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.





Velasquez and I Cook Eggs

IMG_3214Inspiration comes in packages of all shapes, sizes and compositions.  Recently I was gobsmacked by Velasquez Old Woman Cooking Eggs. There was a dynamism in the figures and objects and how they related to each other both in colour and shape.  As a result a new series of small works in gouache provided impetus for bigger and better things.  The serendipity of reading John Olsen’s biography whilst working on the series, also laid another level.

The egg, a symbol of hope and regeneration that he saw in Velasquez, carried into his work and as a result into mine. I could see a jelly-fish-like symbol in the slithery par-cooked egg whites that could transfer into compositions for my boatshed works.


Velasquez: Old Woman Cooking Eggs.

Velasquez: Old Woman Cooking Eggs.

IMG_3201IMG_3213 IMG_3210

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.

3 De Koonings, Olsen and Paella at the Beach

Happy Holidays, may your stockings bulge with art.

Happy Holidays, may your stockings bulge with art.

“…a surrealist scene of saffron coloured chickens…” John Olsen

Olsen's Culinaria Cuisine of the Sun

Olsen’s Culinaria Cuisine of the Sun

Christmas arrived early for me this year in three parcel post satchels. Not exactly Santa down the chute but those puffy square bags make me squeal like a little girl at Xmas. The benefits of being old is that I don’t have to wait for the big day to arrive.


The first parcel was the biggest De Kooning book I’ve ever seen – the Malvern star of art books. Ensconced in a hard slip case and full of perfect coloured reproductions of his best.


The second satchel held two De Kooning second hand treasures, one cloth bound with the library card still in slipped in the back pocket time-travelled from the sixties. The other professing to be the first De Kooning publication.

De Kooning Smith College Museum of Art 1965.

De Kooning Smith College Museum of Art 1965.

Willem De Kooning by Thomas Hess 1959.

Willem De Kooning by Thomas Hess 1959.

Borrowed by Shelley Rose on Feb 10 1966.

Borrowed by Shelley Rose on Feb 10 1966.

The third satchel held Culinaria by John Olsen. Cuisine of the Sun. This book was to be our Christmas dinner – drawing, painting and cooking in the sun – sand, saffron, cadmiums, paprika, burnt orange and paella.

The Hamptons 1953

The Hamptons 1953

Two great artists, De Kooning from the northern hemisphere where he spent Christmas in the Hamptons, and Olsen in the southern hemisphere comparing Watsons Bay to an Iberian fishing village, seem very relevant to this years sunny seafood xmas by the beach…with books.

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.

The Long List of Lost Artists

Tapies 1976 : Artists Portraits by Alex Kayser

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

The Velvet Monkey

John Olsen with a recent photo of a frog on his head reminded me of this drawing, a favourite of mine,  called the Velvet Monkey and Mount Kenya but I remember him referring to it as “the monkey with the cerulean blue balls”. Cerulean blue has never been the same for me and I remember monkeys when I paint the sky.

This image is from a Savill Galleries Catalogue John Olsen & Sidney Nolan “The Call of the Wild” an exhibition June 2004.

Close to the Edge

Australian painter John Olsen appears pretty regularly on the spines of my bookshelf. In choosing a work, I flicked through a small book that would fit easily into my scanner. My other Olsen books are far more delicious in content but this work made me stop. The book is barely 15 x 15 cm but this work has an immensity. There is no size directly under this painting but later I was to discover the proportions as 168 cm x 213.5 cm. His monumental work, Sydney Sun at the NGA beckons and I stand there like a stunned sunbather in it’s yellowy warmth, head slightly tilted like fireworks watchers, mouth agape.

This work is  The Edge (2002) From John Olsen by Ken McGregor & Jenny Zimmer.