Archive for the 'Weekly roundup' Category

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.

29 January 2017

A strong theme was apparent in this busy week.

Nude Live

David Mack, Marlo Benjamin and Rodin’s The Kiss. Photo: Pedro Greig

David Mack, Marlo Benjamin and Rodin’s The Kiss. Photo: Pedro Greig

This performance was a co-presentation by Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Dance Company and Sydney Festival. Magical, moving – no word seems to describe the experience. Not so much the nudity, but being so close, sharing the space with the dancers.

The seven dancers moved around the exhibition space, performing in different combinations. The work is non-linear – you can’t possibly see it all as performances continue in different galleries. This made the experience more intimate and personal, choosing to stand or sit on the floor, to stay and watch or to move on to a different area.

Nearly nude drawing

Nearly Nude drawing at AGNSW

Nearly Nude drawing at AGNSW

I went to this drop-in activity at AGNSW with Ginette Wang. We bagged a couple of easels, collected the provided paper and pencils, and set to work. The group of artists grew – some skillful, others of us less so – entertaining the onlookers. A number of educators were moving around, and one encouraged me to find the dynamic line. Certainly something I’d like, but so far I can’t manage the editing needed.

nearly_nude01She was quite positive about my scribbling approach – fortunate, since I seemed to be stuck in that mode. I find life drawing absorbing, frustrating, and overall fun, and the party atmosphere was a buzz.

We left early to go to the next activity:

This was a talk and tour through the exhibition, as Jackie discussed the changing approaches and attitudes to nudity in art. We started with the historical and allegorical approach, the image of the ideal woman – an early photoshop, as Jackie put it. Then came a shift to the intimate, private – a genuine relationship. The model became recognisable, known, meeting our gaze. The body was seen with objectivity. Jackie Dunn made some interesting comments about de Kooning’s work. In the past I’ve only seen violence to women, but Jackie pointed out that violent paint is not equivalent to violence to women. Maybe they are strong to be out there. “Agency” was a key idea – the particular individual and her choices, her control. Cecily Brown’s work Trouble in Paradise, where instead of the nude composite female as the object of men’s desire, a woman’s own desire and sexuality is explored in paint.

Life drawing sketch club
The theme continued into Saturday morning, with my first experience of the local Life drawing sketch club. No tuition or materials provided, just an opportunity to work with a life model – on this occasion a young woman.

I prepared by revisiting chapter two of Daniela Brambilla’s Human Figure Drawing: Drawing gestures, postures and movements – Seeing Contours, and decided to focus on blind contour drawing.

The first few drawings, fast warm-up poses, were one or two awkward lines.

Moving to longer poses – 2 to 5 minutes – more started to appear on the page, with odd distortions particularly of feet and forearms for some reason. Although not “correct” I really like the quality of some of the lines. I was holding the charcoal, and later crayon, near the tip to give move control and a clear line, as recommended by Brambilla.

The poses got longer again, up to 20 minutes. I also started mixing in a few extra peeks at the page, so not-quite-blind contour drawing.


Again I like some of the lines, I’m beginning to get a feel for the body. This coming week I begin a class in Life Drawing, so I’ll be able to use later sessions of the Sketching Club as practice time.

There was more in the week than nudity.

Louise Hamby: Outcomes from makarrata: bringing the past into the future
Claire and I went to this fascinating exhibition talk. I wrote about the exhibition last year (4-Dec-2016), wondering about my standard mix of cynical and guilty attitude. Louise Hamby explained the meaning of makarrata in history and as used in 2016 when Yolngu men and women performed the dispute resolution ceremony with curators from Australian and international institutions.

The idea of a coming together using traditional forms of law is so positive. There’s a little more about it here. A statement of outcomes has been in preparation since, and apparently is close to distribution for signing by the various participants. During the talk it became apparent that for some years AGNSW and other institutions have worked closely with indigenous communities, visiting them or arranging visits to collections, building ties and understanding. An on-going story.

Silent World foundation
I was lucky enough to visit the private museum of Silent World. This remarkable collection has been created by two obsessive individuals, focused on maritime archaeology in Australia. Many treasures and curios, a wonderful resource that is shared generously with scholars. The Foundation also sponsors fieldwork, diving expeditions, and other projects in their area of interest. Inspiring.

