Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Playtime at the Art Vault and a trip to Adelaide

I came to the Art Vault with specific projects firmly in mind; first and foremost of these was resolving the drawing for my linocut intended for Familiar/ Unfamiliar, a forthcoming exhibition to be guest curated by Rona Green for the Print Council of Australia. (More of this in later posts.) The linocut in progress (tentatively titled She was looking back to sea…) led my work in an unexpected direction. Consequently the majority of remaining studio time was spent at play (a healthy, pleasurable, vitally essential activity for all artists that should be practiced with dedicated regularity.)

On this occasion playtime took the form of materializing in simple form germs of ideas that may well be the basis for a future project. Although this was slightly jumping the gun when I have obligations and a genuine commitment to the current work, once the ideas began to flow, the process became somewhat addictive. Everything was drawn freehand and freely onto small blocks (off-cuts, actually) of lino. Although they will eventually become linocuts, they are essentially preparatory drawings.

All of my current work is reliant on painstaking research, so this approach was incredibly liberating. It’s way too soon to show any of my embryonic efforts. In the meantime, here are a mixed assortment of shots taken during the residency. Although I posted some photographs of my apartment and studio at the Art Vault back in 2009, these serve as reminder of what a stunning place it is. The works pinned to the studio wall are predominantly a combination of sketches for my original project and reference material for She was looking back to sea…

My apartment

Studio 1 from the back stairs

 Artist in Residence Studio 1, overlooking the apartment

Work in progress

 Work in progress (detail)

During my stay I paid a brief visit to my uncle in South Australia. He generously treated me to a performance by Broadway legend Chita Rivera at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival on Friday June 17. (She was fabulous.)  The following evening he took me to a concert by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at Adelaide Town Hall. On Sunday afternoon we went to the Palace Cinema for a screening of the Paris Opera Ballet’s film of Coppelia, a treat on every level.

My sojourn also included a day at the Art Gallery of South Australia, one of my favourite galleries. As luck would have it, the Elder Wing, which for some time had been closed for extensive refurbishment, re-opened that day. It looks extremely handsome, and shows the gallery’s superb permanent collection to absolute perfection.

The highlight of my visit there was the dazzling Patricia Piccinini exhibition, which was nearing the end of its run. I called in twice during the day. It was a superbly curated show – Piccinini’s work and ideas were mind-blowing. As I contemplate the concept of the post-Darwinian body in regard to my own imagery, the timing of the exhibition couldn’t have been better. I flew back to Mildura (narrowly escaping the return of the dread volcanic ash clouds) feeling doubly inspired.

 Art Gallery of South Australia: newly 
refurbished entrance with Napier Waller mural

The Elder Wing 

String quartet Skyline perform in the Elder Wing against a
backdrop of Sydney Nolan paintings

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Opening night at the Art Vault

As promised, here are some snapshots of the launch of Winged Women. It was great to see some familiar faces and chat with a number of people, many of whom I first met during my previous residency.

A highlight of the evening was Donata Carrazza’s opening address. (I am sure that fellow exhibiting artist Brenda Runnegar would agree with me). We both felt that Donata truly got to the essence of our work, and were doubly grateful that she agreed to share her responses and insights with the opening night audience. Donata has kindly given me permission to reproduce her introduction to Winged Women. Here it is in part:

In taking time to think about the works here I was yet again convinced about how lucky we are in this regional town to have the Art Vault. Its visionary founders Julie and Kevin have created a space for us to dream, to get lost in the images and narratives of artists dealing with those endless questions about why we are here, and what it all means to be human. The end results of hours of research, observation, thinking and doing by artists from a range of visual disciplines can delight or confront us, but rarely leave us indifferent.  Equally important is that artists in residence have the sorely needed time to further develop their work, or even engage with this place, and present it to us so that it is new again or so that it reveals secrets we may have overlooked.

I’m really thrilled to be opening Deborah and Brenda’s shows, two women I admire greatly, and want to thank you Julie for the opportunity.

…… Deborah Klein, like Brenda, has a Master of Arts from Monash University.  She’s been a practicing artist for over 20 years with an impressive CV and output that reflects her professionalism and great passion for what she does.  Women are often the central subjects of her work, ornately decorated with tattoos, lace, moth or buttlerfly masks, with twisted, combed, and knotted tresses.

It was a great pleasure in 2009 to open Deborah’s show here at the Art Vault, Introduced Species and to launch her book: There was once – the collected fairy tales. These 13 stories accompanied by images are essential reading for those of us who love the subversive and seek new ways for the traditional archetypes to be turned on their head.

