Monday, February 18, 2019

Slow art

Outlook, acrylic on linen 40.5 x 30.5 cm (progress view). 

Developing several paintings simultaneously makes for slower progress with works such as this one, but does bring a sense of unification to the series as a whole. It’s not an uncommon approach with my linocuts, for example, the current Frankenstein’s Women suite (see previous post) but not so usual in my painting practice. At times, having too many unresolved paintings on the go can be a tad unnerving, so I may need to reign them in a little. That aside, the technical, aesthetic and conceptual cross-pollination has been beneficial, making me less inclined to be precious about individual works.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bride of the Revolution

It can be frustrating when a work in progress remains in limbo for too long. Sometimes, however, it can be a blessing, as in the case of my linocut, The Bride. Aside from the Title and Colophon pages, it’s the final work intended for the artist book Frankenstein’s Women, which centres on the women in Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The delay has enabled me to rethink the work a little (see below) before too much was cut away. I’ve reworked part of the drawing and added a thin choker (see above) which, in the finished work will be coloured red.

The choker was in particular vogue during the French Revolution, although it was hardly a fashion accessory. Female French ex-patriots wore red ribbon chokers as coded testaments to their own close escapes from the guillotine, and as a tribute to those who were not so fortunate. The colour red signified droplets of blood around a severed head.

Mary Shelley's political views were inherited from her parents Mary Wollstonecraft and 
William Godwin, whose politics leaned to the far left. Frankenstein may have its roots in Romanticism, but it is equally an allegory for the Reign of Terror, a commentary on mass revolution and social injustice. Frankenstein’s monster personifies the revolutionaries in terms of the dehumanising, brutalising affect of cruelty, poverty and neglect. Frankenstein and his family represent the bourgeoisie. 

For further reading, go HERE

The linocuts from Frankenstein's Women will be exhibited in a solo show at HipCat Printery, opening on October 12.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Brilliant Brollies at the Duldig Studio

Pictured with my hand-painted umbrella, Sunshade, created for the Duldig Studio's second Brilliant Brolly
event on April 6.  Photo credit: Shane Jones.

In the And Now for Something Completely Different Department, tomorrow, February 10, is International Umbrella Day.

Accordingly, the Duldig Studio museum and sculpture garden is hosting Part 1 of the Brilliant Brolly Campaign, a competition wherein some extremely talented and imaginative students have hand-decorated over forty folding umbrellas. Tomorrow afternoon from 2 - 4 pm, their umbrellas, including the prize winners, will be sold in a silent auction to raise funds for the care and conservation of the museum's collections and in support of its outreach programs.

A selection of the student entries on display in the sculpture garden. Image courtesy the Duldig Studio.

I first got to know the Duldig Studio in 2018, when I was invited to speak as part of their Creative Women in Focus series. 
This extraordinary house museum is the former home and studio of Viennese-Australian artists Slawa Horowitz-Duldig (1901 - 1975) and her husband, sculptor Karl Duldig (1902 - 1986). The museum is filled with their artworks, collections and furniture, some of the latter designed by Slawa. 

Another of Slawa's remarkable achievements is the invention of the folding umbrella, in much the same form as we know it today. The prototypes, plans and documentation relating to the umbrella, 'Flirt', which Slawa patented in 1929, are on display as part of the current exhibition at Duldig Studio, SLAWA: MODERNIST ART AND DESIGN. To learn about 'Flirt' and its troubled history, go HERE.


Sunday 10 February, 2.00pm - 4.00pm

Duldig Studio 
92 Burke Rd 
Malvern East

Part 2 of Brilliant Brolly is an open competition with entries due by 4 pm on March 21. A celebratory event will take place on Saturday, April 6 at 6 pm. I’m one of several invited artists who have embellished a brolly especially for the campaign, although mine is more along the lines of a sunshade.

The underside of Sunshade. Photo credit: Shane Jones.

Full details of the second event will be posted nearer the time. For further information, visit the Duldig Studio HERE.

Sunday, February 3, 2019


This painting, currently on the easel in my Ballarat studio, has been a particular challenge. I'm still up for it, despite being a mass of insecurities about my work (which, paradoxically, seem to increase with age and experience). What is most satisfying about this series is how much I’m learning along the way. Speaking of paradoxes, one crucial thing I’ve already learned is that for some journeys, you actually need to stay put.