Welded and random weave sculpture
Progress continues on the random weave over the welded frame from Paul Hopmeier’s workshop (22-Jan-2017). Still a long way to go, but I’m liking the way the three scales of line work together, plus some energy and different degrees of density of line.

welded_random_20170129

Altogether a busy week, and even more so when you add in work, exercise (need to build strength and general fitness if I’m going to continue welding), family, home … The big thing missing is reflection. So I’m still working through the review of the past 5 months, and that gap is a big ticket item for the future.

15 January 2017

2017 got off to a great start with the week long Sturt Summer School, learning basketry with Brooke Munro (www.mrandmrsmunro.com/). Each day a new technique was demonstrated, then we selected from the piles of mainly natural materials Brooke brought in and began to sample.

basketry_wrapped_coilMonday: Hidden/wrapped coiling.
Raffia was used for both core and wrapping. The sample includes long & short stitch, figure of eight and V stitches. A fringe, also of raffia, was applied while stitching the last round.

Tuesday: Cord-making, knotless netting.
I first learnt cord-making with Lissa de Sailles (19-Mar-2016). Somewhat new to me here was the use of natural plant materials, including reeds and cordyline (I’d done a little in a half day class with Brooke – see 23-Oct-2016). The cord is now part of a later sample, photographed below.

basketry_knotless_nettingKnotless netting was also included in that earlier class with Brooke. Here I focused on creating a sampler – loop, round, figure of 8, twisted loop – using an inconsistent but overall fine bamboo yarn (on the right in the photo). On the left is a contrast in scale: a little pot using figure of 8 and round looping in a thicker bamboo yarn.

An ongoing fascination in the class was the way personalities came through with us all using the same techniques and selecting from the same materials. No comparison photo unfortunately, but another student and I both experimented with netting in the fine bamboo, both using a pool noodle as a form while working. Mine resulted in a mass of uneven sizing and tension, sprawling. Edith carefully pinned each small stitch, using the noodle like a lace pillow, creating a fairly dense, firm and neat little basket.

Wednesday: Open core coiling.

basketry_opencore_coilMy first attempt used cordyline as core, and split stitch. It was a penance – constantly stopping to strip down more leaves; the stitching promoting a strong line, which called attention to any unevenness; so, so, so slooooow. Finally some quick stitches, some deliberate loose ends, and it could be called “finished” rather than “abandoned”.

basketry_opencore_coil_2Some thought over lunch led to a second sample. A larger core bundle of material scaled up and speeded the work. The bundle was all long lengths of pre-made cord – consistent size, no preparing or joining of materials. The thread used for stitching still made a visible contribution, but this time through colour. The stitches and the coiling are uneven, gappy, with little nuggets of wrapping. As a final flourish extra lengths of the same materials were added in to create a tassel.

Work was faster, much more enjoyable, focusing on what variation to introduce next rather than locked in to getting it “right”.

Thursday: Random weave
basketry_randomweave_1Right from the start random weave was exciting. It felt as if I was drawing around a space, outlining it. The rules were few, the possibilities wide open. We all started working with cane – fairly easy to use, with a spring that sometimes defied my intentions.

I stopped early, not wanting to obscure the space that had been defined. Others kept working, and it was amazing to see how much material could be absorbed into what still appeared to be very open structures.

Wire was calling me. A length of coiled vine provided a basic structure. The result was difficult to photograph, so two versions, each with issues.
basketry_randomweave_2bbasketry_randomweave_2Two basket-like areas were added, fitting into the vine. What doesn’t show in the photos, but was important to me, was that only the larger basket and one curve of vine touch the ground. The rest floats lightly.

Friday: Open studio
basketry_opencore_coil_3On the last day of class we could continue samples or start something new. Open core coiling still bothered me, so the clear place to start.

New Zealand flax provided the core – long leaves of fairly consistent width, so easy to make long strips that bundled easily without constant fiddling. A large core to grow fairly quickly, and a ring – no fiddly start. To define the edges I sewed on some of the cord made earlier in the week.

nz_flaxThis time the split stitch was more of a pleasure, creating a firm structure and a decorative element. I’ve since bought a number of Phormium (NZ flax), and one day hope to harvest my own materials.

basketry_opencore_coil_1-3So that’s three variants of open core coiling, the first of which was an horrendous process, the others I like and have potential. The most pleasing thing is actually the process – identifying what wasn’t working, finding some alternatives. Powerful.

