|The Third Time, 1995, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm|
A recent Blog Post, St. Barbara rises from the rubble, refers to a 1994 linocut that I'd almost forgotten about in the intervening years.
The Third Time, pictured above, is one of two works that have since surfaced during our move, although in this instance, I have absolutely no memory of making either of them. Their subject matter enables me to date them fairly accurately, however, as they clearly originate from the Film Noir series of 1995 - 1996.
The project was undertaken in partial fulfilment of a Master of Arts thesis at Monash University, the first half of which focused on women in Film Noir and the Woman's Film. Originally, the series was intended to comprise paintings, prints and drawings. In its early stages, I produced a handful of paintings, including Mildred Pierce on St. Kilda Pier and The Letter, which I still have in my possession.
Casting my mind back, I do remember a conversation with my Masters Supervisor, Euan Heng, shortly after showing him some of the paintings. Although I don’t remember which ones were specifically under discussion, I do recall that even to my relatively inexperienced eye, the pictures, (including the two mentioned above) seemed clunky, unresolved, and lacked even the potential for further development. Euan shared some of those doubts, although had I felt strongly about pursuing this medium, I know he would have supported me in every way possible. However, he believed the fledgling series would be best served by prints and drawings. 'You're a works on paper girl,' I remember him saying, and at that time and in that context, I was inclined to agree. It seemed to me that linocuts were far better suited to suggesting the seamy netherworld of Film Noir. Aside from that, I simply didn’t think the paintings were any good.
Meanwhile, the two film noir paintings languished forgotten for decades. I couldn’t have been more surprised when Shane brought them upstairs to show me. My initial reaction (before I had a chance to nit-pick) was that they’re not actually too bad. Admittedly, there are things I would do differently now (even more so in the second work) but that potential I thought was sadly lacking might just be there after all.
The hat worn by my protagonist is based on one of several vintage hats inherited from my late aunt, Eileen Klein. In fact, I nearly wore the original to the costume launch of Becoming Modern - Australian Women Artists 1920 - 1950, currently at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, but instead chose another creation from the same collection. It's pictured HERE.
Like several works in the Film Noir series, The Third Time is set in a reimagined version of my hometown, St Kilda. The signs warning against diving in the shallows are based on those that were there at the time.
An early version of the image exists in linocut form. It served as a study for a more personalised variation, an oil pastel drawing, Not Drowning, 1996, now in the collection of Grafton Regional Gallery.
The second recovered Film Noir painting will be unveiled soon.