The Ups and Downs of Drawing

IMG_4071A shag and a pig went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat lined, with red-lead”

Sometimes I feel very connected to where I live and other times I want to get the hell out.  A while back I saw a submission for sculpture installation at the lake.  The lake was my childhood home, the boatshed my happy days. Somehow I feel as an artist I have a deep connection and I sort of owe it to me and the lake to produce something worthwhile.  I have done plenty of research and have my own motifs that appear in paintings and drawings.  I didn’t do the submission – no time, no confidence, no excuse really. This week while driving to work I passed the sculpture that has been erected where I thought I should do something.  I was prepared for the worst. I’m really happy with it. I didn’t do it but someone put their hand up and it feels very right.

Ghost Trees

Ghost Trees

Drawing on stories from the community there is a strength of connection behind the work. I had my own plans and a work that really was about me more than the area, so I am glad there is a work that will tell lots of other stories.

Anyway the drawing is improving. Once again the cormorants surfaced, the boatshed and my struggle to get it out. I may not have built a huge black shaped wing on the foreshore but I feel at peace with a story in art there for others.

 

Meanwhile I am still drawing more stories from my childhood on the lake.

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Torpedo the pig

Torpedo the pig

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Never a Wrong Time for Fiona Hall

“Time is marching on, but we seem to be going the other way”
Fiona Hall

IMG_3837 IMG_3836 IMG_3850 Fiona Hall was a very early influence on the way I thought about art.  I had first seen her work “Dead in the Water” at the Art Gallery of NSW more than 15 years ago in a group exhibition and can’t recall the theme of the exhibition. She had drilled small holes in plastic piping and suspended them in a glass tank. I was impressed with the way she was able to get her message across and the skill in presentation. She was selected to represent Australia in the 2015 Venice Biennale and the show, Wrong Way Time, was displayed at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra along with her earlier works in the NGA collection.

 

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The exhibition reminded me of her early exquisite drawings over bank notes that had made me first explore the qualities of gouache. Her ability ranges from the attention to the minutae to large sculptural installations such as Folly for Mrs Macquarie.

The trip to the gallery reminded me of much I drew from her work and the idea of always experimenting with materials. The play may not come to fruition but there is never a wrong way.

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Anne Truitt: Wanting What I Can’t Have

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“Artists are thrust straight up against the wave of their ambition in the world as well as their ambition for their work. Unless they like being rolled over and over on the sharp pebbles of their inconsistencies, they have to dive through this wave into understanding” Anne Truitt: Daybook The Journal of an Artist.

 

I have curly hair, I always wanted straight brown hair and I can still hear my mother’s words – “you always want what you can’t have” as she yanked the brush through wayward tangles, snapping my neck backwards.  Not only do I still want smooth, brown, tangle-free hair, but I also want my art to be as sleek and ordered as a brunette on a still day. Having just finished reading Anne Truitt’s Daybook I couldn’t help but feel it doesn’t matter what we want, we find comfort in others like us. She found that moment in the work of Barnett Newman and I, in her words. Despite the comfort of knowing other artists feel the same insecurities, the pebbles of inconsistencies still roll around my work.

Sculpture in the Park

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Forest Birdsong Gary Christian

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Coal Andreas Buisman

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Plume No2 Didier Balez & Paulineke Polkamp

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Nascentias Blades of Grass Sallie Portnoy

It’s a long stretch from November to November for Sculpture By The Sea.  Today I got some mid-session sculpture in the park at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens.  It was good to see some home-grown sculpture and for the first year, well put together. I’m sure it will only get bigger each year as more sculptors get wind.  Anyway, it was a lovely day for it, brilliant blue skies, overwhelming scent of honey, and very few crowds with a spectacular backdrop of Mount Kiera. I love this time of the year.

