Archive for July, 2018

Gallery Lane Cove – recent exhibitions

The Art of Friendship
This exhibition marked the opening of the new cultural precinct in Lane Cove. The curatorium was led by Guy Warren, and the exhibition was a selection of works by Warren and his friends and colleagues. This made for quite a mixture (almost all rectangles on walls), and I was very conscious of the choices I made, what attracted me, as I moved around the gallery.

The standard apology for photos with odd angles. There were a lot of reflections to battle.

Margot Goodall
Within The Gorge


Margot Goodall
Secret Waterhole


Two small collographs by Margot Goodall were modest but beautiful little worlds. Shapes, composition, texture. Quite simply, I wanted to run home and start printing.

Jim Croke
Slowly Falling


Jim Croke
Slowly Falling (detail)


I struggled with Jim Croke’s large (160 x 150 x 10 cm) steel piece. Of course it uses material similar to material I use. It reminded of some of Tracey Deep’s work (29-Sep-2016). I had to do a lot of letting go to see it (probably not entirely successfully). The apparent horizontal lines give a stability – I find it hard to accept it as “slowly falling”. The unruly curls are tightly contained in the rows, the rectangle. I found focusing on rhythm my best entry point.

Peter Kingston
Zoo Ferry, 0


Peter Kingston
Zoo Ferry, 0 (detail)

Peter Kingston
Zoo Ferry, 0 (detail)


This hand-coloured and wash etching was very exciting. The lines of the etching are so flowing and energetic. So much is done with very little. Then more energy and luminous colour from the wash, layers and depth. Plus so absolutely Sydney. I’m sure I remember seeing Kingston’s work before and being excited – I’m thinking in the Destination Sydney at Mosman – but haven’t been able to track down the catalogue on my shelves. The crisp, deep mark of the press, framing the main area of the picture, increased the thrill of the splatters of paint.

Luke Sciberras
Curlewee Point

Euan Macleod
Crossing Figures, (Golden Hills)

There were works by both Luke Sciberras and Euan Macleod, and a strange mixture of familiarity and difference to the works at Manly (27-Jul-2018). General style and preoccupations could be seen, but also quite different by both artists.

Sciberras had such Australian colours and forms, in addition to the name. I find the divide down the centre of the picture, the contrast of the two parts, disturbing, unsettling.

There is so much more space in Macleod’s painting compared to the claustrophobic beaches of Belle Ile. The ghostly figures seem more animated to me, striding purposefully across the frame. That thin stripe of green at the bottom gives them support and solidity, and together with the golden hills and many of the colours in the water it’s bright and … well, not exactly cheerful but not gloomy and brooding.

Chris Gentle
Rozelle Bay


Chris Gentle
Rozelle Bay (detail)


Chris Gentle’s painting zings with colour and vibrant lines. (I wouldn’t normally describe a line as “vibrant”, but here it seems right). The composition seems static – a few zippy diagonals, a jagged line, but nothing really seems to be heading anywhere. But the colour and marks fizz!

ARTPark @ Gallery Lane Cove: An Exhibition of contemporary sculptures
This exhibition of nine sculptures is on the terrace of the gallery. ARTPark Australia constantly runs sculpture exhibitions in Australia. Constantly in that when an exhibition ends the works are moved for display at the next venue. They are bringing sculpture to the people, which seems a pretty worthy goal. These are “high quality collectable sculpture suited for placement in commercial foyers, luxury homes and innovative garden design” (from the website).

None of it attracted or excited or drew me. The sculptures weren’t big exactly, but they were all a bit more than domestic in scale. They were pretty much static, balanced. Durable.

It was quite enlightening really, to go to an exhibition that I thought would grab me but didn’t.

Book making

For her recent birthday (2-Jul-2018) my mother was given beautiful cards, some hand-made, many with personal comments and wishes. I’ve now bound the cards together so that she can easily display them and re-read all those lovely thoughts.

It turned out pretty well, the trickiest part being figuring out how to handle all the different sizes of card.

Class notes

To stitch the binding I referred back to my notes from a class with Adele Outteridge in 2014 (25-Jul-2014). I tend to make copious notes in classes. For Adele’s workshop I actually made a book of the notes, a variety of papers, an invoice for some threads I bought…

Over the years I’ve tried lots of different book formats for storing workshop notes, visual diaries, exhibition leaflets… Some of it’s by date, some by subject.

