My Painting of shag (cormorant) at the Lady Denman Heritage Museum Huskisson -a large shag in a little town.
Sometimes I stumble across stuff by mistake. It’s a bit like when you are waiting to get to sleep and your mind wanders from one subject to another and before you know it, you’re thinking of something completely new and forgot how you got there to start with.
I can’t remember why I had gone to the State Library’s website but in the back of my mind there was a definite reason and that is now a lost cause. Anyway, I attended a talk at the Wollongong Gallery on the TAL Dai’ichi Collection (Earl of Derby) that sparked my curiosity. These wonderful albums had been locked away for a long time, like those recesses of the mind. The talk was not only about the volumes but how the State Library of NSW came across them and was able to purchase them.
TAL Dai-ichi Collection State Library NSW
Walking round the lake this morning it reminded me of the talk and the recording of nature in those early albums. It was a wonderful era where the drawings were so much more than a photo. The initial image replicated in the power point presentation was of a giant duck standing webbed over a tiny painted landscape. It made me want to paint huge cormorants over tiny lakes. It was though that the watercolours were quite often done on return from the antipodes and that some of the works looked Indian in nature.
I also loved the stories of the collectors of the images, sometimes members of the Linnane Society who would collect and treasure new and exciting images of exotic creatures. Some of the most beautiful works were of fishes and the colours were fresh and amazing. Following the talk we were able to gather in close around the table where two volumes were gently turned page by page by devoted white-gloved conservators. The delicacy of watercolours means these works are rarely shown. It was a rare privilege to see these giant ducks in this little place.
I still can’t make up my mind if it’s the hippy mentality of “It all has to mean somethin’ man” or there is a quantifiable reason behind it.
Today Anthony Bond, curator of International Art talked about the upcoming Francis Bacon exhibition. Once again a link pops up – this time by the way of Frederica Lorca poetry.
Less than a week ago I was flicking through a book of Lorca’s poetry laid on a table in the Ken Whisson AS IF show.
So here it is, an elegy for a Spanish Bullfighter.
At Five in the Afternoon
At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime ready prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone
at five in the afternoon.
And so the path continues, it was Whiteley led me to Bacon, Bacon led me to Muybridge and no doubt that path will cross others and meander back to the start.
Yesterday I listened to Andrew Christofides talk about his work in an exhibition titled Square One at Wollongong City Gallery. I was envious of his quietness - both in painting and manner. He talked about his influences and his preference for the quiet artists – Kasmir Malevich, Vemeer and Titian. Once again I was delivered one of those serendipitous moments. This week my library books were one on Kasmir Malevich and another on Titian. Is the universe asking me to turn down my volume in painting?
At what point did Malevich and Mondrian leave all the rest out of their work, pare the objective down? There was a small Ralph Balson work that Christofides had also made reference to. It was blocks of colour overlaid and simply beautiful.
I have always admired these painters and while the hard-edge abstractionists never quite fitted me, I have the temperament and touch of a red-haired gestural painter. I felt that perhaps I need to go back. Control the mark making even more. Turn down the volume.
Once again I know it won’t last, next month I’ll return to Canberra for a return visit of the abstract expressionists and I’ll want the volume full blast.
It’s not that hard to imagine the paradise Eugene Von Guerard in the 1800′s. Winding up Macquarie Pass there is still remnants of that forest. Huge tree ferns, flame trees, cabbage palms and gum trees to park a horse inside. What is hard to imagine is the persistence of painting. The light coming back from Canberra on the tips of the gums reminded me of his scenes I had just looked at in the National Gallery Canberra. It was bitterly cold outside and the last light when it is optimum for painting. I tried to imagine how he worked, a stool? a french easel? a board?
