cairns, Far North Queensland. The show opened in September and continues to November 7.

Prints being multiples, from today, October 21, and continuing to November 1, the exhibition will run concurrently at Arthaus Contemporary Gallery in Orakei, Auckland, New Zealand. For further information, visit the Facebook page of THINKING OF PLACE II HERE.

Yesterday a review of the exhibition by Ina Arraoui arrived in my inbox - an unexpected and delightful surprise. My contribution to the show, the phemograph Detritus, 2018, pictured above, is referenced in the review. Back in 2018, I was unable to travel to Santander for IMPACT 10. With continued travel restrictions, it’s possible I won’t even get to see the exhibition in any of its subsequent venues, so my thanks and gratitude are extended to Ina for giving many others in the same boat a very real sense of what THINKING OF PLACE II is about.

Ina Arraoui is a New Zealand-based print artist and curator. Her website is HERE.

The introductory paragraphs of Ina Arraoui’s review are directly below. To read the review in its entirety, click HERE

Introduction

Although many of us envisage a physical geographical location when thinking of place, it’s more often than not a complex synthesis of feelings and memories that ultimately defines our relationship to a place. Printmaking artist and academic Monika Lukowska argues that notions of place are inseparable from the human experience, referencing geographer Yi-Fu Tuan’s theory of “topophilia” whereby place only comes into existence when meaning is attached to a certain location resulting from time spent between the person and the space (2018). The exhibition Thinking of Place II is an impressive cultural exchange project where over 60 artists from 9 printmaking collectives across 5 countries have been invited to make works exploring questions of place. Artists were encouraged to reflect on the relationship between place, memory and time, using a range of traditional and contemporary printmaking processes and techniques, resulting in a rich and engaging conversation, as diverse in perspectives as in the collection’s visual presentation. 

Background to the project

Thinking of Place was initially conceived as a cultural exchange project between five artist groups from New Zealand and Australia. Members of each group had met at the IMPACT 8 Conference in Dundee, Scotland, instantly striking a lasting friendship and giving birth to a trans Tasman collaborative print project.  After a successful first edition of the exchange, which was exhibited in each of the host cities, the organisers decided to continue the momentum with a second iteration of the project to be exhibited at IMPACT 10. In the spirit of the printmaking community, which is marked by a distinctly inclusive, collaborative approach, the project expanded to include four more groups from Canada, Ireland and the UK.  Whether a group is based on a shared geographical location or print studio, each one is committed to advancing printmaking and supporting artists working in print-based media. Collaborative projects such as Thinking of Place give printmakers the opportunity to not only exhibit their work on the international stage but to foster professional and personal connections across the printmaking community, globally. Participating artists have been selected by each group either by invitation or open call. 

Read on HERE.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

New adventures in printmaking: craft presses


Back in May, during the first period of lockdown, I purchased the craft press shown here. Since then, I’ve been predominantly focused on painting and drawing and it’s only recently that I’ve had the chance to try it out.  

Essentially the press is an embossing and die-cutting machine, but it can also be utilised for small scale relief, monotype and intaglio prints. Our two etching presses have been in storage since last year’s move, and due to insufficient studio space, they are likely to remain there for some time yet. Meanwhile, there’s a small project I’ve been keen to undertake, as well as an accumulation of previously carved lino blocks that I’ve never even proofed.

I first became aware of the existence of craft presses via the Instagram page of Margate-based linocut artist, Nick Morley, AKA Linocut Boy. Long haul visitors to this blog might remember that he featured some of my work in his book, Linocut for Artists & Designers (2016). When lockdown was first introduced in the UK, Nick reported on Instagram that he’d resorted to working at home in his attic with only the the most basic of materials and something called an X-Cut. I had no idea what this was and it piqued my curiosity. Some online searching revealed it to be what is regarded as the Rolls Royce of craft presses. Aside from its sleek good looks, the X-Cut has the benefit of a dial at the top that enables change of pressure, a feature that’s generally lacking in similar presses. Unfortunately, my searches also revealed the X-Cut to be by far the priciest of craft presses - considerably more so with the added cost of international shipping. As it turns out, they are also the hardest to come by, particularly in this part of the world. If you are fortunate enough to track down an X-Cut, however, I recommend Annie Day’s informative article, Making prints with an x cut XPRESS Craft Machine in Creative Printmaking Workshops on her website, Printmaking SistersHERE

Further investigation led me to the Facebook page Craft Press Printmakers, which has close to five and a half thousand members. There I learned that most brands do a good job even without adjustable pressure - it’s simply a matter of experimentation with the amount of backing material used. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from there, I set out to order a press of my own. I was fortunate to find one on an Australian site, CraftOnline. It was very reasonably priced at $165.00, including shipping. (The price has since been further reduced). The press is designed for printing on up to A4-sized paper and even has a dial on the left side that enables adjustment of pressure. It’s an ideal size for small spaces like my current studio. Don’t be fooled by its kitschy brand name, Poppy Crafts, or its plastic construction and tizzy colour scheme. In my first efforts, printing initially from the old block pictured below, I’ve achieved infinitely more satisfying results and with far greater ease than with either of our etching presses. 