Cannibalizing from a draft blog post for a project that hasn’t quite taken off yet: Recently a son asked me for the name of a glass maker we had been interested in a while back. I was able to identify John Ditchfield from a photo of a glass frog in my very first visual diary – 2003, just after I drew a line under my professional studies. That’s 15 years of sometimes obsessive making, learning and experimenting. And flipping through my diaries, looking for this frog photo I had in my head, was a revelation. Some of that stuff was really interesting. I was impressed by myself. Instead of constantly reaching for the next glittery thing that catches my attention, I think it’s time to go deeper, to look around me in my workroom-formerly-known-as-the-dining-room.

Unfortunately in some ways my notes are a bit of a mess. This blog acts as an index to find the date of a workshop, but then it’s a hunt to find the actual notes. I haven’t always worked steadily, filling up one notebook before starting the next. A visual diary is too heavy to carry around. I’ve wanted a mix of papers. There are a couple of handmade books on the shelves with paper mixes, there are lots of loose pages bundled together with string that I was planning to bind – but that’s slow and I haven’t got around to it…

So I’ve identified value, the resource I’m continuing to build, and I’ve identified a number of problems with the way I create, store and access that value. Seeing the benefit, I’m now experimenting with a system I’ve always rejected in the past as just too ugly. A4 spiral binding with plastic combs. How is that more ugly, more office-drab, more bland uniformity than lever arch folders? Don’t know, it just is.

Now I have a thin book with a variety of papers, light enough to live in my backpack. Roughly weekly I take out whatever pages I’ve used and refill with blanks. The used pages go into a larger consolidation folder. There are receipts and postcards and all sorts of oddments going in. At the moment it definitely isn’t beautiful, but at some stage I might play with putting more “arty” stuff in. So far it seems to working – useful. That’s enough.

Exhibition: Belle Île: Luke Sciberras & Euan Macleod

This exhibition is on at Manly Art Gallery & Museum until 2 September 2018. If you’re anywhere near Sydney I recommend getting yourself organised and over there. Apart from the works themselves there is the story of the genesis of the exhibition, plus insight into the artists’ processes in developing the works.

This exhibition of very recent works – all 2017 and 2018 – is linked to John Russell: Australia’s French impressionist which opened last week at the Art Gallery of NSW – www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/john-russell/. I’ve blogged about Russell once or twice before (11-Nov-2013). The AGNSW website’s potted history includes “John Russell was a close friend of Vincent van Gogh and Auguste Rodin, taught impressionist colour theory to Henri Matisse and dined with Claude Monet.” A group including the curator, filmmakers and others visited Belle Île off the coast of France as part of the lead up to the AGNSW retrospective. Belle Île was Russell’s home for many years and where he met Monet. Sciberras and Macleod joined the expedition and spent a week or so on Belle Île last year, painting in locations that may be familiar to many from works by Monet and Russell. So it will be fascinating when I get to the AGNSW to view Russell’s works with the contemporary responses in mind.

However just now I’m focused on the Manly exhibition, and the work process that it exposes. Preliminary sketches and more developed studies are shown, as well as the major works which were painted later at the artists’ studios in Sydney.

A selection of work by Luke Sciberras. Note the size increases and materials change over development. Also apologies for odd angles, which still didn’t avoid reflections.:

Luke Sciberras
sketchbooks


Luke Sciberras
Plein Air Study, Belle Ile
gouache and pastel on paper, 29.5 x 42 cm


Luke Sciberras
Study For High Tide, Belle Ile
gouache on paper, 56 x 75 cm


Luke Sciberras
Study For Bangor, Belle Ile
Oil on board, 60 x 85 cm


Luke Sciberras
Pinnacles Between, Belle Ile
Oil on board, 160 x 240 cm


Luke Sciberras
Pinnacles Between, Belle Ile (Detail)

In the catalogue Sciberras writes of thrill of being in the actual place, the sound of the pebbles tumbled by the sea. “The challenge is to harness an energy; some spirit that comes back with you to the studio, to slough the coating of expectations and anticipation and immerse the imagination into the moment.” Then over time working in the studio versions of memory develop, a reflection on the experience of the place, works “about” the place but with their own energy.