I went to a talk at Wollongong City Gallery by Dr Joseph Davis on works surrounding Charcoal Creek. I arrived a few minutes late so didn’t catch who he was. It was later revealed by Google he is a cultural historian. That would explain it. He was passionate and knowledgeable. The talk centred around works by those colonial painters. I have been desperate in my attempts to capture the areas in a contemporary way, drawing on the same works and vantage points of those artists so this talk couldn’t have been more apt to my work. On the way to the NGA to see the Eugene Von Guerard and Indigenous Triennial my head was fresh with the works Dr Davis had talked about.
The exhibition in Canberra didn’t have the same punch, it was that dis-connection to the landscape but useful all the same as I could see where he began and how he arrived at Charcoal Creek. I felt a little flush of pride when I saw the flame trees and the brilliant cadmium red flashes in amongst the thick ferns.
Dr Davis had said that Von Guerard had referred to them as blaze trees – maybe wishful thinking whilst he was in the cold depths of the forest floor. Maybe they gave him a little warmth.
I knew going to Wollongong City Gallery for the Ron Lambert talk was a mistake but I just can’t help myself. I had to do it. I never knew Ron Lambert – he was a local legend – the abstractionist that influenced the region. He influenced my teacher and in turn me. So off I went to hear Louise Brand and other artists talk about what a huge figure he was. I knew that anyway- I knew Ron Lambert when I saw his first painting over 10 years ago and fell in love with him. This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with his works up close.
Just being around huge oily abstract works is enough to set me off but it was all too much when my good painting pal said – “You should be painting Sue”. I know I need to paint, she knows I need to paint, hell, even Ron Lambert knows and he is dead.
Untitled Lenz from Charles Nordrum Gallery 1977
Instead I blog and moan. I visit galleries, festivals and chit chat with artists. None of it’s working. I want a dirty big canvas, buckets of oil paint and a bottle of good red. Maybe that’s around the wrong way- buckets of good red, dirty oil paint and a canvas bottle.
I got a present today. Not for a birthday, not for Mothers day just because I blog. Blogging has become a continuation of my art making. Not because what I write about is particularly artistic or new (and some would say uninteresting) but it keeps me being introspective with my work.
So here is my present. I gigantic cup. And how appropriate as I have been making tea bags in order to support my art practice amongst work and other things. The last few days I have been cutting up old gardening books, collaging, sewing bags, labelling and testing.
Most artists tend to fiddle. Sometimes working in a studio may not be about working on a painting – you just don’t have the right frame of mind to dip brushes so the fingers begin to wander, drawing, mulling over books or putting bits and pieces together.
We make and do. Cut and paste. Sew and stamp. Blog and think. So my mug is well suited, a typewriter on one side “I blog therefore I am” on the other. I can dangle my oversized, hand sewn, tag collaged liquorice and peppermint tea bag in it while I figure out what comes next.
There is always a tenuous link of some kind that leads to the next blog or the next painting, drawing. During another studio tour of works in the Wollongong City Gallery during last week, I saw works on paper and paper sculpture held in the collection. The most amazing fact was that I had purchased works by three of the artists on show. I had not intentionally set out to do this. They were works that appealed to me at the time I bought them but standing in the back room I realised paper was the common denominator whether it be print, painting or sculpture.
Sometimes paper can border on craft and at times I feel I skirt that border precariously with scissors and paste.
Either way I have been able to float my ideas in a giant cup full of artful tea.
Ever gone to an exhibition and really wanted to dislike work for all sorts of reasons? I did today.
Detail of painting by John Bartley 1990 Titled: “Blowflies, Bull Ants and Burnt Chops” Winner Mosman Art Prize
I was bitter and twisted up over these exhibitions at Wollongong City Gallery and I went thinking I would really dislike them. Not for what they were but for my own selfish reasons. Of course I turned into marshmallow-me and the bitterness became sweet love. When I see good art, it dissolves all prejudices. There is some exception to this rule however if my ex ever takes up painting.
