Sunday, August 9, 2020

Looking back in lockdown

Looking back to see... 2011, linocut with chine colle, 38 x 28 cm

This linocut resurfaced as a memory in today’s Facebook feed. I’ve never been one for dwelling in the past, but life in lockdown has found many of us mining our memories, and this work, Looking back to see..., encapsulates a lot of mine. The little cat is Mimi, the first cat I ever owned. Her resemblance to our cat, Alice, is striking and my COVID-19 hair is now nearly as long as this, so in some ways it feels like I’ve come full circle. The print was never editioned, but it’s a task I’ve determined to complete in a new, post-COVID world. 

The work looks back over time to my long ago life in London. Travel is one of so many things, once taken for granted, that I miss. My thanks to Suzana Klarin, who has applied the following quote to Looking back to see...:

‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes’.  

For more about Looking back to see... go HERE.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


Lifelines, 2020, pigmented drawing ink, gouache and watercolour on Khadi paper

Crisis is a Hair
Toward which the forces creep
Past which causes retrograde 
If it come in sleep

To suspend the breath 
Is the most we can
Ignorant is it Life or Death
Nicely balancing.

Let an instant push
Or an atom press
Or a Circle hesitate
In Circumference 

It - may jolt the Hand
That adjusts the Hair
That secures Eternity
From presenting - Here -

Emily Dickinson

Sunday, August 2, 2020


It has taken no less than two decades to resolve this modest painting. The work was originally intended to be part of the solo show, Private Collection, at Australian Galleries Melbourne in 2000, but never made it onto the gallery wall. I’ve long considered it a dud, and am not quite sure why I hung onto it all these years. For the past decade it languished at the bottom of a cupboard and only resurfaced during our move late last year. 

A couple of days ago the painting caught my eye, and with the clarity that can only come with time and distance (in this case, a great deal of it) I recognised the latent potential of a work I’d believed was beyond redemption. It’s not quite there, but close enough to it, and the process of resurrection has been surprisingly straightforward and hugely satisfying. 

Pictured top: Web, 2000-2020, acrylic on four canvases, 35 x 25 cm overall.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Swan Song - a progress view

On the drawing board, above right, is my current work in progress, Swan Song (ink, gouache, water soluble graphite and watercolour, 76.5 x 56 cm). The small study on the left, a finished work in its own right, was made in my tiny Melbourne hotel room last August between screenings at the 2019 Melbourne International Film Festival. Shane and I had recently sold our respective houses in Melbourne and Ballarat after buying a house in Ballarat East, the first home we’ve owned together. At this watershed time, we were awaiting settlement and Ballarat was very much on my mind. As its title implies, Swan Song marks an ending, without which there can be no new beginnings. 

The black swan is a personal signifier for home, initially associated with childhood visits with my parents to the Melbourne Botanical Gardens from our family home in nearby St.Kilda. Nowadays I can’t see a swan without thinking of the black swans on Ballarat’s Lake Wendouree.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Ballarat finalists in the Swan Hill Print and Drawing Awards

Four Ballarat-based artists - Sue Sedgwick, Kim Anderson, Shane Jones and I  -  are finalists in the upcoming 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Acquisitive Awards, opening on September 4. 

Today we made the local paper. Pictured top: Ballarat draws Swan Hill finalists by Ruby Staley, Ballarat Times News Group, Thursday July 23. 

Big congratulations to all shortlisted artists

Photo credit for the studio portrait above and below: Shane Jones. My shortlisted entry, Maid of Honour, is on the far right of the drafting table. For more about the work, scroll down to my previous post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Maid of Honour, 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Award finalist

One of my recent drawings, Maid of Honour (2020, ink, gouache, watercolour and water soluble graphite, 42 x 30 cm) is a finalist in the 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Awards.

The tattoo is based on a fragment from Maids of Honour (reproduced in the book below, left*)an embroidery designed by May Morris (1862 - 1938), the younger daughter of William and Jane Morris. At age 23, May Morris assumed charge of the Morris & Co. embroidery department and was responsible for creating some of the company’s most iconic textiles and wallpaper designs. 

Earlier progress views are below. I enjoyed working on this drawing immensely, but if truth be told, I had help.

The pattern on my subject's back was a particular challenge, even with Alice's assistance. 

Maid of Honour is one of 56 works shortlisted for the 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Awards. The exhibition will officially open on Friday, 4 September at 7 pm, when the award winners will be announced.

