Archive Page 2

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

Workshop: Welding Sculptures with Paul Hopmeier

This week of summer school at National Art School was exciting, exhausting, terrifying, absorbing, expanding, satisfying… It gave me everything I was hoping for and more.

Paul Hopmeier has been exhibiting sculpture for over 30 years and brought a wealth of technical expertise and problem solving ideas. Sometimes with the group but more often individually Paul would share a way of looking at and thinking about sculpture, helping me to see and think about what I was doing. A small comment about not wanting to lack ambition, or a brief discussion on treatment of ends, and I would suddenly see all sorts of new options and possibilities.

Simon Hodgson, the sculpture studio technician, was on hand all week with advice and help, challenging and suggesting, a tutor in all but name in his own right. Paul and Simon together make a great team – great knowledge, lots of respect for each other, but different perspectives and emphases which again made clear the vast choices we have.

nas_workshopThe first day was basically induction and initial practice in safe use of all the equipment available to us. The photo shows one end of the large studio (air-conditioned, thank goodness). At the end are five welding bays, complete with plastic (?) curtains to contain damaging light. We did stick and mig welding. Along the right wall can be seen the large metal cutting bandsaw, on the left wall the sheet metal folder. Left centre is the roller for bending curves. Behind the centre work bench is a belt grinder and a drill press. Out of view is the sheet metal guillotine. The other half of the space is generally for woodwork – we used it as work and discussion area, and for setting out additional tools – different kinds of vise, hand tools, all the safety equipment for eyes, ears, hands etc. Outside was a series of work benches, covered but open, for noisier work – angle grinders (for cutting and grinding), anvils and hammers… There was a lot of equipment to learn about.

It wasn’t until the second morning that we were introduced to oxy-acetylene for cutting and bending. This was the one piece of equipment we could only use under direct tutor supervision, and it properly scared me. In the images above I am adjusting the flame and then cutting some metal. Terrifying.

Then we were let loose. Everyone had brought some bits and pieces of steel scrap and maybe some found objects. We each had oddments from the training process – some cut and bent sheet, a curve of flat bar etc. Outside were some piles and bins of dumped material for us to pick over – off-cuts, abandoned student work, some donations from Paul. We could each decide what we wanted to do, to use, ask for or be offered help and advice, then just do it.

I started with more welding practice. Stick welding you need to control speed, angle, feed (of the stick) and placement/direction. I could manage maybe two of those at once. MIG was a bit easier – no changing distance to work to manage feed, but the sensitive trigger kept auto-feeding wire when not wanted.

My first piece evolved from a series of experiments and then a sort of iterative response to what was happening. No progress photos, but the sequence was something like: Trying out the sheet metal guillotine to cut some strips of thin sheet; combining using plain weave; tacking together using the mig welder (difficult not to melt the thin sheet). Where to go next??? Trying out a different join method by riveting the woven piece to the sample curved metal bar. The result stood up on the table in a curve. Where to go next??? Maybe another piece of welded weave to curve around the back. More cutting, weaving, welding, bending. Put the two pieces together. Boring. Dead space. Dull. Don’t want to do that. Where to go next??? The first bit looks a bit like a mask or helmet. The second piece could be a belly or flank. Nope, sizes are wrong. Swap them. Head and torso? How to join them??? Rummage around the metal bins, found some scrap of heavy mesh. Could weld it on. Where to join? Some discussion, try-outs holding with vises. What angle? Some hammering to match curves. Welding. Pieces are joined. Where to go next??? Could it be free-standing? Audition some possibilities. Not convinced. A wall piece? Oh, that looks promising. Need a hanging mechanism. Bend tabs on that major curve? Complex angles. Cut off excess length of curve and weld on back tabs at good angle? Why not weld right across? So some cutting, grinding, drilling of holes, welding. How to finish/protect the metal??? That final question remains undetermined, but that aside at the end of Wednesday I called it done.

Photo: Paul Hopmeier

Photo: Paul Hopmeier

One of my happiest moments in a very happy week was when Paul called this “resolved”. I am thrilled by the process and thrilled with the result.

It’s around 73 cm high, 31 cm wide and sits 19 cm off the wall. I find the textures, the balance of weight and space, the amount of irregularity of form, satisfying. It reads best seen from the front, but has some interest from all angles. I chose not to tidy or hide any part of the process. Messy learner welds remain messy. A couple of sharp external points had a little grinding, but otherwise the result seen is what happened. I think for this piece it works.

basketry_randomweave_2dIt was hard to get moving on a second piece. Finally I decided to develop some ideas based on my random weave vine and wire piece from the class with Brooke Munro (15-Jan-2017). Instead of the vine I could weld a rough basket form of bent rod. I had some interesting bits of wire, knotted and cut ties from the scrap metal yard. The tie wire used in the vine work could be used again in random weave, giving a third weight of line.

A cycle of work repeated all of Thursday. Put on outside work gear (leather gloves, eye protection, ear plugs and muffs). Take a piece of scavenged rod, around 1 cm diameter. Bend in interesting curves that will match work in progress (wip) – no machinery, just rod firmly in vise, long hollow square cut rod placed over end to provide long lever, strength I didn’t know I had in me. Take bent rod and wip inside, change into welding gear (leather gauntlets, welding mask). Long frustrating process using magnets, vise-grips, bricks etc to hold rod and wip in place. Tack weld (or bump and have to re-set). One tiny weld and suddenly everything could be moved around, turned upside down, and the weld completed. Repeat. Repeat again. And again.

On Friday morning I made a start on the random weave. I also found materials and time to make a sort of tuning-fork shaped device that can be held in a vise and assists bending (demonstrated to us on Monday, but unfortunately forgotten by me on Thursday – but at least now I have one). It’s still a work in progress, but I can continue without needing any specialist equipment.

Photo: Paul Hopmeier

Photo: Paul Hopmeier

I’m planning different densities, layering… plans that will change as work progresses.

Lamp by Mat

Lamp by Mat

Mosquito by Steve

Mosquito by Steve

It was interesting to see the range of work done by the different students (just nine of us – the tenth didn’t return after day 1, uncomfortable with the equipment). Mat made a very clever table lamp, the flex hidden in round tube, a lump of solid metal providing a solid base. Steve made a number of quirky pieces, including this mosquito with wings and jaws formed by a pair of pliers and proboscis a saw blade.

This was a great class and I’ve learnt lots. It was good to be able to incorporate weaving, basketry and thread skills and sensibilities right from the start. I’ve since spent some time thinking about minimal home studio setup, or maybe joining a maker-space. Certainly I see all the techniques and materials feeding into future work.

This was the last activity included in the five month plan developed in September (15-Sep-2016). Next I need to review what I’ve been doing and update the plan.

Exciting days ahead.

15 January 2017

2017 got off to a great start with the week long Sturt Summer School, learning basketry with Brooke Munro ( 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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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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.


Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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