In the documentary film showing in the exhibition space Sciberras talks in front of a particular picture – I think it might be Pinnacles Between, Belle Ile (photo above). He describes how the scale of the painting absorbs him bodily, in a way like the location. The cliffs abbreviate peripheral vision, close and claustrophobic, with fantastic views. Standing in front of the works is such a different experience to a tiny photo.

Next very different work from Euan Macleod.

Euan Macleod
Sketches drawn and painted at Belle Ile


Euan Macleod
Belle Ile People and Needles 7/5/17
acrylic on paper, 38 x 58 cm


Euan Macleod
Large Cave Entrance 11/5/17
acrylic on paper, 58 x 76 cm


Sorry, the photo above is particularly bad, but I wanted to show that right from the start Macleod was inventive, not entirely descriptive, putting in stairs where he wanted them. From the documentary film I gather Macleod wanted to emphasize the precariousness of getting down the cliffs, the feeling of being trapped on the beach.

Euan Macleod
Beach (Belle Ile)
acrylic on polyester, 120 x 84 cm


Euan Macleod
Guillotine
oil on acrylic on linen, 168 x 112 cm

In the catalogue Macleod notes that as he works later in the studio, although memories are important “the paintings become less specific in regard to place and more about an internal, emotional place.” There is a freedom for the work to determine where it goes.

I found the exhibition invigorating and inspiring. Seeing the movement of marks and ideas through different stages of development, using different materials, was very interesting. Some of the initial and clearly very quick sketches, visual note taking, looked not entirely unlike something I might attempt. The idea of landscape as a beginning, a core of memory, not a thing to copy, makes more sense when you see the series of works.

An ink on paper work by Sciberras, together with the work I saw recently by Matt Bromhead (22-Jul-2018), has me wanting to make my own experiments…

Luke Sciberras
Toul Rock, Belle Ile
Ink on paper, 56 x 75 cm


Luke Sciberras
Toul Rock, Belle Ile (detail)

Recent exhibitions

A quick roundup.

Matt Bromhead Longline pompom

Matt Bromhead
Installation view

After the excitement of the workshop with Matt (10-Jul-2018) it was great to be able to see some of his work in person at pompom.

Some of the sculptures were tall – up to 230 cm in height. They were generally spindly, apparently precarious. Matt invites movement, partly the nature of the materials, then some hanging elements, and sometimes some strategically placed magnets. There were cantilevers and delicate balances. Play with space, with solidity. There was a sense of a shimmer, a vibration.

One of the gallery owners came over and chatted, very welcoming and engaging. The solo exhibition at pompom is one of the outcomes of Matt’s selection in the 2018 Art Incubator grant program.

Matt was stunningly generous in the workshop he gave. The approach, materials and techniques he taught are strongly evident in the exhibited works, his current explorations. Seeing his drawings reinforced his approach. Apparently Matt’s quest/embrace of chance includes dropping colour through water to create his works on marine ply.

I enjoyed seeing the texture and moments of detail in Matt’s work. His work is raw and unpretentious, playful, experimental, thoughtful, purposeful, intentional.

One recurring thought from recent exhibitions – the power of grouped work. It was strong in Nicole de Mestre’s recent exhibition (13-May-2018). Matt’s work was fascinating in small grouping. They also worked well on small and low shelves on the wall. I think it would need a lot of space around a single work placed on the floor.

The second exhibition at pompom also gained impact from repetition with variation.

Sarah Edmondson According to Chance pompom

Sarah Edmondson
Installation view

Sarah Edmondson’s statement for this exhibition begins “The principle guiding my work is the belief that chance events open up opportunities of discovery”, so it was a great pairing with Matt Bromhead. The base image for all the works in the exhibition was a computer glitch, blown up, cut up, the outcome of an instant… and become the template for needlepoint. A bizarre combination of random chance with detailed consideration and planning followed by laborious process.

The size and mounting of all but one of the works was the same, a square of canvas in a deep frame. Colour tended to the vibrant. I found most interesting the works that transgressed, that broke the surface, showed the structure, interrupted the repetition of the stitch.

