A Good Painting Works Anywhere

Detail: Ann Thomson

Detail: Ann Thomson

“Once or twice in my student days I was known to say, de Kooning, can you please leave my studio now!” Ann Thomson Monograph 2012.

I think at some point in art school we were discussing art made for living rooms. I had bought a small painting and it didn’t matter where it was hung, it worked. It was a good painting. The same applies for Ann Thomson. Her exhibition in the Drill Hall at ANU last year had the same affect on me as the one in the National Art School in Sydney. Her work is fabulous.  This exhibition was titled Ann Thomson & Contemporaries so it had even more bang for the buck. The exhibition was spread over two floors of the magnificent old National Art School.



The lower level comprising teachers and contemporaries gave a clue as to the vibe of art during her time as a student and teacher and provided an understanding of the strength in her work.  Moving upstairs, the old building provided a lofty open space large enough to take her slashes of paint and freedom of marks.








Never a Wrong Time for Fiona Hall

“Time is marching on, but we seem to be going the other way”
Fiona Hall

IMG_3837 IMG_3836 IMG_3850 Fiona Hall was a very early influence on the way I thought about art.  I had first seen her work “Dead in the Water” at the Art Gallery of NSW more than 15 years ago in a group exhibition and can’t recall the theme of the exhibition. She had drilled small holes in plastic piping and suspended them in a glass tank. I was impressed with the way she was able to get her message across and the skill in presentation. She was selected to represent Australia in the 2015 Venice Biennale and the show, Wrong Way Time, was displayed at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra along with her earlier works in the NGA collection.



The exhibition reminded me of her early exquisite drawings over bank notes that had made me first explore the qualities of gouache. Her ability ranges from the attention to the minutae to large sculptural installations such as Folly for Mrs Macquarie.

The trip to the gallery reminded me of much I drew from her work and the idea of always experimenting with materials. The play may not come to fruition but there is never a wrong way.

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Sculpture in the Park


Forest Birdsong Gary Christian


Coal Andreas Buisman


Plume No2 Didier Balez & Paulineke Polkamp


Nascentias Blades of Grass Sallie Portnoy

It’s a long stretch from November to November for Sculpture By The Sea.  Today I got some mid-session sculpture in the park at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens.  It was good to see some home-grown sculpture and for the first year, well put together. I’m sure it will only get bigger each year as more sculptors get wind.  Anyway, it was a lovely day for it, brilliant blue skies, overwhelming scent of honey, and very few crowds with a spectacular backdrop of Mount Kiera. I love this time of the year.

It was beautiful to capture some nature shots between – spiders hung delicately against the sky, the brilliant green mossy ponds and spears of grass trees piercing the sky – I think Felix Allens work Forests of Ancient Illawarra – his coal laden steel poles felt right – they seem to reference the area, the site and the history in an interesting way.

The Clearing Catriona Stanton





Not a sculpture!




Mossy Pond


Forests of Ancient Illawarra Felix Allen


Collocation Hale and Farrell


The Architecture of Diversity: Illawarra 400

It Was You I Saw Up Ahead

It Was You I Saw Up Ahead Tamsin Salehian


Into the Future Ralph Tikerpae

Into the Future Ralph Tikerpae

The Illumina-trope David Hashimoto & Gabrielle Bates

The Illumina-trope David Hashimoto & Gabrielle Bates

Solsitice Bench Trent Jansen

Solsitice Bench Trent Jansen

King Coal Louis Pratt THE WINNER

King Coal Louis Pratt

Pink, Play, Print and Black


Everything old is new again at the National Gallery of Australia. A trip to see Tom Roberts meant an additional opportunity to take in old favourites in new spots. What a difference a re-hang can make! We missed some familiar faces but there was a chance to see what a wall and light can do for a work.


Sculptor Inge King exhibition









The Playroom

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“All Australian paintings are in some way a homage to Tom Roberts”.  Arthur Boyd

Starting with Tom Roberts, we avoided the increasing crowds and got in early so we had him all to ourselves.  This advantage meant we could go into the kids interactive room with no kids. I just wish there was a space like this for adults. Little easels for re-creating portraits, dress-up, saddled lambs and an app projected onto a wall to allow movement of figures into the landscape in a playful way.  Simply playing opens new and wonderful ways of working. Why do we have to stop? Standing in front of works studying the paint and structure is a wonderful opportunity to examine Roberts underglazing of luminous pink peeking from under the cracks, but how wonderful would it be to have a room to express that on the spot, to sketch without feeling slightly wanker-ish in front of gallery on-lookers.