That isn’t to say my travelling days are over. It won’t be for a while yet, but return journeys to London, New York, Paris and Berlin are firmly in my sights. Without the formative times I spent in those places, and others, this work wouldn’t exist. I wonder if I’d even be an artist. After all, it’s a calling that has more extreme ups, downs, twists and turns than the roller coaster at Luna Park in my hometown, St. Kilda.

Geographically speaking, Ballarat may not be so very far from there. But in other ways, I’ve come a long way (not far enough, admittedly, but further, perhaps, than I tend to give myself credit for). I still have miles to go before I sleep. At present, however, here and now is precisely where I need to be. At times some of my protagonists' more labyrinthine locks seem like convoluted maps, strewn with secret pathways and not a few dead ends. It’s been a while since I last visited Hampton Court Palace, but I reckon that after this series, navigating its famous maze will be a cinch.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

An update

On the second day of January, this was the painting on my easel. It’s now February 2, and it’s occurred to me that I’ve never posted an update. 

A couple of weeks back, I actually dared to think the work was finished, so much so that I had it documented by the exemplary Tim Gresham (see above). It was only after looking at his photo that I realised I’d made a huge mistake with the braiding. Like most artists, I can sometimes get too close to my work. Often, I find that a photograph gives me some necessary distance, enabling me to focus more clearly and, most crucially, pick up on any glaring errors. 

Making the necessary corrections wasn’t as difficult or invasive as I’d feared. (See top). The work is still not quite done, but getting there, I think.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Current work in progress

Following directly from where my previous post left off, here are further progress views of my current painting, the latest in the ongoing Back Story series. As yet untitled, the work is acrylic on linen and measures 40.5 x 30.5 cm.

The following view was snapped in my Ballarat studio early this morning.

As previously mentioned, of late I've been revisiting the work of the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, whose paintings I studied firsthand during a trip to Berlin in 2011, primarily at the Alte Nationalgalerie. In what has been a longish period of gestation, it has taken until now for something of his influence to permeate my own work.

Monday, January 21, 2019

One last look at 2018

Surveying the year that was. Photo credit: Tim Gresham.

January is more than halfway over and the year is already gathering speed. Even before the old year ended, Easter buns had made their first appearances in the stores, which is beyond crazy. But before joining the headlong rush into 2019 (hopefully at a more measured pace) I thought it important to note some high points from the year that was. My original list was quite long, but as I have already left it rather late, I've considerably whittled it down.

L - R: Bower Artists Louise Saxton, myself, Carole Wilson and Loris Button with our communal collections wall
at the Johnston Collection, 2018. Photo credit: Louis Le Vaillant.

The new iteration of the 2017 touring show, FROM THE BOWER: patterns of collectingrefigured as PATTERNS OF COLLECTING/From the Bower at the Johnston Collectionwas a joy from beginning to end. In all its various forms, the show was a huge part of my life for well over two years. It was a tremendous learning experience on more levels than I can count and a testament to what can be achieved by true creative collaboration. I’ll miss working with Bower Artists Loris ButtonCarole Wilson and Louise Saxtonand the unwavering support, enthusiasm and flexibility of Louis Le Vaillant, Director/Curator of The Johnston Collection and his brilliant team. As far as exhibiting experiences go, TJC has certainly set the bar high. 

The planning stages of our show. Pictured L-R: Loris Button, Carole Wilson, Louis Le Vaillant and Louise Saxton.

Among the many visitors to PATTERNS OF COLLECTING were literary luminaries and dear friends
Leigh Hobbs and Dmetri Kakmi, seen here clowning in the 'Menagerie' Room. This was Leigh's second visit to the show.

For those who would like to revisit our collective bower, the museum has commissioned a short film. If you weren't able to make it along during the show's long run, it will give you some idea of what you missed. To view the film, click HERE.

Installation view of my homo-insecta watercolours in My Monster: The Human Animal Hybrid at RMIT Gallery, Melbourne.

For lovers of gothic literature and fans of the horror and science fiction genres, 2018 was noteworthy as the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s landmark novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, an anniversary that was widely celebrated throughout the year. The book and its legacy infiltrated a substantial part of the program for Melbourne Rare Book Week. It was also the inspiration for curator Evelyn’s Tsitas’s superlative exhibition My Monster: The Human Animal Hybrid at RMIT Gallery, Melbourne. I’m indebted to Evelyn Tsitas (Senior Advisor, Communications and Outreach) and Helen Rayment (Acting Director and Senior Exhibitions Officer) for inviting me to participate in the latter (see above).