Cultivate: inspired by nature Sturt Gallery

In a brief visit to this exhibition I was particularly taken by a series of work by Sophie Carnell – Shoreline Series.

Carnell combines beach combed treasures with recycled sterling silver. Each piece creates its own little moment or space, but the combined hanging added more as one explored the variations of these unique, organic, whimsical objects.

Sophie Carnell
Shoreline Series

Sophie Carnell
Shoreline Series

Sophie Carnell
Shoreline series

The care, consideration, time, and effort put into each piece is clear. The mounting is simple and effective, inviting appreciation of the individual beauty of the object. There is a certain joy and exuberance and humour, refined and controlled without being made static.

Geoff Harvey: One Man’s Treasure Manly Art Gallery & Museum
An important part of looking at other people’s work is reflecting on why something doesn’t attract or delight me. From one or two small photos on the Manly Gallery website I was quite interested. (We were visiting planning a visit for a different exhibition – more on that in another post). Walking into the gallery I felt disappointed.

Geoff Harvey
Installation view


Geoff Harvey
Abbey Road (Romanesque Monasticism re-mastered)
Two of six pieces

First, overwhelming impression – static.

Everything is carefully balanced, centered. The spires seemed sturdy rather than soaring. There’s certainly nothing precarious or left to chance. Phallic and a bit obvious.

There is texture in the found objects, but again it seems controlled, tamed. Going closer to a particular piece, I didn’t feel rewarded by an extra level of detail or jolt of recognition. Which seemed strange, as the elements include some beautiful aged pieces of timber, often I guess architectural detailing from old buildings, plus oddments of kitchen paraphernalia.

Geoff Harvey
Grace of New York (making America grate again)
Full and detail views

The sub-title of one piece really aggravated me. Grace of New York (making America grate again). Graters – yeah, got it. Names of other pieces include “shrine”, “cathedral”, “minaret”, “men of prayer”. The artist apparently has a fascination with the architecture of worship. OK, fine…

So I’m slamming this guy for a single small exhibition. The tiniest sliver of a view on his work. Unfair and unreasonable, especially since care and skill and some great collected materials are evident.

But in the end this blog is about me and my learning. It’s not journalism or art criticism. A strong reaction is interesting. On reflection I think it’s a feeling of wasted resources, lost opportunities. So what do I bring back to my own work? Play with balance. Go for risk, the precipice. I prefer my humour whimsical or quirky. Push beyond the first idea. Surprise yourself.

Exhibition: John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new

Installation view Milmilngkan
John Mawurndjul

Mardayin at Milmilngkan (2006)
John Mawurndjul

Recently opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, this exhibition, a comprehensive survey of the artist’s work, is huge.

Just after it opened I was lucky enough to go to a day of events at the MCA – first a discussion between the artist and curatorial advisor Keith Munro with interpreter Murray Garde, then a panel discussion including curators of the exhibition, Mawurndjul and Garde.

The presence and charisma of John Mawurndjul was commanding, mesmerizing. He could sit quite small and quiet, sometimes watching what was going on, sometimes apparently far away in thought, but when he was active, listening or speaking, and especially when he stood up and moved around as he spoke, there was an energy, force, strength. He communicated with his whole body. His hands were beautiful to watch.

Mardayin at Milmilngkan (2006)
detail of rarrk
John Mawurndjul

In that description above I’m sure there are cultural assumptions that I’ve made, interpretations of expression that are unfounded. At this point knowing my ignorance and having an intention to listen deeply seems the best I can do.

Language was a major focus of the day, and is in the exhibition. Translation is difficult – see https://www.creativespirits.info
/aboriginalculture/language/why-translating-english-to-aboriginal-languages-is-so-hard
for some of the reasons. Murray Garde did an amazing job as interpreter, including stepping out of that role at times to give the audience some context, then back into Mawurndjul’s words. In the exhibition most of the signage is in Mawurndjul’s words together with a translation into english.

