Friday, April 21, 2017

Tower Hill, Part 2

I'm still processing (both literally and figuratively) the results of recent visits to Tower Hill that prompted my first ventures into the landscape genre.

As previously noted, key points of reference for these archival pigment prints in progress are Romanticism (in particular, the works of Caspar David Friedrich) and Victorian era landscape photography and painting. Foremost among the latter is colonial artist Eugene von Guérard's Tower Hill (1855), presently hanging in Warrmanbool Art Gallery.

Gordon Morrison, Director of the Art Gallery of Ballarat, informs me that in 2018 the gallery will be mounting an extensive exhibition devoted to von Guérard, including rarely seen sketches and working drawings. I can hardly wait, although sadly this will be what Gordon calls his retirement show.

My own von Guérard-inspired project will soon have go on temporary hold as I move onto projects with more pressing deadlines. I'll certainly be returning to Tower Hill, however. Meanwhile, you can view other works from the series by clicking HERE. To see more of Eugene von Guérard's work, including exciting news of a painting that was recently rediscovered, click HERE.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Belated Easter Greetings

I began the above image, a future archival pigment print, over the long weekend. In its present digital form I was able to widely share it as an Easter greeting. Ultimately, however, it's intended to have a lifespan extending beyond this special time of year, which in Australia occurs in Autumn. 

Aside from working on this and other archival pigment prints in the making, I enjoyed some brief, but refreshing time off over Easter. 

With From the Bower - patterns of collecting at Warrnambool Art Gallery up and running, there is time for reflection and a battery recharge before the show transfers to the Art Gallery of Ballarat on 29 July. As befitting an entirely different space, the next leg, to be overseen by AGB exhibition and catalogue designer Brenda Wellman, will likely involve a slightly different take on the concept, with scope for additional artworks and collection objects. 

In my case, the latter will include three more Victorian mourning brooches, including these two, discovered on Easter Sunday in an antiques and collectibles market in Daylesford. The seed pearls encircling the cameo (which doubles as a pendant) and the brooch containing skilfully arranged human hair symbolise tears. The profile format of cameo portraits is a point of departure for my ongoing series of leaf works, also known as a poor man's (or, perhaps more accurately, a poor woman's) cameo. 

To see the third morning brooch destined for From the Bower at the AGB, go HERE.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tower Hill, Part 1

Eugene von Guérard, born Austria 1811, lived in Australia 1852-82, Europe 1882-1901, died England 1901
Tower Hill, 1855, oil on canvas, 68.6 x 122.0 cm. Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria 
On loan from the Department of Sustainability and Environment
Gift of Mrs. E. Thornton, 1966

During our recent stay in Warrnambool (see previous two posts) we visited historic Tower Hill, an inactive volcano at least 30,000 years old. It's part of the town of Koroit, about 18 kms from Warrnambool. From before recorded history, the Koroitgundidj people inhabited the area and their decedents retain strong links to it. The first confirmed sighting of Tower Hill by Europeans was by French explorers aboard the Géographe in 1805. In 1855, an artist I hugely admire, Austrian born colonial artist Eugene von Guérard, famously captured it on canvas (see above). For me, Tower Hill will always be associated with this work, which now hangs in Warrnambool Art Gallery.

In 1892, Tower Hill became Victoria's first national park. Inappropriate use of the land by European settlers, however, (cattle grazing, crop growing, quarrying, tree felling, rubbish dumping - even motor cycle racing) took its inevitable toll. By the mid 1960s, the land was virtually devoid of vegetation and wildlife. Over the course of two generations, it was regenerated with over 300,000 native trees and repopulated with native fauna, including koalas, emus, echidnas and kangaroos which thrive there to this day. Eugene von Guérard's masterwork, with its characteristically meticulous attention to detail, was used as the primary reference for replanting the area. Indeed, a visit to Tower Hill feels uncannily like walking into his painting.

Not since our first visit to Newstead have I felt so drawn to a place, to the extent that it has not only inspired an entirely new body of work, but also prompted a change in its direction. In the spirit of intrepid Victorian travellers and photographers, the 19th century German Romanic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich and the colonial landscape paintings of Eugene von Guérard, I've begun a series of archival pigment prints of Tower Hill, my very first ventures into the landscape genre. (More images to follow in a future post).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A mourning brooch from Port Fairy

Directly after Tim Gresham documented From the Bower: Patterns of Collecting at Warrnambool Art Gallery last Saturday week (see previous post) Shane Jones, Kathryn Ryan, Paul Logsdon, Gaye Britt, Tim and I visited Wishart Gallery in nearby Port Fairy. There I discovered this treasure, a striking example of Victorian mourning jewellery. The glass oval inside the gold plated frame contains strands of fine, intricately arranged human hair. It swivels to reveal a cluster of tiny dried leaves.

Some online research promptly conducted by Gaye Britt revealed that they are shamrocks, suggesting that the person memorialised by the brooch is of Irish heritage. This is in perfect keeping with the town's Irish Gaelic roots. (Gaye is shown above examining the brooch in the garden at Wishart Gallery, as Tim looks on).

It's too late to include the brooch in the current leg of From the Bower, but it will certainly be joining my small collection of mourning jewels for the show's Ballarat run from 29 July - 17 September.

Mourning jewels were a key point of reference for my Knots and Braids series (1998 - 2004). Lately I've been thinking of revisiting the imagery, so the discovery of the brooch feels like a kind of omen - at least, that's how I've decided to interpret it!