Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A flying visit to The Art Vault

Chrysochroa buqueti beetle woman, 2014, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm,
one of six works I have in AMONGST US at The Art Vault

Pictured top: Chrysochroa buqueti beetle woman in flight for AMONGST US, a group show by Rona Green, Rachel Derum, Philip Faulks, Bill Hay and Deborah Klein. 

I’m pleased to announce that I'll soon be following suit. Originally I wasn't able to attend, but now look forward to joining fellow artists at the opening event.

Saturday 21 September: informal artist talk at 2.30 pm, official launch from 3pm - 4pm

The Art Vault
43 Deakin Avenue
Mildura VIC 3500
(03)5022 0013

Opening hours: Monday 10 am - 2 pm; Wednesday - Friday 10 am - 5 pm; Saturday 10 am - 3 pm

The exhibition runs from 18 September - 7 October 2019

Thursday, September 12, 2019


In the wake of our departure from Melbourne, my studio in Ballarat was requisitioned for extra storage. It was a sorry sight, becoming so overfull that gaining entry was all but impossible. Recently we rented an additional storage pod and over the last few days I've reclaimed my old space and restored it to something of its former glory.

At last, the transformation was completed. But even as I paused to savour the reinstatement of order and serenity, Alice barged in, dragging Shane behind her. He declared the space has never looked better and Alice, who’s not usually fussed about the studio, took it upon herself to investigate every nook and cranny, with a particular focus on the new plan cabinet. Eventually, however, the lure of the garden proved too strong, and she withdrew, followed by the hapless Shane.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Recent Acquisition

Pictured above and below: a new acquisition, purchased jointly with Shane Jones, is high on my list of favourite things. I love its industrial aesthetic and that it's on wheels. Housed in my current studio pending our move, the plan cabinet is also providing us with sorely needed extra storage for works on paper, in particular, Shane's ongoing series of portrait profile drawings.

Friday, September 6, 2019

An invitation to AMONGST US

Please find your special invitation to be amongst us, or rather, among my esteemed fellow artists and the fabulous Art Vault team, to toast the launch of AMONGST USSadly, I can’t attend, but six of my Homo-insecta watercolours will be there in my stead.

Saturday 21 September
Artist Talk: 2.30 pm
Official Opening: 3 - 4 pm 

The Art Vault 
43 Deakin Avenue
Mildura VIC 3500
(03)5022 0013

Opening hours: Monday 10 am - 2 pm; 
Wednesday - Friday 10 am - 5 pm; 
Saturday 10 am - 3 pm

AMONGST US runs from 18 September - 7 October 2019

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A past and future memory

My linocut The Drive Home, 2013, 17.5 x 12.5 cm, was originally made for the eponymous group exhibition at Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York that opened on this day in 2013.

Viewed today, the work seems uncannily prophetic as Shane Jones and I anticipate the drive to our future home. We’ve only seven more weeks to wait, but sometimes it feels like we’ve been waiting for this our entire lives.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


European Wasp Woman, 2014, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72, made during a
residency at The Art Vault, will shortly return there. It's one of six works from the
Homo insecta series included in AMONGST US at The Art Vault, Mildura,
running from 18 September - 7 October

I’m delighted to be showing with some of my favourite artists in

A group exhibition of figurative works on paper
Curated by Rona Green

Rachel Derum
Philip Faulks  
Rona Green
Greg Harrison
Bill Hay and
Deborah Klein

Opening Saturday 21 September. Artist talk at 2.30 pm, followed by official launch from 3pm-4pm

The Art Vault
43 Deakin Avenue
Mildura VIC 3500
(03)5022 0013

The show runs from 18 September - 7 October 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Adventures in Melbourne

Between 2 - 18 August, most roads led to MIFF venues, although my stimulating and productive Melbourne stay also set me on an unexpected path with a new series of works on paper. A recent bout of flu, from which I'm just emerging, has delayed this last post about my recent adventures in Melbourne, my first as a visitor, rather than as a resident.