In the afternoon Brooke gave a quick demonstration of twining – not a planned part of the course, but she is a natural and generous teacher. Working with a fine, long grass and two colours of the bamboo yarn in a very open way produced an attractive fish form.
basketry_twining

class_showAt the class show on Saturday morning I was amazed at the range and amount of work we had all produced. It was an exceptional class – a lovely group of women, great tutor, the excellent surrounding organisation and facilities at Sturt… a wonderful experience, and ideas to keep me going for years.

Not all that much has happened in the week since, despite being on holiday. It’s hot and humid in Sydney, so I’ve been moving slowly. Surprising myself, twining rather than random weave has been the technique I’ve continued with.

twining_201701-01Following up the “fish” at the end of class, I used “horse hair” black nylon (?) filament and more of the fine bamboo yarn. The work was kept flat, the twining coils open, with patterning produced by crossing the warp (need to check if that’s the right term). The result has a mandala-like appearance, a level of complexity that I like.

twining_201701-02_1The next attempt used 1.57mm tie wire for the warp and a waxed linen thread for the twining. The idea was the materials would provide a lot of stability and structure, allowing for a more decorative use of the twining technique.

From the top the vessel looks open, irregular, mildly interesting.
Add some directional sunshine and the side view is much more exciting.
twining_201701-02_2

rbgs_01The final highlight of the week was a day spent with Claire at the Botanic Gardens taking texture photos – although you have to question our decision making going to the Succulent garden (hottest spot in RBGS?) on the hottest day of the week.

Now there’s preparation for the next week of summer school – more next post.

31 December 2016

There has been procrastination and sloth. It’s too hot, too humid, too much seasonal food and drink. Now there’s not enough time – tomorrow I’m off for my first week of summer school. So this post is a brief overview, a couple of bits already written, and a line drawn underneath ready for the new year.

Exhibition: Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect with Everything
This exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art is part of the Sydney International Art Series. A wonderful experience. A very solid philosophical base, incredible variety in working within chosen area.

Tatsuo Miyajima began as a performance artist, but felt it wasn’t generous to viewers – it existed only in the moment. He turned to objects. I’m distorting to keep brief, but he presents/explores the cycle/spiral/sine wave of counting down 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 (light, life), then not zero but void, (dark, death, but full of energy) and the countdown repeats.

Another concept is “Art in You” artwork exists so people, the audience, can discover the arts in themselves.

Works reflect on the importance of life, the slaughter of the 20th century (MegaDeath), the irreversible direction of time or life (Arrow of time).

It was serene, hypnotic, deeply thought and felt.

Unfortunately my photos are rubbish, particularly those of works involving led lights (the majority, the most mesmerising). I’ll include a couple and hope you follow the link to the MCA website instead.

Collage
I’ve mentioned Elwyn Lynn a few times, including some of his collage works (2-Oct-2016) and a response work of mine (16-Oct-2016). I’ve since been reading Peter Pinson’s book Elwyn Lynn: metaphor + texture, and learnt some more not only about the artist but also about the history of some Sydney art institutions, society and politics.

After a long period painting with heavy textural and material effects, Lynn turned to collaged elements when he became interested in (relative) flatness, the way meaning could be established simply through contiguity. There was often a central motif set against rhythmic horizontal bands. Pinson suggests that “perhaps the central challenge of his collages [was] getting right the balance between the opposing imperatives of order and (the appearance of) urgency.” A critic as well as an artist, Lyn was conscious of theoretical possibilities such as collage’s disruption of the picture plane and the often surreal intent in juxtaposition of images. As an artist it allowed him to play with references and themes, veiled, obliquely, amusingly…

Lynn collected and used ephemera from his own travels and life and gifted by others. These could be interpreted as private diarist collections, but Lynn saw them as his environment, shared and known by others, just as the landscapes explored by other artists can be. Pinson writes “his environment was books, travel, exhibitions, museum visits, and images and impressions from print and screen.” That excites me, an Australian who feels alien at the beach (thoroughly screened and anointed to fend off the sun) and released and at home in dim caverns of polished concrete and careful lit art.