Working on the artist book Progeny during my residency at the Melbourne Athenaeum Library.

Melbourne Athenaeum Library has been a pillar of support over the last couple of years. In June/July, a residency in connection with Melbourne Rare Book Week afforded me the opportunity to work in one of my favourite places. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was the catalyst for the two projects I undertook during the residency: a series of linocuts for Frankenstein's Women, a forthcoming artist book, and Progeny, a one-of-a-kind artist book. 

In particularly exciting news, my artist book LEAVES OF ABSENCE was acquired by the Melbourne Athenaeum Library (the site of its launch in late 2017), the State Library of Victoria and, towards the year’s end, the National Gallery of Australia.

Installation view of LEAVES OF ABSENCE (with ceramic snail courtesy of TJC) in
PATTERNS OF COLLECTING, From the Bower at The Johnston Collection.

My warmest thanks to Sue Westwood, Business Manager, Melbourne Athenaeum Library, Des Cowley, History of the Book Manager, State Library of Victoria and Roger Butler, Senior Curator, Australian Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books, National Gallery of Australia for instigating the acquisitions.

For more about LEAVES OF ABSENCE, the Athenaeum Residency and other book-related news, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

With Shane Jones and our entries for the Exquisite Palette show, Tacit Galleries Melbourne. Photo credit: Louise Blyton.

Other personal highlights included St Luke’s fabulous The Exquisite Palette show, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. Shane Jones and I are pictured above with our embellished palettes. Shane’s painted palette is a trompe l’oeil “sketchbook drawing" of our cat Alice. He has created an uncannily convincing illusion - even the “masking tape” is painted on. 

Shane and I were also participating artists in DRAWING STRENGTH, artist/curator Jo Lane's fine tribute to the art of drawing at Montsalvat Arts Centre, which concluded on 6 January. Jo has just published some installation views of the show on her website HERE.

Speaking of pillars of support (as I was several paragraphs back) I don’t know what I’d do without Shane, and neither of us know how we ever lived without little Alice. Funny, lively, mischievous, smart, sassy, daffy, daggy and incredibly bossy, she is not only a constant delight, but is also a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously.

2018 may be fast fading into the distance, but you still have time to see my linocut Prelude in the Australian Print Workshop’s biennial fundraising show IMPRESSIONS 2018 before it finishes on 16 February. 

Also carrying over from last year, my painting Vorticist 2 (above, top row, centre) is part of the spectacular new hang in the entrance to the Art Gallery of Ballarat. (See previous post). Photo credit: Shane Jones.

In 2019 I have several projects lined up. I’ll post about each one nearer the time. My primary intention, however, is to continue the year as I’ve already begun it, namely, to further develop the series of paintings I started last year - hopefully with fewer interruptions. Aside from essential side-trips to Melbourne, this will necessitate declining all extraneous invitations, staying put in Ballarat and spending as many hours in the studio as are humanly possible. 

At present Caspar David Friedrich, a handsomely illustrated book by Norbert Wolf, lies open next to my work table.The German Romantic painter's work is a key influence on the current series. I've just glanced down at the chapter heading, which reads: 'A journey to where?' I've no idea what lies ahead on the next leg of my own journey, but I'm very much looking forward finding out. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

New hang at the Art Gallery of Ballarat

As 2018 was drawing to a close, curator Julie McLaren and her crack team undertook the mammoth task of rehanging the staircase area overlooking the foyer of the Art Gallery of Ballarat. I'm a long-time advocate of the salon-style hang, both for aesthetic and practical reasons (Shane Jones and I employ it extensively in our Melbourne and Ballarat homes and studios), and find the finished result, highlighted in this post, quite stunning.

The installation focuses entirely on figurative works. I'm honoured to have my painting Vorticist 2 (pictured above, top row, fourth from right) included, particularly as it is surrounded by so many works from the collection that I hugely admire. Among them is former From the Bower colleague Loris Button's poignant self-portrait The artist in her middle years: Memento 1, 1995 (pictured above, third row from top, second left).

Vorticist 2 was first exhibited in the solo show Tease (2004) at Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne. In 2008 it was part of the touring survey show Deborah Klein: Out of the Past 1995 - 2007 and the work is featured in the standard school text book Art Detective by Michelle Stockley (2017).