The Plenary, situated on Melbourne's Docklands, was a first-time (and hopefully, last time) venue.  

The Plenary had all the charm of an airport lounge. Nobody I spoke to enjoyed going there.
Still, I'm rather proud of this early evening shot, taken after an afternoon of screenings.

English born director and screenwriter Peter Strickland was a MIFF guest and was
a refreshingly warm, engaging and down-to-earth speaker. I saw several of his films,
and by comparison, found the plots curiously distancing and off-putting and felt little sympathy
 - or any sense of connection for that matter - with his characters.

Below are 15 of my favourite films. (I tried unsuccessfully to limit the list to ten and could easily have added more):

God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya
The Nightingale
And Then We Danced
House of Hummingbird
Ghost Town Anthology
A Regular Woman
Ghost Tropic
The Juniper Tree
Talking About Trees
The Swallows of Kabul

Complete details of the above can be found on my MIFF 2019 schedule HERE. I made several alterations to it during the course of the film festival: subtracting, adding and switching session times. An annoying fault in the MIFF app is that not all the changes are reflected in the final list. Adding further confusion, a special MIFF screening I attended late last year is also listed. Nevertheless, it's a record of sorts and I’m still thinking about many of the films I did see. The MIFF Travelling Showcase heads to Ballarat soon, and I hope to catch up with some that I missed.

My MIFF was sandwiched between two noteworthy theatrical events: the dazzling Everything’s Coming Up Sondheim  at Chapel Off Chapel on August 2 and Sunday in the Park With George at the Lawler Theatre, which we saw shortly after MIFF had ended. Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize winning musical drama, inspired by the pointillist artist George Seurat and his masterwork, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte, could not have been better served than by Watch This, the Melbourne-based company that specialises in his work. To my mind, no one does Sondheim better. Watch This finds the heart in his work like no other company I've seen. The entire cast, led by Nick Simpson-Deeks as George (pictured below) and Vidya Makan as Dot, his model, muse and lover, were sublime, as was every aspect of the production, which we saw twice. Over the years, I've seen other versions of Sunday in the Park With George, but this is the first time I've been moved to tears. On both occasions, I noticed several others discreetly dabbing their eyes. The sold-out Melbourne season was all too short. An interview with Sunday's co-director and Watch This founder Sonya Suares, is HERE. To read a review, go HERE.

Another highlight of my Melbourne sojourn was the Alexander Calder exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, which I caught just before it ended its long run. I absolutely loved this show and only wish I'd had a chance to visit earlier. Calder's sculptures and the mobiles with which he is most closely associated were well represented, but I was particularly enamoured of his wire sculptures.

The small hotel where I lived and worked for the duration of MIFF is nestled directly behind the grand, historic Windsor Hotel. On one particularly memorable occasion, Shane came to Melbourne for the day and took me out to dinner there. He is pictured below, admiring one of the paintings in the hotel's elegant foyer.

Directly below is an overview of the worktable in my hotel room at the close of MIFF. I'm continuing with the drawings back in Ballarat and will post updates in the near future.

Monday, August 26, 2019

R & M McGivern Prize Finalist

Some good news on Friday necessitated a trip to the framer on Saturday. My watercolour Phyllium giganteum homo insecta, 2018, is one of 45 finalists (shortlisted from 460 entries) for the R & M McGivern Prize 2019

Pictured top: Malcom at Omnus Framing with an earlier watercolour in the series, brought along in order to match frames, and the shortlisted work.

The exhibition of finalists will be held across two venues, ArtSpace at Realm and Maroondah Federation Estate Gallery, Ringwood from 23 November 2019 to 2 February 2020. Further details will be posted nearer the time.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Early progress view of Apiarist, 21 x 15 cm. The subject's hair will be braided in a spiral contour.

Before I post more extensively about MIFF 2019, here is an example of the cross-pollination between certain films and the drawings I made during the festival. 

