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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Third Time

The Third Time, 1995, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm

A recent Blog Post, St. Barbara rises from the rubble, refers to a 1994 linocut that I'd almost forgotten about in the intervening years.

The Third Timepictured above, is one of two works that have since surfaced during our move, although in this instance, I have absolutely no memory of making either of them. Their subject matter enables me to date them fairly accurately, however, as they clearly originate from the Film Noir series of 1995 - 1996.

The project was undertaken in partial fulfilment of a Master of Arts thesis at Monash University, the first half of which focused on women in Film Noir and the Woman's Film. Originally, the series was intended to comprise paintings, prints and drawings. In its early stages, I produced a handful of paintings, including Mildred Pierce on St. Kilda Pier and The Letter, which I still have in my possession.  

Casting my mind back, I do remember a conversation with my Masters Supervisor, Euan Heng, shortly after showing him some of the paintings. Although I don’t remember which ones were specifically under discussion, I do recall that even to my relatively inexperienced eye, the pictures, (including the two mentioned above) seemed clunky, unresolved, and lacked even the potential for further development. Euan shared some of those doubts, although had I felt strongly about pursuing this medium, I know he would have supported me in every way possible. However, he believed the fledgling series would be best served by prints and drawings. 'You're a works on paper girl,' I remember him saying, and at that time and in that context, I was inclined to agree. It seemed to me that linocuts were far better suited to suggesting the seamy netherworld of Film Noir. Aside from that, I simply didn’t think the paintings were any good. 

Meanwhile, the two film noir paintings languished forgotten for decades. I couldn’t have been more surprised when Shane brought them upstairs to show me. My initial reaction (before I had a chance to nit-pick) was that they’re not actually too bad. Admittedly, there are things I would do differently now (even more so in the second work) but that potential I thought was sadly lacking might just be there after all. 

The hat worn by my protagonist is based on one of several vintage hats inherited from my late aunt, Eileen Klein. In fact, I nearly wore the original to the costume launch of  Becoming Modern - Australian Women Artists 1920 - 1950, currently at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, but instead chose another creation from the same collection. It's pictured HERE.

Like several works in the Film Noir series, The Third Time is set in a reimagined version of my hometown, St Kilda. The signs warning against diving in the shallows are based on those that were there at the time.

An early version of the image exists in linocut form. It served as a study for a more personalised variation, an oil pastel drawing, Not Drowning, 1996, now in the collection of Grafton Regional Gallery

The second recovered Film Noir painting will be unveiled soon.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Trucking on down

Sing ho for the open highway! Sing ho for the open road!
(Groucho Marx in A Night at the Opera, 1935)

Pictured above and below are highlights of yesterday’s round trip to Ballarat with Shane Jones. We hired a truck for the day, intending to transport our wooden plan cabinets, their drawers jammed with decades of prints and drawings. Those cabinets are mighty heavy, so we always remove the drawers to lessen the weight.

Fortunately, we had a last-minute change of plan, and substituted furniture and books. Halfway there, the heavens opened and didn’t let up for the rest of the day.

Upon arrival, we discovered that the air conditioning unit jutting out into the carport prevented us from backing up close to the studio. We managed get the books into the house and it was relatively easy to make a series of dashes down the driveway with the furniture. Neither books nor furniture were too much the worse for wear, despite the unrelenting downpour and a leak in the truck. I doubt the works on paper would have come out of it quite so well.

We rather enjoyed the adventure. I couldn’t help but think of those 1970s trucking movies I always associate with Burt Reynolds, or better yet, as I never really cared for them, the sublime Pee-wee Herman and Large Marge in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985).