“Here is a workshop, there are no rules, do what you want to do.”   Kenneth Tyler

Stella: The Fountain

Stella: The Fountain

Upstairs the Tyler Graphics exhibition: Behind the Scenes, showed play at an expert and amplified level. Extraordinary works of printing and the use of paper pulp by Rosenquist and Caro left me wanting to shred, pulp and construct.  The fabulous line and strength of Joan Mitchell’s marks showed the ability to translate freshness into print. A sequence of short films gave an insight into the complexity and flexibility of printmaking and the process to produce Frank Stella’s  “The Fountain” left me feeling nervous, exhausted and a newfound respect for prints of multiple techniques at this size.

Caro Angle#8

Caro: Angle #8







After the intensity of Roberts and Tyler, a small unobtrusive exhibition simply called BLACK pared it all back. The entrance lured us in with a glimpse of too abstract expressionist giants: Motherwell and Guston side by side. Inside Serra sat comfortably alongside ancient forms, the “ground breaking” blackness of Malevich and the light inside the darkness of Soulages. This exhibition was a fabulous use of stored masterpieces within the NGA collection. Darkness all aired out.

BLACK: Motherwell & Guston

BLACK: Motherwell & Guston



Above all the new hang and the changes within the NGA have been wonderful, a breath of fresh paint.

Grayson Perry Sailing out of the Dodgy Art Pool

GP Opera House 2015Sometimes our very human desire for meaning can get in the way of having a good experience of the world” Grayson Perry.

Detail You are Here pot

Detail You are Here pot

Not much scares an Essex transvestite potter except the “dodgy art pool”.

I spent the day visiting a great exhibition Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. I had a marvellous lunch atop the MCA, overlooking the Opera House where Perry would give a talk later in the day on How To Be an Artist Just Like Me. I think as an artist you tend to look for talks, trawl art magazines and even attend art workshops in the hope that you understand the artist better and even anticipate that a little bit of magic will rub off.


The greatest piece of advice came from Perry, who had fearlessly donned flamboyant orange tights, pink perilous platforms and a shimmery blue nappy-like costume, that he was frightened of ending up in a craft store.  We all are familiar with the type of store, coloured glass platters, decorator cushions, crafty wood items and pottery. His advice to sail out of that world, be brave and head for open waters to explore the world beyond. Take risks, make mistakes. After seeing the work in this mammoth exhibition I don’t think there was ever a danger of Perry being moored on the fatal shore of the dodgy art pool.


The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Prep sketches for the Tomb

Prep sketches for the Tomb

Shrine to Alan Measles 2007

Shrine to Alan Measles 2007

Sketches for The Upper Class at Bay tapestry

Sketches for The Upper Class at Bay tapestry





Country vs Western

SH Ervin: Country and Western

SH Ervin: Country and Western

With an exhibition titled Country and Western, I had expected more grit, more dust and more western instead I got colour and country.  The SH Ervin rarely disappoints when it comes to curation and quality of exhibitions and this collection of works were great. In this case the Country refers to the indigenous view of landscape, and Western the non-indigenous. The mix and meandering of cultural pull from a star-studded line-up is more than just names. The result is a thick blanket of landscape to wrap yourself in, sometimes prickly, sometimes light and comfortable, sometimes rich and heavy.

From Ronnie Tjampitjinpa Kintore NT to Gertie Huddleston in the Gulf to John Olsen at Lake Eyre

From Ronnie Tjampitjinpa Kintore NT to Gertie Huddleston in the Gulf to John Olsen at Lake Eyre

Gavin Wilson’s curation is insightful and delivers more than just a collection of landscape, it feels right, evenly weighted and nourishing.  He has impressed me before with his curation of fire-inspired art, Fireworks. At the moment I am reading John Olsen’s biography by Darleen Bungey so the Olsen work felt like a friend and his Lake Eyre work seemed to feel like a link between country and western somehow.


The artists are way too many to list but include Tracey Moffat, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, John Peart, Elisabeth Cummings, Rover Thomas, John R Walker, Ken Whisson, John Wolsley, Euan MacLeod, Ricky Maynard, Noel McKenna, Paddy Bedford. Check them out here






J R Walker and Emily.

J R Walker and Emily.

