Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Opening Night of Deborah's Exhibition

Last night was a busy and exciting time at Tacit Contemporary Art with the opening of an exhibition of prints by my partner, Deborah Klein. Titled PRINTS 1987 - 2016, the exhibition showcases a number of works made over the last 29 tears. Late next year Deborah will have a major survey show at Tacit, so you could say that this show is a sampler of things to come.

Below is a taste of some of Deborah's linocut prints, some in black and white and others hand coloured.

The exhibition runs until October 2. 

Tacit Contemporary Art
312 Johnston Street
Abbotsford, Vic, 3067
Phone: 0423 323 188
Hours: Wednesday - Friday 11am - 6 pm
Saturday - Sunday 11 - 5 pm

Hand coloured linocut prints

Linocut prints

Deborah and I

Deborah, Lisa Sassella and Bill Reid

Me, Tim Gresham, Julie Keating, Debora Klein and Louise Blyton

Bill and I

Bill and Deborah Bradbury. Deborah owns a portrait I did of Bill many years ago.

It can get crowded at an opening!

Monday, August 29, 2016

En Plein Air

Over the last five years I've done a lot of painting out of doors, so I had the idea of doing a self portrait doing just that. Most of the painting was done in my backyard at Ballarat but the distant background was painted in another location on the outskirts of Ballarat. The aim was to catch the condition of being outside in the open air rather than portraying an artist painting a specific location. 

When I first started studying art seriously in my 20s, I thought art was a mater of exactitude, but it's really about understanding that one's imagination can take precedence over the facts.

Just after I took the top two backyard shots, the wind blew everything over, so I had to scrape off the paint, which contained strands of grassI, and redo everything I had done that day. Luckily there wasn't a substantial area to repaint.

 En Plein Air, 2016, oil on canvas, 71.25 x 51 cm

Friday, August 19, 2016

602 Art Fair

Since the Melbourne Art Fair was cancelled this year, the City of Melbourne offered a number of galleries some of their own spaces to show artwork. It was a busy opening night and a showcase for the diversity of art made by a number of Melbourne and Sydney artists.


Through support from the City of Melbourne, nine leading art galleries from Melbourne and Sydney will join together to present the works of more than 40 artists in a former substation at 602 Little Bourke St between 17-21 August.

Charles Nodrum Gallery will be presenting work by

In front of my painting After Dawn at the Track

With Adriane Strampp in front of her painting at Gallery Smith space

With Adriane, Natalie and Charles Nodrum at Charles Nodrum Gallery space

After Dawn at the Track, 2015, oil on linen, 46 x 61.5 cm

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Illusions around the House

A few years ago I did this painting of a door, and apart from seeing it in some exhibitions, it's been usually in storage most of the time. Recently, Deborah thought it would be a good idea to have it placed where it would be shown to its best effect, as the bottom image shows.

Bottom image - Our good friend, Dmetri Kakmi, was over for dinner one night and he took this pic on his phone. It does show how the art of illusion can be used around the house, adding possible dimensions that are not really there. 

Sometimes visitors feel the surface to make sure it's a painting, which is a good thing for me to experience because I always hope the illusion is convincing enough to fool people.

Entrance, 2008, oil on canvas, 207.5 x 96 cm

View of the painting installed on the stairwell

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Terence Davies at MIFF

Terence Davies, left, and David Stratton

The Melbourne International Film Festival is in it's early days and yet the highlight of the festival has been, and will be, seeing Terence Davies and his newly released film, Sunset Song.

There was a Q&A session after the screening of Sunset Song, and Davies' answers to questions were both enlightening and entertaining. On another occasion he was interviewed by David Stratton about his personal life and his career (pictured above by Deborah Klein), called IN CONVERSATION with Terence Davies.

While much of the film industry aims to entertain audiences with the intention of making a profit, Terence Davies is the opposite, intent on capturing the emotional reality his characters bring to a space. In his answers to questions, emotion is often a word he uses to indicate what is important to him as a film maker and his films find a reflective place within ourselves, something that transcends entertainment. Yet it's his philosophy that has made it difficult for him to get funding for projects and is the reason why there have been long gaps between films. Ironically, this current period in his life has probably been his most productive since he has just released another film about the American poet, Emily Dickinson, titled A Quiet Passion.

