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

 

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The Artist’s Chair

Reverse Graffiti Chairs NewcastleMost artists who have a studio have a studio chair. This all important item compares to a brush.  Most artists need time to mull over what comes next. The painting gets to the stage where it’s close to breaking through and that sit and look time can be just what it needs to get to the next level.  I haven’t had a lot of different studios so I haven’t exactly been Goldilocks and tried them all.

Arthurs StudioThe closest to best was the chair in the studio at Bundanon. An old cane chair with a slouchy cushion, just right. I think it may have even featured in a couple of Arthur Boyd drawings or paintings.

The pink chair looked something like this....

The pink chair looked something like this….

 

 

Another of my faves was an old salmony pink chair. A sad case that was passed endlessly through the ex’s family who had no room for it and never quite fitted in with their decor. Funnily enough they wanted it back when we parted ways. Maybe they re-painted.

Thirroul studio

Thirroul studio

The Thirroul studio had the good old waiting room chair circa 80’s wrapped in vinyl and made a good double as an easel when not being sat upon and it could easily be wiped over.  Not being too comfy meant I spent more time off my butt.

My current chair is a bridge chair. It has a swing back and is good for procrastinating, leaning back and staring at the ceiling (and the top of the bookshelf) for inspiration.

 

 

I think the king of all studio chairs would have to be Willem De Kooning’s.  This photo from Architectural Digest shows that there were two, one for Elaine too. It appears to be a rocker and would be perfect with a rug for winter, drifting off  and dreaming of pink fleshy glazes and how the painting might end.

 

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“For his installation for the German representation at the French Pavilion, Ai Weiwei has assembled 886 three-legged wooden stools. In today’s China, the three-legged stool is an antique. Manufactured by a uniform method, it was in use throughout China and in all sectors of society for centuries.”

“For his installation for the German representation at the French Pavilion, Ai Weiwei has assembled 886 three-legged wooden stools. In today’s China, the three-legged stool is an antique. Manufactured by a uniform method, it was in use throughout China and in all sectors of society for centuries.”

 

That Messy Abstractionist Drawer

Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell

The bombardment of information through internet sources has meant that I hear about more and more artists that I like.  “Great!”  You might say.  I’m not so sure.  My current reading material is an essay by Elaine De Kooning on the artist Earl Kerkham and I had earlier read an article on American abstractionist Joan Mitchell.  I really didn’t know about these artists and rather than just a name printed in black and white, I wanted to see their works, give them time and recognition.

 

 

I was really enamoured with Joan Mitchells work and was surprised that I had not discovered her work earlier. I don’t know if it was a case of seeing and forgetting or never looking.  How many others have escaped me?

Earl Kerkham Head 1962

Earl Kerkham Head 1962

The trouble is there are so many artists out there past and present and the more time spent looking means less time spent doing.  I admire artists who are single-minded and focus on one or maybe two artists and can develop their own work as a result. I thought I could do that and if I really had to choose, I could only narrow it to three – De Kooning, Giacometti and Antony Gormley.

But what happens to all the others I discard to focus on the big 3?  Do I chuck them all into the second drawer that is my head and rummage through it when I’m working on a painting or series? That scares me, I know what that drawer is like and there is always a fabulous instrument that lurks at the bottom, sharp and edgy and when you go in to retrieve it you could possibly be hurt or come out with something you really can’t use.

My Lake series is bubbling and I am looking at artists that I think might be relevant to what I need  – Puccini, Arthur Boyd, Rembrandt and Elisabeth Cummings are in the pot. And if I could give them a stir with the tool at the bottom of the drawer it would be Rauschenberg.

The Bare Bones of Winter

I smelt John R Walker’s paintings before I ever saw them.  I have a feeling it was the Wynne and whatever else was there that year was eclipsed by his work for me.  Luscious, precarious oil seemingly hanging from the canvas.  Later at a group show in Hazelhurst Gallery I saw his gouaches and scribbled in my sketchbook “JR Walkers Bare bones of a painting.”, a reminder to myself to consider my subject before being seduced by the oil.

Little did I think I would be at Bundanon in a studio adjoining where JR Walker had given thanks to Arthur Boyd in paint.  When given access to the wonderful Boyd archives, I had carefully slid a painting out to reveal Gary’s (the caretaker and great guy) thonged feet and lower limbs akin to a great white fleshy twisted gum left by Walker.