People by the Sculpture by the Sea 2015

Dogs 20151Each year Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi Beach gets a little more crowded. The works hold different people for different reasons. A couple of years back there seemed to be an abundance of animal themed works, another year environmental, lots of big red things, and this year had a distinct people focus. After reviewing an abundance of photos from two trips this year,  more shots for my dogs of Bondi collection and various hit and miss snaps, the ones I really like are the people interacting with the works and even better the people oblivious to the monumental pieces around them.


P1050217The walk from Tamarama to Bondi is spectacular, a backdrop of sea and rock. This year two pods of dolphins were launching themselves into the air and spinning on show whilst the crowd moved around the edge. I took a lot of sculptureless shots this year once again.

Here’s a clip of this years winner, Jorg Pickat.


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Light, Space, Time and a Wombat Hole

Turrell Skyspace 5

Sometimes the order of exhibitions matter. Your head is in a space, ready for the onslaught. This time there was no plan as to who would be first.

Ann Thomson (detail)

Ann Thomson (detail)


Ann Thomson’s exhibition Freehand was even higher than the expectations. Her works are full, yet light. Marks, space and colour give each other time. There is a lustfulness in the way she paints -a love of the space she creates by the marks with her body. It is not painting, it is not composing, it is absorption.


Turrell Skyspace 4Turrell Skyspace 6

The nearby James Turrell Retrospective at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra had a naked art night (no, I didn’t like the thought of bending over to put on the booties). The participants absorbed the light into their flesh. The Turrell show was a world away from paint using space, light and dark.

The show made me envious, why do I need a studio full of brushes and paint? A day earlier I was inspired by Ann Thomson’s work, it had made me want to paint again but the stripped down use of light as a material seemed to make sense. Marks seemed inconsequential.


In between there were glimpses of Sidney Nolan, the Riverbend series at the Drill Hall ANU,  an assortment at the Canberra Museum and Gallery and the Kelly series at the NGA. Somehow his works still resonated. There was the myth of place, I wasn’t in the desert creating huge skyspaces and I wasn’t in a studio surrounded by dripping paintings on white walls. I am caught in time, like Ned painted into a story of what my life has become, headfirst down a wombat hole.

Policeman in a wombat hole 1946 Sidney Nolan

Policeman in a wombat hole 1946 Sidney Nolan

I’d Rather Go by Motherwell than a Stairwell…

“The wind carried away the cottonwool

At five in the afternoon.

And the oxide scattered crystal and nickel

At five in the afternoon”.  Garcia Lorca: Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias.

Motherwell 1

Burning elegy artists proof

Canberra in winter is bitingly cold, a stark blue sky and cool grey concrete of the National Gallery seems like a world away from Spain and New York but the last couple of days I’ve felt the intensity of bullfights and the pain in painting.



photo(91)Robert Motherwell : At Five in the Afternoon currently at the National Gallery is a selection of prints from the Gallery’s collection and the curator Jane Kinsman gave a talk and some insight into Motherwells practice of printmaking.  The works spread across three rooms were brilliantly curated and each work was fabulous but a selection of small lithographs were simple and exquisite and captured the same emotions of the larger striking painterly works.

Lament for Lorca:

Lament for Lorca:


Some of the larger prints utilising graphics from cigarette packets reinforced that peculiar artist habit of finding inspiration in the mundane.  I remember as a child enamoured with the cigarette packets we used to sell in the boat hire business, Camel and Fiesta were my favourites but later I photographed old packets a friend had in their scrapbook for painted works not realising Motherwell too was drawn by the colour and shape.  Up until stumbling across John’s curious arty collection, I had tried to draw a camel packet from memory.


Motherwell: Hermitage

Motherwell: Hermitage

John's cigarette scrapbookMotherwell’s prints incorporating imagery and my painted works, now capture a lost period.  Smoking was acceptable and a filthy dangerous habit that I (for a short time) and Motherwell embraced.  Packets were bright and engaging. Cigarette packaging in Australia is now a dark, dull, khaki green and the only images gangrenous limbs and health warnings.  And I guess like any image, even cancerous body parts and minimalist packaging will provide some sort of inspiration for other artists down the line.




After the talk, we hit the wine and felt glad Motherwell had chosen drinking and painting over suicide. We are so much richer for his work and his immersion in the poetry of Lorca. We went back again the next day for another hit before heading home, did a swing by the Indigenous and Australian gallery and we had a choice – down the stairs or back through the exhibition?



Peter Stuyvesant

Detail from my Peter Stuyvesant painting

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.