Later in life Lynn continued to use collage. Pinson suggests he was interested in formal contraditions, combining careful geometric shapes with roughly torn forms. To my eyes there is still a rigidity in the compositions, with limited and deliberate breakage of a structural grid.

First of a number of pages, based on Lynn's compositions

First of a number of pages, based on Lynn’s compositions

In my collage project the brief combined ideas of the body (from Sally Smart) and the formal enquiries of John Nixon (see 27-Nov-2016). Mining the images of Lynn’s work suggested some new frameworks of composition. With this I wanted to combine a revitalized view of “the body”, inspired by my reading of Susan Best and her insights on Eva Hesse.

Having got this far in my thinking, I woke early one morning and decided to play. I looked at what I’d written and sketched, then ignored it. Over the days since I’ve worked quickly, with whatever popped into my head and hands. There’s a few thinking of Lynn, a return to some of the formal investigation with different papers… From the initial brief (27-Nov-2016) the only points completely met were the daily average and the manner of work – quick and intuitive. I’m happy with that – especially given previous dislike of collage.

Altered book
Also stretching collage skills was a day spent with Claire (TactualTextiles), starting an altered book. There was cutting out and gluing of pages, watercolours, collage, monoprinting, talking… Much more to be done.

Drawing
On to chapter 2 of Daniela Brambilla Human Figure Drawing: Drawing gestures, postures and movements – Seeing Contours. It began with some experiments with different media, then a session drawing my son (slouched on the couch watching TV in the heat, more movement of arms and legs than I’d like).

Trying out different lines and marks with different drawing materials, I didn’t get through all I’ve collected, but feel enough to be getting on with and my brain filled. The most surprising/interesting was wax pastel lines with charcoal rubbed over. It caught the charcoal, the line darkens and seems sharper, with still a hint of the colour underneath. In fact that whole page – rubbed over with charcoal to give a base mid grey, lights added using eraser, white charcoal, white chalk pencil, darks with different charcoals and that altered crayon – is exciting.

I’d like to do much more life contour drawing, but finding it tricky when wanting longer poses – ie, not just people moving about their daily life. A few opportunities coming up.

Reading
Three books being read in tandem. The idea is that they all throw light on each other. More another post.

No reflection in this post. No time. Also conscious that my 5 month plan is in its final weeks – so there’ll be more detailed review after that.

18 December 2016

Drawing
The week began still looking for suitable subject material.
Working on A5 copy paper, first with wax pastel then charcoal, yoga and pilates videos, a mix of 10 – 30 seconds each. The yoga was slow and repetitive, the pilates a bit quick. I had a lot of trouble fitting the figure on the page. The length of upper legs in particular keeps surprising me.
Only a small selection of many, many attempts shown here.

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Next working in a sketching app on my tablet, on a bus trip. Very fast – 10 seconds was common, occasionally more, and various false starts shorter when a person moved or was blocked from view. Again a selection – this turned into a fun game, working very quickly to avoid staring at people, some at the end out of the window (earlier was on the freeway).

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On another trip I played with some of the different pens available in the app. Still having trouble working at a size to fit in the whole figure. I discovered the app lets you move the drawing to create more space, but of course that messes with time. Some of these app sketches were done with my finger, others using a little stylus. I can’t tell the difference.

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I’ve now moved on to Chapter 2 – Seeing contours. It’s blind drawing – very slowly. Only one so far, in HB pencil on A4 copy paper. 30 minutes, my son watching TV.
Lots of repeats – for example his nose. Again trouble fitting on the page – there’s no looking forward, just concentrating at the point where the eye is travelling. It’s light and delicate, satisfying in its way.
sketch20161215_01

Reading
Susan Best visualizing feeling: affect and the feminine avant-garde.
Still in the first chapter. I’m nervous of “psycho-babble” (for example earlier this year, Briony Fer On abstract art), but have noted my own attraction to work by women, and my intention of materials and process driven explorations, yet with potential connections to the body and bound to be an expression of my self.

Right from the introduction I’ve been enjoying this book. Best selects as a source “the most useful for my purposes” – and I intend to extract what is useful for my purposes. The emotive work that interests her is “feeling at once spontaneous and obscure” – not the cliched or sentimental, not facile shock. This resonates with me.

