Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lucian Freud

Later in the same day my previous blog entry was posted, I learned that Lucian Freud had died on 20 July.

In that entry I mentioned the determining influence of my years in 1970s London. A particularly significant event was my first visit in 1974 to the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank. Exhibiting there was artist I hadn’t heard of: Lucian Freud. His quietly powerful, unsettling images were quite unlike anything I had seen before. I didn’t walk out of the gallery feeling my life had been changed in some way, although it had. I can’t even remember the actual day when I realized that I couldn’t get those paintings out of my head. They had captured me by stealth and have held me ever since.

My partner Shane Jones is an even greater admirer of Freud than I am (which is saying something.) Shane is especially drawn to the later more painterly works. It is the earlier works that have been most significant to me. For those who are familiar with my work and Shane’s, this is not exactly surprising. I have carted a reproduction of Girl With a Cat from studio to studio for years. And I cannot look at Interior in Paddington without picturing it where I first saw it: on a wall in the Hayward Gallery.  

Interior in Paddington, 1951, oil on canvas, 
152 x 114.3 cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Freud was 88 when he died (a ‘good innings,' as people used to say) and he was still painting. Selfishly, we are left to ponder on all the works of which we will now be deprived. Not only was Freud in full command of his powers to the end, he also retained the ability to surprise, and occasionally even incite a little controversy. A Lucian Freud solo exhibition was always a major event, and I count myself extremely fortunate to have seen a few.

Lucian Freud is survived by his work. We are his beneficiaries and he has left us a priceless legacy.

Pictured top left: Girl with Kitten, 1947, oil on canvas, 39.5 x 29.5 cm, private collection

To read Freud's obituary and related links in the Guardian click HERE.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking back to see...

Looking back to see... 2011, linocut with chine colle, 38 x 28 cm

Here is a preview of my most recent print, made especially for Familiar/Unfamiliar, curated by Rona Green. The project was initiated by the Print Council of Australia to celebrate its 45th anniversary. The exhibition, comprising 45 printmakers, will be held in conjunction with IMPACT 7, the International Printmaking conference to be hosted by Monash University in late September.

Looking back to see… is a personal response to Familiar/Unfamilar's central brief, namely to explore perspectives on people and place. It is essentially about looking back across time from one place with which I was once familiar towards another to which I was equally, if not more, attached, namely the St. Kilda of my childhood and adolescence, and London, where I lived for several years in the 1970s. Many people look upon the 70s with disdain, but that time in London was seminal for me both personally and as a fledgling artist. As we know, familiarity can also breed contempt; by comparison, my feelings towards St. Kilda are more ambivalent. But both places profoundly affected my life and work.

I first crossed paths with the black and white cat and during my first year in London. It was a blessed, predestined alliance that would last many years - for the rest of her life, in fact. She is another kind of familiar, usually associated with witches. In the 1980s Mimi came to live in Australia with me, initially in St. Kilda. She is both a vital link between the two cities and the first and best loved of all the memorable cats that have shared my life.

Most of the drawing for Looking back to see… was developed in June 2011, during a residency at the Art Vault in Mildura. Being geographically removed and in neutral territory gave me a clearer perspective on the recollections that led me to this point in time.

Work in progress at the Art Vault and some reference material, June 2011

As I mined my memories, I was also incited to revisit past imagery, iconography and printmaking techniques. This is the first work for many years to incorporate a background. Mimi appeared in several of my linocuts of the 1980s, including some of the first I ever made. The steamer and the Westgate Bridge on the horizon line, both personal symbols of escape, were appropriated from my linocut St. Kilda Warrior (1996). The Westgate Bridge also appeared in an earlier linocut Sometimes Jenny Took Long and Lonely Walks Along the Long and Lonely Beach (1987.) The arts and crafts movement-inspired rose is another emblem that has featured many times in my work. It is incorporated here, also not for the first time, in the form of a tattoo. (An early example is Rose Tattoos, 1995.) The rich crimson of the rose and hair ribbon were applied via chine colle, a collage-based technique that I haven’t used in many years.

She is not amused, 1987, linocut on Japanese
paper, 75 x 53 cm

St Kilda Warrior, 1996, linocut, 61.2 x 45.3 cm

Sometimes Jenny Took Long and Lonely Walks Along
the Long and Lonely Beach, 1987, 61.5 x 45.5 cm
(from The Pirate Jenny Prints, 1986-87)

Rose Tattoos, 1995, linocut, hand coloured,
46 x 30 cm (from the Tattooed Faces and Figures
series, 1995-1997)

Ironically, given that I am based in Australia, I tend to revisit London more often than I do St Kilda. Not surprisingly, both places contain elements of the familiar and unfamiliar. Like all cities they are only impervious to change when carefully preserved in our memories.

Pictured below are selected stages in the development of Looking back to see...

Two of many developmental sketches

Lino block in progress, with tattoos still to be resolved

Final stage of drawing on lino block ready for cutting

Proofing at Ballarat. It was only at this stage 
 that I noticed the picture directly outside,
an early portrait of Mimi (see below)

Cat on a Mat, 1986, linocut

Bon a tirer without chine colle

Familiar/Unfamiliar will be exhibited from 28 September - 16 October at

c3 contemporary artspace 
The Abbotstford Convent
1 St. Heliers Street
Abbotsford Vic

It will tour to Tweed River Regional Art Gallery, NSW from 11 May - 24 June, 2012 and Swan Hill Regional Gallery in 2013 - dates to be confirmed. I will post full details, including a list of exhibiting artists, nearer the time of the exhibition's launch in September.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Contemporary + Collectable Australian Printmakers 2011

Chequered Swallowtail Winged Woman, 2010, 
linocut, 32 x 32 cm 
Photograph by Tim Gresham

Chequered Swallowtail Winged Woman is one of 8 Winged Women that are included in the exhibition Contemporary + Collectable Australian Printmakers at Metropolis Gallery in Geelong.

Participating artists are:

Anna Austin, Dean Bowen, Jazmina Cininas, Robert Clinch, Madeleine Goodwolf, Nicholas Goodwolf, Graham Fransella, David Frazer, Rew Hanks, Deborah Klein, Damon Kowarsky, Clare Whitney and Deborah Williams.

The opening is from 5-7 pm, Saturday, 16 July. Jackie Hocking, Gallery Manager, Australian Print Workshop, Melbourne will launch the show.

Exhibition dates are 16 – 30 July.

Metropolis Gallery
64 Ryrie Street
Geelong Vic 3220

Telephone 5221 6505

Gallery Hours:
9 am - 5.30 pm weekdays
10 am – 4 pm Saturday

Works can be viewed online at

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Acquisitions, City of Yarra

On the evening of Thursday 7 July the City of Yarra officially unveiled the new acquisitions in the Art and Heritage Collection. In 2011 the key criteria for acquisition was contemporary fine art created by artists currently living or with a studio practice in Yarra.

The reception was held at
Richmond Town Hall
33 Bridge Road
Richmond Vic 3121

These works were among those acquired:

From top:
Red Lacewinged Woman, 2010, linocut, hand coloured. Image: (irregular) approx 36 x 32.5 cm, paper size: 45 x 38 cm
Digama marmorea Moth Mask, linocut, hand coloured, 15 x 15 cm, 2009
Scoliocma bioclora Moth Mask, linocut, hand coloured, 15 x 15 cm, 2009