Plein-air & Plain Good

Tom Carment

Tom Carment

Tom Carment has taken out this years Parliament House Plein Air Painting Prize.  About time, I say.  He is just simply a good painter.  His work gets wall space in my studio and that is my measure of paint-worthiness.

 

 

 

Here is my blog from four years ago.

“A Random Sparkle”

Each time I visit the SH Ervin gallery, I seem to be drawn to the work of Tom Carment -I bought I wonderful book CH2.  Carla promptly told me I had bought her the same one. I had also bought a card of his work that was pinned on the wall in the Thirroul Studio. This afternoon I opened Artist Profile art mag for a well deserved read time only to find Tom Carment once again. Is it his plein-air-i-ness? The essence of subject? Maybe it’s what he describes as “the random sparkle.”

carment

Old Black and Blue Signs

Black Blue Sign

Black Blue Sign

Lately life has got in the way of my blogs.  Then a little orange cup at the top of my dashboard told me it was my anniversary.  I thought I had the blog for a few years but when I took a closer look it has been four.  So, this is a blog of reflection in a way.

I started the blog as I had been contacted by someone wanting to buy one of my works.  I had asked my talented artsy daughter to create a website for me, instead she said “You don’t want a website, you need a blog”.  She knew I was a writer, my sketchbooks have scrawled notes just as much as scrawled drawings.  My aim was just to have an online record of my paintings and drawings.  It evolved into writing, quizzes, exhibition reviews and more so, a connection to the world through my passion for art.

Anyway, looking back at the very first blog, it was no writing, just a work “Black Blue Sign”.  As an anniversary present I am going to smick up that first tentative blog and beef it up with some words.

The swapped work

The swapped work

This work was part of my Garage Sale series.  It came at a time when I was sorting out what I wanted from paint.  I was still using collage like material and testing out mixing paint.  I had copper shavings I was using for sculptural works and mixed these into the black within the work.  It was hung in an exhibition with other works from the series.  Somebody remarked at the opening they could see Jesus in the top left corner. Someone else had bought it and then swapped it for another painting not in the exhibition.  I then sent it to a gallery and it was sold from there.  I don’t know where it lives now and often wonder if the copper within the paint has altered the colour.

If you are out there and it is hanging on your wall, thanks for liking it enough to take it home and let me know if the black is now a coppery green.

 

 

Slow Art Day at the National Museum of Australia

Martumili Artists: Martumili Ngurra 3.2m x 5m

Martumili Artists: Martumili Ngurra 3.2m x 5m

Taking the time to paint can be a struggle, a lingering tortuous event but unfolding a painting is never as difficult. The more you look, the more you get. The longer you look, the more it reveals.  National Slow Art Day is coming to a close, slowly creeping up on me.  The National Museum of Australia holds a beautiful work by Martumili Artists. The museum invited people unable to get to the painting to take a digital look at a selection of works.  I decided to concentrate on this fabulous indigenous work.  In the flesh the size of the work encompasses you so looking at it from a distance today, on-line, gives a whole different perspective.  The longer I look, the more intense it becomes and the lines seem to shimmer. Tiny turquoise pockets pressed between the rows feel like they are under pressure, they feel as though they want to ooze past the strands over the gentle patterning ready to seep to the edges.

 

I found slowing down I started to move my mouse over the work, rhythmic. Something you can’t do with a painting in a gallery. Working from a touch pad sort of felt connective and mesmerising. Patterns on the screen unfolded into patterns of movement.

 

I love being able to spend time with one work in a slow art day way. Today, Saturday, was overcast, drizzly and a bit cold.  Martumili Ngurra was like a warm pumpkin soup. Delicious and oozily orange. I felt I touched it and moved with it the longer I looked.

Give yourself time today, slow it down, connect.

Serra-ndippity

Richard Serra Vico,2002

Richard Serra Drawings

Blackness is a property, not a quality”  Richard Serra.

Recently Richard Serra has been on my art hit list.  Looking at public art, it has hard to see past him, his work is solid, demanding and ‘complexingly’ simple. I have a loan of a  beautiful book to read from my pal Jane Richard Serra Drawings.

Serra & Pollock, it's all about action

Serra & Pollock, it’s all about action

I suppose coming from a blacksmith’s daughter, steel was a material sheet-rolled into my psyche.  I watched my dad melt lead and instead of flinging against a wall like Serra, he poured it into molds for sinkers.  He curved steel in the shed to form horse shoes, like Serra curving lines within a room. Most of the time I was forbidden to go into the work shed, but I would don the Ned Kelly welding helmet, smelly and sweaty. I would wave my stig wand and pretend to make steel glow.

Serra, Vico 2002.

Serra, Vico 2002.

 

Unfortunately Dad never got around to see my (very inept) welding skills and I think he would have loved Serra as much as me, he could have explained the properties and the logistics. I recently looked at making a sculpture on the scale of a Serra and was excited to see a drawing materialise, if only in Photoshop as a huge monolith, emerging from my lake.

 

 

 

Paintlater, Graphite, oil pastel  2014.

