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 all-time 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

The Scribe and the Juniper Tree

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 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. 

The trailer is here:

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.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

147 Park Street, Abbotsford, 1998 - 2019

When you feel your song
Is orchestrated wrong
Why should you prolong your stay?’
Noël Coward, Sail Away (1950)

Thanks for the memories and to those who helped us make them. Shane and Deborah have left the building.

Thursday, July 18, 2019


Beacon, 1995, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm

noun: a fire or light set up in a high or prominent position as a warning, signal, or celebration.

Beacon, the second forgotten painting to materialise in the course of our move could be a portent, probably for all of the above.

The context in which this work and its companion piece, The Third Time, were created is discussed in our previous post.