*May Morris - Arts and Crafts Designer, Anna Mason, Jan Marsh, Jenny Lister, Rowan Bain and Hanne Faurby. With contributions by Alice McEwan and Catherine White. Foreword by Lynne Hulse. 
Thames and Hudson/V&A Publishing 2017

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Home Sweet Home Cinema

Recently Shane and I bought ourselves a projector and the cinema on the first floor of our house is now complete. Amidst the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19, it seemed to us that it could be a long while yet before our friend Ross, who, as I mentioned in my last post, is generously presenting us with a digital projector, would be able to travel from Melbourne to assist us in setting it up. 

Following some online research, we purchased an inexpensive projector from our local Officeworks in Ballarat. It’s only intended for interim use, and for the price we paid, we weren’t expecting it to be anything more than basic. In fact, it works a treat. The picture quality is excellent and the inbuilt sound system is fine for most films, although in the future we may consider investing in some speakers.

Having an operational cinema at long last has enriched our lives beyond measure. Every evening is spent up here. I have a penchant for silent films, and first we focused almost entirely on those, including The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Weine, 1920), Der Golem (Paul Wegener, 1920), Faust (F. W. Murnau, 1926), Pandora’s Box (G. W. Pabst, 1929) and many others. 

Pictured below is a frame from the enchanting animation, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926) that has had a considerable influence on my own work.

All of these films increase in richness with every viewing, particularly on a cinema screen. 

So far, the greatest revelation was our first viewing of a rare Orson Welles film, Too Much Johnson (1938) starring Welles stalwart, Joseph Cotten, who appears to have done his own stunt work. (See  below). A delightful pastiche of silent films, it pre-dates Citizen Kane (1941). Until 2008, it was considered to be a lost film. For more about Too Much Johnson, go HERE.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would have a studio opening directly onto a cinema. Needless to add, I’m in heaven. 

Paintings in the top and second from top views are by Shane Jones.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A cinema in waiting

The cinema on the first floor of our house is as close to resolved as it will ever be, except for one crucial element. It lacks a projector.* Pictured above is the stage as viewed from the rear of the cinema. We grew tired of staring at an empty screen, so retrieved Shane's painting, Untitled #67, from storage and placed it on the stage. I never tire of looking at it.

Our friend Ross, whose generosity and technical knowledge know no bounds, is gifting us his old projector. It took nothing less than a pandemic for us to place this final stage of our cinema’s development on hold.

I took these photographs several weeks ago to send to Ross, who is based in Melbourne and never had the opportunity to visit before lockdown was introduced.

Even as things cautiously began to open up again here in Victoria, there has been a dramatic spike in new cases, so it will be awhile yet before we can welcome him here. In the meantime, I realised that copies of the photos I sent to Ross were still in a folder on my desktop, and thought I'd share them here.

The Art Deco lounge suite shown above and in other views is our pride and joy. We bought it on Gumtree last year during the long lead-up to our move. It was originally intended for the downstairs living area, but proved to be too chunky for the long, narrow room. I'll be forever grateful to the furniture delivery men who managed to get it up our fairly narrow staircase with boundless skill, patience and good humour. I can't imagine a more ideal setting for it. Alice, our Groucho Marx-lookalike cat, photobombed this shot just as I pressed the shutter.

The view from the stage is pictured above. We had a ball collecting furniture and other items especially for this room. The small Art Deco table, foreground centre, was purchased from a local Ballarat shop, Antique Effects. Sadly, the shop is in the process of closing its doors, but will continue operating online. 

The mirrored fire screen directly below was also purchased locally, at Rocket and Belle, a source of several of our treasures.

To the left of the fireplace is a trompe l’oeil painting by Shane Jones. Above the mantelpiece
are a selection of my Film Noir-inspired linocuts from the 1990s.

The entrance to my studio is to the left of the stage (see below). The framed ‘DVD covers’ on the right of the doorway are paintings by Shane, based on (from top) Picnic at Hanging Rock, Orson Welles’s F for Fake, and Phar Lap. 

To the right of the stage, directly below, are three trompe l’oeil paintings by Shane. I’ve renamed the middle work Stage Door. Also in this view are four treasured photos of the Marx Brothers, purchased many years ago in London. 

In recent weeks, we've introduced rituals of meeting here for afternoon tea and a quiet drink at the end of the day. It’s a world unto itself, a comforting a refuge in these tumultuous times.

*An update on our cinema room will feature in my next post. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

ONE HUNDRED FACES for your viewing pleasure

Yesterday we paid our first visit to the splendid ONE HUNDRED FACES, a group exhibition by Ballarat-based artists at Playing in the Attic in Sturt Street, Ballarat. (See also previous post). 

