Saturday, January 27, 2024

In celebration of Lewis Carroll

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, AKA Lewis Carroll, was born on this day (27 January 1832). Arguably his writing has had a more profound and lasting influence on my own work than any other writer - or artist, for that matter. He was also revered by the Surrealists. 

I’ve just unearthed these two works from one of my plan cabinets. The drawers are in dire need of a cleanup, so it’s a miracle I found them so quickly. I wasn’t even sure they still existed; in fact, I’d almost forgotten about them. But I’ve never forgotten about him. 

Happy Birthday, Lewis Carroll. 

Pictured above, 1 - 2: Alice of Hearts and Alice and the Chess Board, both 1992, hand-coloured linocuts, A/Ps, 13.5 x 9 cm.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Remembering Virginia Woolf on her birthday

A slightly belated homage to Virginia Woolf on the anniversary of her birth, 25 January 1882: one of my early woodcuts, dated 1992, now hanging in our upstairs library. Scroll down for a closer view.

The work hangs below a woodcut portrait of Dorothy Parker (1991), another literary hero. Other works, left, from top, include a small, very early linocut, dated 1986, a homage to another favourite author, Jean Rhys, whose novel Wide Sargasso Sea I was reading at the time. The painting directly below it is by Shane Jones, followed by a drawing by Paul Compton. On the top right hand side is a tapestry by Joy Smith

On my UK trip in September/October 2023, I didn’t make it to Monk’s House, the former home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, although I have been there on previous occasions. I did, however, manage a day trip to Charleston, formerly the home of Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell, and her partner, Duncan Grant. The plaster bust of Virginia Woolf (1931) by British sculptor Stephen Tomlin displayed in their studio (pictured below) was snapped during my visit.

What is the meaning of life? That was all - a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.

― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 1927

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Ghosts of Christmas just Past and Belated Happy New Year

On January 7, Shane Jones and I attended the final performance of A Christmas Carol at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne. 

We saw the first Australian production a little over a year ago, with Australian actor David Wenham as Ebenezer Scrooge. It was as fine a time in the theatre as we have ever spent, so much so that we were reluctant to chance undercutting a perfect theatrical memory with a revival that might not quite live up to it. In the end, however, a generous offer of two-for-one tickets for the final performances was too tempting to resist - although we still had slight reservations.

We needn’t have been concerned. In the role of Scrooge, Welsh actor Owen Teale was every bit as impressive as David Wenham, which, believe me, is saying something, and the rest of the cast (some of them returning from the last production) were, as before, simply wonderful. I love Dickens and still treasure my childhood copy of the novella on which the play is based.

As in the previous production, just before it got under way, several cast members hurled oranges into the audience with gay abandon and astonishing precision. Shane proved to be as gifted a catcher as they were pitchers, and managed to catch one for each of us and another for the woman sitting next to me. We also scored two mince pies each from a couple of “vendors” moving through the audience. They were the best mince pies I’ve ever tasted.

My orange survived long enough to serve briefly as an additional reference for Orange Tree, another painting that draws primary inspiration from an embroidery designed by May Morris (work in progress, pictured top). The orange was consumed shortly after this photo was taken. It was every bit as sweet and juicy as it looks.

Belated but heartfelt wishes to you all for a sweet, juicy and happy 2024. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Official Endorsement of SWAN LAKE

Yesterday afternoon I delivered additional copies of the Special Edition of my linocut Swan Lake to the Art Gallery of Ballarat shop. Many thanks to those who have already acquired the work.

Directly afterwards Shane Jones and I drove to its source of inspiration, Lake Wendouree. Upon arrival, I was approached by two representatives of the local swan community. 

Their designated spokeswan eyeballed me and proceeded to deliver a brief but impassioned monologue, which I wish I’d videotaped. I don’t understand Swanese, but like to think the speech was in support of my humble print. 

Swan Lake is once again available through the AGB shop and (I choose to believe) comes with official endorsement from the Ballarat Swan Community. 

Pictured top: Swan Lake, 2023, linocut with collage and hand-colouring. Special Edition of 30. 

Swan Lake was initially created for Whereabouts - Printmakers Respond, an exhibition of works by 56 Victorian printmakers. Curated by Rona Green, it continues at the Art Gallery of Ballarat to Sunday, February 4, 2024