Grayson Perry Sailing out of the Dodgy Art Pool

GP Opera House 2015Sometimes our very human desire for meaning can get in the way of having a good experience of the world” Grayson Perry.

Detail You are Here pot

Detail You are Here pot

Not much scares an Essex transvestite potter except the “dodgy art pool”.

I spent the day visiting a great exhibition Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. I had a marvellous lunch atop the MCA, overlooking the Opera House where Perry would give a talk later in the day on How To Be an Artist Just Like Me. I think as an artist you tend to look for talks, trawl art magazines and even attend art workshops in the hope that you understand the artist better and even anticipate that a little bit of magic will rub off.


The greatest piece of advice came from Perry, who had fearlessly donned flamboyant orange tights, pink perilous platforms and a shimmery blue nappy-like costume, that he was frightened of ending up in a craft store.  We all are familiar with the type of store, coloured glass platters, decorator cushions, crafty wood items and pottery. His advice to sail out of that world, be brave and head for open waters to explore the world beyond. Take risks, make mistakes. After seeing the work in this mammoth exhibition I don’t think there was ever a danger of Perry being moored on the fatal shore of the dodgy art pool.


The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Prep sketches for the Tomb

Prep sketches for the Tomb

Shrine to Alan Measles 2007

Shrine to Alan Measles 2007

Sketches for The Upper Class at Bay tapestry

Sketches for The Upper Class at Bay tapestry






Bright Lights, Big Names and Ordinary Lives

Vivid2-croppedThe bright lights of Sydney’s Vivid festival drew moths to flaming landmarks around the city. It is spectacular, the harbour dark and cold brought to life reflecting the hyper flickering.  The Museum of Contemporary Art was perfectly packaged in light on the outside by Gemma Smith and the Spinifex Group. Inside two major exhibitions made the lights seem frivolous somehow.

Exhuming Gluttony: Another Requiem 2011

Exhuming Gluttony: Another Requiem 2011

The first show was Wangechi Mutu, an American based Kenyan artist whose work felt dark and heavy behind the facade of lights. A reminder that not all the world is beautiful.

The other show was Jeff Wall: Photographs. This was a remarkable exhibition and once again proves that visiting a gallery with no specific purpose can sometimes be for the best.  I don’t know a lot about photography but was curious to find out more from his work. There was an overriding feeling for me that I could use these works as a basis for a painting, especially so with Diagonal Composition. A simple photo but so right in all aspects.  It reminded me of photographs I have taken prior to developing a painting, the subject almost irrelevant and the focus more about the shapes within that area and how or whether the colour could be used at all.

One of my photos for Garage Sale series.

One of my photos for Garage Sale series.

Study for a Sudden Gust of Wind

Study for a Sudden Gust of Wind

A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai)

A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai).  







His larger  highly staged works such as After the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) feel effortless.  Once again the lights outside seemed a flash outside of reality compared to the world of Jeff Wall.

Diagonal Composition 1993

Diagonal Composition 1993

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

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

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

How Much is that Doggie

Spanish Poets, Bacon, Whisson and Me

I still can’t make up my mind if it’s the hippy mentality of “It all has to mean somethin’ man” or there is a quantifiable reason behind it.

Today Anthony Bond, curator of International Art talked about the upcoming Francis Bacon exhibition. Once again a link pops up – this time by the way of Frederica Lorca poetry.

Less than a week ago I was flicking through a book of Lorca’s poetry laid on a table in the Ken Whisson AS IF show.




So here it is, an elegy for a Spanish Bullfighter.

At Five in the Afternoon

At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime ready prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone
at five in the afternoon.

And so the path continues, it was Whiteley led me to Bacon, Bacon led me to Muybridge and no doubt that path will cross others and meander back to the start.

Don’t Stand in Front of the Painting

MOMA Stranger and Duchamp

I have seemingly collected some great photos trying to take snapshots of art works. Just as I press someone looms into the shot. At the time I usually just take another, I’m certainly not an avid photographer, it’s more for research on the painting that I was looking at. What I have found though is I really love these photos of strangers.




MCA Louise Hearman and Harry Who










Biennale Sydney and Betty Bob-up

Guggenheim & Whosit Face








More recently I’ve been trying to take the strangers on purpose. If you happen to read this and you are my stranger – thanks you’ve made my day.

