RMIT grad show 2019

glowing pink sphere

My friend David graduated from RMIT Visual Arts (Sculpture) recently. The RMIT graduate show was amazing, a rabbit warren of rooms in three buildings on Swanston Street. My main criticism was that instead of having labels on the work, or even numbers, there are maps of the various rooms and spaces. This makes it really hard to work out whose work you are looking at. (There’s nothing to stop students making their own labels though!)

Highlights for me were some of sculptural pieces (in particular the orange spectacular by Fiz) and some hanging rice paper works by Yanqi Zhao. I also loved a glowing red/pink sphere but unfortunately could not find the artist’s name.

The exhibition was well worth another look but unfortunately it closes on November 27. Well done, RMIT graduates!

Art opening shoes — 1 of 7

When I was at the White on White opening  I remembered an idea I’d had before when at exhibition openings — photographing a series of people’s shoes. The idea of portraits of people’s shoes interests me, and it’s interesting how many people feel braver in wearing colourful/wacky accessories like earrings or shoes than in their clothing. I think the photos give a good sense of the event as well…

Presenting the first installment of a series:

White on White: celebrating 20 years of the Fiona Myer Award at Victoria University, 18 November 2019.

White on White

Last night I attended an exhibition opening held by Victoria University, my old art school. Fiona Myer has been the patron of VU’s Visual Arts course for the past 20 years, and every graduate show she awards art prizes (one for a travel proposal) for a couple of lucky students.

For White on White, eight previous award winners were invited to submit work on the concept of ‘white’ and the interpretations were varied and interesting. It was also lovely to catch up with some former fellow students and lecturers.

My favourite piece is by En-En See, called Love Letters. At first I wasn’t sure if it was an artwork, because it is made up of a number of hand cut vinyl flowers, scattered seemingly randomly, on the floor. It wasn’t taped or roped off and there weren’t any signs saying ‘do not touch’, so I assumed it was part of a decorative install. People walked on them and some of them got crumpled and folded over, just like real flowers would. En-En explained that the artwork was a response to a story about a white flower that grows in halves – one half grows near the sea, the other in the mountains, and together they form one perfect bloom (based on the legend of Nakapau). I’m a big fan of ephemeral art and this was a beautiful piece. I loved the way it wasn’t precious and roped off, like most art work, and was in fact more like street art, which slowly deteriorates in the weather, or gets peeled off or covered or tagged, evolving over time.

The exhibition is at White Story House, 48 Kelso Street, Cremorne for two days only, and closes 20 November 2019 (10 am – 4 pm).

Best books of 2019: part 1

I find reading a great inspiration for my work and a pleasure, in fact I’ve been a bookworm since childhood. My favourite books from 2019 include: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s depressing, bleak and heartbreaking, but also wonderful, especially in its depiction of friendship. French Exit by Patrick de Witt (witty, charming and hilarious) and Less by Andrew Sean Greer, about a 50ish middle aged novelist who has been dumped by his lover, are both good reads. The Last Days of Jeanne D’Arc by Ali Alizadeh was a touching portrayal of Jeanne D’Arc’s life and exciting behind the scenes history, and I also loved Rules for Visiting by Jessica Frances Kane. This is a quietly wonderful novel that draws you into May Attaway’s (botanist, tree lover and introvert) world. All highly recommended.

My favourite artists on instagram

Instagram is a great platform for visual artists and looking at art. I’ve found some amazing artists there while scrolling around looking for inspiration. Three of my favourite insta artists are:

Melissa McGill is an abstract artist from Las Vegas, Nevada. Her work combines painting, and drawing in a free sketchy way and her use of colour is subtle. She works on canvas and paper and lives in the desert. I love the freedom and the layers of texture and colour in her paintings.

Claire des Jardins, another abstract painter, uses bright juicy colour and often pours and drips paint onto her canvases. She lives in Quebec, Canada and paints full time in her studio. Her work is exuberant and makes me feel happy.

Melbourne artist and illustrator Miranda Costa or ‘McDrawn’ draws and paints realistic and fantasy images, often of birds and flowers. Her work is delicate, painstaking and inspired by nature, and very beautiful.

p.s. Follow me on insta at KerynR_Artist.

Judy Chicago

I recently came across an 80 year old female artist I’d never heard of. She was a pioneer of the feminist art movement in the 1960s and 70s in the US.

Her early working life was lonely and she was mostly broke. “I didn’t make myself an outsider,” she says. “The art world made me an outsider. Of course, isolation is essential to the creative act. You have to be with yourself, with your ideas. Virginia Woolf talked about it as fishing: you sit on the shore, you drop your line, and you wait for the fish to jump. But I also had to protect myself from the craziness, all the antagonism, around me. It was difficult. I’m not going to say it was anything else. Not everybody could have managed it.”

What did she sacrifice along the way? “Children. There was no way on this earth I could have had children and the career I’ve had. But you know what? I don’t care how much I had to give up. This was what I wanted. You have to make choices. You can’t have everything in life.”

The Dinner Party Judy Chicago
The Dinner Party – Judy Chicago 1974–1979

As for her elaborate 1979 megasculpture The Dinner Party, a provocatively feminist work which celebrates the lives and work of 1,038 notable women, you can forget what the critics say (the late Robert Hughes called it: “Mainly cliché… with the colours of a Taiwanese souvenir factory”; Hilton Kramer of the New York Times called it: “Very bad art… failed art… art so mired in the pieties of a cause that it quite fails to capture any independent artistic life of its own”

With three retrospective exhibitions in the UK in 2012 and increasing acclaim for her work in the past decade, she has finally achieved the respect she deserves. Her famous work The Dinner Party comprises triangular table laid with 39 place settings, each one designed to reflect the accomplishments of a woman – included are Hildegard of Bingen, Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf. Beneath the table is a ‘heritage floor’, the names of a further 999 women (Catherine of Aragon, Colette, Clytemnestra) inscribed on its tiles. It sounds uncontroversial, celebrating, as it does, the history of women through applied arts such as embroidery and china painting. But then you look at the plates. Each one is decorated with a symbol that resembles a vulva. Depending on your point of view, this is either reductive, vulgar and semi-pornographic, or it’s celebratory, taboo-breaking and bracingly political.

