Juggling Jellyblubbers


One painting leads to another, and another, and another. Velasquez started it, John Olsen changed it, and I melded it into a slippery oozy painterly mess.  Somehow the egg and the jellyfish became a transluscent clue into my painting re-birth.  Jellyfish have emerged in my drawings of the past, they are at the end of the jetty, gliding just below the surface – transparent water, transparent flesh, ungrabbable.

An old sketch- they were there in the past.

An old sketch- they were there in the past.





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

Fuzzy Edges and Overpasses

Jeffrey Smart Bus Terminus AGNSWRMG 2011-09-11 Took off reflections on right sideYou would think that these two artists couldn’t be further apart but there is something very similar about them.


It was sad news that Jeffrey Smart, highly respected Australian artist died this week and on the other side of the world in San Francisco, the De Young Museum is holding a Richard Diebenkorn exhibition, The Berkley Years.

Berkley #44

My trip to the USA a while back was primarily a search for Diebenkorn paintings (and De Koonings of course). The major Australian Galleries have no Diebenkorn paintings in their collections.  The National Gallery of Australia has a number of prints and the Art Gallery of NSW have just 2 etchings not on show.  There was no other option than to visit the source.

Upon seeing them I realised it wasn’t just all about space and colour, it was the edges, where paint meets. Do I bring it up close and stop or push it over the edge of the next colour?  Diebenkorn knew.

Jeffrey Smart Cahill ExpresswayAt the same time as Diebenkorn was dealing with his edges during the Berkley Years of 1953-196, Jeffrey Smart was painting The Cahill Expressway in 1962 in Australia. Smart had chosen to use those edges differently, crisp and hard.


Any artist familiar with Jeffrey Smart’s paintings recognise his roadside world and driving the expressway is becoming a figure within his composition.

My trip to Berkley.

My trip to Berkley.

My trip to Berkley, thousands of miles from a Jeffrey Smart world, over the Bay Bridge, a flash of overpasses and underpasses felt as though the two worlds collided. I wonder if they knew of each other’s work. Both were influenced by the likes of Cezanne and Edward Hopper.  In the same way Smart and Diebenkorn have influenced my work.  Fuzzy edges and overpasses.

Mascot Drawing, Roadside Series

Mascot Drawing, Roadside Series

Fairweather, All Dry No Rain

Ian Fairweather: War and Peace 1959

Ian Fairweather: War and Peace 1959

IMG_0632 IMG_0687 IMG_0688 Painting (detail) 1961Yes, I know Fairweather is an important artist in Australian abstraction.  Yes, I do like his work. Yes, I would go out of my way to see an exhibition of his work…and I did. But he has never been one of my great influences, not on the list of  draw-card artists.  So I was curious whether a roomful of works might  change my view of his oeuvre. It did.

Queensland Art Gallery was host to an exhibition by Ian Fairweather – Late Works 1953-1974. My trip to Brisbane was primarily to see this exhibition it was just a bonus that the APT7 was on at the same time. Following the vibrancy and colour of the Asia Pacific Triennial at first the paintings seemed flat and muted. The longer I looked the more subtle they became.

A lot of Fairweather’s works were painted on cardboard. His gallery would send canvas or linen to his remote home on Bribie Island and he would use the canvas on his make-shift home and paint on the cardboard it arrived in.  I wonder how different these works would be on canvas.

Their appeal to me has always been the dryness of the paint. There was also a letter from an art supplier giving Fairweather student paints to trial. Perhaps the intensity of pigment also is an added attraction. I love colour but these muted earthy colours exaggerate the feel of the arid surfaces.

I came away feeling greater admiration for his work. I feel I understand his work better, I think I was caught up in his fascinating personal story but seeing his works all together changed the focus rightfully back to his painting.


It has made me feel like squeezing the wet from the oil maybe that’s why I love gouache, that opaque dryness.

Ian Fairweather: Composition I 1961

Ian Fairweather: Composition I 1961

Photo: Hut (detail) by Robert Walker 1966 Fairweathers home on Bribie Island Qld

Photo: Hut (detail) by Robert Walker 1966 Fairweathers home on Bribie Island QED

Painted Bacon

Art Gallery of NSW

Art Gallery of NSW

I was in the zone. That magic moment when you are deep within the work in front of you. I hadn’t expected that of Bacon.  The Art Gallery of New South Wales luckily could fit the letters of his name nicely between the columns and I like that drama of a new exhibition. I love the crossing directly in front of the gallery and when I stepped out alone, no cars, no crowds and mounted the stairs I had that inkling it was to be wonderful.

Francis Bacon Study of Human Figure after Muybridge

Study from the Human Body after Muybridge 1988 Francis Bacon

I had done my homework: read a little, been to an Anthony Bond (director of International art  AGNSW) talk weeks before, downloaded an app and was ready to take what Francis Bacon could dish up.  Like Bacon when I first saw Muybridge’s work I felt compelled to work from his studies of the human form so going in, I wanted to see  that connection.

I had just been to the APT7 in Brisbane and coming down from that artphoria and I wasn’t prepared to be scooped up once more. This time it was good old-fashioned use of paint and there was something Fred Williams-like in large flat expanses of pure thin colour and small slashes of sculptured coloured marks, in Bacon’s case fleshy pinks and whitish greys. His influence on Whiteley was blindingly obvious and I too became absorbed. I felt his fascination with Muybridge and Russian film the The Battleship Potemkin. But it was in Triptych 1987 where his intense brilliant orange ground captured the intensity of Frederico Lorca’s words in “Lament for Ignazio Sanchez Mejias” a matador’s death that gave a clue to depth and passion of his work.

