Pink, Play, Print and Black

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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.

NGA

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.

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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.