Click on images for a clearer view. An update on the Poppy Crafts press will follow in the near future.


Pictured above: Wallpaper Rose, the Disappearing Woman, linocut, 15 x 10 cm.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Now we are three



Today is Alice’s third birthday. That makes it nearly three years since Shane made the famous pronouncement, “I don’t want another cat, Deb.” And we know how that turned out.

Happy Birthday, Alice! 










Friday, October 2, 2020

For RBG 1933-2020

Lace collars have been a recurring part of my personal iconography for over two decades. The works featured here and several others not pictured were made at different times and in varying contexts. Art is often prescient, however. Nowadays I can’t look at any of them without thinking of “The Notorious RGB”. It feels as if they were always about her, even before I was aware of her existence. The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s iconic collection of collars were more than mere fashion accessories. Through them, she staked her claim on a traditionally male garment and at the same time, feminized it. 

The wider significance of her collars is detailed in Vanessa Friedman’s article, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Lace Collar Wasn’t an Accessory, It Was a Gauntlet, The New York Times, first published September 20, 2020:


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/style/rbg-style.html


When he was commissioned to design a visual tribute to RGB for the front cover of THE NEW YORKER, October 5, 2020, illustrator Bob Starke created the following work:



For background information on the illustration, read  Bob Starke’s “Icons” by Francoise Mouly, THE NEW YORKER, September 23, 2020 here:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cover-story/cover-story-2020-10-05


Pictured above:

Remnants, 1999, acrylic on two canvases, 75.5 x 12.5 cm (top), 12.5 x 12.5 cm

(bottom)

Icons, Rob Starke, cover illustration, THE NEW YORKER, October 5, 2020


Pictured below:

Regeneration, 2020linocut in progress, lino block 42.5 x 26.5 cm

Anonyme, 1998, linocut printed from three blocks on Japanese mending tissue, 73 x 62 cm

Untitled, 1998, linocut printed from two blocks on Japanese mending tissue, 73 x 62 cm

Coil, 2001, acrylic on seven canvases, 60 x 55.5 cm

Still Life with Lace collar, 2001, acrylic on three canvases (detail) 131.5 x 40.5 cm

Page from an Album, 2000, linocut printed from three blocks on Japanese mending tissue, 63 x 74 cm 

Lace, 2000, acrylic on two canvases, 23.5 x 30 cm (upper) 20 x 25 cm (lower)

Web, 20002020, acrylic on 4 canvases, 35 x 25 cm 


For more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, go here:


https://www.biography.com/law-figure/ruth-bader-ginsburg


The acclaimed documentary, RBG, 2018, is also highly recommended:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RBG_(film)


The trailer for RBG is here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biIRlcQqmOc


R.I.P., RBG. Long may your legacy continue.









Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A package from Arizona

Yesterday afternoon the postman delivered a sturdy brown envelope from my friend Deborah McMillion, who lives way across the other side of the world, in Arizona. Look what was inside: 


I can’t remember the last time I received a handwritten note, let alone two, and the four tiny stamps are exquisite. I’m already thinking of how I can incorporate the handmade Prickly Pear and Yucca papers into my work to best do them justice (see above) and Deborah’s etchings, Capes Wrapped Tight and Rain I (also pictured below) are things of beauty. 

This morning I received a call from Creative Framing to say my works for the George Collie APW Award exhibition were ready for collection (see previous post) and we stopped by this afternoon. Predictably, they’ve done a brilliant job. It was also a perfect opportunity to drop in Deborah’s etchings, both of which were very much admired by everyone. 

On the advice of Ian, who will be framing them, I’ve chosen a slightly different frame for each work, and both will be window-mounted in the cream museum board shown below. I hope Deborah will approve! 

For some time I’ve been considering devoting an occasional blog post to one or two my favourite things. It seems there’s no time like the present to start right now with Capes Wrapped Tight and Rain I, both of which, incidentally, are very much in keeping with today’s weather! 

Thank you, Deborah. Shane and I will treasure them.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Looking forward



Directly following (at least, to the best of my ability) are further COVID-directed updates to my ever-evolving exhibition schedule.

While lockdown continues in Melbourne, it remains difficult to provide firm dates for the George Collie APW Award Exhibition at the Australian Print Workshop. Furthermore, travel restrictions have made it impossible to take two key works intended for the show to our Melbourne framer. 

Thankfully a fellow Ballarat-based artist came to the rescue with her recommendation of local firm, Creative Framing. The linocuts pictured above and below are somewhat tricky to frame, owing to their layered construction and the delicate nature of the materials involved. The team at Creative Framing have taken this completely in their stride. Not that I’m surprised. Recently they also framed Maid of Honour, my shortlisted drawing for the current 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Award. Their suggestions for the job were spot on and I couldn’t have been more delighted with the finished result.