One inspiring quality Terence Davies has is his passion for writing and film making and this has kept him boyishly young all his life. He always answers questions with stories and his enthusiasm in the telling bubbles through and effects the audience in such a positive way.

It was great to see David Stratton doing the interview, and how fitting, because his opening remarks were about the way Davies' film Distant Voices, Still Lives effected him in such a profound way.

As Deborah and I were leaving the hall, we were able to stop and have a chat with Terence. We wished we could have stayed for hours, but those moments with him will stay with us as a wonderful memory of this year's film festival.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Art of Illusion

oil on wood, 50 x 50 cm

The art of illusionistic painting, otherwise known as trompe l'oeil (trick the eye), has a long history. There are a number of paintings by artists throughout the centuries depicting the rear of a canvas and this is one of four versions I've painted, but the only one I've done on wood. 

I've always found it a magical experience when tubes of sticky coloured substances called paints seem to be transformed into other materials or textures. An achievement realised through feel rather than skill and observation.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Drawing Peter Wegner

Peter Wegner and I were judges at the Great Southern Portrait Prize in 2015 and it was on this occasion that we decided to draw each other. After about a year and a half, the right time presented itself and Peter came to my place for a sitting.

It was another standing pose, done with charcoal and white pastel. It took nearly three hours with a few short breaks along the way. I'll be awaiting my turn to pose for Peter of which I'm looking forward to.

Peter won the Rick Amor Drawing Prize a few days prior to our sitting so it has been a drawing feast for both of us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Drawing Kate

I've always loved the profile portraits of Tom Roberts, and of course, those portraits from the Renaissance, so recently I asked Kate Nodrum to pose in profile. She stood for over two hours without a real break, which is a difficult thing to do. I thought sitting in a chair might cause a slight slump in posture which might subtly effect the pose I was after - a sitter who is alert and could move away at any moment.

Portrait of Kate Nodrum, 2016, charcoal and with pastel, 38 x 27 cm

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Clouds Passing the Moon

The lower photograph was taken by Deborah Klein earlier this year when I was painting the moon from our balcony in Abbotsford. I wanted a more complicated composition, more than a quick sketch might achieve where there isn't enough time to think about structure. 

When painting clouds crossing the moon, time is a consideration. Clouds change so quickly that trying to capture something of the night moments is almost a race before too much change takes place in the sky. 

One often hears it said that artists capture a fleeting moment in time but that is not literally true. To capture a moment in time, time would have to stand still so it can be captured. Working from life is about constructing a picture that reflects what it was like being there for those short moments or even hours, but in a way that looks like time did stand still. Memory and feeling come into play to conjure a picture that seemingly is a fleeting moment.

Matisse pointed out the difference between a sketch and a more considered work, when he said that a sketch has freshness while a more considered image has a greater sense of structure. 

Although this painting from my balcony started from life, I added to it in the studio as well, trying not to paint over the initial sketch too much, exploring the possibility of making a painting that has both freshness and structure. 

Clouds passing the Moon, 2016, oil on MDF, 40.5 x 50.75 cm

Friday, July 1, 2016

Some More Calligraphy

 As I mentioned on a previous post, I did a short calligraphy course in the late '80s. Here are a few more works I composed around that time.

The top one measures 56.25 x 41.75 cm. The lower one measures 62.5 x 50.75 cm. Watercolour and ink.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Space and Light

I've always loved paintings of interiors, not so much for what's in them, but more as a space and a light within which things take their place. Light and space transcend the material, or perhaps it's better to say that they add eternity to the physical because each exists at the same time.

Avigdor Arikha (1929-2010), Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916), Gwen John (1876-1939) and Edward Hopper (1882-1967) are artists whom I admire for the way they sometimes interpreted an interior. An enclosure was transformed into a means where space and light were more important than what was in the room.

The images below show the changes that took place during the painting process - a chair has been eliminated, and the angle of the light coming from a doorway was changed. 

Although the painting was done from life, it's a different image to how it was in actual life. The photograph of the sunroom corresponds to the empty interior in the painting. The photograph from the backyard of the distant view towards the city of Ballarat became the view from the window in the painting; essentially making the work the adoption of two different views to arrive at a final version that looks like a single viewpoint from a light filled room. 

