Standouts from a short visit to Melbourne Now at NGV St Kilda Road:

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Agatha Gothe-Snape’s video screens installation Powerpoints (above). This work looks very much like advertising with ‘slogans’ and snippets of text that cycle continuously. I liked it a lot.

Daniel Crooks’ video work An embroidery of voids 2013, was also a favourite. Spliced footage of Melbourne laneways and back alleys takes you on an imaginary tour. It is mesmerising. There’s a sense of menace that seems to be building up to a violent conclusion due to the atmospheric soundtrack, but nothing happens.

Anastasia Klose’s Popup Shop, where she is selling Tshirts and other merchandise. Playing with the idea of the artist as a product and ‘selling out’, Klose is a charming salesperson for her ‘souvenirs’.

The volume of work means this is a show to return to several times. The show runs until 23 March 2014.

 

I was excited to attend the opening of the Substation Contemporary Art Prize last month because my friend David Thomson was one of 50 finalists in the exhibition.

Overall I was disappointed with the exhibition. The three prizes awarded were all for video works. There were about 13 videos in the show. The SCAP is intended to ‘recognise and encourage innovation in contemporary art practice’.

A video work has to grab my attention or entertain me in the first minute or I turn off. We are so bombarded by video, TV, advertising,  movies, music clips, youtube, that video art has to be really clever or beautiful to stand out (and preferably short!) I dislike work with an obscure conceptual artist statement full of big words that I can’t understand, that I suspect is actually meaningless art wank.

You shouldn’t have to study art theory or have specialist knowledge to appreciate an artwork. I love art, and have studied it for four years, so if I can’t understand the concept behind an artwork, how is the average viewer supposed to understand it?

In the project, by Eric Bridgeman, was a video diary filmed during a artist residency in Canada in 2011. Bridgeman dressed up as a golliwog character and cavorted around his studio in front of a camera. I thought it was self-indulgent narcissism, and I couldn’t believe it when it won first prize and the judge described it as a ‘layered work’ about being an outsider. I don’t understand how this work has any more artistic merit than, say, reality TV footage or an amateur video diary on Youtube. I couldn’t watch the whole thing, I found it repetitive and boring.

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Still from In the project, Eric Bridgeman, video/DVD, 2012

I think that in 100 years time, video art may be seen as a fad in modern art from the 1960s until now, especially popular since the 1990s. After several decades, the medium is hardly ‘innovative’. The art world is cyclical. It depends on what the art schools are encouraging students to do, and critics and curators are promoting, and it seems they are still pushing video and multi-media work rather than traditional painting, drawing and printmaking. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Watching the documentary Never Sorry about Ai Weiwei recently inspired me to write about this brave and provocative artist.

Ai Weiwei is Chinese, born in Beijing in 1957. He is an artist, designer, architect, political activist, sculptor, curator, publisher and blogger, described as a ‘cultural compass for an entire generation of Beijing artists’.

Ai Weiwei’s father was Chinese poet Ai Qing, who was denounced during the Cultural Revolution and in 1958 sent to a labour camp in Xinjiang with his wife and son. Ai Weiwei was one year old at the time and the family lived in Shihezi for 16 years and in 1975 returned to Beijing.

Weiwei studied at the Beijing Film Academy in the late 1970s, and from 1981 to 1993 he lived in the US, mostly in New York, making conceptual art and using readymade objects in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys.

In 1993 he returned to China when his father became ill, and asked him to come home to China.

In December 2008, he supported an investigation, started by another Chinese artist, into student casualties in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Because only schools were destroyed by the quake, questions were raised about the safety and construction of the buildings. A list of 5,385 children killed in the earthquake was compiled by April 2009, and Weiwei published the collected names, as well as articles documenting the investigation, on his blog, which was shut down by Chinese authorities in May 2009. The blog became a memorial for the dead, with the names of the victims scrolling in long lists, and later their names spoken in Chinese as a voiceover.

Weiwei also made a moving installation using children’s backpacks, shown at Haus der Kunst in Munich in 2009. Coloured backpacks spelled out in Chinese a quote from one of the bereaved mothers about her daughter killed in the earthquake: ‘She lived happily in this world for seven years’.

Remembering, Ai Weiwei, installation, 2009

The Chinese authorities were unhappy about this public exposure of the deaths of thousands of children, whose identity was supposed to be a secret.

Ai Weiwei was beaten by the police in August 2009 for testifying for Tan Zuoren, a fellow investigator of the shoddy construction and student casualties in the earthquake. Subsequently he suffered headaches and had difficulty concentrating on his work. In September 2009, he was diagnosed to be suffering internal bleeding and had to have emergency brain surgery. The cerebral hemorrhage is believed to be caused by the beating.

In April 2011, Weiwei was secretly detained by the police for 81 days at the Beijing Capital International Airport while on his way to board a flight to Hong Kong. He was released on bail on fabricated tax charges. Although the bail was lifted after a year, the authorities have not returned his passport and he remains prohibited from travelling outside China.

I admire and applaud his bravery in witnessing and exposing these events in his blog and art, and calling the Chinese regime to account.

I’ve just finished painting a series of water colours of my train trip home from Flinders Street Station to Yarraville. It’s a trip I’ve taken many times, and when I arrived home it was ‘the blue hour’ – twilight.

Last semester in printmaking I made a series of prints using my local industrial landscape of Melbourne’s inner west as inspiration.

These are photopolymer prints from my photograph of an electricity pylon and the West Gate Bridge.

West Gate Pylon, 2013, photopolymer print

West Gate Pylon, 2013, photopolymer print

West Gate Pylon 2, 2013, photopolymer print

West Gate Pylon 2, 2013, photopolymer print

I also did some drypoint etchings, some of which I hand coloured with water colour and ink.

Stony Creek – purple, 2013, drypoint etching and water colour

Stony Creek – purple, 2013, drypoint etching and water colour

Stony Creek – blue, 2013, drypoint etching and water colour

Stony Creek – blue, 2013, drypoint etching and water colour

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.

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I sometimes work at an office in Bourke Street, and have often noticed this angel sculpture, high on a wall next door to an office building at 160 Queen Street, Melbourne.

I finally decided to photograph it recently. Unfortunately I couldn’t find out any information about the sculptor, and there wasn’t a plaque at the site (that I could find), but it is quite beautiful. The figure looks futurist to me, stylised and holding a wheel. If anyone knows more about it please contact me…

... standing on a surfboard?

At long last I’ve opened a shop on Etsy, prompted by a lack of cash flow at the moment.

Please take the time to have a look. I’ll be adding more work in the next few days…

I recently visited Lavandula lavender farm. It’s incredibly beautiful and there was a sculpture show on as a bonus. Sculptures from 25 artists, including Zoe Amor, Paul Turbitt, and Kaya Storm dotted the gardens.

My favourite sculpture in the show was by Peter Laszlo.

The soul is like a sail

This work was inspired by the Revelation of Ares.
In this book the Creator asks Humanity to change towards the Good.
The book explains that man is not born with a soul but has to create
one for himself. This can only be achieved by following the virtuous way
of life. One does to need to believe in any religion or dogma, simply
to love other human beings and respect all living things…
Once the soul has been created by a virtuous loving, giving and forgiving life it will glide along the sea of spiritual eternity.

The soul is a sail, Peter Lazlo

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