Sunday, January 27, 2019

Current work in progress

Following directly from where my previous post left off, here are further progress views of my current painting, the latest in the ongoing Back Story series. As yet untitled, the work is acrylic on linen and measures 40.5 x 30.5 cm.

The following view was snapped in my Ballarat studio early this morning.

As previously mentioned, of late I've been revisiting the work of the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, whose paintings I studied firsthand during a trip to Berlin in 2011, primarily at the Alte Nationalgalerie. In what has been a longish period of gestation, it has taken until now for something of his influence to permeate my own work.

Monday, January 21, 2019

One last look at 2018

Surveying the year that was. Photo credit: Tim Gresham.

January is more than halfway over and the year is already gathering speed. Even before the old year ended, Easter buns had made their first appearances in the stores, which is beyond crazy. But before joining the headlong rush into 2019 (hopefully at a more measured pace) I thought it important to note some high points from the year that was. My original list was quite long, but as I have already left it rather late, I've considerably whittled it down.

L - R: Bower Artists Louise Saxton, myself, Carole Wilson and Loris Button with our communal collections wall
at the Johnston Collection, 2018. Photo credit: Louis Le Vaillant.

The new iteration of the 2017 touring show, FROM THE BOWER: patterns of collectingrefigured as PATTERNS OF COLLECTING/From the Bower at the Johnston Collectionwas a joy from beginning to end. In all its various forms, the show was a huge part of my life for well over two years. It was a tremendous learning experience on more levels than I can count and a testament to what can be achieved by true creative collaboration. I’ll miss working with Bower Artists Loris ButtonCarole Wilson and Louise Saxtonand the unwavering support, enthusiasm and flexibility of Louis Le Vaillant, Director/Curator of The Johnston Collection and his brilliant team. As far as exhibiting experiences go, TJC has certainly set the bar high. 

The planning stages of our show. Pictured L-R: Loris Button, Carole Wilson, Louis Le Vaillant and Louise Saxton.

Among the many visitors to PATTERNS OF COLLECTING were literary luminaries and dear friends
Leigh Hobbs and Dmetri Kakmi, seen here clowning in the 'Menagerie' Room. This was Leigh's second visit to the show.

For those who would like to revisit our collective bower, the museum has commissioned a short film. If you weren't able to make it along during the show's long run, it will give you some idea of what you missed. To view the film, click HERE.

Installation view of my homo-insecta watercolours in My Monster: The Human Animal Hybrid at RMIT Gallery, Melbourne.

For lovers of gothic literature and fans of the horror and science fiction genres, 2018 was noteworthy as the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s landmark novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, an anniversary that was widely celebrated throughout the year. The book and its legacy infiltrated a substantial part of the program for Melbourne Rare Book Week. It was also the inspiration for curator Evelyn’s Tsitas’s superlative exhibition My Monster: The Human Animal Hybrid at RMIT Gallery, Melbourne. I’m indebted to Evelyn Tsitas (Senior Advisor, Communications and Outreach) and Helen Rayment (Acting Director and Senior Exhibitions Officer) for inviting me to participate in the latter (see above).

Working on the artist book Progeny during my residency at the Melbourne Athenaeum Library.

Melbourne Athenaeum Library has been a pillar of support over the last couple of years. In June/July, a residency in connection with Melbourne Rare Book Week afforded me the opportunity to work in one of my favourite places. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was the catalyst for the two projects I undertook during the residency: a series of linocuts for Frankenstein's Women, a forthcoming artist book, and Progeny, a one-of-a-kind artist book. 

In particularly exciting news, my artist book LEAVES OF ABSENCE was acquired by the Melbourne Athenaeum Library (the site of its launch in late 2017), the State Library of Victoria and, towards the year’s end, the National Gallery of Australia.

Installation view of LEAVES OF ABSENCE (with ceramic snail courtesy of TJC) in
PATTERNS OF COLLECTING, From the Bower at The Johnston Collection.

My warmest thanks to Sue Westwood, Business Manager, Melbourne Athenaeum Library, Des Cowley, History of the Book Manager, State Library of Victoria and Roger Butler, Senior Curator, Australian Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books, National Gallery of Australia for instigating the acquisitions.

For more about LEAVES OF ABSENCE, the Athenaeum Residency and other book-related news, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

With Shane Jones and our entries for the Exquisite Palette show, Tacit Galleries Melbourne. Photo credit: Louise Blyton.

Other personal highlights included St Luke’s fabulous The Exquisite Palette show, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. Shane Jones and I are pictured above with our embellished palettes. Shane’s painted palette is a trompe l’oeil “sketchbook drawing" of our cat Alice. He has created an uncannily convincing illusion - even the “masking tape” is painted on. 