Best is interested in the “peculiar entanglement of beholder and work of art” – after all, many of the works she examines could be regarded as minimalist, the artist denying their own expression.

Lots more in my notebook. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to pull together some threads of particular relevance to me.

Collage
Thinking about this reading, this week’s collage work returned more strongly to the formal explorations of John Nixon (27-Nov-2016), adding in the body almost as texture – the anonymity of crowd scenes. The original photos were from a web search, but all in Sydney and places where I might have been (but wasn’t).

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These were all done in one session. This project is achieving objectives, in the sense of working fluently, intuitively. I actually got into that timeless zone, moving from one collage to the next, a range of compositions based on my source material then an additional one quite different, using scraps on the work table.

Not using a critical eye at the moment. That can wait for the end of the series.

Journal
Morning journal writing is continuing. If any themes or conclusions (! unlikely) appear I might summarise on this blog, but it’s too new and developing as yet.

Barbara Cleveland: Bodies in time
This project at AGNSW highlighted for me how narrow my understanding and knowledge of art is. I don’t have language or a structure for performance, don’t understand what reanimating a score could mean. My original purpose was to use the video as a source of drawing material, but I haven’t got the speed (yet?).

11 December 2016

A quiet week, with energy drained by an extra work day, oppressive weather, insert rationalisation here… Needs must, so I’ve been nurturing myself with some rest and recuperation time.

AGNSW – Drawing Rodin’s ‘The kiss’
This workshop felt very special – early entrance to the Nude exhibition, and over an hour’s concentrated drawing, sitting on our stools around The kiss.

Enjoyable in its way – but frustrating. The drawings all have their faults – for example the first much too upright, the last with a gumby-like bendy wrist/forearm. But that’s missing the point – or at least my point.

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In my Foundation plan (15-Sep-2016) the idea of life drawing was to develop skills in seeing form for sculpture. Instead I keep trying to make a picture of what I’m looking at. The result is boring, static, flat – but worse, no sense of energy or volume in space. My default drawing isn’t the sort of drawing I want to do.

Drawing exercise – Daniela Brambilla Human Figure Drawing: Drawing gestures, postures and movements.
Mentioned last week (4-Dec-2016), I think working hard following this book could be my answer – very directly in some parts (chapter 6 “Modelling” has exercises using plasticine as well as on paper). I’m still on chapter 1 (Gesture), which emphasises physical structure and actions in space, quick fluid lines, motion and energy. Plus lots of observation and lots and lots of practice.

A brief session in the food court one lunchtime was disappointing – need to consider opportunities when selecting a table. Croquis Cafe is too static – they are poses, not gestures. Contemporary dance seemed a good potential source – but all attempts “live” were dismal, the movement much too fast and varied. I started pausing the video, with a timer. First using HB pencil, 30 second limit per sketch, then black wax pastel and 45 seconds per sketch. Some better results, but not in the spirit of the instructions. A selection of results are shown below – there were many more.

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Collage
Done on just two days (but still averaging 1 per day!), my working is becoming more fluent, my decisions faster, more instinctive. I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with collage.

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9. Image from a card advertising the latest NGA exhibition, a painting by Carl Van Loo. Madame de Pompadour, the beautiful gardener, never lost her head,
10. but it seemed amusing to put it in her basket of choice items.
11. A short series combining dance and other flight.
12. The framework used by this Pierott suggested the structure of (circus?) stripes.
13. Reflections falling out of the frame.
14. Skywards with a mass flock.
15. A final combination of scraps on the workbench. It doesn’t work, but it feels like something is close.

Reading and reflecting
This week I’ve been reading Daybook: The journal of an artist by Anne Truitt. Quoting the back cover, “Renowned American artist Anne Truitt kept this illuminating and inspiring journal over a period of seven years, determined to come to terms with the forces that shaped her art and life”. After an overwhelmingly busy period Truitt started to feel less visible to herself, and decided to write in a journal each morning for a year.

I’m finding the journal inspiring, illuminating, some unexpected parallels in my own life and many differences. I’d like to become more visible to myself – my motivations and aspirations as an artist, what I can bring to my art. I’ve begun writing – actual writing, pen on paper. In the interests of keeping open to myself, this one part of my practice I’m keeping closed to the blog.


Instagram

The 3 brothers afterwards.

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