Archive for the 'Weekly roundup' Category

Soft sculpture Twining and more

Judy Dominic, wrapping up two days of exploration

The highlight of recent days was a workshop with Judy Dominic – Soft Sculpture Twining – organised by Basketry NSW.

Two days, two apparently simple techniques – twining and a ribbing/edging – , two weights of seagrass cord, infinite possibilities.

The combination of material and technique produced a malleable fabric that could be turned, punched, folded, stretched out of shape… Spokes and weavers were moved as needed. As long as you have the length, you have options. And if you need to, you can always add length in different ways.

Judy moved around the class constantly, encouraging, supporting, challenging. One piece-in-progress, and in discussion there were possibilities for a few years’ investigation.

Class work

A general photo doesn’t capture the individuality, the wide range of responses of the participants. A few highlights below (click on a photo for a larger view):

I concentrated on a sampler of options rather than finished work. Two samples in fact, which then were joined, twisted and pummeled, pulled into a possibility for the group display, and since partly dismantled so I can keep playing.


Next will be trying out some ideas using some of my more familiar materials. It will be interesting to see how that changes the performance of the results.

Exhibition
Adman: Warhol before popAGNSW

Andy Warhol
Progressive Piano (hands on piano keys)

The exhibition is huge, lots of photos and ephemera from Warhol’s life as well as his work.

I followed my eye.

Warhol’s blotted line technique results in some fascinating lines, sometimes strong, sometimes tentative, with rhythms and hesitations that had me holding my breath as I followed them across the page.
The use of collage, especially in blocks of colour that draw the eye and emphasize areas without directly responding the the lines, is particularly exciting.

Andy Warhol
Marbleized paper (detail)

The AGNSW website has videos demonstrating a number of Warhol’s techniques, including blotted-line and marbleizing. Definitely techniques I would like to explore myself. I’ve challenged myself with collage in the past (see for example 22-Sep-2016 and 31-Dec-2016 – it doesn’t come naturally to me), and combining it with a monotype-ish technique would be an interesting extension.

Andy Warhol, Julia Warhola
‘It’s a real genuine fake’

Text is another excitement in many of the displayed works, most the work of Warhol’s mother Julia Warhola. It brings a level of detail, intricacy, and draws the viewer in to read and see more. There’s more of the quirky individuality, like the blotted lines, where smooth flowing progression is replaced by a fragmenting rhythm, syncopated, stretching, bending, crowding unevenly down the page. (OK, so the example shown isn’t the most extreme on a number of those counts).

Andy Warhol
Cosmetics

Cosmetics combines lines and dynamic forms brought together with transparent colours, some duller, following the drawn line, others brighter, linking and framing.

I wasn’t expecting to like this exhibition, not “serious” enough perhaps, but I’ve been back a couple of times and felt invigorated, energized by it. It’s in its last days, so you’ll need to hurry.

Dance
Orb Sydney Dance Company

Two newly commissioned dance pieces, one with beautiful costumes and flowing, rippling movement, the other more street gritty, confined, with an amazing sequence of bodies weaving in space.

Had me thinking about what “rhythm” means.

Talks
All part of the AGNSW lecture series Site Specific: The power of place.

Jane Messenger: “Soap suds and white wash: JMW Turner and the Sea”
Turner’s innovation and his influence on other artists such as Monet and Pissaro were interesting, but what has stayed with me are the closing two paintings, one from early in Turner’s career, one late, both showing a vortex of ships, water, spray.

Dr Ruth Pullin: “Eugene von Guérard and Cape Schanck”
Von Guérard was a traveller with an ability to quickly discerne the essence of a place, and an eye for seeing the picture in nature. He was also a man of his time, interested in geology and other science, a convergence of the romantic (the enormity of space) and the scientific (accurate topology). Seeing sketchbook and finished works is always illuminating, especially the open air painting in the German tradition, oil studies rather than a standard sketchbook.

Von Guérard spent just 30 of his 90 years in Australia, 1852 – 1882. I knew him as a painter of Australia and New Zealand. It was odd to see early work, from his extensive training in Germany and Italy, showing his intimate knowledge of the Neander Valley.

While writing this post I came across the abstract of Ruth Pullin’s PhD thesis (link). Impossible to follow up everything 😦

Dr Alison Inglis: “Sir John Everett Millais – the allure of Scotland”
The paintings we looked at showed an emotional sincerity, psychological spaces, collapsing perspective, slightly flattened space and emphasis of silhouettes.

