Pink, Play, Print and Black


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.


Sculptor Inge King exhibition









The Playroom

IMG_3276 IMG_3275 IMG_3272 IMG_3278 IMG_3279








“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.


Paint and Smoke

Capstan Reds

Capstan Reds

I tend to think of myself as a landscape painter, I don’t know why. Sometimes it just doesn’t fit. I love the stuff in the landscape as much as the setting itself, even when it’s dirty fag packets.  The last post was about Motherwell’s fabulous prints based on smoke packets.  So after a dig in the past I’ve unearthed a few more images thanks to Double Whirler’s interest.  These were done some time ago and after a while they all blur together. I take close up photos sometimes when I think certain crops of paintings will work on a larger scale.

I often do not title my works and when I stumbled across this work in my photo storage “system”(a very loose term),  I had called it “Capstan Reds” so I guess it was one too, but can’t even remember painting this now and really had thought it was based on something completely different. I painted direct from John’s scrapbook collection and photographed them before returning them so I could source them later on.



Part of John's marvellous collection

Part of John’s marvellous collection

Alpine? Woodbine? Peter Stuyvestant??

Alpine? Woodbine? Peter Stuyvestant??

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

Cooking with Brushes

If Pollock had to bring-a-plate for lunch what would it be? Maybe a thai salad thrown together but complex in flavour?
Our first day back painting after the holidays was a bring-a-plate session at Anne’s. As usual we all brought something to the table and I realised as painters, we were quite like our dishes – mine-sandwiches, made from the everyday. I’m good at assembling-maybe Rauschenburg. Sue (IR) brought a carrot cake -great blend of texture, considered-maybe Motherwell. Andrea made a pineapple upside down cake -compositionally perfect,classic-maybe a Ben Nicholson. Reiko wowed us with red beans and ice cream, unexpected and exotic- maybe Gorky. Kaye baked a zucchini slice – a combination of skill, sculpture, assemblage in egg- maybe Duchamp. Julia surprised us coming a little late and we could hear the clacking of utensils in the kitchen and then she appeared with warm scones straight from her oven -maybe a Braque the silent achiever. Anne our host had made a gluten-free chocolate cake laced with nuts -it was rich, deep and emotive -definitely a Rothko. I had come too late to know what Sue P had presented and the table was overflowing but there is no doubt that it would have been light, vego and obviously Bonnardish -little jewels of light and colour like her pastels.
Once again our brushes were dry but our table and tummies full and the promise of painting next week.