Years later I still find his work gives me the same thrill. This current exhibition at Utopia Gallery: Winter in the Fire Forest feels like his gouache and oil have collided. The bare bones are now the oils. His titles indicate that his East has met West and there is definitely a paring down to the essence of landscape and the familiarity of the subject.  Small delicate twists of lavenderish oil over grey-green feel tenuous but confident. I imagined myself back in Braidwood, in the landscape, back in Bundanon by the Shoalhaven a grey green wash of oily history in paint.

Fishing in the Art Pool

I guess my childhood at the boat shed is the reason for my love of fish. When I heard about the exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney I knew it was up my alley.  Exhibits at this museum are always excellent and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. The nature of the Museum would mean certain limitations on what is exhibited so it is even better when they come up with such a simple idea done in a fabulous way.


Entering through a scaly doorway led to an open sea of fish. Fish in design, fish in indigenous art and fish in painting, photography and illustration. I can’t even pinpoint my favourite work – paintings by Margaret Olley, Arthur Boyd, Ken Whisson and John Olsen were tempting enough but then you see marvellous colourful illustrations in one of the world’s rarest books dated 1754. It was just the absolute variety within this exhibition that had me enthralled. I felt I could stay, sketch, research. It felt like a beginning towards my end in works about the boat shed.

One small unassuming work was an illustration of Condon’s Creek in the Illawarra area and the use of the dog tree by the aboriginal people to stupefy fish. It involved preparing the bark of a tree, stripping it and putting it into the fire to get hot. It was then plunged into the creek where the fumes would stupefy the fish and they would rise to the surface. I knew this was a great link – not only was it a local connection to place, it was a fishing method that leant itself to story telling.  A story that leant itself to painting.

I had once thought my memory of flying fish was imagined but I know that fish are as extraordinary as an invented world and this display so wonderfully curated by Penny Cuthbert and Stephen Scheding has provided the excitement I needed to re-visit the subject again.

The exhibition involved tales of fishing, whaling and scientific collection. All of this within a museum that sits right on Sydney Harbour, where during the week a whale was hurt inside the harbour by a ferry.

 

 

There is no other ideal place for this exhibition. It is sad that it has been cut short and is only on for another couple of weeks.

 

Unfortunately it is giving way to a repeated pirate exhibition but if it draws a larger audience and little aquatic gems like this exhibition are held from time to time I won’t jump off the plank in a hurry.

Don’t Let Your Thumbnails Fall Off

Somewhere between then and now my thumbnails have fell off. Painting back at the river felt like I had come full circle – it was quite a while ago since we’d been. In between there was specatacular vistas of coastline, waterbirds and the discovery of fluro paint. There was only a few of us missing too. We talked about Barbies, Cy Twombly and Ildiko Kovacs over banana cake and home grown mandarins then got down to business.

I started with a small sketch eastward on the river toward the bridge and a man fishing at the boat ramp. Arthur Boyd’s territory. The last couple of paint trips I’ve gone back to using small thumbnails- my largest works always had this basis. I don’t remember them falling off but I know the finished work was definitely more complete, stronger.

Rainbows over Pulpit Rock

Returning to Bundanon after 5 years was like going home. I’m comfortable in that landscape, just paint me in. I didn’t feel the need to paint, draw, photograph-just to breathe. Jane unrolled the scroll and created an ink-river across the stark white paper in Whiteley movements, bending and dipping. I watched the weather bend and dip in synchronicity with Jane’s brush -sun, rain, mist and a rainbow over Pulpit Rock. The walk back to the homestead wound through wombat-holed tracks watched by a sleepy mob of kangaroos, black suspicious cows and ignored by intently grazing buffalo wombats.  There is no other place in the world like it and no other place I would rather be.

Bundanon Series

At the base of Pulpit Rock on Shoalhaven River is a conglomeration of rocks.  It was here that Arthur Boyd fell back in love with the Australian Landscape and I fell in love with paint.  A residency at Bundanon for over a month meant I had time, let Arthur and the landscape seep into me.  Daily, hour by hour the river would change colour.  I wiggled my stump-easel into place, tied the canvas and painted till dark.  All these works were based on the configuartion of just four rocks to the very left in this photo.  Thank you Arthur Boyd and the Boyd family.