We are very fortunate to have a picture framer of this calibre here in Ballarat. I may not know when the APW show will run, but at least I'll be ready for when it does.

Looking further forward, Backstories, my solo exhibition at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery in Melbourne has now been confirmed for April 2021, roughly a year after it was originally scheduled. Precise dates will be provided shortly.

My residency at Geelong Grammar remains penciled in for May 2021, dates TBC.

For those who may have missed the post of Saturday August 29, RECENT PRINTMAKING NEWS, my solo show at Queenscliff Gallery* has been rescheduled to run from June 3 -21, 2021. 

*PLEASE NOTE: the former Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop (QG&W) recently transformed its  workshop mezzanine to an exclusive preview and exhibition space. Accordingly, the gallery has been renamed Queenscliff Gallery (QG). 

QG's updated url is: https://qgallery.com.au.

The gallery's new email address is: qg@qgallery.com.au.

In other recent news, I've been offered a show at Gallery on Sturt in Ballarat. Again, dates have yet to be confirmed, but it will most likely take place in the latter half of 2021.

Monday, September 14, 2020

THE BIG KITTY

Official poster for THE BIG KITTY
Top right-hand corner, L-R: Lewis Miller, Deborah Klein and Gavin Brown
Far right: stars of THE BIG KITTY, Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby

My Blog Post of August 25, Through the Eyes of Film, focused on several older works that were partly inspired by Film Noir.

It never occurred to me that soon afterwards I would again be raising the subject, but in an entirely different context. This post is about a noir-inspired film in which I actually appear.

THE BIG KITTY, an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek pastiche of Film Noir, was jointly conceived, written, designed and directed by Melbourne artist Tom Alberts with his wife and co-star, fellow artist, Lisa Barmby.

The film has yet to be released, and up until now, few, if any of us, have seen it. My own life partner, Shane Jones, appears as an Irish cop, Sean O'Connery, and in my cameo appearance, I play a bogus fortune teller, Madame F. 

At this stage, most of us have only the vaguest idea of the plot as a whole, except that it involves a kidnapped cat, played by Tom and Lisa's beloved feline, Monsieur Baptiste, and a colourful cast of supporting characters portrayed by shady inhabitants of the Melbourne art world. 

The film has had a long period of gestation - it was begun in 2008 - but if the following trailer and short promotional film are any indication, it will be well worth the wait. Both clips are gems in their own right, but for all their sense of fun, it's clear that Tom and Lisa are positively steeped in every facet of this singular period of film history.

THE BIG KITTY - TRAILER 

THE BIG KITTY - IT’S A WRAP! - PROMOTIONAL FILM

For some background into the making of the film, visit Raymond Gill's article below:

DAILY REVIEW by RAYMOND GILL 
Published 31 July 2019

The good news is that we won't be kept in suspense for too much longer. On Sunday, September 20, direct from Paris where they're currently based, Tom and Lisa are streaming an official cast and crew screening, followed by an after-party via Zoom. Hopefully further screenings won't be too far behind.

I for one foresee an instant classic. They don't call me Madame F for nothing.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Shane’s birthday week


The highlight of the past week was undoubtedly Shane’s first (and hopefully, last) birthday celebration in lockdown.  

The big day fell on Tuesday, September 8 and we enjoyed every minute of it. In short, it involved an excursion to nearby Woowookarung Regional Park in the morning, a double feature screened in our home cinema in the afternoon and evening, and a considerable amount of eating in between.


Fortunately, as far as eateries go, we’re spoilt for choice in Ballarat. Shane’s spectacular birthday cake from Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse was even more delicious than it looks.




Alice wouldn’t be deterred from joining in the celebrations although the FAQ, “Should you be on the table, Alice?” fell repeatedly on deaf ears.



In the evening we got takeaway from our favourite restaurant, Carboni’s, which just happens to be walking distance from the house. They excelled themselves.


The first half of the birthday double bill was one of my gifts to Shane. Mrs Lowry & Sona biopic about the complex relationship between the painter L. S. Lowry and his mother, was distinguished by the towering performances of its two leads, Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall. I’ve always been drawn to quiet, character-driven films, and didn’t find this at all stagey. It’s one of the criticisms that’s been levelled at it, presumably by those with a penchant for gun fights and car chases. 

Shane’s excellent choice for the second feature was Sally Potter’s wry comedy, The Party, which also features Timothy Spall and a sterling ensemble castI first saw it in 2017 at the Melbourne International Film Festival and loved it. This was Shane’s first viewing and he shared my enthusiasm. It’s a joy from start to finish, with a killer twist at the end. 


Shane’s birthday may have been on Tuesday, but his cake just kept on giving.


Today he cut the last two slices (below) while Alice, who is all partied out, slept it off under the table (above).


Thank you so much to everyone who sent birthday greetings. Next year we hope you can join us for a slice of cake.