Archive for July 2014

Master strokes: Cummings delivers again.














Elisabeth Cummings (Aust. b.1934) The Orange Table, 2014, monotype, 76 x 56cm

I enjoyed a Gallery crawl with friends through the Eastern suburbs today. Sydney seems to have given up on Winter and has moved straight into a clear-aired Spring.


Chien-Chi Chang












Chien chi Chang (Taiwan, b 1961) photograph of inmates from the chicken farm in Taiwan.


Of course, you spend time in Kings Cross and Paddo and you’re going to be seeing some great art. Magnum Photographer Chien chi Chang’s  sobering photographs of mentally-ill inmates at a Taiwanese chicken farm is showing at National Art School Gallery.  Couples are chained together all day, and supply unpaid labour for the chicken farm endeavour. More than a little sobering.














Fiona Hall (Aust.b 1953)Untitled, 2014, plastic toys, billiard balls, deer teeth.


Roslyn Oxley9 is hosting both Fiona Hall and Destiny Deacon at present. Hall produces work both humorous and tragic, with a variety of media from Tongan bark cloth through scrounged military camo shirts to deer teeth.  This exhibition was a bit heavy on the skulls for my taste but there were some beautiful pieces nonetheless.











Elisabeth Cummings, Coffee pot and pot plant, 2013, etching, 25 x 25cm

The stand-out winner for me though  was Elisabeth Cummings’ solo show at King St Gallery on William. Cummings, who I was lucky enough to have as my teacher back in my TAFE student days, is still powering on producing stunningly beautiful and energetic work, despite being 80. If anything, she continues to improve, which is really saying something. It seems to me that nowadays she allows more ‘air’ into her works – areas of little or no paint, negative spaces that flow around and through the work, giving pieces a certain lightness of touch. These areas act as a necessary foil to dense and sometimes brilliantly coloured areas. The show was mostly monotypes, etchings and painted ceramics (colllaborating with Louise Boscacci). There are also some luscious oil paintings out the back in the office area, and some small gouaches. Well worth the trip.  I walked away inspired and humbled.




Elisabeth Cummings, Figs and Garlic, 2013, monotype, 56 x 76cm








Creating beauty in the open air

We visited the NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize last week. This annual event shows a range of works from artists who have really got stuck into the practice of plein air work.



Tom Carment, Afternoon shadow, William Street. Oil on linen, 100 x 87cm. This piece was the winner.


This type of discipline, much like painting generally I suppose, has an air of romance and glamour about it, but in fact is anything but. Even on the East coast of Australia, the perfect weather for this kind of endeavour can be elusive. It’s a practice that needs practise: lots of it, as you’re generally painting against the clock. I find (and I speak as a rank beginner) I need to shrug off self-doubt, second thoughts and everything else, and just do the bloody thing.



Susan J White, Squall Line Maitland, ink on paper 50 x 40cm. I love the simplicity of this work.


The show is hung in Parliament House; a venue I don’t inhabit apart from the annual pilgrimage to this Exhibition. It’s kind of dignified, as you would imagine. Serious; weighty with tradition, and lots of photos of old blokes in wigs. The paintings are positioned in a foyer area, encircling an central core which has a fountain and a light-well.

There is a slight air of disjunct with this show in this venue. There shouldn’t be I suppose – the Prize is designed to perpetuate the tradition of plein air painting that has been a part of Australian art since Colonisation. The other aim is to promote New South Wales as a location; a place worth thinking about. I guess maybe it’s because I imagine each of the artists out there in their paint-besmirched trakkies, cursing because the wind is coming up and they need more bulldog clips to keep their paper in place. That sort of thing. Messy reality, amongst the august traditions of Parliament.



Rachel Ellis, Orange house, George St Bathurst, oil on linen on board 85 x 102cm

Despite this feeling, the works look great and I enjoy the range displayed. We three friends are determined to do some plein air work in the  coming months. Susan lives at McMahon’s Point, so the harbour is likely to be a feature. If an art exhibition stimulates one to go out and create, then one could say its work is done.