Posts Tagged ‘Abstract art’

In this liminal, pre-exhibition week, it’s births and deaths

It’s a strange, strange space you’re in, working up to the installation of a show. I’ve been doing it for 15 years now and it seems I’ll never get used to it.

I guess I am better than I used to be, but there is a disruption in the pit of my stomach and everything is amplified along my nerve pathways.


Industrial scape with pink stacks

Industrial scape with pink stacks, 2015, mixed media on paper, 80 x 90 cm, AUD $600 framed


What precisely am I anxious about?

It’s a cliche among art folk that it’s because you’re putting  a piece of your soul out there for the world to shrug at.  I’m not so sure. Isn’t it more about the exposure of your decisions; your judgements? You’re only exhibiting the work you consider fully resolved, i.e. finished. Will your audience agree?

I look at art all the time and it’s a constant judgement thing. It’s not that you judge the artist personally, but you are considering the decisions they’ve made about colour, values, composition. Those who are interested enough will be doing the same to me. In some weird way I want that; but at the same time I’m horrified by the thought.



In the green night, 2016, 15 x 28cm, mixed media on paper, AUD $190

In this week of the great loss of David Bowie, I just need to proceed, in his honour if I can’t manage anything else. What a shining example of unapologetic originality. Thanks David… I’ll be imagining you’re coming along to the show. That would be great.






Drawing as a life-long practice

We visited AGNSW this week to check out the new-look Dobell Drawing Biennial.  Up until a couple of years back, the Dobell has been a Drawing Prize, with submissions from all and sundry.  The final show  was a selection of high quality works which made up a varied, interesting show. (Find out more about the history of the Dobell Prize here.) As Sydney artist Jane Bennett has pointed out, it also gave a wide spectrum of artists the opportunity to be recognised in this major Australian venue. It was always a favourite of mine, and I never felt it was promoted as effectively as it could have been.

Ivy Pareroultja_JAMES RANGE 2010









Ivy Pareroultja, James Range, 2010, watercolour on paper on board, 26 x 36cm.


However all that’s history, and now AGNSW presents a biennial event with a showcase of 10 established artists chosen by a Guest Curator. This year that person was Anne Ryan,  currently Curator Australian prints, drawings and watercolours at the Gallery. All this year’s chosen artists are well established Australians, some familiar to me and some not:  Tom Carment;  Joe Furlonger;  Ross Laurie;  Ivy Pareroultja (an example of her work above):  Ana Pollak;  Peter Sharp;  Mary Tonkin;  John R Walker;  Gosia Wlodarczak;  and John Wolseley.


Wlodarczak’s work was unfolding before us as she drew on the glass walls of the Gallery. Her work is always very busy; an intense linear exploration, here responding in an intuitive way to what she was seeing through the glass. It is more than simply this though. She works at being in the moment  and responding to all that her senses may bring to her. She says:  

I try to look at the reality in a non-hierarchical way, and to grasp an impression registered by my eye before my brain applies to it filters of our social and cultural knowledge. (

It’s fascinating and immersive, as though we are getting an intimate view of her mind.










Gosia Wlodarczak working on her installation during the opening week of the show, in situ  on one of the Gallery glass walls.

John Wolseley too, has a mystical kind of approach to his work. He sees himself as a ‘hybrid mix of artist and scientist.’ He has a deep love of the Australian flora and fauna and seeks to collaborate in some way with the world when he describes it. This often involves an abrogation of control, directly rubbing  his paper supports against trees and plants, using the random marks that result.


John Wolseley A Clarence Galaxia in the Ancient Sphagnum Bogs – Skullbone Plains, Tasmania 2013 (detail), watercolor, graphite on paper, 140 × 300 cm






John Wolseley (U.K. b.1938)A Clarence Galaxia in the Ancient Spagnum Bogs, Skullbone Plains, Tasmania, 2013   (detail), watercolor, graphite on paper, 140 × 300 cm.


 Ivy Pareroultja’s work is very reminiscent of Albert Namatjira, and this is unsurprising given that she was born in Hermannsburg in the Central Desert area of the Northern Territory, and is a descendant of the Hermannsburg Watercolour Movement painters.  This group sprang out of Namatjira’s work. (More on Albert Namatjira here.)

The champion for me though was always going  to be Tom Carment. I love how he just keeps on keeping on with his practice – a daily plein air exploration with a deft, wiggly kind of hand.  His works are so understated but beautifully seen.









Tom Carment, Coledale Beach Caravan Park, 2014


America the beautiful

Yesterday a buddy and I visited the Art Gallery of NSW to check out the Summer blockbuster America: painting a Nation.  The works were organised chronologically, following America’s development since white settlement. We were able to witness the changes in the way Americans have seen themselves.

Copley, John Singleton_Portrait of a Lady_1771.












John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) Portrait of a lady, 1771, oil on canvas, 126.9 x 100.3cm

The 18th century portraits were similar in style to the European ones I’m more familiar with.  Idealised, ‘airbrushed’ images of perfect flesh and immaculate rendering of fabrics. This image by Copley is an example, with the addition of a marvellous capturing of character for which he was famous. I could have sat with this image all day.

The 19th century saw a relationship with the wild landscape which was being ‘conquered’ as people moved west. There was an undercurrent of conflation of principles of liberty, a noble principle, with the right to colonise and develop the land.

We did see some images that made reference to the plight of the First Peoples, including this beauty:









Frederic Remington (1861-1909) The herd boy, c. 1905, oil on canvas, 68.9 x 114.9cm


wyeth,nc_MOVING CAMP_1908












NC Wyeth (1882-1945) Moving Camp, 1908, oil on canvas, 92.1×66.4cm

This image was amazing. It was in fact darker than it looks here. It was dim, really. But the line of bright water, aligned with the chiefs’ headgear, was really interesting. you could not take your eyes off this one. It is worth considering in more detail in terms of its composition.

It was great to see a Mary Cassatt image in the flesh. The canvas is wonderfully active. She went off to join the French Impressionists and exhibited with them several times.













Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) Mother about to wash her sleepy child, 1880, oil on canvas, 100.3 x 65.8cm

I finally got to see a work by the father of Abstract Expressionism, Hans Hofmann. The show finished with the Ab Ex painters, more or less.

Blue Monolith, 1964 (oil on canvas)












Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) Blue monolith, 1964, oil on canvas, 183.5 x 152.7cm

I did enjoy the material presence of this, although I’m not sure I really received it as he intended…the scale was relevant, it’s pretty big and…unapologetic. I enjoyed the negative space. There was depth and movement to be sure. Maybe I needed to spend more time with it.



Upcoming workshop on abstract art-making

Over the Summer I’ve been delighted to be part of Local: current, now showing at Wollongong Art Gallery (previously Wollongong City Gallery.) I’m in excellent company with this show, thoughtfully curated by Louise Brand. As part of the show I’ll be conducting a workshop on abstract art-making. I see it as an opportunity to perhaps open some doors with regard to abstract art, which continues to be mysterious to many. Details below…