Grace Cossington Smith

Interior in Yellow, oil, 1964

‘My chief interest, I think, has always been colour, but not flat crude colour, it must be colour within colour, it has to shine; light must be in it… The room is in my own home here, and the sunlight did not come in a definite way but the whole room seemed to be full of light, which is what I want to do more than the actual sunlight. I feel that even the shadows are subdued light and they must have light in them as well.’ 

Grace Cossington Smith (1892–1984) was one of the most innovative Australian artists of the twentieth century. An early modernist, her fascination with light and colour and her  interest in what she saw around her developed throughout the many phases of her work, culminating in the luminous interiors she painted in the 1950s and 1960s. Members of her family’s comfortable suburban milieu might have perceived her as a ladylike amateur; her fellow modernist painters, especially Roland Wakelin and Roy de Maistre, who were also students of Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo in Sydney, greatly respected her art. Dattilo-Rubbo was a passionate enthusiast of modernism and post-impressionism, introducing his students to the work of Cezanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh.

Interior with Wardrobe Mirror, oil, 1955I saw her Interior with Wardrobe Mirror, 1955, at the Art Gallery of NSW a couple of years ago and was struck by the vibrant colours and large rectangular flat brushstrokes that gave the work a mosaic quality. The juxaposition of pure colour is absolutely stunning in real life. I admire the way she uses colour fearlessly and the strong brushstrokes that seem to ‘dance’ on the canvas. Continue reading “Grace Cossington Smith”

Monet’s Garden

A few weeks ago now I visited the Monet exhibition at NGV. Absolutely loved it. I remembered seeing some of his paintings in Paris years ago at the Musée d’Orsay and L’Orangerie, but it was lovely to see so many of his paintings here in Melbourne.

The cafe was appropriately decked out with orchids…

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It was interesting to see some works I hadn’t seen before, like the landscape ‘Field of Yellow Irises at Giverny’ which had a freshness in the bright yellow, green and pale blues, and a beautiful sketchy roughness. There were also paintings of weeping willow trees in reds, browns and greens that I’d never seen before.

Field of Yellow Irises near Giverny - Claude Monet

One of my favourites was a large painting of water lilies and agapanthus in greens, purples, yellows and pinks. I loved the unfinished section in the in the bottom corner that showed bare canvas. When you look at his large almost abstract portrayals of reflections on water and lilies, you can see he was a forerunner of abstraction.

Agapanthus and Waterlilies - Claude Monet

There was also a beautiful video of Monet’s garden. At the end of his life Monet had cataracts and after being operated on, his colour perception changed dramatically – what a terrible thing to happen to a master of colour! The notes said he wanted to destroy some of his earlier paintings, but fortunately he didn’t. His round wire-framed glasses are displayed in a case along with a wooden palette and a pipe. The exhibition runs until 8 September.

Melissa Powell

traces of time_M_PowellTraces of time, 2012, pigment ink on cotton rag

Today I visited Vestige II by Melissa Powell at Anita Traverso Gallery.

I met Melissa last year when visiting my artist friend Mars in Natimuk, so I was curious to see her work. It was absolutely amazing! Beautiful aerial photography of the landscape, mainly in the Wimmera. Paddocks of canola embellished with curving plough lines like a yellow plush carpet. The mineral colours and abstract shapes of a salt lake. The traces left on the earth by farming, mining, erosion, fire and flood. And Droughtbreaker, a dark photograph of the delicate tracery of dead trees contrasting with dark flood water. Her photographs have a beautiful meditative quality and give us a bird’s eye view of the land.

Droughtbreaker_M_PowellDroughtbreaker, 2011, pigment ink on cotton rag

I thought I was where I wasn’t

Untitled, Shannon SmileyToday I visited I thought I was where I wasn’t at C3 gallery at Abbotsford Convent – paintings by Shannon Smiley and pen and ink drawings by Helen Nodding. Shannon’s paintings are of fragments and forgotten corners of vegetation in the urban landscape that demonstrate the power of nature to reclaim our city environment. I find his paintings inspiring and powerful.

Helen’s meticulous pen and ink drawings are detailed examinations of everyday scenes – tree branches reflected in a ditch or a weed breaking through a footpath – beautifully recorded.

NGV leadlight ceiling

I visited the NGV St Kilda Road today with a friend from Adelaide and we spent some time lying on the couches in the Great Hall admiring the leadlight ceiling by Leonard French. The hall is a beautiful cathedral-like space bathed with light and the coloured glass mosaic reminds me of a kaleidoscope. It’s the largest stained glass ceiling in the world (according to Wikipedia).

Choi Jeong Hwa

Korean installation artist Choi Jeong Hwa is awesome!

“I work with things we use every day, and I try and turn them into art” he says. “Plastic doesn’t decompose. Even when it’s old, it looks like new, and it’s recyclable. That’s why I call plastic my ‘master'”.

Vodka, splash guns and algorithms

Absolut vodka created four million uniquely designed bottles using splash guns and color-generating machines, and an algorithm that places individual patterns on top of a specially-applied coat of paint, allowing for a nearly endless sequence of combinations from 35 colors and 51 patterns.

I can’t help wondering about modifying this technique to create splatter paintings. Cool, huh?