The piece I love most is a fireworks installation ‘A butterfly for Brooklyn‘ she made in 2015.

Art-world statistics, in particular, still make for depressing reading. Work by women artists comprises just 3–5% of major permanent collections in the US and Europe. “It’s alarming. In our institutions, women are still an add-on to a male-centred curriculum,” she says.

Quotes from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/nov/04/judy-chicago-art-feminism-britain

Leonora Carrington

 

The kitchen garden on the Eyot, 1946
The kitchen garden on the Eyot, 1942

Born in England to a wealthy family, artist Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) lived most of her life in Mexico and died aged 94 in Mexico City. She was a rebellious girl, expelled from two schools, discouraged from pursuing art by her parents, but finally allowed to attend art school in London.

She became involved in the Surrealist art movement, meeting Max Ernst and moving to France to live with him in 1937. When Ernst was interned as an enemy alien in 1939, Carrington left France for America via Madrid, where she had a spectacular mental breakdown and spent months in an asylum.

Pastoral 1950
Pastoral, 1950

The experience of emotional suffering, painful medical treatment, and forced incarceration profoundly affected her, and despite the trauma of this period, it led Carrington to understand the alchemical potential of the body, an idea that would deeply inform her later work. When she learned that her family had arranged for her to stay in another mental institution in South Africa—presumably for the long term—Carrington hatched an escape plan, enlisting help from a Mexican diplomat she had met through Pablo Picasso. Carrington and the diplomat quickly married in Lisbon, and secured boat passage to Mexico.

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Green Tea, 1942

In Europe, the rise of fascism meant restricted movement and ever-tighter borders, but Mexico flung its doors open to the world. An artistic and intellectual community flourished: European artists like André Breton, Remedios Varo (who became a great friend to Carrington), as well as revolutionaries like Leon Trotsky, encountered Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

Carrington’s paintings explore transformation, with a menangerie of animals, humans, and hybrid creatures. She often painted a white horse or a hyena as a symbol of herself in these magical compositions. In her paintings, bodies are unstable, moving between genders, species, life, and death, but her paintings have a dreamy amorphous quality, they are not macabre or dark. They are like strange dreams or fantastic portals to another reality.

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Figuras fantásticas a caballo, 2011

colour bomb! update

I did it!

Thanks to everyone who supported by donating to my fundraising campaign, my fellow artists who inspired and helped me, Tracey and Gasworks, and my friends who encouraged me.

Van Gogh and the seasons

tree trunks and dandelionsI think of Van Gogh primarily as a colourist, although his vivid colourful paintings were mostly painted in the last couple of years of his art career. His detailed descriptions of nature and his paintings can be found in his letters to Theo, his brother. Here he describes a landscape he painted at Arles in 1888:

A meadow full of very yellow buttercups, a ditch with iris plants with green leaves, with purple flowers, the town in the background, some grey willow trees — a strip of blue sky.
If they don’t mow the meadow I’d like to do this study again, because the subject matter was really beautiful…A little town surrounded by countryside entirely covered in yellow and purple flowers. That would really be a Japanese dream, you know.

And a beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer:

I took a walk along the seashore one night, on the deserted beach. It wasn’t cheerful, but not sad either, it was — beautiful.

The sky, a deep blue, was flecked with clouds of a deeper blue than primary blue, an intense cobalt, and with others that were a lighter blue — like the blue whiteness of milky ways. Against the blue background stars twinkled, bright, greenish, white, light pink — brighter, more glittering, more like precious stones than at home — even in Paris. So it seems fair to talk about opals, emeralds, lapis, rubies, sapphires. The sea a very deep ultramarine — the beach a mauvish and pale reddish shade, it seemed to me — with bushes.

At Arles he painted the same subjects over and over — wheat fields, fruit trees, olive trees, flowers, cypresses. One of my favourite paintings from the show is an olive grove. The sky is a delightful pale green with orange, yellow and blue accents, and the ground lavender blue, orange, green and pale brown.

olive grove with 2 olive pickersIt’s hard to imagine how revolutionary these paintings were at the time. They influenced many painters including Matisse and the Fauves. His vision was unique and the bold and surprising way he used colour is still amazing.

Van Gogh and the seasons is at the NGV Melbourne until July 9.

Teshima Art Museum, Japan

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The cafe and shop building

I didn’t know what to expect but was told by a local to see the Teshima Museum. It is one of my favourite places I visited in Japan. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Seto inland sea are two white concrete dome structures. You follow a winding path and wait for your turn to enter. Finally you take off your shoes, put on slippers and walk into a large curved space with two round holes in the roof, open to the sky.

As you enter you notice pools and puddles of water on the floor. Drops of water seep out of tiny holes and join together, continually moving and merging. Long snake-like drops glide towards larger puddles. Small blobs grow larger until they start rolling along the floor and flowing into other blobs and becoming bigger puddles.

Being in the space is hypnotic and calming. You can see sky, clouds and trees through the roof openings. The museum is open to the air, sounds and natural light and when it rains, rain falls inside. I spent over an hour watching the water move and the light change.

The museum is a collaboration between artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa.

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Morning tea in the cafe