It was beautiful to capture some nature shots between – spiders hung delicately against the sky, the brilliant green mossy ponds and spears of grass trees piercing the sky – I think Felix Allens work Forests of Ancient Illawarra – his coal laden steel poles felt right – they seem to reference the area, the site and the history in an interesting way.

The Clearing Catriona Stanton

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Path

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Not a sculpture!

Spider

Spider

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Mossy Pond

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Forests of Ancient Illawarra Felix Allen

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Collocation Hale and Farrell

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The Architecture of Diversity: Illawarra 400

It Was You I Saw Up Ahead

It Was You I Saw Up Ahead Tamsin Salehian

 

Into the Future Ralph Tikerpae

Into the Future Ralph Tikerpae

The Illumina-trope David Hashimoto & Gabrielle Bates

The Illumina-trope David Hashimoto & Gabrielle Bates

Solsitice Bench Trent Jansen

Solsitice Bench Trent Jansen

King Coal Louis Pratt THE WINNER

King Coal Louis Pratt

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.

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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.

People by the Sculpture by the Sea 2015

Dogs 20151Each year Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi Beach gets a little more crowded. The works hold different people for different reasons. A couple of years back there seemed to be an abundance of animal themed works, another year environmental, lots of big red things, and this year had a distinct people focus. After reviewing an abundance of photos from two trips this year,  more shots for my dogs of Bondi collection and various hit and miss snaps, the ones I really like are the people interacting with the works and even better the people oblivious to the monumental pieces around them.

 

P1050217The walk from Tamarama to Bondi is spectacular, a backdrop of sea and rock. This year two pods of dolphins were launching themselves into the air and spinning on show whilst the crowd moved around the edge. I took a lot of sculptureless shots this year once again.

Here’s a clip of this years winner, Jorg Pickat.

 

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Richard Serra Vico,2002

Richard Serra Drawings

Blackness is a property, not a quality”  Richard Serra.

Recently Richard Serra has been on my art hit list.  Looking at public art, it has hard to see past him, his work is solid, demanding and ‘complexingly’ simple. I have a loan of a  beautiful book to read from my pal Jane Richard Serra Drawings.

Serra & Pollock, it's all about action

Serra & Pollock, it’s all about action

I suppose coming from a blacksmith’s daughter, steel was a material sheet-rolled into my psyche.  I watched my dad melt lead and instead of flinging against a wall like Serra, he poured it into molds for sinkers.  He curved steel in the shed to form horse shoes, like Serra curving lines within a room. Most of the time I was forbidden to go into the work shed, but I would don the Ned Kelly welding helmet, smelly and sweaty. I would wave my stig wand and pretend to make steel glow.

Serra, Vico 2002.

Serra, Vico 2002.

 

Unfortunately Dad never got around to see my (very inept) welding skills and I think he would have loved Serra as much as me, he could have explained the properties and the logistics. I recently looked at making a sculpture on the scale of a Serra and was excited to see a drawing materialise, if only in Photoshop as a huge monolith, emerging from my lake.

 

 

 

Paintlater, Graphite, oil pastel  2014.

Paintlater, Graphite, oil pastel 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Paintlater, 'Down' 2014

Paintlater, ‘Down’ 2014

Paintlater, Maquette fro 'Down' 2014

Paintlater, Maquette for ‘Down’ 2014

Keeping LeWitts About You

IMG_2162Just because I throw paint about, dollop it on, scrape it around and don’t clean my brushes or studio does not mean I don’t like order.  This weekend, like a mixed media artist in a storm, there was a smattering of everything; Opera, wildlife photography, stuffed birds, dinosaurs, treasures from an Afghan tomb, a Google train and Sol Le Witt.

It is no surprise LeWitt was drawn to the work of Australian indigenous artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye.  They both have a clarity of finished work with layers of meaning pushed and kept under tight reign behind simple lines, a bit like an expertly wrapped parcel held with a piece of string that once pulled will expose a world that could be changed. You know it exists behind that string and it is far more beautiful kept in tact this way.