Sometimes. The paintings also showed a journey of technique and style, to a much lesser extent of subject, over the course of a lifetime’s work. That doesn’t make it less sincere, a young man controversial and anti-establishment, the older man president of the Royal Academy of Arts – the establishment. A sell-out or bolder? Does it matter? – focus on the work.

Dr Chiara O’Reilly: “Barbizon and Jean François Millet”
Something noble can be made of the humblest of life.

O’Reilly argued that in Millet’s works, even those apparently empty of human figures, there is a theme of labour, of the shaping and defining of the land by humans. In many pictures of course the figure(s) are strong, powerful, dominating – The Sower, in ways The Gleaners. The figures of the poorest are given dignity by the attention Millet gives, the scale, layering the real with memory and inspiration.

As a textile person I need to point out the knitting – much knitting. We’ve lost touch with the cost, the effort, of clothing ourselves.

Trial and error

… although all is trial and learning, nothing is error when playing ??

Sugar tong and resin

The sugar-tong-end earrings seen last week got new inserts. These started as sample p3-45 in the Mixed Media for Textiles course (23-Sep-2015), threads partially embedded in a thin sheet of resin.

Sample p3-45

It turns out this stuff is easy to cut, sand and drill, and as I noted back then the thread effect is particularly effective when backlit.

I wore the earrings in this form for a day, but they still looked like wearing spoons. Shortening the stem has helped, and this may well be the final version – although it’s a powerful realisation than anything can be taken apart and used as components elsewhere.

Sugar tong ends and resin – final version?

Agapanthus earrings

These agapanthus earrings aren’t going anywhere in this iteration. They’re based on a component in a proto-neckpiece done in Keith Lo Bue’s class (23-Apr-2017). They just look clumsy and lumpen. Less energy, less joy. The idea’s time will come, one day.

Finally a piece in progress. It’s a larger, hopefully refined version of a sample seen 23-Apr-2017. Almost all the material is in there. Now it’s a matter of finessing the form, doing a little more forging, and then major polishing. Hours of fun ahead 🙂

Cold forged and random woven steel in progress

Making and unmaking

After

Before

A potential joy of my current type of making is the unmaking. Who knew a redundant electricity meter had such interesting and very nicely made things in it? Most of it went into the stash for now, but a few components have been re-purposed…

New stand, reworked earrings

… into a new stand for earring photography.

Ceramic and steel earrings – previous version

The earrings shown have been seen previously (23-Apr-2017), and since then have received smaller jump rings and a good polishing. The details make a big difference.

Welded and random weave

Oddly, when I enrolled in Keith Lo Bue’s classes (also 23-Apr-2017) I was focused on learning more about the reo wire I was already using in random weave (the ongoing welded and woven piece) and other basketry projects, and to develop some comfort using found objects. It was a surprise to see the class signposted as “jewellery”. As luck would have it, I am a long term wearer and collector of dangly earrings, and earrings are a great subject for practicing my new skills. Happy days 🙂

Earlier sugar tong earrings

The next making is on-going. This started as the end sections of some sugar tongs (the handle section has been seen previously – yet again 23-Apr-2017). A long process – so a short photo essay. I’m still mulling over the final inserts – the photo looks better than life.

Next up some wire work, inspired by a spiral pendant by Alexander Calder (pictured here).

The version on the right is the basic form. The one on the left has been cold forged (so slightly more polished and faceted, catching some light) and the lower section twisted to enhance three dimensionality. A bit heavy, and neither is good enough to become jewellery – maybe tree ornaments. More practice needed, and perhaps a finer gauge wire.

Exhibitions
Briefly…
Textiles out of Context, Braemar Gallery Springwood
This was a varied exhibition, showcasing a wide variety of textile disciplines.

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Ellen King’s Etosha was inspired by her travels. Great expertise shown in this work, the felting, the intricate dyeing. I like the way imagery has been abstracted, such as the tracks of animals to a waterhole, and extending the work to include both wall-hanging and bowl.
Variation in technique, and so scale, creates interest in Jillian Culey’s piece. One of the aspects I appreciate about basketry techniques is the opportunity to play with shadow, giving depth and richness.