Apiarist, pictured top, was outlined shortly after the screening of my first MIFF film on 2 August, the exquisite Honeyland (directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, North Macedonia, 2019). Set in the remote mountains of Macedonia, it tells of Hatidze, a beekeeper who cultivates her honey using ancient methods based on close harmony with the natural world, and of the potentially dire consequences when those traditions are disrespected by others.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

My Swan Song to MIFF 2019

Swan Song, ink and gouache on Khadi paper, 21 x 15 cm

As recent visitors to this blog will be aware, recently I balanced a particularly busy MIFF 2019 schedule with drawing in my Melbourne hotel room, AKA, pop-up studio, every chance I got. Completed on the last day of MIFF, the drawing pictured above was my swan song. Given the number of films I saw (52, at last count) I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of work I achieved, when not travelling the world on my Festival Passport. It was a pleasure to share parts of the journey with Gracia Haby, Louise Jennison, Shane Jones, Elaine Haby, Gaye Paterson, Des Cowley, Kirsty and Sue. 

The final day’s fare comprised a talk at the Wheeler Centre by Australian born film director Bruce Beresford, in conversation with Philippa Hawker (the restored print of his Black Robe, 1991, screened on the penultimate day of the festival, was a revelation). I believe the talk was filmed, hopefully in its entirety. In a festival that presented so many fine films, this event was one of the standouts. To learn more about Beresford and his extraordinary achievements (including Breaker Morant, 1980, one of my longtime favourite films, go HERE.

My last two MIFF films were Beanpole (dir. Kantemir Balagov, Russia, 2019), followed by an encore screening of The Nightingale (dir. Jennifer Kent, Australia, 2018), an extremely powerful note to end on.

Progress views of the work I undertook during the Melbourne International Film Festival, peppered with selected highlights from my stay, most, but not entirely film-related, will follow shortly.

Monday, August 12, 2019


Scribe, the drawing currently on the work table in my ‘pop up studio’, anticipated one of yesterday’s MIFF films, The Juniper Tree (Dir. Nietzchka Keene, 1986), a dark medieval fantasy based on a tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. In the guise of a raven, the dead mother of a boy, Jónas, brings him a magic feather. The recently restored film is graced by a luminous central performance from Björk, as the boy’s stepsister, Margit. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

MIFF 2019

No sooner have I left Melbourne, than I’m back again, if only for the 18 days that make up the 2019 Melbourne International Film Festival.

I’m staying in a small hotel in the city centre. It’s rather basic, but very comfortable and ideally situated at the top end of town, away from the noisy, intrusive construction work that’s blighting much of Melbourne, and, most importantly, within walking distance to the majority of MIFF venues.

My personal list of MIFF favourites is growing apace. At its pinnacle (and unlikely to topple) is God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya (Dir. Teona Strugar Mitevskats, Macedonia, 2018). Its droll, perspicacious story and kick-arse heroine (Zorica Nusheva is magnificent in the title role) have already ensured it a place on my list of all time favourite films. In the coming days, I may encounter others that equal it, but it’s unlikely that any will have my heart as this one does. 

A review is here, but be warned, it contains spoilers:

When not attending screenings, I’m usually found in my hotel room drawing. It contains a generous sized table, which is a perfect work surface. I’m making good progress with the new work; it almost feels like I’m undertaking an artist residency. With MIFF thrown into the mix, it’s my idea of heaven.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fighting back

Ecdysis, acrylic on linen, 50 x 40 cm (progress view)

Currently we’re living amongst debris from our recent move and still face a multitude of tasks before we move house again.

It has been all-consuming, so before it sucked the very life out of us, I determined to restore some much-needed balance.

As a card-carrying cinephile, the highlight of my year is the Melbourne International Film Festival. (See also previous post). However, the move has so dominated our lives, I simply didn’t think I’d have the necessary time or energy for MIFF 2019.