Thylacine (c. 1995)
John Mawurndjul

There are untranslateable concepts and entire contexts. Plus there is the responsibility to look after special places. The paintings have layers – a surface which I can see and appreciate, the aesthetics, but more layers that remain hidden, that relate to cultural knowledge that can only be shared with a restricted group – based on age or gender or participation in particular ceremonies or kinship… Painting these works has been dangerous, and has taken a toll on Mawurndjul and his health.

Place is the other strong element of the exhibition. Focal places for spiritual essence. The artist directed placement in both exhibition and catalogue, “with works grouped by kunred (places), then animals and spirits, mimih spirits followed by lorrkkon and etchings” (from catalogue). And known place can be very specific – for example a photo of a fish trap fence, in the particular place in a creek where the zones of brackish/salt and fresh water mix, where tides and flow and water levels combine.

Birlmu Barramundi (1996)
John Mawurndjul

Mardayin is a special, secret ceremony, held in special places. There is a gravitas, a weightiness, power. There are emblems, such as dilly bags with tassels. There are protocols. Public and private knowledge must be maintained. Mawurndjul wonders who will take on stories after him. And he has to balance the secret nature of topics, the toll they take, with the pressure on an artist to make work to request, churning it out.

Mawurndjul’s father taught him it was OK to teach non-aboriginal people, to facilitate communication, to share the great intellectual achievements of aboriginal culture. But coming from my culture it’s hard to listen properly. I think of the binary abstract | figurative. But something can be wholistic (be careful of the spelling), not abstract but hard to see, involving ideas, people, relationships. Garde explained learning about this culture as being like walking towards the horizon. You see something interesting you want to learn about and walk towards it, and when you reach it you are still far from the horizon. There’s always further to go.

Birlmu Barramundi (1996)
detail
John Mawurndjul

The Breaking Ground panel discussion was more focused on the current exhibition. The curators didn’t have an idea or plan of the show before setting out. They followed the artist’s leadership. He wanted to give a legacy of understanding of his paintings. Here is his language, his words, his thoughts.

The different curators spoke of the arc of a practice, deep time, here and now. The innovative style, breaking ground, showing multiple hierarchies of time in one narrative. The contemporary in conversation with the past.

Mawurndjul was asking us to listen deeply, just as in his culture he listens to their old people, their ancestors. Listen and learn. Plus the concern to do his best to make sure his own people, children, learn the stories about who they are.

The process of building the exhibition wasn’t easy. The artist and curators wanted to show to a western audience, through the eyes of the people who live the culture. There were politics. There’s always the need to make money – Mawurndjul talked about the hard work and travel making and sharing his art, and then his pockets are empty.

Mimih Spirits installation view
John Mawurndjul

It was an inspiring, thoughtful day. Mawurndjul and the curators were so positive, emotional, about what had been achieved. So when I actually visited the exhibition a week later I was taken aback. I couldn’t find that sense of the personal, the voice. When I saw signs in two languages I just read the english. The original words didn’t seem to register with me, get beyond my eyeballs. I knew the ordering and placement of the works was deeply considered and significant, but I couldn’t see it. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work. I saw a sameness instead of appreciating difference. I wanted maps at the beginning of each section, to get a better sense of place. I wanted to hear the sound of language, not just in the resource space. I wanted …

After leaving the exhibition I realised I hadn’t listened. I hadn’t given time. I hadn’t let go of expectations.

I wanted him / them to make it easy for me. I demanded.

I’m not happy with myself.

Time to start over.

Workshop: Matthew Bromhead – Drawing and Sculpture

This workshop at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre was wonderful and dangerous. Wonderful for all the reasons below. Dangerous, because it could swallow me, instead of me swallowing and making my own from it.

For a start, there was a muddle with dates and at the last minute the workshop was delayed a week. Three of us were lucky – we could manage the date change and Hazlehurst was generous enough to run the class with such a small group. With three people and a generous and responsive tutor the class morphed to respond to us. What did we want/need? Let’s do that!

And for me there were so many resonances and gongs chiming and layers of coincidence and correspondence and a vibration… language still fails me. “Exciting” and “cool” were repeated ad nauseum – I really need to work on my vocabulary! Over the past couple of years I keep loosing and finding myself – and, shockingly, confrontingly, here I found myself in exactly the right place and time.

Deep breath.

Point one. Matt’s a great guy. All he can teach is what he knows – and he is prepared to teach that. It seems no holds barred.