When Vorticist 2 was acquired back in 2005, I never dreamed that one day I would be living in Ballarat and, as Shane and I tentatively start the slow, complex process of cutting ties with Melbourne, that we’d come to regard it as home.

Vorticist 2, 2004, oil and acrylic on linen, 122 x 91 cm. Collection: Art Gallery of Ballarat.

This group hang extends an invitation to engage with the works, both singly and collectively, something not all salon-style arrangements successfully achieve. It's virtually impossible to do the new installation justice here, or to more than suggest the myriad of connections and dialogues between works that it instigates.

The staircase area is directly opposite the main entrance to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, providing a tantalising indication of what is in store. On several occasions I've spoken to past visitors who admit they've never climbed the staircase to the second level, which is where some of the finest works in the collection, as well as some terrific curated shows, are displayed. I've no doubt that this striking new hang will lead all but the chronically uncurious irresistibly upwards and onwards.

To read a short essay on the history of the salon-style hang, visit the Polk Museum of Art HERE.

Admiring the new hang at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Photo credit: Shane Jones

View from the top of the stairs (left)

View from the top of the stairs (right)

A list of the above works, section by section, follows directly. Click on individual pages for a clearer view.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Everything's coming up roses

Pictured above: the view of (and from) my drawing board on this second day of 2019

I'm not usually one for omens, but on the last day of the old year, our little rose bush, which in recent years has had numerous near-death experiences, began to flower for the very first time. The rose was a gift from Carole Wilson (one of my fellow artists in the 2018 show PATTERNS OF COLLECTING: From the Bower at the Johnston Collection and its two previous iterations in 2017). By New Year's Day the rose was in full, glorious bloom. If that's not a propitious omen for the year ahead, I don't know what is. At least, that's what I choose to believe.

In another omen of sorts, the colours of its petals are uncannily like those in my current painting-in-progress (pictured above), particularly in - dare I say it - my subject's rosy cheek. 

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope that 2019 will be a rosy year for all of us.

Our rose opens its petals on New Year's Eve

The rose in full bloom on New Year's Day

Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye 2018

There are several #bestnine apps designed for Instagram wherein your most popular nine posts for the year are gathered together and displayed in grid form. I decided to give it a try, and, as this is the last day of the year, thought I’d share the results here.

My nine for 2018 were not chosen by a robot, however, but by me. Whether these are actually my best nine is subjective, but they’re fairly indicative of where the work is right now and where it’s potentially heading from here. 

Enjoy the final hours of 2018, everyone. I have a feeling that 2019 is going to be a fantastic year!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Prelude and Lookout

Prelude, acrylic on linen 40.5 x 30.5 cm (progress view). Photo credit: Tim Gresham

Prelude, pictured above, is part of a growing body of work, collectively titled Back Story. This and Lookout, also featured in this post, were started back in April, and were the first and second paintings undertaken for the new series. In this year's avalanche of activities, however, I never got around to posting them here, and have barely managed to squeeze them in now, just as 2018 is nearing its end.

Prelude was also the basis for the eponymous linocut I created for IMPRESSIONS 2018, the Australian Print Workshop's biennial fundraiser, and Lookout appears on my 2018 Christmas card.

The painting component of Back Story was placed on hold when I undertook a term as Artist-in Residence at Melbourne Athenaeum Library as part of Melbourne Rare Book Week in July. During the residency I worked on several projects, including a suite of linocuts inspired by the women in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, and continued to develop them after the residency had ended. These too are part of Back Story.

Now that carving of the linocuts is near completion, my energies are predominantly concentrated on the paintings that are the backbone of Back Story. A series of 20 is initially planned, each measuring 40.5 x 30.5 cm. These will be the forerunners of larger works.

Directly below are selected progress views of Prelude. (Note the transition from warm to cool greys).

Directly below: Lookout, followed by earlier developmental views.

Lookout, acrylic on linen 40.5 x 30.5 cm (progress view). Photo credit: Tim Gresham

Saturday, December 29, 2018


Guide (work in progress), acrylic on linen 40.5 x 30.5 cm. Photo credit: Tim Gresham

A recent work, near completion, followed by a series of progress views.

In the background (above centre) is Sybil, another work in this ongoing series. For a closer look at Sybil, go HERE.