Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Swan Song - a progress view

On the drawing board, above right, is my current work in progress, Swan Song (ink, gouache, water soluble graphite and watercolour, 76.5 x 56 cm). The small study on the left, a finished work in its own right, was made in my tiny Melbourne hotel room last August between screenings at the 2019 Melbourne International Film Festival. Shane and I had recently sold our respective houses in Melbourne and Ballarat after buying a house in Ballarat East, the first home we’ve owned together. At this watershed time, we were awaiting settlement and Ballarat was very much on my mind. As its title implies, Swan Song marks an ending, without which there can be no new beginnings. 

The black swan is a personal signifier for home, initially associated with childhood visits with my parents to the Melbourne Botanical Gardens from our family home in nearby St.Kilda. Nowadays I can’t see a swan without thinking of the black swans on Ballarat’s Lake Wendouree.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Ballarat finalists in the Swan Hill Print and Drawing Awards

Four Ballarat-based artists - Sue Sedgwick, Kim Anderson, Shane Jones and I  -  are finalists in the upcoming 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Acquisitive Awards, opening on September 4. 

Today we made the local paper. Pictured top: Ballarat draws Swan Hill finalists by Ruby Staley, Ballarat Times News Group, Thursday July 23. 

Big congratulations to all shortlisted artists

Photo credit for the studio portrait above and below: Shane Jones. My shortlisted entry, Maid of Honour, is on the far right of the drafting table. For more about the work, scroll down to my previous post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Maid of Honour, 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Award finalist

One of my recent drawings, Maid of Honour (2020, ink, gouache, watercolour and water soluble graphite, 42 x 30 cm) is a finalist in the 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Awards.

The tattoo is based on a fragment from Maids of Honour (reproduced in the book below, left*)an embroidery designed by May Morris (1862 - 1938), the younger daughter of William and Jane Morris. At age 23, May Morris assumed charge of the Morris & Co. embroidery department and was responsible for creating some of the company’s most iconic textiles and wallpaper designs. 

Earlier progress views are below. I enjoyed working on this drawing immensely, but if truth be told, I had help.

The pattern on my subject's back was a particular challenge, even with Alice's assistance. 

Maid of Honour is one of 56 works shortlisted for the 2020 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Awards. The exhibition will officially open on Friday, 4 September at 7 pm, when the award winners will be announced.

*May Morris - Arts and Crafts Designer, Anna Mason, Jan Marsh, Jenny Lister, Rowan Bain and Hanne Faurby. With contributions by Alice McEwan and Catherine White. Foreword by Lynne Hulse. 
Thames and Hudson/V&A Publishing 2017

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Home Sweet Home Cinema

Recently Shane and I bought ourselves a projector and the cinema on the first floor of our house is now complete. Amidst the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19, it seemed to us that it could be a long while yet before our friend Ross, who, as I mentioned in my last post, is generously presenting us with a digital projector, would be able to travel from Melbourne to assist us in setting it up. 

Following some online research, we purchased an inexpensive projector from our local Officeworks in Ballarat. It’s only intended for interim use, and for the price we paid, we weren’t expecting it to be anything more than basic. In fact, it works a treat. The picture quality is excellent and the inbuilt sound system is fine for most films, although in the future we may consider investing in some speakers.

Having an operational cinema at long last has enriched our lives beyond measure. Every evening is spent up here. I have a penchant for silent films, and first we focused almost entirely on those, including The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Weine, 1920), Der Golem (Paul Wegener, 1920), Faust (F. W. Murnau, 1926), Pandora’s Box (G. W. Pabst, 1929) and many others. 

Pictured below is a frame from the enchanting animation, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926) that has had a considerable influence on my own work.

All of these films increase in richness with every viewing, particularly on a cinema screen. 

So far, the greatest revelation was our first viewing of a rare Orson Welles film, Too Much Johnson (1938) starring Welles stalwart, Joseph Cotten, who appears to have done his own stunt work. (See  below). A delightful pastiche of silent films, it pre-dates Citizen Kane (1941). Until 2008, it was considered to be a lost film. For more about Too Much Johnson, go HERE.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would have a studio opening directly onto a cinema. Needless to add, I’m in heaven. 

Paintings in the top and second from top views are by Shane Jones.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A cinema in waiting

The cinema on the first floor of our house is as close to resolved as it will ever be, except for one crucial element. It lacks a projector.* Pictured above is the stage as viewed from the rear of the cinema. We grew tired of staring at an empty screen, so retrieved Shane's painting, Untitled #67, from storage and placed it on the stage. I never tire of looking at it.

Our friend Ross, whose generosity and technical knowledge know no bounds, is gifting us his old projector. It took nothing less than a pandemic for us to place this final stage of our cinema’s development on hold.

I took these photographs several weeks ago to send to Ross, who is based in Melbourne and never had the opportunity to visit before lockdown was introduced.

Even as things cautiously began to open up again here in Victoria, there has been a dramatic spike in new cases, so it will be awhile yet before we can welcome him here. In the meantime, I realised that copies of the photos I sent to Ross were still in a folder on my desktop, and thought I'd share them here.

The Art Deco lounge suite shown above and in other views is our pride and joy. We bought it on Gumtree last year during the long lead-up to our move. It was originally intended for the downstairs living area, but proved to be too chunky for the long, narrow room. I'll be forever grateful to the furniture delivery men who managed to get it up our fairly narrow staircase with boundless skill, patience and good humour. I can't imagine a more ideal setting for it. Alice, our Groucho Marx-lookalike cat, photobombed this shot just as I pressed the shutter.

The view from the stage is pictured above. We had a ball collecting furniture and other items especially for this room. The small Art Deco table, foreground centre, was purchased from a local Ballarat shop, Antique Effects. Sadly, the shop is in the process of closing its doors, but will continue operating online. 

The mirrored fire screen directly below was also purchased locally, at Rocket and Belle, a source of several of our treasures.

To the left of the fireplace is a trompe l’oeil painting by Shane Jones. Above the mantelpiece
are a selection of my Film Noir-inspired linocuts from the 1990s.

The entrance to my studio is to the left of the stage (see below). The framed ‘DVD covers’ on the right of the doorway are paintings by Shane, based on (from top) Picnic at Hanging Rock, Orson Welles’s F for Fake, and Phar Lap. 

To the right of the stage, directly below, are three trompe l’oeil paintings by Shane. I’ve renamed the middle work Stage Door. Also in this view are four treasured photos of the Marx Brothers, purchased many years ago in London. 

In recent weeks, we've introduced rituals of meeting here for afternoon tea and a quiet drink at the end of the day. It’s a world unto itself, a comforting a refuge in these tumultuous times.

*An update on our cinema room will feature in my next post.