Saskia Everingham
Light Seeds

Saskia Everingham’s Light Seeds has an elegance and scale that attracted a lot of attention at the opening. The work was serene on its low plinth, with no evidence of the practical issues of how the lights were powered. It simply glowed.

Sadhana Peterson
By The Water Hole

The combination of ceramic and basketry techniques in this work felt unforced and fully integrated. Colours and lines complimented each other, creating a complex and satisfying whole.

Pam de Groot
Fully Charged

The bright colour and lively movement of Pam de Groot’s felt work brought a moment of joy.

The National 2017
This new biennial survey involves three major Sydney galleries and aims to present the latest in Australian art. In initial visits to AGNSW and MCA I was attracted to some works which used repetition and variation on a massive scale, underpinned by serious symbolism.

Yhonnie Scarce
Death Zephyr

Yonnie Scarce’s installation references the Maralinga atomic tests and the displacement of Aboriginal communities. The hand-blown glass forms, suggestive of people or bush food, move slightly in random air currents, gently clinking – so fragile, so precious.

A midden, sign of long residence of Aboriginal communities, in a bed of copper slag, sign of the mining and commercial activities given priority today, tainting and destroying the land. The “myths and methods of colonisation” (quoting from AGNSW signage) continue.

Other works that grabbed my attention claimed space, approaching an idea from multiple directions.

Found rubber, galvanised steel, and bark – all incised by Gunybi Ganambarr in intricate patterns based on sacred clan designs. Forms echo. A history of use and misuse of the land.

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Gary Carsley’s installation was complex and included sound and video. Signage at the MCA references the artist’s investigations of what he regards as the artifice of European-Australian culture. I’m still thinking about this, wondering how it fits or challenges my understanding of my own heritage. A quick internet search turned up the definition “clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others”. Is my culture more rapacious, more contrived, less valuable than any other culture? I don’t want to accept that, and I don’t think I would want to categorize another’s culture in that way. Deep, ongoing flaws – yes. Dreadful damage done to others – yes. Artifice? Artifice as the sum total or dominant element of a culture? No.

I was very taken with a mixed media installation by Nell at MCA. No photos yet.

There have been a couple of lectures, bits and pieces, but I think that brings me as close to up to date as I’m going to get.

No destination

A liberating moment of realisation – there is no destination, no triumphant end point, no grand statement. I’ve been feeling a bit lost, doing lots of bits and pieces, coming to the end of my grand plan of foundation training and … and then what? I felt I should develop a Brief – capital letter, a big, serious challenge.

Totally blocking.

What I really want to do is make. experiment. explore. play. most of all play.
Inevitably reading and thinking and looking and talking. But not driving to be some kind of substitute course or program.

Live the life and enjoy it. Go to what attracts me. Not look too far ahead.

What led to this insight? In part a great pair of workshops with Keith Lo Bue. Capping off a year of great workshops. I’ve got the beginnings of a great (!) set of tools, techniques, materials, ideas. And now I want a time of free play, see what I can do with it all.

The workshops with Keith were Steeling Beauty (2 days) and Precious Little (3 days), held as part of ContextArt.

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In Steeling Beauty we took 1.57mm steel wire, sold cheaply at hardware stores here as “reo wire”, and turned it into intricate chains and forms. Keith covered tools (options, strengths, limitations), technique (basic how to plus variations, ergonomics, safety, efficiency…) and design.

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Precious Little started by throwing us in the deep end. First we wandered the grounds of the venue, collecting oddments. Then a swap, putting three of our precious brought objects on a table and selecting three others. Then the brief: take one precious object we brought from home, one found object, and one from the swap, and combine in a piece of wearable art – no extras, no glue. Cue the gasps of horror. A group sharing and discussion at the end of the day showed an amazing range of responses to the challenge and some really interesting work.

The following days we could work on our own chosen projects, with group sessions of instruction and demonstration from Keith. This was just as thorough, as enlightening, and as empowering as in Steeling Beauty. At least half a day was spent on drilling holes in different materials. It sounds like overkill, but was just amazing. I’m full of confidence in approaching materials in a safe way, allowing me to experiment and play freely.

sugar tong earrings

The learning and exploration has continued following the class. I bought Keith’s DVD workshop Getting Attached: Rivets revealed! and have been watching that. I’ve been sourcing a few more key tools. And I’ve been making.