Detail Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Detail Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Detail LeWitt Wall drawing in progress

Detail LeWitt Wall drawing in progress

LeWitt was like cleaning off the palette, putting up a new canvas. His work cleans your mind.  The Biennale of Sydney had an unnerving edge to some of the exhibits leaving some heaviness like gunked up brushes. Don’t get me wrong, I like the gunk – it has layers to think about and who doesn’t love the Google Train, but Sol LeWitt has a crispness of mind I envy.  I want those clean brushes.

Once again we have John Kaldor to thank for introducing Emily to Sol.  He definitely has match-making skills.

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Exhibition: Your Mind is Exactly at That Line

Exhibition: Your Mind is Exactly at That Line

 

Inside Outside Rachel Whiteread

Rachel Whiteread’s Studio Photo by Helene Binet

Rachel Whiteread’s Studio Photo by Helene Binet


The Port Kembla Stack
fell to the ground in an unearthly groan and a crumpled heap of cement and dust yesterday.  Just an icon of my disintegrating past.  I was there with the throngs of people waiting and watching, as we talked to each other, I noticed they all had returned from somewhere else. They had connected their home to the stack. It made me think of Rachel Whiteread and the cast of the space inside her home before demolition.

Rachel Whiteread Embankment, 2005

Rachel Whiteread
Embankment, 2005

Recently I discovered the works of Rachel Whiteread, a British sculptor/artist whose connection to home and a simple cardboard box had produced a monumental work for the Tate Gallery.

Whiteread described  Embankment as “working with a broader brush”, the installation was exhibited at the Tate Modern Gallery in London United Kingdom .  The work took place in the Turbine Hall, an area of 152 meters long and 35 meters high.  It was a commissioned work as part of the Unilever Series installed from 11 October 2005 to 1 May 2006. More recently in 2011 Ai Wei Wei’s installation of sunflower seeds occupied the same area also part of the Unilever Series.

Whiteread’s work comprises 14,000 translucent polyethylene casts of 10 selected cardboard boxes.  Upon clearing out her deceased mother’s home, she came upon a box that had undergone different uses for family objects and this became the impetus for this larger work.

The work evokes a feeling of monumentality, partly because of the scale and the space it occupies.  The white translucency of the boxes feels snow-like and gives the impression of being able to wander snow-capped slopes.  The cold is a stark contrast to the emotional warmth apparent when Whiteread first came across the box.  The box, like so many other everyday objects, conveys a sense of familiarity from re-use and storage from nostalgic objects.  The notion of the box storing Christmas decorations evokes happier childhood memories. Perhaps Whiteread’s Christmas in the northern hemisphere was snow-capped and the feelings of cold are part of that environment.

My Photo of Peter Robinson Sydney Biennale 2012

My Photo of Peter Robinson Sydney Biennale 2012

A work by Peter Robinson, Gravitas Lite 2012, in the Sydney Biennale 2012 had a similar effect being exhibited in the Turbine Hall at Cockatoo Island. In both artist’s works the shapes, in Robinson’s chains and Whiteread’s boxes, have relevance to the industrial space they inhabit but the starkness and fragility of the material also create interest in the sense they do not belong.  The strong shadows cast on the light of the white boxes and the forms in the way they are stacked, appear to replicate landscape features, such as mountains or crevices, feeling more organic within the factory backdrop and further fuelling the contrast of material and space.

Hany Armanious Untitled Snake Oil

Hany Armanious Untitled Snake Oil

Embankment is also reminiscent of work by Australian contemporary artist Hany Armanious whose casts of everyday objects take on a transformative appearance.  Untitled (snake oil) by Armanious impinges on the investigation of each glass’ empty shape as a negative space in the same way Whiteread initially explored the space of the box.  Armanious has cast the shapes of inside glasses and then used the base as a plinth with the cast sitting on top to produce an interesting object.

In the same way, Whiteread’s work is beautiful in its simplicity.