The work above by John Bartley in the Ron Lambert exhibition was simply wonderful. The glazing and layering of the work did the job to melt away my glaze of humbuggerness. I wasn’t familiar with his work and found that he exhibits through Watters Gallery. Twenty years after winning the Mosman Prize that early influence of Ron Lambert lives on despite working in acrylic. Of course Lambert’s work was an abstracters dream, I was always going to love his work from the outset. There is no staying cranky with good use of oil.
Down in the lower gallery an exhibition by Naomi Ullman that I had seen a year or so ago at Armidale Gallery I think. I love the work and the message, just disappointed to see a re-run I guess. I was there to hear her talk about the work. It turned out I was a week late. My second layer of self-absorption had a stench of forgetfulness about it.
The last exhibit that I really was prepared to dislike left me bare and ashamed. Jenny Tubby’s Octagonal Rooms were great. I enjoyed the fact I was alone in there. I enjoyed peering through gaps, reading paper walls and the smell of paste. I felt that it may have been another exhibition similar to that of Jade Pegler – paper and glue, but it felt as though it had more depth.
I had to also collect a painting and I left with my work, like a dog’s tail between my legs, ashamed at my prior judgmental attitude. To make up for my short-sightedness I took these photos so I can share the love.
Solander boxes are austere, functional and safe but inside holds another story. Watercolour works from another world, frenetic splashes of colour, exquisitely studied views of nature and humanity.
I was fortunate enough to be part of a tour of the watercolour works held by the Wollongong City Gallery and Louise Brand the curator was open enough to take a peek inside one of those Solander boxes that held works that made me go AHHhh.
Each box contain works based on physical proportions so the contents of this single box held watercolours by Samuel Elyard from the 1800s to Ian Fairweather & Tony Tuckson in the 50′s and 60′s. I’ve always considered watercolours and sketches the underwear of an artist. So it was great to see these pair of artists stripped down to their grungies.
The Fairweather was in a fragile state, as all his works seem to be, but that frailty is the beauty of his work. The complete antithesis of the instability of materials came in the strikingly vibrant indigenous art of Kitty Kantilla done with ochres. Flaunting her timeless materials.
It was a beautiful glimpse of some wonderful watery works that we are fortunate enough to hold in the collection.
The works pictured here have links to their sources and are not the beautiful works I saw. Unfortunately the gallery has neither the time nor the funds to have digitalized their collection as yet and I was too excited to take photos.
When the doors of the lift of the old Museum Contemporary Art opened and we were faced with tables of cheese with band-aids I pretty much thought the glamour of the Biennale was over for me. That was 2004. Times fly.
Today I went to a talk at the Wollongong City Gallery, a sneak peek of what’s in store for this years Biennale – All Our Relations. I couldn’t be more excited. It’s like lifting the corner of the wrapping on Xmas morning. Enough so you know what it is, what it’s about but no playing until the day.
After 40 years Fujiko Nakaya has returned to Sydney and will be spreading her beautiful fog sculpture onto Cockatoo Island.
It was wonderful to see two young education officers who were passionate about what they were presenting.
They’ve inspired me to make the effort once again, be open and take the ride. Come out of my self-induced fog of oil paint and stop whining about “painting has gone….” like some old impressionist. After all they have included some of my old Australian faves Dorothy Napangardi, John Wolsley and Tim Johnson.
The cormorant has become my own personal symbol within works. It’s wings hang dripping wet, askew and it’s face pointing upwards warming from the sun.
Wollongong City Gallery has it’s Postcodes from the Edge Exhibition and I have three works hung. Postcodes seemed an appropriate time and title to submit gouache works of the lake series.
I realised the works hanging there suspended were a little like the cormorants wings, in need of space. Today I shared my paintings with my new work friends and felt even more so like the cormorant, this time wanting to dive into the depths of the lake, escape the light and hide in the murky depths where I was away from scrutiny.
I appreciate the times I re-surface and take in the warmth of the sun. Today was one of those days.