A box of old cutlery oddments in an antique store provided the base material for a pair of earrings (begun in class and finished at home. Skills practised included use of jeweller’s saw, filing, drilling, use of various pliers and cutters).

Ceramic and steel earrings

More earrings use forms created from the reo wire, plus pieces from a ceramic egg-cup, found broken in the back of a kitchen cupboard. The egg-cup came from Auntie Min (my “Australian grandma”, although the relationship is more complex). I’m so happy to have found a way to keep this close.

These used the new wire cold-forging skills, sawing and bending, grinding and drilling ceramic… Some adjustments, fine-tuneing and polishing are still needed.

Cold forged, random weave

Finally a first attempt in combining techniques from two of the classes I’ve done this year – with Keith, and the random weave with Brooke Munro (15-Jan-2017).

That same reo wire is also being used in the ongoing random weave on a structure begun in class with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017). And I’ve got ideas about using that wire, and some of all those skills, combined with some of the lines and form explored in the various life drawing and life sculpting classes (with Kassandra Bossell 1-Apr-2017, amongst others).

Playtime!

6 April 2017

Lectures
The AGNSW series Site Specific: The power of place continues. Each lecturer has a different style, and has interpreted the brief differently. Sometimes the connection of artist and place is at the core of their work – for example Constable: Flatford Mill and the River Stour as discussed by Lorraine Kypiotis. Constable’s images of the Stour are deeply felt, emotion invested in each scene, not idealised and not confirming to the academic hierarchy of the day. Kypiotis is an entertaining speaker, throwing herself into every subject she undertakes.

Deborah Edwards speaking on John Olsen: the littoral and the void; A journey into the ‘you beaut’ country gave the perspective of a curator (the exhibition John Olsen:the you beaut country had just opened at AGNSW). Edwards gave a lucid account of Olsen’s influences, development, and place in Australian art. Everywhere in Australia is Olsen’s place, and he responds with imagination and emotion.

During the lecture my mind was playing with ideas with wire and literal space. Energetic line, surrounding the void… I need to return to this, perhaps develop a brief and respond in my own work.

Vitalism was mentioned in the lecture, and by chance in my current reading, Passages in modern sculpture by Rosalind Krauss, I’d just reached a section discussing the influence of vitalism in the work of Jean Arp. Abstraction as a means of creating new forms, the act of creation in which the inert is given animate properties. Flux from vegetable to animal, bone to tissue, an instability or flexibility of surface, exterior disconnected from core. Ideas to explore.

Unfortunately we didn’t hear all of Dr Andrew Yip’s lecture For nation and Empire: George Lambert and İbrahim Çallı at Gallipoli. He simply ran out of time, so the complex story was unbalanced. The action at Gallipoli plays a significant part in a particular perspective on Australian national identity. Lambert’s war paintings feed into ideas of frontiers where nationhood was asserted, a field of masculine energy, the ingenuity of the bushmen, the grand coming man of the bush. These are the stories told to justify war – Over There, or here (intrepid colonial explorers – see below). Visual culture takes the facts of the moment and creates and legitimises narratives, Diggers taking part in the great landscape of history.

The balancing part would be the works of a loose group of Turkish modernist artists, themselves part of the last great Ottoman cultural project before the fall of the Empire.

I seem to be sitting back and sneering, taking cheap shots at the sacrifice of a generation. It’s the futility, the shortsightedness, the manipulation, the myth-making, the way we repeat the same mistakes…

Conrad Martens and Burragalong Cavern, presented by Dr Kathleen Davidson, focused on a particular painting by Martens from 1843, putting it in context with other works by Martens and by others in Australia at the time. Scientific accuracy and the use of drawings and painting as a form of “virtual witnessing” were part of the scientific process of validating the “discoveries” of colonial explorers (my modern mind requires the inverted commas, the caves surely known to generations before them).

ReCollection lunchtime talk: Rayner Hoff Australian Venus
I’ve written about this work before, 7-Sept-2014 and 13-Jun-2014. Deborah Beck clearly has an incredible depth of knowledge not only about Hoff but about the period of the development of the National Art School and many of the personalities of the times in the Sydney art scene.

