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.








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.

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

Old Black and Blue Signs

Black Blue Sign

Black Blue Sign

Lately life has got in the way of my blogs.  Then a little orange cup at the top of my dashboard told me it was my anniversary.  I thought I had the blog for a few years but when I took a closer look it has been four.  So, this is a blog of reflection in a way.

I started the blog as I had been contacted by someone wanting to buy one of my works.  I had asked my talented artsy daughter to create a website for me, instead she said “You don’t want a website, you need a blog”.  She knew I was a writer, my sketchbooks have scrawled notes just as much as scrawled drawings.  My aim was just to have an online record of my paintings and drawings.  It evolved into writing, quizzes, exhibition reviews and more so, a connection to the world through my passion for art.

Anyway, looking back at the very first blog, it was no writing, just a work “Black Blue Sign”.  As an anniversary present I am going to smick up that first tentative blog and beef it up with some words.

The swapped work

The swapped work

This work was part of my Garage Sale series.  It came at a time when I was sorting out what I wanted from paint.  I was still using collage like material and testing out mixing paint.  I had copper shavings I was using for sculptural works and mixed these into the black within the work.  It was hung in an exhibition with other works from the series.  Somebody remarked at the opening they could see Jesus in the top left corner. Someone else had bought it and then swapped it for another painting not in the exhibition.  I then sent it to a gallery and it was sold from there.  I don’t know where it lives now and often wonder if the copper within the paint has altered the colour.

If you are out there and it is hanging on your wall, thanks for liking it enough to take it home and let me know if the black is now a coppery green.



A Happy Horsey Year

photo(46)I remember drawing a clagged out old horse in a paddock in art school. It’s days were numbered and the teacher thought it was a good choice as it didn’t move too much.  I don’t think having the horse stuffed and mounted would have produced any better results.  I do remember the smell though, there’s nothing quite like a horsey smell and they are such beautiful animals.  Walking my dog at the lake last week, a herd possy group of bikini-clad girls riding bare-back threw themselves through the water and rolled in the sand. The markings on one horse were the most stunning I had seen -almost a painting – tans, with a zinc white shape edged in a warm grey. They were the epitome of freedom -riding free down the beach, wind in their hair and horses galloping.


Yesterday I realised it was year of the horse.  I went to a great exhibition Crossing Boundaries -A Celebration of Contemporary Asian Australian Art.  Housed in the lower part of the Sydney Town Hall it was a tucked away gem.  This beautifully curated show included polished work by prominent Asian-Australian artists such as Guan Wei and William Yang but it was a wonderful mix of emerging young artists. One of my favourites was by Mylyn Nguyen beautiful piece Ponytail that so simply relates the merging of cultures.  She talks about the relevance of the horse in finding love,  to her everyday appearance and significance of parting her hair in the middle making “my monkey and pig hate each other”.


Horses featured heavily throughout the exhibition signalling an indication of strength and energy in the new year, perhaps the horses on the beach were a sign 2014 would be one of increased strength and maybe my new gym membership will see me becoming stronger, faster and rolling in the sand.








Mylyn Nguyen Ponytail Drawings and sculptural pieces.

Too Many Artists, Not Enough Life

"We Are All Water" detail Yoko Ono MCA Sydney

“We Are All Water” detail Yoko Ono MCA Sydney

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.

map collage

map collage

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

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.

A Big Mixed Bag of Lollies

Anish Kapoor Memory

Anish Kapoor Memory

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.photo-10

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.

photo-8So my little bag of MCA mixed lollies proved to be quite sweet . It wasn’t too sickly and way too tempting to refuse.photo-6photo-9

If you hadn’t tried this before, click here for my Doggie Quiz inspired by Noel McKenna.

How Much is that Doggie

Drawn Out

Tim Allen: Folded and Faulted Sediment III

Tim Allen: Folded and Faulted Sediment III

After the Bacon exhibition I went for a look at the Dobell Drawing Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW.  This is the last Dobell Drawing Prize after 20 years and I was pretty sad about that.  It struck me that Bacon had no sketchbooks displayed in the exhibition and I was then curious about his habits and it appears most of his work went straight onto the canvas. I’m currently reading David Hockney’s biography A Rakes Progress whose drawing is such an important foundation of his work.  I remember being in awe of a simple line in his drawing that went from black to red so easily and obviously. Beautiful.