MOMA Picasso and nancy no name

Biennale Sydney: All Our least you can pick your friends

Li Hongbo on Cockatoo Island

I was excited at the presentation of the new Sydney Biennale: All Our Relations. I blogged it. This last weekend I visited.

I think the verdict is still out for me. It’s a bit like Christmas, you get a hint of a present but when it’s unwrapped it was far better in your imagination.  Maybe I need to play with it a bit.

But that really isn’t fair, some works were amazing and exceptional and I love the hype and the discussion over works.

After a whirlwind of Cockatoo Island, Art Gallery of NSW and Museum Contemporary Art it was more like Christmas dinner, a lot to digest. Perhaps a post-visit nap is in order.

Later all our relations will go home and we’ll have fond memories of them.

Roadtrip between the Old and New

Last weekend it was the new MCA on Sydney Harbour, all white and glittering, smick and slick.

This weekend was the National Gallery Canberra, all orange and autumnal, crackling underfoot, old and gold.

They are about  280 kms in difference but as they say, a world away, a pack of Jelly Belly Jellybeans, mandarins and a couple of Freakonomics podcasts.

I enjoyed the Renaissance, I was desperate to see Titian and Raphael but was more impressed with the early gothic painters and some of the lesser known. Of course Titians’ composition was important – Aida Tomescu had shared her passion of his structure that influences her work- the old meets the new. There was one small Titian painting and there would have to be more to make any sort of lasting impact on me.Fortunately composition can be studied in books and on-line but in the flesh it is so much more important about the quality of the paint.

This is why I felt drawn more towards the Gothic art, small tightly fascinating work, textural and smoothed, glistening and flat.  It’s the sort of art that has always held a fascination for me, perhaps it may be the flattened areas compositionally that has proven intriguing. I did reference this art in a previous work of mine for the Meroogal Womens Art Prize but I am also fascinated by the small Persian paintings that have the same appeal.

Once again the NGA had the drama of deep dark colours but that’s whole other freakonomic blog!

By the way thanks Artshub for the tickets that I won – almost as good as the years supply of Tim Tams I won a while back.

Mapping Room

I love maps, my last 2 blogs were about my love of the new MCA so I decided to add the two together. I admire the planning in exhibitions, working out where to hang what but even better are maps to explain.  I think my all time favourite was the room map of the William Kentridge exhibition that was held at the MCA in 2004. It was an inspirational exhibition and the large room map was just as impressive. Coincidently Annandale Galleries has a current exhibition on his work that I should make an effort to see.

I tend to keep ephemera, room pamphlets, newspaper clippings and always a postcard. I think of myself somewhere between obsessive, hoardish and knowledgeable. I also think most artists tend to do the same, collect, exhibitionalia.

So when I started putting this blog piece together (God help me! Am I now blogging about blogging?) I went on the search for the mother of all room pamphlets for that exhibition in 2004.  Prior to blogging, I was a sketchbook scribbler so I thought this shouldn’t be too difficult as the sketchbooks are in some semblance of order. A3,A4, A5, A6, Hardbound, leather, unusual, trains, travels and moleskin – then years. Unfortunately the ladder was obscuring the bottom of the bookshelf where the A5 2004’s lived.

My next avenue was the Kentridge books, I have a small collection and I sometimes keep noteworthy pieces of paper in there. Damn! Anne-Marie has borrowed those. Aah! Yet another avenue – the postcards. Yes, now there are the large and small, indigenous Australian, Australian, International, freebies and gifts -all in little white boxes. I took a punt and went the large international (plus it was on the bottom shelf). So I have this….. a postcard from 2004 with my thoughts at that time and my current postcard from last weekend-a view of the harbour by Eugene Von Geurard and yet another postcard commemorating the opening-a special scratchie edition by TMOD (funnily enough these have been my birthday cards of choice between my daughter and myself and I have a collection of these).

And as a result I was so happy to read the back. It wasn’t the room catalogue but it was enough to jog the memory maps. In the meantime I clutched at an old sketchbook, wrong year but conveniently placed between the ladder rungs and a quick flick showed the early rumblings of my current lake series. Mmm -that’s going to be useful for later.

I would love to design a room brochure for my internal workings.

MCA Circles my Heart

The new MCA was just as impressive inside and out,so here’s a few shots just to entice you in to check out the new additions to the shack.

As with all renovations, I’ve started with the old. Like Hossein Valmanesh’s The Lover Circles His Own Heart, the MCA whipped around my old cold throbber and I came up with a few photographs to warm the cockles of others.

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