Hoff started the sculpture in clay, then a plaster mould was made, and the actual carving was done by Julius Henschke – that last more a time management decision than any question of skill. Beck has also identified the model for the work – Beatrice Williams -although Hoff did choose to veer from the model, enhancing some curves.

Again a link to reading Krauss. Henry Moore worked directly with materials, responding to the individual qualities of the grain of wood, the striation of stone. Carving stone to match a plaster cast would have no place in this.

Susannah Fullerton: Jonathan Swift
This was one of a series of lectures on Dublin writers, presented at the State Library of NSW. Satirist, moralist, campaigner, clergyman, writer, and it seems a grumpy, irascible, opinionated and disappointed man. I only know his writing from bowdlerized versions of Gulliver’s Travels.

Exhibitions

Brenda Livermore

Sobremesa
Opening drinks of this exhibition by Nicole Robins and Brenda Livermoe was great fun. Studio 20/17 Project Space is a small shopfront with a tiny back courtyard in North Sydney. It’s an area with great personal resonance as I went to school nearby and as a young adult lived on the same street.

Most of Brenda’s pieces explored a particular form, a vessel – a shape containing space, holding experiences. Using cast paper and a wide variety of natural materials, small groupings were both serene and lively, the variations enhancing the series. Framed works continued Brenda’s experimentation with mark-making on silhouettes of the vessel form, a strategy that I found less effective as it seems to sacrifice the volume, the essence, of her subject.

Nicole Robins

Nicole presented a wide variety of works, all expressing exuberance and joy working with a profusion of mainly natural materials. I particularly liked the trumpet forms, creating clear, dynamic line, and works that were hung in free space at eye-level, claiming space and attention.

John Olsen: the you beaut country

John Olsen
Cooper’s Creek in flood

The day after the lecture mentioned above I made my first visit to the current exhibition at AGNSW.

It was interesting to see some very early work by Olsen, developing quite quickly (based on works shown, not necessarily time frames) to the energetic, linear, graffiti-like works.

What draws me in to Olsen’s work is a sense of something familiar in the shapes and colours, only partly revealed. It’s a personal, autobiographic response – I move closer, looking at details, rummaging through my memories of childhood and family holidays, looking for correspondences. I enter into a world of memory – colours and shapes and often the heat of the sun, breath of wind, laughter and squabbles.

Just a few days later was a weekend with my father, siblings, extended family, celebrating dad’s 90th birthday. There were lots of shared stories and memories, often set in different parts of country NSW, we were in the Hunter Valley, staying on a vineyard property – I was very conscious of that sense of place that is being explored in the AGNSW lecture series. Perhaps that’s why Deborah Edward’s talk on Olsen had the strongest impact on me in the sense of an expression of sharing my own personal space, that of a non-indigeneous Australian.

Returning to the exhibition, I did experience a level of difficulty in seeing so many of Olsen’s works together. There is so much energetic, even chaotic, line and incident in the works that en masse I found it, at a superficial level, repetitive. Focusing on just one or two works quickly dispells that notion, it’s more that I can’t do a quick reading – it takes time to see what is in front of me.

A few ideas already circulating – signage that described the “audacity” of Spanish encounter. Presumably because that figurative, graffiti approach was so new and different, so unlike the abstract art of the time (although typing that I think of some Pollack and de Kooning and am not so sure). There was also mention of the aerial view – making apparent the nervous system of the landscape, and its unruly and untidy nature.

Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker
I did not get on well with this exhibition at the State Library of NSW (follow that link and you’ll see a large detail of the better known version, plus a version originally chosen by Dupain for exhibition). To a white Australian of my vintage it is a very familiar image, iconic. The photo was a holiday snapshot, taken in 1937. It sounds a really interesting idea to commission 15 artists to respond to it. Unfortunately I found the exhibition disorienting and unpleasant, and didn’t stay long.

In the weeks since I’ve puzzled over that reaction. It was like walking into a barrage of light and noise and conflict. Yesterday, still reading Krauss’s book, I came to Picabia’s 1924 set for Relâche – a bank of spotlights, an arsenal, suddenly lit. Unmotivated, gratuituous, disrupting, cruel. I’m sure not what the current exhibition as a whole was aiming for, although individual works such as Khaled Sabsabi’s 229 deliberately unsettle (my word carefully chosen, given the work’s title refers to the 229 years since colonisation/settlement/invasion).