Graham Fransella: Figure and a Bell

Graham Fransella: Figure and a Bell

I remember seeing the Dobell prize for the first time and my excitement of drawing that I continue to have. I remember being obsessive, taking the sketchbook in the bath to draw the taps, taking it fishing to draw while the line was dangling, always at the beach and having a sketchbook especially for train trips small with an orange cover so I knew the difference.

I still have a sketchbook with me at most times but I don’t have that obsession anymore. I don’t know where I lost it but wish it was back. I love that feeling being lost in a drawing, starting small getting past that uncomfortable niggling feeling and then being swap away in the marks.  I still use drawing within my painting and don’t think I could ever use just paint, the brush handle is too distant from my finger tips.

Lloyd Rees Sketchbooks in the Art Gallery of NSW Collection - photo from Australian Drawings AGNSW

Lloyd Rees Sketchbooks in the Art Gallery of NSW Collection – photo from Australian Drawings AGNSW

Kevin Connor: Pyrmont and the City 1993 the first Dobell Prize Winner

Kevin Connor: Pyrmont and the City 1993 the first Dobell Prize Winner

The last exhibition for the Dobell was like saying goodbye to some old favourites and familiar names associated with drawing. The prize will be replaced with a drawing biennale which sounds exciting but a long time between drinks.

The Asia Pacific Triennial 7 Art Jaunt

Writing Room- Parastou Forouhar
Brisbane is in the midst of floods but last weekend when I went for the Asia Pacific Triennial #7 the weather was hot, sunny and welcoming. It was my first APT and first visit to QGOMA. It was wonderful. The new gallery is open, spacious and light and the exhibition flowed beautifully from room to room.

Papuan New Guinea

Timothy Cook room


I can’t say that there was one work that prevailed, each time I think of a room there is a work that stood out.  I agreed with John MacDonald’s review and he is much more eloquent than I so feel free to click on his for a run down.

There was one work that appealed to me on all levels and from the crowds, I think it was also a huge crowd-pleaser and that was the work of Raquib Shaw, both horrific and exquisite and photography of the work just does not cut it.

Of course the contemporary work from Papua New Guinea is unbelievably impressive and I am sorry I missed the opening to catch the dancers, some of which I had seen at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

Another work that left a lasting impression was a video installation Disappearing Landscape-Passing II 2011 by Yuan Goang-Ming a Taiwanese artist. It was mesmerizing and haunting and I can’t remember that last time I was transfixed by video art.

All in all it was a marvellous jaunt north and I was impressed with Brisbane’s Cultural precinct by the river. I hope they are all safe as I write this and the river rises.

Raquib ShawGallery APT7 Iatapal Cultural Group Mary 2011QGOMA 2Paramodel JapanQGOMA

Full Stop Upward

Peter Upward June CelebrationAt the very end – the full stop is Peter Upward – a large slash of calligraphic crusty paint in June Celebration. Jon Schueler The First DayThis work left me gob smacked at the symposium on Abstract Expressionism at the National Gallery of Australia.  Seeing it for the umpteenth time hasn’t dulled the feeling when standing before it.

This room, the last leg of the exhibition includes some important Australian abstractionist in Tony Tuckson, Ian Fairweather and Ralph Balson. The works will be the first to come down as the exhibition moves into the last throes.  This end of the gallery has had a range of amazing exhibitions and despite feeling tucked away there is a feeling of intimacy with the works.  I remember being down here with the Helen Frankenthaler woodblocks in Against the Grain and the Andy Warhol screen prints. Now I will remember being down there  with Peter Upwards sister standing before June Celebration. The facing wall of works include Grace Hartigan and Franz Kline so will form the next post.

Ian Fairweather Shalimar

Tony Tuckson WateryRalph Balson Matter PaintingNatvar Bhasvar 1Natvar Bhasvar Sha-Dha