Having reached this low point several weeks back, I decided that no way was I giving up something that immeasurably enriches my life and work and that I look forward to all year. Over the ensuing weeks, I renewed my MIFF membership, organised budget accommodation in central Melbourne and booked a crazy number of films (so much so, I may need to do some culling).

The main thing was, I reclaimed a part of my life, and, more importantly, it didn’t end there. I was about to lose my studio, my work was on hold and its resumption seemed highly unlikely, at least any time soon. So, as previously posted, I staked my claim for a workspace in our third bedroom.

Progress has been slow - but steady progress there has been. The painting Ecdysis (pictured top and seen in its early stages HERE) now nears completion. It has been through numerous awkward transitional stages, and for some time, I despaired of ever bringing it to fruition. Due to constant interruptions, it sometimes hung in limbo for extended periods, which was variously frustrating and nerve wracking. I feel a rare sense of pride and satisfaction to have seen it through to this stage. 

In order to clear a pathway for the future, I'm also developing the makings of further works, with a particular focus on Illustrated Women. The burgeoning body decorations in the work below draw inspiration from William Morris.

Meanwhile, I’m doing my best to turn a blind eye to the disorder that surrounds us. Shane and I remain vigilant about retaining balance in our lives, in the form of films, theatre, music, favourite cafes, gallery visits, meals with friends and of course, games with the ever-effervescent Alice. Selected examples follow.

Come From Away, currently playing at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne and earning standing ovations at every performance,
will restore your faith in human nature. It's also one of the finest pieces of theatre I've ever seen.

Last Thursday evening, in the basement of The Lost Ones, Ballarat, a superlative trio, Australian-born,
Paris-based jazz vocalist Hetty Kate, guitarist James Sherlock and bassist Ben Hanlon, presented
a selection of gems from the Great American Songbook. We could easily have been in a smoky bar
(but without the smoke) in 1920s, 30s, 40s or 50s Manhattan or Paris. What finer way to celebrate
settlement of the Abbotsford house and our permanent move to Ballarat?
By late October, we'll be living in a house dating from the same period as many of those songs.

Playmates and BFFs, Shane and Alice

I think we’re doing OK.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Then and now

According to a recent ‘Facebook Memory’, it’s just over two years since my last residency at The Art Vault. It was such a happy and productive time - but then, it always is. The work bench in my Art Vault studio on 18 July 2017 is pictured above.

On 27 July, another memory popped up in my Facebook feed. Directly following is the final work from my fortnight at the Art Vault, completed on the last day of the residency.

Coincidentally, I’d been considering revisiting the series only moments before Facebook reprised the second post. The upcoming Melbourne International Film Festival runs from 1 - 18 August and I’ve booked myself into a hotel for its duration. I figured I could work on the small-scale drawings in between sessions. I’ll be seeing an inordinately large number of films this year, so I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to draw. But I’ll do what I can. At the very least, it will enable me to maintain a connection with my work.

I packed a bag of drawing materials yesterday, a major challenge in its own right. Pending our move, my former studio is so tightly packed with our furniture and other belongings, entry to the building is now virtually impossible. I took one look and promptly closed the door. Later, Shane gamely climbed in and managed to retrieve some sheets of drawing paper. My drawing inks were nowhere be seen. In the end, it was easier to drive into town and buy replacements.

Pictured below: my studio as it was on 29 July 2014 

- and as it is now.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Re/settlement (with a little help from Alice)

Settlement of our former Abbotsford home was at 11.30 this morning. It's now officially a part of our past and we look forward to our future in Ballarat.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who sent us encouraging messages and otherwise cheered us up along the way. It's undoubtedly the most complex and gruelling move we've ever undertaken. We didn't do it alone, however. Over the last few weeks, our stress levels regularly reached new heights and our morale hit some all time lows. But no matter how often we lost our sense of humour, Alice always showed us where to find it.

Pictured at various stages of our last days at Abbotsford: Alice and Shane Jones.