A particular favourite of mine is the re-telling of the Rapunzel fairytale.  In Deborah’s version, Rapunzel has been locked in a tower by her father who has left her provisions but won’t be coming back to get her.  Many years pass  and she ponders about what she will do when she is free of this tower.  A charming prince turns up one day, having heard of her beauty and her long gorgeous locks.  He uses her long braid to climb into the tower.  They really connect, talking late into the night.  He about his great adventures, the battles he’s won and the women he’s wooed and the kindgoms he’s conquered.  She begs him to take her with him, stating she’ll need to cut her hair as it will get in the way.  He says she couldn’t possibly cut her hair; it’s what makes her so alluring. Eventually they fall asleep. The next day he wakes up and finds that Rapunzel has disappeared.  All that is left is her long tail of plaited hair tied to a table and hanging outside the window. He sees her on the ground below about to ride off on his trusty steed, but not before she’s tugged the tail of hair and watched it drop to her feet.  He also notices she’s got short hair, like a lowly page boy. She must have used his sword in the night to cut her locks. He screams to her:  “How will I get down?”  To which she replies: “Grow your own hair”.

Back in 2009, Deborah was working on the lino cuts of winged women that you see here tonight.  It’s really fitting we see them here, hung as Deborah envisioned.  These hybrid creatures are delicate, feminine, alluring and mysterious.  The images invite us to be voyeurs, lingering on the gently turned necks, wondering about their faces, their eyes and what they could be thinking and how long it will be before they fly away.

The oil pastel drawings and acrylics on canvas turn her subjects towards us, but they are still impenetrable, elusive.  These captivating creatures, like the characters in Deborah’s stories, are using their masks for self-protection, but there is a knowing look in their eyes, perhaps an acceptance that self-transformation while painful, is essential to live freely, and is the responsibility of each individual soul.

With that said, I’d like to congratulate Brenda and Deborah and declare their shows officially opened.

Pictured above:
Top image: (on left hand side) Donata Carrazza, Julie Chambers
Centre image: Donata Carrazza
Base: (from left) Kate Kotching, Deborah Klein (photograph
by Filomena Coppola)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Winged Women reunited at the Art Vault

Shane and I arrived at the Art Vault on Monday afternoon, the first day of my residency. Robert, Andrew, Trace and Julie gave us a great welcome - it felt very much like coming home.

My first priority was to place the work in the gallery prior to installation. Although I was prepared to pull some work out if necessary, it all fitted the space perfectly. Each piece found its place quickly; in fact it was the easiest hang I've ever experienced.

I 'm particularly thrilled with the wall of Winged Women linocuts. It was always my intention for them to be together, much like a swarm. But this is the first time a gallery space has allowed for it. Shane has a great eye for hanging artwork. He spent ages rearranging the linocuts once we’d grouped them in two rows of nine, and I gratefully give credit for the final configuration to him.

The following day Andrew, with his customary forbearance, spent long hours hanging the Winged Women. Robert and Trace also took extraordinary care to see that everything was just right for the opening the following night.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll post some shots of the launch. In the meantime, these installation views will hopefully give some idea of the look of the show.

Images above: Moth Masks and Winged Women. Click on images to enlarge.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Invitation to the Art Vault

I'm really delighted that my show will once again be opened by Donata Carrazza, who will also launch Brenda Runnegar's exhibition Mandrakes and Miracles in the Small  Gallery.

Winged Women will comprise recent prints, paintings and drawings. For further details, click onto image. (See also Blog Post Monday, May 30.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Proust Questionnaire on Corporate Cannibal

This brief post is by way of directing you to one of my favourite blog sites, started earlier this year by writer and editor Dmetri Kakmi. Recently Dmetri sent me a copy of the Proust Questionnaire, which he originally sourced from Vanity Fair. I got a great deal of fun and satisfaction from answering the questions. You can click onto Corporate Cannibal HERE. My contribution appears at the bottom of Dmetri’s Blog Post of June 1. But as you scroll down to check out my scintillating responses, I strongly recommend you stop and read Dmetri’s other entries, especially his illuminating review of Born To Kill (1947) one of the finest, but inexplicably neglected examples of film noir, starring my absolute favourite femme fatale Claire Trevor. Her portrayal of Helen Grayle in the earlier Murder My Sweet (1944) was a huge influence on the characters I created in the Film Noir series of the mid 1990s.