“Artists are thrust straight up against the wave of their ambition in the world as well as their ambition for their work. Unless they like being rolled over and over on the sharp pebbles of their inconsistencies, they have to dive through this wave into understanding” Anne Truitt: Daybook The Journal of an Artist.
I have curly hair, I always wanted straight brown hair and I can still hear my mother’s words – “you always want what you can’t have” as she yanked the brush through wayward tangles, snapping my neck backwards. Not only do I still want smooth, brown, tangle-free hair, but I also want my art to be as sleek and ordered as a brunette on a still day. Having just finished reading Anne Truitt’s Daybook I couldn’t help but feel it doesn’t matter what we want, we find comfort in others like us. She found that moment in the work of Barnett Newman and I, in her words. Despite the comfort of knowing other artists feel the same insecurities, the pebbles of inconsistencies still roll around my work.
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.
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
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.
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.
Multiple exhibitions in one venue can sometimes be a mixed bag of lollies. There’s usually the big musk stick that pops out the top of the bag and draws you in and then there are the ones at the bottom, the three for 5 cent jubey things. My trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney was like that.
Anish Kapoor proved musk stick-like to be as good as it looked. Something sweet and distinct at every bite, leaving a unique taste in your mouth. The promise of more sweets inside was the huge mirror dish reflecting Sydney Harbour on a perfectly blue hundreds-and-thousands sparkly day. Having been impressed by his work for a long time I was hoping for the best and I got better. As usual looking at the works on line, in books, on DVDs doesn’t cut the musk stick.
At the same time the other exhibition South of No North jubes proved to be strawberries and cream. Delicious with no fan-fare, three for one. The exhibition was based on works by Noel McKenna, Wiliam Eggleston and Laurence Aberhart. Noel McKenna’s work has always made me smile. From his doggie poster series to big things. This was a wonderful exhibition and although it is hard to compare the monumental work of Anish Kapoor, there was a similarity in the complete paring down of subject and the strength in simplicity. I especially loved these small tiles of simply drawn ordinary objects and one of the best known useful products ever deserving to be lauded in glazed ceramic : liquid nails. It was also wonderful to see his influences in Aberhart and Eggleston.
So my little bag of MCA mixed lollies proved to be quite sweet . It wasn’t too sickly and way too tempting to refuse.
Sunday morning, checking out blogs and then I stumble across the news in Robertsworld; Anton Tapies has died. No Whitney Houston hullabaloo, just a smattering in the Herald, not in the headlines but in the obits. For me it was a sinking feeling of losing touch. An opportunity to see art produced by a living artist lost.
We all seem to appreciate their works so much more once they’re gone. I had become more interested in the work of Tapies on investigating the early influences of John Olsen. It seemed only natural that I bought this book on a visit to Berkelouws at Berrima. The six degrees of separation thing kicked in, Berkelouws in Berrima, Berrima in the Southern Highlands, John Olsen’s home in the Southern Highlands, John Olsen influenced by Tapies – the only answer….buy a book on Tapies.
Of course there was no logical reason or association behind the purchase I made whilst in a little second-hand bookshop in Armidale, “BooBooks”. It was serendipity once again. Looking for a spot to park in the pouring rain, trying to focus what was on the window -books! – what a wonderful place for a rainy day. For me it was a treasure trove and I left with a small mountain of art books and old records and in amongst that cache one of my most treasured books. Tapies – Affiches,it is written in French and my poor grasp on language allows me to pluck at certain words. I am pretty sure Affiches is Posters but the works and the book is marvellous in any language.
Tapies: Tapies Ediciones
Apparently Tapies was exhibiting new work up until last year. He said “If I can’t change the world, I at least I want to change the way people look at it.” He changed my world each time I saw his work. Thank you Robert for bringing me the news this morning on your blog.
From Tapies Affiches by Rosa Maria Malet & Miquel Tapies
Well you all did pretty good on this one- ARTIST OR HOUSEWIFE QUIZ quite a few topping the 100%. USA & Australia topping the polls. I didn’t get anyone that took the chance to name the artists or housewives so no bonus points. I’m sure Martha Stewart would rather have been called an artist but she was indeed one of the housewives.
And those of you who picked my daughter as a housewife -you know who you are!- deduct 50% off your score.
If you still want to take a punt don’t read any further, NO PEEKING. Click on the link. If you want to take a stab at who they are make a comment. Remember it’s anonymous if you want.**** SPOILER ALERT READ NO FURTHER****
ARTIST : Margaret Olley
HOUSEWIFE: Margaret Fulton (Chef/Cook)
ARTIST: My beautiful daughter (Graphic Artist/Zinester)
HOUSEWIFE: Martha Stewart
ARTIST: Alice Neel (Painter)
ARTIST: Helen Frankenthaler (innovating painter, RIP)
There is a secret society of Pens & Pencils, famous artists that meet at the SH Ervin Gallery. We can only hazard a guess at who they may be -the pencils are the younger members and the pens the elders of the group. I recently read another wonderful article Palettes Loaded and Lines Drawn by Nick O’Malley regarding another meeting of creative minds, Book Club. One of the members, Noel McKenna has been a long time favourite artist of mine and I am a proud owner of a small sketch of his that was made in a swap at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney. I was drawn to this article due to my recent visit to the Ken Done Gallery in the Rocks. Ken Done, another member has long been poo-pooed by the art world but his recent paintings screamed light and colour and looking at them made me happy. That’s what it’s about. I’m all for angst and there is nothing better than a Kathe Kollowitz sketch but I’ve snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef and to capture that is pure joy. There is nothing wrong with happiness in art.
Their meetings sound like pure joy as well. I wanted to share this article, my own little bit of show and tell.
Once again when I’m not painting I fiddle with stuff. On the top of the desk my find from the last trip away. A box of slides. I often pick up photos of strangers in 2nd hand shops -pretending I know what may have happened. The box of slides were different, they were all photos of chairs and the occasional chaise lounge. They guy in the shop was apologetic, thought I may have been put off, instead I was more excited. I still don’t know what to do them project them up, draw them? Paint over them?. Make tiny chairs out of each slide?. My other find, the bearded poodle in a bowler hat is sitting in a heart-shaped cake tin fixed to the wall. I know the slides will take their place in my art world one day, til then they sit on the desk in the box they come in -all 100 odd of them waiting…….
Someone said at art school -I can’t remember who, that Lucian Freud bought all the stock of flake white paint left in the world. Was this another urban art myth, like never use black? Was it the secret stock of flake white paint that made his bodies voluptuous? I’ve only ever seen this painting of his in the flesh After Cezanneat Canberra NGA – the cut-off piece was more of a distraction to the quality of his surface.
I think all artists become obsessive about their palettes – I know I became so distressed when Archival discontinued their range of zinc white -I mixed, manipulated, mumbled obscenities and mutilated the last canister until nothing was left. I realised that life goes on, there is always another white, another way. Perhaps sadly, Lucien had exhausted his stocks of flake white at 88. At some point we all stop painting despite our stash. Cheers Lucien Freud.