When the bull ring was covered with iodine at five in the afternoon

Death laid eggs in the wound at five in the afternoon

Francis Bacon Dog

Untitled (dog) c1967 Francis Bacon

A great exhibition and one that I have definitely learnt from.  I feel the need to re-visit some of my earlier works on Muybridge and perhaps begin to introduce colour and scale and move on from the smaller studies of individual plates.

Plate 13 from Muybridge Studies

Plate 13 from Muybridge Studies

Post Christmas Colour

The Xmas PaintingEach Christmas gets curiouser and curiouser. This year was shared with my painter friend, Jane.  Rather than a traditional Christmas, we ate BBQ sausage sandwiches and painted and drank.  Trying to get back into some semblance of order post-Christmas and cleaning up the studio a tad, I decided to show my daughter my Christmas painting (as I had dubbed it).

Declaring to her “This is my Xmas painting.” I realised I had painted it primarily red and green. Maybe the result of too many Xmas mojitos, the heat and lamb and rosemary sausages but I can’t remember the original subject. Jane’s subject was the lake where we had walked the day before and I’m guessing mine had also originated from the same area. I do remember referring to a sketchbook. But the colours certainly aren’t relevant.

WindangI had also lost a day in the midst of a week and fortunately collected my daughter from the airport on the right day (just!). So now I’m getting back into order, righting the chaos and so this painting is now half done, red and green, unwrapped but needs to be finished. I just don’t know what I’m finishing.



The Lake?

Without Guston

Philip Guston work at SFMOMASo far I have explored the Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the National Gallery in Canberra room by room.  My last blog, in the End of the Y I left out  one very important painting. It was Philip Guston’s Prospect.


I couldn’t wait to get to New York, home of the expressionists but Philip Guston was not on my wish list of art heroes like De Kooning and Diebenkorn.  I’d always been drawn to his work but it wasn’t until I saw his early works en masse that I was hit hard by the oily Guston stick.  Paintings on the wall never compare to books.  This painting and all I saw of Gustons were fresh, like he painted them and left the room for a break and he would be back soon.  It was also the area he left surrounding the push and pull of paint.

It was difficult for others to understand why he left this abstractionist style behind but in the book Night Studio by his daughter Musa Mayer it was what he wanted to do, to take himself out of what was expected by him.  So I was pretty impressed by the inclusion of this work of his in the abstract expressionist group. Books just don’t cut it, you have to see the paint strokes.   Somewhere in a sketchbook I have made a scribbled note of which painting the one above was but I do know it was a super close up of a work in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Philip Guston Prospects 1964The work here is entitled Prospects dated 1964.

The Light and Dark

My last post was the third room of the Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the National Gallery Australia.  Like a cartoon story of a superhero, I had left you in that room, waiting. The next painting was by Lee Krasner Combat 1965 and I just couldn’t tackle that painting in a couple of words. All pink and orange and light, open and crisp and on the opposite wall Cool White painted in 1959 and separating those opposite ends is Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles and Totem Lesson 2.

Cool White was painted by Krasner after the death of Jackson Pollock and her mother. The muted colours were the result of painting in the dark, suffering insomnia.  She chose to limit colour that was better tackled in the daylight.

I guess I was impressed with the difference in these works knowing our paintings are victims of circumstance.

He Started It! Hans Hofmann The Middle Child.

Hans Hofmann Pre-dawn 1960Hans Hofmann’s painting is in the middle room in the Abstract Expressionism Exhibition at the National Gallery Canberra.  I think if the room was full of the artists themselves, Pollock, De Kooning, Motherwell, you know -all of them, it’s Hans Hofmann I’d want to sit with. Each time you study a great New York painter he has some connection, a thread of influence. My painting teacher, Barbara Hilder had that same effect on a whole group of south coast artists. Her words echo Hofmann “push and pull”.  Passmore had the same effect on early Australian abstractionists.

Clyfford Still’s work is reminiscent of our indigenous artist Sally Gabori’s My Grandfathers Country and Watkins work Anniversary produced in 1973 shows a continuum of work through the years.

Still: 1952 #2Dick Watkins Anniversary

The Yellow One

“I always seem to be wrapped up in the melodrama of vulgarity.”*

Normally a trip to the National Gallery in Canberra (a couple of hours drive) involves me standing in front of De Koonings Woman V for an inordinate amount of time. Studying the colour, the way the paint is laid, where it is scraped, the bones of the work. I find it difficult to move away and would like it if they moved the bench away from the front of Blue Poles so that I could have a seat.  For the Abstract Expressionism exhibition my old fave has been moved and sits entwined with other works and partially obscured by an enormous yellow painting.  Moving from “the big room” where Morris Louis pre’veiled’ Rothko gently lures you through, De Kooning sets your heart racing and them BAM! Yellow! The work above here by David Seery. So despite the Rothko, De Koonings and Gorkys I call this the yellow room, there’s no mistaking it.

* De Kooning: Collected Writings

Rothko #20Rothko MultiformRothko UntitledDe Kooning Two Figures in LandscapeDe Kooning July 4thDe Kooning Woman V (MY WOMAN FIVE!!)De Kooning Untitled (figure in landscape)Gorky Untitled 1944Gorky Plumage Landscape