The exhibition has been superbly curated and impeccably installed by Playing in the Attic’s propietor, Trudy McLaughlan (pictured in the final view below).

A sure fire cure for the winter blues, ONE HUNDRED FACES is a Ballarat Winter Festival event and runs until July 19. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020



A bright spot in the continuing catastrophe of Covid, the eagerly-anticipated group exhibition One Hundred Faces opens this week. 

The venue:
Playing In The Attic
119a Sturt Street
Ballarat 3350
(By the entrance of the Ballarat Mechanics Institute).

Curated by Playing in the Attic proprietor Trudy McLaughlan, the installation comprises one hundred 10 x 10 cm mini-portraits, all of them created by Ballarat artists. I have two works in the show, Begonia Virus #1 and Begonia Virus #2, pictured above, top.

Sadly, due to newly-tightened Covid restrictions, the opening event scheduled for next Saturday, June 27, has been cancelled. 

Happily, the installation will be displayed in the front window of Playing in the Attic and can be viewed 24/7 from tomorrow and throughout the exhibition’s official run.

One Hundred Faces is part of the Ballarat Winter Festival. 
The exhibition runs from June 27 – July 19.

For further information, scroll down to my Blog Post of 24 May, or access it here:

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The week that was

Yesterday week, Shane and I welcomed our first visitors since the recent easing of social distancing. Dmetri Kakmi (above and below, left) and Leigh Hobbs (above and below, centre) are dear friends who have been sorely missed. Due to months of lockdown, this was their first visit to the house. It was lovely to see them, but the afternoon passed far too quickly and now we’re missing them all over again.

In the week that followed their memorable visit, I’ve been developing several new works on paper (see below). The drafting table was formerly owned by Leigh, who gifted it to me several years ago. Coincidentally, at the time I had been searching in vain for one. It has become an essential piece of equipment, especially in my new studio, where space is of the essence. It gives me great pleasure to know that it is also linked to Leigh’s creative history. Shane has added a shelf so I can work on more than one project at a time. 

Working between different sizes is proving to be a liberating and learning experience. These works, shown in various stages of progress, are pencil, ink, gouache and soluble graphite.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A linocut in progress

Following directly from where our post of May 20 left off, here are additional progress views of the linocut that has been consuming a great deal of my time and energy of late.

After transferring the basic outlines of the lace collar onto the block, the remaining details were hand-drawn in white acrylic paint. 

Along the way, my protagonist has lost her set of drop earrings; they have been replaced by loose tendrils of hair. A further addition is the rose tattoo on her neck, apparently extending from the centre stem in her collar. Once the work has been editioned, the rose will be hand-coloured in red.

In the last photo, carving of the intricate lace pattern has just begun.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Begonia Virus #1 and #2

Begonia Virus #1, 2020, acrylic on canvas board, 10 x 10 cm

Begonia Virus #2, 2020, acrylic on canvas board, 10 x 10 cm

Begonia Virus #1 and Begonia Virus #2, pictured above, are part of ONE HUNDRED FACES, an upcoming installation of 100 paintings created by Ballarat-based artists on 10 x 10 cm canvas boards. The collected works will be displayed in a 10 x 10 grid in the front window of Playing in the Attic in Sturt Street, one of Ballarat’s liveliest thoroughfares.

Photographs I took in March 2020 at Ballarat’s renowned Begonia Festival served as visual references for my two paintings. I really enjoyed working on this pair and would have liked to add to them, had time permitted. It’s something I might well consider in the future. 

The works reflect on the interconnectedness of humans and nature and their titles are a playful riff on the relative similarity of the words Begonia and Corona. In the course of some rudimentary investigations, I discovered that there really is a Begonia Virus - and quarantine is one of the recommended means of controlling it!

 is presented in conjunction with the 2020 Ballarat Winter Festival, which runs from 27 June - 12 July. 

Playing in the Attic
119a Sturt Street
Ballarat Vic 3350 
Phone: 0428 580 30

Hours: Wed - Sat 10 - 4. Safety measures are firmly in place.

The installation can be viewed outside of business hours, as it will face directly onto the street. Stepping inside this delightful little store is also highly recommended - and not just because it stocks a range of my books and zines! Despite the gradual easing of restrictions in recent days, it is advised to double-check opening times.

Views of Begonia Virus #1 and Begonia Virus #2 in earlier stages of development are directly below.