Paintlater, Graphite, oil pastel 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Paintlater, 'Down' 2014

Paintlater, ‘Down’ 2014

Paintlater, Maquette fro 'Down' 2014

Paintlater, Maquette for ‘Down’ 2014

Keeping LeWitts About You

IMG_2162Just because I throw paint about, dollop it on, scrape it around and don’t clean my brushes or studio does not mean I don’t like order.  This weekend, like a mixed media artist in a storm, there was a smattering of everything; Opera, wildlife photography, stuffed birds, dinosaurs, treasures from an Afghan tomb, a Google train and Sol Le Witt.

It is no surprise LeWitt was drawn to the work of Australian indigenous artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye.  They both have a clarity of finished work with layers of meaning pushed and kept under tight reign behind simple lines, a bit like an expertly wrapped parcel held with a piece of string that once pulled will expose a world that could be changed. You know it exists behind that string and it is far more beautiful kept in tact this way.

Detail Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Detail Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Detail LeWitt Wall drawing in progress

Detail LeWitt Wall drawing in progress

LeWitt was like cleaning off the palette, putting up a new canvas. His work cleans your mind.  The Biennale of Sydney had an unnerving edge to some of the exhibits leaving some heaviness like gunked up brushes. Don’t get me wrong, I like the gunk – it has layers to think about and who doesn’t love the Google Train, but Sol LeWitt has a crispness of mind I envy.  I want those clean brushes.

Once again we have John Kaldor to thank for introducing Emily to Sol.  He definitely has match-making skills.

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Exhibition: Your Mind is Exactly at That Line

Exhibition: Your Mind is Exactly at That Line

 

Inside Outside Rachel Whiteread

Rachel Whiteread’s Studio Photo by Helene Binet

Rachel Whiteread’s Studio Photo by Helene Binet


The Port Kembla Stack
fell to the ground in an unearthly groan and a crumpled heap of cement and dust yesterday.  Just an icon of my disintegrating past.  I was there with the throngs of people waiting and watching, as we talked to each other, I noticed they all had returned from somewhere else. They had connected their home to the stack. It made me think of Rachel Whiteread and the cast of the space inside her home before demolition.

Rachel Whiteread Embankment, 2005

Rachel Whiteread
Embankment, 2005

Recently I discovered the works of Rachel Whiteread, a British sculptor/artist whose connection to home and a simple cardboard box had produced a monumental work for the Tate Gallery.

Whiteread described  Embankment as “working with a broader brush”, the installation was exhibited at the Tate Modern Gallery in London United Kingdom .  The work took place in the Turbine Hall, an area of 152 meters long and 35 meters high.  It was a commissioned work as part of the Unilever Series installed from 11 October 2005 to 1 May 2006. More recently in 2011 Ai Wei Wei’s installation of sunflower seeds occupied the same area also part of the Unilever Series.

Whiteread’s work comprises 14,000 translucent polyethylene casts of 10 selected cardboard boxes.  Upon clearing out her deceased mother’s home, she came upon a box that had undergone different uses for family objects and this became the impetus for this larger work.

The work evokes a feeling of monumentality, partly because of the scale and the space it occupies.  The white translucency of the boxes feels snow-like and gives the impression of being able to wander snow-capped slopes.  The cold is a stark contrast to the emotional warmth apparent when Whiteread first came across the box.  The box, like so many other everyday objects, conveys a sense of familiarity from re-use and storage from nostalgic objects.  The notion of the box storing Christmas decorations evokes happier childhood memories. Perhaps Whiteread’s Christmas in the northern hemisphere was snow-capped and the feelings of cold are part of that environment.

My Photo of Peter Robinson Sydney Biennale 2012

My Photo of Peter Robinson Sydney Biennale 2012

A work by Peter Robinson, Gravitas Lite 2012, in the Sydney Biennale 2012 had a similar effect being exhibited in the Turbine Hall at Cockatoo Island. In both artist’s works the shapes, in Robinson’s chains and Whiteread’s boxes, have relevance to the industrial space they inhabit but the starkness and fragility of the material also create interest in the sense they do not belong.  The strong shadows cast on the light of the white boxes and the forms in the way they are stacked, appear to replicate landscape features, such as mountains or crevices, feeling more organic within the factory backdrop and further fuelling the contrast of material and space.

Hany Armanious Untitled Snake Oil

Hany Armanious Untitled Snake Oil

Embankment is also reminiscent of work by Australian contemporary artist Hany Armanious whose casts of everyday objects take on a transformative appearance.  Untitled (snake oil) by Armanious impinges on the investigation of each glass’ empty shape as a negative space in the same way Whiteread initially explored the space of the box.  Armanious has cast the shapes of inside glasses and then used the base as a plinth with the cast sitting on top to produce an interesting object.

In the same way, Whiteread’s work is beautiful in its simplicity.

Im-pressed

Michael in the studio

Michael in the studio

My friend Michael invited me to see his new baby, it was shiny, new and rolled like a dream.  Instead of that overriding smell of oil in his studio, a faint waft of fine etching ink.  Paintbrushes gave way to rollers and the floor tiled with sepia clad editions.  Printing to me feels like pulling wild hair into a ponytail.  That wild unkempt expressionist feelings are still there but they are under temporary control. The steps to prepare, dampen paper, ink the plate and roll, tie the wild into place but the output at the end, when the hair tie is released, produces the same expressionist marks, the abandon usually felt in the paint marks transferred to a print.