I think my problem was in the main the venue. Beautiful high galleries in the old building, polished wooden floors… reflecting light and noise, crowded by works with strident messages competing for attention. I was unable to summon the focus required by the individual works. Which is a real shame and my loss, given the questioning of our history and future, reflections on environment, multiculturalism, the symbols we choose and the stories we tell.

Activities
In the period since my last post a couple of basketry attempts using insect mesh, wire, and in once case clay, have come to nothing. Did not excite.

The welded steel/random weave begun in class with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017) is progressing slowly.

dad

Celebrations of dad’s 90th birthday included bellringing (a quarter peal with dad and his five children) and a family weekend in the Hunter Valley.

Life drawing class wrapped up. Figure sculpting was a joy (1-Apr-2017)

My reading has been mentioned a few times above. Continuing her discussion of Henry Moore, Krauss writes of the tactility of sculpture. Perhaps that is part of the attraction for me, with my history of the importance of touch and hand in textiles.

Plus all the usuals of life. And tomorrow I’m off for yet more classes 🙂

5 March 2017

Lecture
Melanie Eastburn The art of Lotus Moon, a Japanese Buddhist nun in nineteenth-century Kyoto
In the AGNSW series Site Specific: The power of place

The lecture began “Otagaki Rengetsu was a Japanese Buddhist nun, poet, calligrapher, painter and potter who lived in Kyoto at a time of dramatic social and political change”. Only fragments about her life are known, and attribution of her work is often difficult as she both collaborated with other artists and allowed some to sign their work with her name.

Lotus Moon is known through the “long lines of dancing letters” she left behind, on scrolls and prints, on tiny tea and sake vessels and pots. Melanie Eastburn conjured a world where hosts would give close attention to the right bowl for the right guest, a match of character, behaviour, interests…

The day begins
I’m busy with my crafts
The day ends
I pray to Buddha
and I have nothing to worry about.

Exhibition
Beyond words: calligraphic traditions of Asia AGNSW
The following day, with a spare 20 minutes before meeting a friend, I revisited this exhibition, thinking about Lotus Moon and calligraphy not directly brush on paper.

Yoon Kwang-cho Punch'ông ware jar circa 1990

Yoon Kwang-cho
Punch’ông ware jar
circa 1990

This Punch’ông ware jar by Yoon Kwang-cho (link) is large, modern, luminous, both rich and austere. From the gallery website: “This rich combination of contemporary individuality with a spirit of antiquity expresses the ideals of purity, honesty and humble sparseness so admired by the connoisseurs and tea masters of modern Japan.”

Apparently the inscriptions are from a Buddhist text on nothingness. What could be contradictions – an Object showing nothingness, a modern form created using very traditional techniques – are noted then disregarded. It seems to me entirely, and most satisfyingly, itself.

Brice Marden Etchings to Rexroth 9, from the portfolio Etchings to Rexroth 1986

Brice Marden
Etchings to Rexroth 9, from the portfolio Etchings to Rexroth
1986

(link) This photo shows one of 21 etchings by Brice Marden, displayed very simply, unframed, in three rows of seven. The plate has pressed deeply into the paper, the artist’s marks quite flat but layered. They look like ideographs, or crazing on a ceramic, dancing and pivoting on the page. The sugar lift technique allowed Marden to create marks with a stick, as with his pen and ink drawings.

A quick brief for mark making:
* Stick, ink, print.
* My current marks.

I used a twig from the rain-soaked garden, black acrylic ink, my much used, pockmarked gelatin plate. Fast copies of the warm up gestural drawings from the previous night’s drawing class. Monoprinting onto copy paper.

I like the freshness and energy of the marks. I was working quickly, focused, but not thinking too much (unlike in class!). I like the indirect approach, the distance from the original event / subject, intent modified by separation and happenstance. It’s a good reminder that I didn’t start life drawing with the intention of making a “good” drawing as an independent result.

Life drawing class
There’s too much thinking going on. Placement on page, frame/focus, edit, block in but don’t fill in, suggest… I’ve liked some earlier stuff, but that makes me tentative when trying something new because I don’t want to go “backwards”.

The quick gestural work at the beginning worked best, then I got tighter and slower and trying to force answers.


