Saturday, April 23, 2016

Heralding Shakespeare's 400th Birthday and Autumn's Onset

A leaf from one of William Shakespeare's books, The Sonnets (Sonnet 73) and one of mine, Leaves of Absence (Memory #19):

Memory #19, 2016, archival pigment print 


That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. 
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
   This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Memory #17

Featured in this post are selected development stages of Memory #17, a work in progress from Leaves of Absence, an ongoing series of archival pigment prints. For the benefit of first-time visitors to this blog, all of the leaves were sourced from Eucalyptus trees in the Victorian Goldfields town of Newstead and all of the works focus on the virtual absence of Chinese women from the goldfields during the Australian gold rush. (In 1861 the Australian population included 38,337 Chinese men, but only eleven Chinese women). My research includes an investigation of historic Chinese hairstyles.

Initially each leaf is pressed for only a short period - a few days at most - just enough to ensure a flat surface, but not long enough for its colour to fade. A clear acrylic sealer is then applied to both sides of the leaf. At this point (donning my Winsor and Newton Global Ambassador hat) I draw a simple outline onto the surface with a white Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker. The silhouette is completed with a black W&N pigment marker. Although this is by no means the finished work, it is a key stage in its development.

Now the digital component begins. The leaf is photographed with my iPad and a series of filters are applied, all of them from iPad apps and most of them used very differently from the purposes for which they were originally designed. Not for the first time, I have to thank my friend, distinguished iPad artist Deborah McMillion for her suggestions, observations and app advice.

It is not uncommon for me to make dozens of digital proofs, often over a period of several weeks - sometimes months - before arriving at one that meets my satisfaction. This one is no exception. The proofs below (1-4 from bottom) show some variations of the same image in order of its development. Like the other works in the series, Memory #17 is intended to suggest old photographs or postcards, which, like memories, have faded with time.

Selected works from Leaves of Absence will be part of a forthcoming artist book. (See Moth Woman Press HERE and HERE).

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Frog-legged Leaf Beetle Woman

According to the Book of Beetles (edited by Patrice Bouchard, Ivy Press, Great Britain, 2014) the Frog-legged Leaf Beetle (sagra buqueti) from which this newly-discovered homo-insecta evolved is one of the world’s largest, most colourful leaf beetles. Despite its considerable size (20-39 mm) and distinctive appearance, little is known about the beetle in the wild. However, other equally colourful and sizeable species of the genus Sagra can be found on climbing vines in the jungles of Asia. (See image second from top). The remaining images in this post are progress views of my recently completed unnatural history illustration of the Frog-legged Beetle Woman, culminating with the finished work. 

Completed Frog-legged Leaf Beetle Woman, 2016, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mekong Delta Blues

Virginia Woolf and the Lighthouse, 1992, oil pastel on paper 76 x 55 (pictured above) is an early work that was initially exhibited in my first solo show at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, in 1992. The exhibition focused on the creative lives of three writers: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Since then the drawing (now in a private collection) has rarely seen the light of day. However, it has just been granted a new lease on life in an entirely different context. Christopher Minko from the Cambodian-based band KROM has selected the work as the basis for the cover art of the group's latest album (layout by Anya Minko):

As described on their Facebook Page, KROM is: 'a band in Cambodia, based in Phnom Penh, with a unique blend of Delta blues sound with traditional Khmer. KROM - elusive, exclusive and reclusive'.

The 12-track KROM album Mekong Delta Blues is out now on the Musik and Film label and is available online for digital purchase through Amazon and iTunes. The Amazon link, which also features an insightful review of the album by J. Newman, is here:

KROM comprises Christopher Minko (guitar, co-songwriter, vocals) sisters Sophia Sophia Chamroeun (lead vocals, co-songwriter, Khmer lyrics) and Sopheak Chamroeun (lead and harmony vocals) Jimmy Baeck on slide guitar, sax and accordion and Mao Sokleap on keyboards. The band is entirely self-funded and, as Christopher Minko has stated, they walk a complex path. At times their wide-ranging music touches on the dark side – especially in regard to social issues that need to be addressed (for example, the human slavery that is still widespread in Cambodia).

KROM - Songs from the Noir and the Mekong Heart, a documentary about the band, is soon to be released. Made as a labour of love by Tim Purdie and Bunhom Chhorn, it is the subject of an episode of ABC television’s Australian Story. Christopher tells me the movie will also be doing the film festival circuit in Melbourne this year – an update on this is promised once the details of dates, times and venues are confirmed.

Meanwhile, three teasers from the film can be viewed on You Tube:

For further information, Christopher Minko/KROM's Facebook Page is here:

and Christopher Minko’s Wikipedia page is here:

Friday, April 8, 2016

A visit to Canberra, Part 2

Aside from its marvelous museums, my favourite thing about our capital city is the easy, graceful manner in which it cohabits with the natural world; perhaps more so than any major city I’ve ever visited.

The highlights of our daily walks along the banks of Lake Burley Griffin to and from the National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery and National Library of Australia were our encounters with some of the locals:

Shane in (top left photo) black swans, moor hens and ducks

A favourite haunt was the NGA Sculpture Garden, a haven of serenity: 

Auguste Rodin, Pierre de Wiessant, Eustache de Saint Pierre, Jean d'Aire and Andrieu d'Andres from
The burghers of Calais, 1985-86, cast 1967-84

One afternoon Shane and I stopped to admire two of Auguste Rodin’s nude studies for the Burghers of Calais, (c 1885-86, bronze, cast by Georges Rudier Foundry Paris, 1974).

Climbing the back of the lefthand figure at a rate of knots was this exquisite caterpillar:

Eagled-eyed Shane was the first to spot an extraordinary sight: a second caterpillar, semi-cocooned inside the mouth of the same figure. It’s a shame we won’t be around for its transformation into a butterfly and its maiden flight - an enchanting sight I’ll only ever get to see in my mind’s eye.

Foreground, centre: Emile Bourdelle, Penelope, 1912 with feathered visitor;
Background: Mark de Suvero, ik ook ('me too') 1971-72

Dadang Christanto, Heads from the North, 2004 (detail) See also image below
Background, centre: Henry Moore, Hill arches, 1973

Only one waterlily was in bloom, but it was a beauty 

Leaf litter

Burt Flugelman, Cones, 1982, stainless steel (detail)

Anthony Gormley, Angel of the North (life-size maquette), 1996, bronze

On the steps of the National Library of Australia (the statue of the monkey to my
left commemorates the Chinese Year of the Monkey). Photo by Shane Jones

Connection to the natural world is reinforced by the above sculpture (foreground): Fire and Water by Judy Watson;
Sound designer: Michael Hewes