Shane and I were also participating artists in DRAWING STRENGTH, artist/curator Jo Lane's fine tribute to the art of drawing at Montsalvat Arts Centre, which concluded on 6 January. Jo has just published some installation views of the show on her website HERE.

Speaking of pillars of support (as I was several paragraphs back) I don’t know what I’d do without Shane, and neither of us know how we ever lived without little Alice. Funny, lively, mischievous, smart, sassy, daffy, daggy and incredibly bossy, she is not only a constant delight, but is also a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously.

2018 may be fast fading into the distance, but you still have time to see my linocut Prelude in the Australian Print Workshop’s biennial fundraising show IMPRESSIONS 2018 before it finishes on 16 February. 

Also carrying over from last year, my painting Vorticist 2 (above, top row, centre) is part of the spectacular new hang in the entrance to the Art Gallery of Ballarat. (See previous post). Photo credit: Shane Jones.

In 2019 I have several projects lined up. I’ll post about each one nearer the time. My primary intention, however, is to continue the year as I’ve already begun it, namely, to further develop the series of paintings I started last year - hopefully with fewer interruptions. Aside from essential side-trips to Melbourne, this will necessitate declining all extraneous invitations, staying put in Ballarat and spending as many hours in the studio as are humanly possible. 

At present Caspar David Friedrich, a handsomely illustrated book by Norbert Wolf, lies open next to my work table.The German Romantic painter's work is a key influence on the current series. I've just glanced down at the chapter heading, which reads: 'A journey to where?' I've no idea what lies ahead on the next leg of my own journey, but I'm very much looking forward finding out. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

New hang at the Art Gallery of Ballarat

As 2018 was drawing to a close, curator Julie McLaren and her crack team undertook the mammoth task of rehanging the staircase area overlooking the foyer of the Art Gallery of Ballarat. I'm a long-time advocate of the salon-style hang, both for aesthetic and practical reasons (Shane Jones and I employ it extensively in our Melbourne and Ballarat homes and studios), and find the finished result, highlighted in this post, quite stunning.

The installation focuses entirely on figurative works. I'm honoured to have my painting Vorticist 2 (pictured above, top row, fourth from right) included, particularly as it is surrounded by so many works from the collection that I hugely admire. Among them is former From the Bower colleague Loris Button's poignant self-portrait The artist in her middle years: Memento 1, 1995 (pictured above, third row from top, second left).

Vorticist 2 was first exhibited in the solo show Tease (2004) at Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne. In 2008 it was part of the touring survey show Deborah Klein: Out of the Past 1995 - 2007 and the work is featured in the standard school text book Art Detective by Michelle Stockley (2017).

When Vorticist 2 was acquired back in 2005, I never dreamed that one day I would be living in Ballarat and, as Shane and I tentatively start the slow, complex process of cutting ties with Melbourne, that we’d come to regard it as home.

Vorticist 2, 2004, oil and acrylic on linen, 122 x 91 cm. Collection: Art Gallery of Ballarat.

This group hang extends an invitation to engage with the works, both singly and collectively, something not all salon-style arrangements successfully achieve. It's virtually impossible to do the new installation justice here, or to more than suggest the myriad of connections and dialogues between works that it instigates.

The staircase area is directly opposite the main entrance to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, providing a tantalising indication of what is in store. On several occasions I've spoken to past visitors who admit they've never climbed the staircase to the second level, which is where some of the finest works in the collection, as well as some terrific curated shows, are displayed. I've no doubt that this striking new hang will lead all but the chronically uncurious irresistibly upwards and onwards.

To read a short essay on the history of the salon-style hang, visit the Polk Museum of Art HERE.

Admiring the new hang at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Photo credit: Shane Jones

View from the top of the stairs (left)

View from the top of the stairs (right)

A list of the above works, section by section, follows directly. Click on individual pages for a clearer view.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Everything's coming up roses

Pictured above: the view of (and from) my drawing board on this second day of 2019

I'm not usually one for omens, but on the last day of the old year, our little rose bush, which in recent years has had numerous near-death experiences, began to flower for the very first time. The rose was a gift from Carole Wilson (one of my fellow artists in the 2018 show PATTERNS OF COLLECTING: From the Bower at the Johnston Collection and its two previous iterations in 2017). By New Year's Day the rose was in full, glorious bloom. If that's not a propitious omen for the year ahead, I don't know what is. At least, that's what I choose to believe.

In another omen of sorts, the colours of its petals are uncannily like those in my current painting-in-progress (pictured above), particularly in - dare I say it - my subject's rosy cheek. 

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope that 2019 will be a rosy year for all of us.

Our rose opens its petals on New Year's Eve

The rose in full bloom on New Year's Day