The selection above shows OK results from quick poses, the medium length pose doesn’t quite know if it’s focusing on line or form, nor quite how to handle the light highlights (this was on brown kraft paper). Then the long pose – almost not shown as just too awful, but that seemed cowardly. A coloured ground, then charcoal, white and red. Dear me what a mess.

Perhaps more practice and more changing things around (eg the monoprinting) – never get too comfortable???

A quick explanation – I’ve been building up this post over the week so it doesn’t swallow Sunday. This might lead to some non sequiturs, as edits and additions are made. In this section on life drawing class, a couple more days produced:

Back to Croquis Cafe, on grey paper, conte crayons.


The poses were from 1 to 5 minutes. I started OK, but as soon as a second colour was introduced on the longer poses I got confused and hesitant. The one on the right above was the 5 minute one. The model was lying on the ground, her head closest, a loosened kimono covering her upper arms, her legs up on a chair. Looking at the photo after a day, it took me a while to remember and figure out what was going on. Drat!

Pushing forward was just repeating the same mistakes. So I decided to take a backwards step, simplify and consolidate. Today’s set used cartridge paper prepared with charcoal over the whole page to create a mid tone, then creating form with knead-able rubber and some form and line with charcoal. I worked smaller – each sketch is effectively A4. An extra challenge (which I’d been trying for earlier in the week), was to focus on an area of interest and not always have the full body floating on the page.


This felt so much better. I ran out of time on each pose, but I didn’t get lost – I always had ideas on what to do next. Hopefully I’ll get some more practice in before the next (last) class, and be better placed to take advantage of the longer poses.

Exhibition talk
Anne Gerard-Austin: Ford Madox Brown “Chaucer at the court of Edward III”
One of the ReCollection series of lunchtime talks.

My first experience of these floortalks, and I’ll definitely try to get to more.

Ford Madox Brown Chaucer at the court of Edward III 1847-1851

Ford Madox Brown
Chaucer at the court of Edward III
1847-1851

This enormous painting (including frame almost 4 metres high and over 3 wide) is significant in itself, it’s subject and it’s time, and also in the history of the gallery. In 1876 it was the first European painting purchased by the nascent gallery and consumed the entire year’s budget of 500 pounds. When London newspapers reported in error that it had been lost in the Garden Palace fire (25-Sep-2016), the artist wrote kindly offering to repaint it for 1,200 guineas!

The huge canvas is crowded, full of colour, movement and vivacity. It was modern in its time. Influenced by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, it was painted with “an innocent eye” – with a sense of truth, sunlight and shade as could exist in a single moment, individual, living and engaged faces, an intention of historical accuracy. It can be seen as in search of a national cultural identity – painted in the prosperity of mid nineteenth century England, showing the birth of the native english language, with a sense of topicality. [Encapsulating national identity seems an ongoing struggle around the world. Here we seem to keep reverting to images of heroic white men exploring or battling droughts or fighting wars. Pretty stupid idea really, that something as complex as a modern nation can be contained in a neat, walled, exclusive/excluding, little box.]

The frame of the painting is original, designed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (who was also model for a couple of the figures). Framing can make such a difference to how we view a work, it’s good to see what the artist wanted.

There’s a great photo of the painting here, where you can zoom into lots of detail.

Reading
Mark Doty Still life with oysters and lemon
This small book is more an extended essay. It begins with falling in love – with a painting. Doty writes about the poetry of painting, about looking, light, love, loss, the beauty of the everyday and imperfect, about giving attention, about Dutch painting and still life. A warming, absorbing, inspiring, purposeful meander.

Doty’s painting is by Jan Davidsz de Heem, around 1640. I’ve spent some time with a work by that artist, down in Melbourne (11-Jan-2014). Here in Sydney there’s a work previously thought to be by him, now attributed to Laurens Craen, dated around 1645-1650 – I did an annotation/analysis of that as part of the OCA art history course (13-Jan-2014). In another small pocket of time I revisited the painting this week.

Laurens Craen Still life with imaginary view

Laurens Craen
Still life with imaginary view


I tried to pay attention. To experience it – with fresh eyes, not like my earlier effort slicing and dicing things and trying to sound as if I knew about Art and Painting.

How does one give time, attention, ignore the “opportunity cost” and all the distractions around? And still bring richness, a wider experience? Back in January, during the basketry class (15-Jan-2017), I joined Instagram. All sorts of convenience – capture a moment, the warmth of likes on instagram and facebook, viewable on this wordpress page. Snippets of time on the bus or at lunch can be filled with colour and creativity, scrolling through images from those I follow, liking those that catch my eye. Dismissing the rest. Useful. Treacherous.