Space and Light, 2016, oil on canvas

Sunroom, transferred into an empty space.

Distant view becomes view from the window in the painting.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Light of the Moon

These two paintings were based on sketches and from a memory of a time the moon was full. Driving back to Melbourne from Ballarat at night can be a magical experience. There is a road trailing down the Pentland Hills and around one of the bends the city lights suddenly appear like a string of glistening jewels laid across the horizon. On one particular occasion the moon sat in the sky with the clouds hanging above it, just like in the painting. The clouds were much whiter that night, but I made them darker because I felt it showed the glow of the moon better. I was also intrigued by the way the light of nature hovered over the light created by human beings, and yet, it's the same light.

The lower painting was turned into a vertical version of a squarer oil sketch. The sketch appears in a previous blog post titled Sketching the Moon (the top image).

These larger works are done by painting the moon and sky first, allowing the surfaces to dry and then adding the clouds later. They are painted with primary colours and white but without the addition of black.

 City Lights and the Moon, 2016, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 92 cm

Full Moon, 2016, oil on canvas, 91.5 x 61 cm

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sketching the Moon

I've been continuing my interest in sketching the moon so here are two more examples. Each painting measures 27.5 x 28.5 cm. They were both painted in a few hours, which was my aim - to capture something of the night the moon shone amongst the clouds. Having said that, I divided the time it took into two sessions. Firstly I sketched the sky and moon, waited for it to dry, and then waited for another full moon and added the clouds. These sketch pictures are mainly inventions because the speed at which clouds change shape makes it impossible to follow their form, so in a way, they can't be painted from life. But just looking into the sky helps to make an image that has something of nature in it.

I've also been painting pictures of the moon on a larger scale and when I do I often have these sketch pictures at hand as a guide to recall the feeling of the night. The memory of what I saw can be a starting point for these larger works but that is different from trying to remember exactly how the scene looked.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Arthur Streeton at Geelong Gallery

Recently I saw an exhibition of the paintings of Arthur Streeton at Geelong Gallery. The exhibition was titled Land of the Golden Fleece - Arthur Streeton in the Western District. The focus was on the landscape paintings Streeton completed in the Western District between 1920 - 32.

Whenever anything is written about Streeton, the assumption is always made that he never reached the heights of his youth, just before he went to England. There are many paintings Streeton did that, although very good, did't attain the magic of his youthful works, but this exhibition cast this assumption into myth. Many of the works have never been seen publicly because they are in private collections, avoiding the gaze of a critical eye.

I have always believed in this myth until I saw the exhibition at Geelong. It was a surprise to me to see such quality, some of them quite breathtaking. Streeton had a sweeping vision and his ability to take one's eye into the infinite is truly amazing. His colour has such richness and warmth and his brushwork was searching and confident instead of settling for superficial bravura. He could capture the air, the smell, the heat and the light of the open spaces of Australia, qualities that cannot be copied but only felt.

Full marks for Geelong Gallery for presenting such a great exhibition from one of the world's great landscape painters.

 The Grampians (Mount Abrupt), 1921, oil on canvas, 51.6 x 76.7cm

 Cliff and Ocean Blue, 1932, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76cm

Mount Rosea, Grampians, 1920, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76cm

Friday, May 13, 2016

Towards the Light

Towards the Light - portrait of Ade Hatfield, 
2005, dry pastel,

This portrait pastel drawing was done from an oil painting I did over thirty years ago, mainly because I thought I could redo it better. Generally artists paint from drawings but there are no rules, so whatever suits one's practice is the only imperative. It's rare for me to make an image from another image I've already done, but occasionally I try it out. I changed the dress from yellow to green and introduced a dark back ground. I use more colours in my pastel drawing than I do with my oil painting and apply them with a slightly looser technique.

I found the light reflections on the glasses an interesting accident because I didn't plan the portrait to be that way. But it reminded me of a person who enters the latter part of their life which proposes the question, what comes after when our years have been lived? The title of the drawing Towards the Light suggests there may be more but the fact remains we don't know.