Point two. He uses my wire. Well, let’s keep it honest – Keith Lo Bue‘s wire. And Matt was excited to find someone else who uses it. (I’m talking 1.57mm annealed steel tie wire – get with the program guys!).

Point three. Matt is teaching process. Provisional, play, chance… Make, draw, see

Deep breath.

Are you excited yet? I am.

Throat cleared. Refocused.
I can do this.

Matthew Bromhead’s website is https://www.bromhead.com.au/. He is currently exhibiting at Gallerie pompom in Chippendale. I’ll see you there next Saturday. His practice includes sculpture and drawing.

Matt taught us about elegance and decorum. (I could do with a bit more decorum).
He taught us about intelligent play, chance and intuition.

A limited set of materials. Thick brass wire. Air drying clay. Timber off-cuts. Plaster cast in clay. Steel wire (thump of heart), dental floss and tacks. Just a touch of acrylic colour gives polish, completeness.

Mixed Media Sample p5-11

[Resonance – casting plaster. See work done as part of Mixed Media for Textiles including 23-Feb-2016, 26-Sept-2015 and my “glorious failure” 14-Sept-2015.]

Calder (of course) is an influence. Drawing zooms in. There is counter-balance, leverage. Chance and intent. Work on the precipice.
Danger.
Risk.
Respond as you go.
Play.

Drawing from sculpture. Impetus exists within the sculpture. Texture, tone, values, repetition. Observe, embellish, invent. Multiply viewpoints, softly smudge, be sharp and thin. Begin with building, then change, add, subtract.

I dissolve and emerge.

Who am I? Where am I?
How self-indulgent am I, writing gibberish… ?

Roseanna and Vanessa were both delightful! (that sounds condescending, but I’m just a little drunk on wine and joy and it’s true). It was a pleasure to spend a day with them, to learn with them, to discover and grow with them.

I’m in a state where words release and expand.

Don’t edit.
Expose.

Share.

Let’s all expand.

Some photos.

Matt demonstrating

Roseanna sculpture

Roseanna sculpture + drawings

Vanessa sculpture

Vanessa sculpture + drawings

Vanessa detail

Judy sculpture 1

Judy sculpture 2

Judy drawings


So yes, the day was really fun. Permission to play. Total absorption in process. Growing up in a family of bellringers I recognise a reverberation that’s almost stupefying. So find some points of solidity.

Embracing chance is a key. I’m thinking of Ruth Hadlow of course, of clarity about the beginning because the end is indeterminate. Junctions could be a place to show or find myself. The air-drying clay gives structure without creating a restraint to experimentation. Could I change that up? The plaster casting spoke to my Mixed Media samples. Push that. Then something around austere elegance. It will be interesting to see Matt’s work in person, the level of detail and elaboration. Roseanne, Vanessa and I all brought in extra elements of texture, sparks of interest away from the main focus, rewarding closer attention. What of “my” materials and techniques can be brought in without creating mud?

John Chester Jervis’s earrings

John Chester Jervis (JCJ) was a great great … uncle on my mother’s side. Born in London in 1823, he spent around 30 years in Australia before returning to London and Nice in later life. Mum’s research on his life can be read at megshistory.wordpress.com/
john-chester-jervis/
.

Furniture, vases and other oddments believed to have been his have been passed down through the family, including a small pile of shaped and engraved pieces of mother of pearl. Such counters were crafted in China and introduced to England by the captains of the East India Trading Company. These would have been used in bidding and scoring card games and were popular in the period around 1700-1840. Mum recently agreed that I could use some of the pieces to make earrings for anyone in the family who wanted some.

A few of us spent some time pairing up counters and beads over the recent family weekend. First results are shown below. (and before you look – from the photos I’ve realised there’s some rework to be done with poorly matched amethyst).


The photo on the right gives an idea of relative sizes – plus some of the pieces still available for a few in the family who were interested but haven’t decided details yet.

A postscript – I’ve mentioned JCJ on this blog a few times before. One of my favourites was an exercise in an Art History course in which I mixed family history with the requirement to act as a museum curator selecting artwork for a room in a terraced house. See 13-Oct-2013.


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