Drawing on the copper plate

Drawing on the copper plate

Michael has been prolific, monotypes, drypoints and a beautiful hand coloured book.  The new press has provided a tool for more drawing. We gave it a whirl and Michael did a monotype and I did a smudgy mess. Here’s a selection of his work. You can check out more of his work here.

The finished plate

The finished plate

Ready to roll

Out the other side

Out the other side

All important floor inspection

All important floor inspection

One of the Kosciusko series

One of the Kosciusko series

Another from that series, one of my favourites.

Another from that series, one of my favourites.

Beautiful hand coloured etchings made into a book.

Beautiful hand coloured etchings made into a book.

A Happy Horsey Year

photo(46)I remember drawing a clagged out old horse in a paddock in art school. It’s days were numbered and the teacher thought it was a good choice as it didn’t move too much.  I don’t think having the horse stuffed and mounted would have produced any better results.  I do remember the smell though, there’s nothing quite like a horsey smell and they are such beautiful animals.  Walking my dog at the lake last week, a herd possy group of bikini-clad girls riding bare-back threw themselves through the water and rolled in the sand. The markings on one horse were the most stunning I had seen -almost a painting – tans, with a zinc white shape edged in a warm grey. They were the epitome of freedom -riding free down the beach, wind in their hair and horses galloping.

photo(41)

Yesterday I realised it was year of the horse.  I went to a great exhibition Crossing Boundaries -A Celebration of Contemporary Asian Australian Art.  Housed in the lower part of the Sydney Town Hall it was a tucked away gem.  This beautifully curated show included polished work by prominent Asian-Australian artists such as Guan Wei and William Yang but it was a wonderful mix of emerging young artists. One of my favourites was by Mylyn Nguyen beautiful piece Ponytail that so simply relates the merging of cultures.  She talks about the relevance of the horse in finding love,  to her everyday appearance and significance of parting her hair in the middle making “my monkey and pig hate each other”.

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Horses featured heavily throughout the exhibition signalling an indication of strength and energy in the new year, perhaps the horses on the beach were a sign 2014 would be one of increased strength and maybe my new gym membership will see me becoming stronger, faster and rolling in the sand.

photo(40)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mylyn Nguyen Ponytail Drawings and sculptural pieces.

Too Many Artists, Not Enough Life

"We Are All Water" detail Yoko Ono MCA Sydney

“We Are All Water” detail Yoko Ono MCA Sydney

According to WordPress the visits to my blog last year would have filled the Sydney Opera House concert hall 7 times over. Phew! That’s quite a performance so I guess this year I’ll try for an encore, by way of thanks.  It’s just been a little difficult with life getting in the way of art.  Ironically enough it’s art getting in the way of art, each time I look into an artist or work it takes me on a journey further, it seems, from my own.  So far this year I’ve taken in 3 major exhibitions and it’s not even 2 weeks in, Gold of the Incas, Mapping the World and Yoko Ono.  Once upon a time the map exhibition would have fed my drawing, I would have pulled out old maps and torn them apart, a bit like this.

map collage

map collage

The brilliant feathers in the Inca fabrics would have seem me oozing colours onto a palette and Yoko Ono would have set me to task at refining my messy abstract expressionist head.

Ica-Chincha Culture Tabard made from feathers. 1100-1476 AD

Ica-Chincha Culture Tabard made from feathers. 1100-1476 AD

Instead I gathered the room ephemera, stacked it on the table and looked at other artists and galleries across the world. At home Christian Boltanski and Roman Ondak are visiting but in London my investigations into the world of Rachel Whiteread and in America, Richard Serra have taken hold.  Listening to John Kaldor in a recent interview, he explained why he brought Christo to wrap our shores.  He was priveleged in travel to see what was happening across the world and wanted to share that knowledge with people.  Now we have the privelege of the web, we can travel across the world to galleries, find artists we never knew or learnt about, find our tribe and people who share a passion for art.  Hopefully I can tear myself away long enough to pick up a brush.

In any case hopefully someone in that concert hall out there will learn of another artist and spread the word.

Thank You Yvonne Boyd

Painting of Yvonne by Arthur Boyd

Painting of Yvonne by Arthur Boyd

I only saw this gentle woman once.  She was standing to the side of the doorway, once her home, to let me pass.  It was in that moment that I realised exactly what a selfless person she must be.  The occaision was the 10th anniversary of handing over Bundanon, her home, to the public.  People were rambling en-masse through her home, helicopters landing on her peaceful paddocks and the whole time she was gracious and kind. Not only had she relinquished such a special place, she had lived and loved Arthur Boyd and tended to his art affairs.  She was an accomplished artist and although I did not know her personally, I feel I owe her a lot.  My time at Bundanon allowed me to paint unimpeded by the outside world, to immerse myself in the landscape she and Arthur shared.  Sadly Yvonne passed away today. Thank You Yvonne Boyd.

Bundanon