Making
Work on the welded and random weave piece continues.

mesh-wire-shaping_478x600Need something portable for next week’s Basketry NSW get together, so tried out cordmaking with strips of fibreglass insect mesh, open coiled stitching in 24 gauge wire.

The flat disc was OK but not exciting, however it is malleable and holds form, and with a bit of backlighting there’s some promising filtering, light and shadow. A strong continuation of my materials exploration – something to take further.

Reflection
This week has also included some time thinking about my recent low period, and watching my own responses as I regroup. Some was weather and biorythms, some I need to pay attention to (that word again).
* the absence of a plan, a future goal. I talk about process, a way of life, but I got a bit lost.
* feeling constrained by a larger project, more than a sample (the random weave begun in welding class). I think of streams, based on Ruth Hadlow’s model, but how many and what scale can run concurrently?
* managing energy, stress, workload, life balance… social media…
No such thing as “The Answer”, especially as things change over time, but good to be mindful.

Unexpected surprise and delight

Paul Orifice

Paul
Orifice

Outside the art gallery on Wednesday evening Paul (no surname) had set up this sculpture. It’s all found and scrounged materials – bicycle frame and spokes, laptop battery, printer gears, scrap aluminium. Made using handtools and a drill press – Paul has the time and enjoys the connection with his work. A sensor recognises an audience and varies light intensity. Eccentric gears tighten and loosen a cable, causing the orifice to widen and narrow.

Paul was pleased to chat. He makes a couple of sculptures a year, and exhibits by taking them around Sydney to delight people. How beautiful, and how wonderful to share that joy!

Summer break

The Plan didn’t include a summer break, but my brain and to an extent body had their own ideas. I did what was set in front of me but there was no reading, no reflection, no planning. No point resisting what is necessary.

Now I have to dig myself out of the hole, refocus. So a brief, factual outline of what’s been going on.

Lectures
The new AGNSW lecture series, Site specific: The power of place, has begun.The first, Michael Brand on the history and planned future of the Gallery itself, was much more interesting and engaging than I expected. The photos and drawings of proposed reuse of World War 2 oil tanks were beautiful – I would love to experience that space.

The most recent lecture was Canaletto and Venice. An engaging thread linking paintings, postcards and selfies.

lifedrawing_20170218_01Drawing
Four weeks into a six week Life Drawing class. Sometimes I’m happy with progress, sometimes I seem to be going backwards. It’s always totally absorbing. The local council art gallery runs occasional “sketch clubs” – two hours with a model, no tutor. I’ve been to a few and it’s a great opportunity to practice and to try a few different things.

Making
Work has slowly continued on the random weave over welded frame piece. Still quite a way to go.

wire_lightAs light relief, or when wanting work to take with me, I’ve done a couple of quick studies using the wire. I was particularly focused on experimentation with the starting point, having not been satisfied with an earlier bowl twining_201701-02_2 where the cross-over of wires in the base seemed a bit clumsy, and was certainly a bit tricky to manage. In this new one the wires started in a wreath-like coil, then braided upwards together. Love the light and shadow and eccentric shapes that can come with this material.

basketry_20170210cIn another variant a CD was drilled with holes around the edge, then wires threaded through. Strips of fibreglass insect mesh were twined through, looking for layering and varying density. I was planning to do more mesh at the top, but in the end decided that would be a distraction.

Viewing
Margaret Olley: painter, peer, mentor, muse at the S H Ervin gallery.
A great idea for an exhibition and some interesting works – I especially enjoyed looking at some student life sketches done by Margaret Olley and her contemporaries, which included some classic and familiar-to-me struggles with sizing of feet etc.

The actual layout and signage of the exhibition was less successful. There was a narrative here, but my companion and I struggled and then gave up trying to follow it.

That’s about all I have to show for the last month. There has been more – a family weekend on Cockatoo Island, trialing software to better manage, locate and document photographs, moving to cloud-based backup, etc. All the bits and bobs that fill our lives.

Deep breath, sitting up straight. Up-to-date more or less. Time to move on.


Instagram

Goodyer girls long weekend in Hobart

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