Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night (until 2012)

And so what has been another hectic, fast paced year skids to a close. It brought one particularly significant change for me, a committed City Girl. Just over a year ago I bought a house in regional Victoria; from the beginning of this year, I’ve been dividing my life and practice between Ballarat and Melbourne. Several aspects of this, including my new studio, are still works in progress, but overall the change has been overwhelmingly positive.

2011 also included a residency and solo exhibition, Winged Women, at The Art Vault in Mildura in June and a second solo exhibition, Re-evolution at Woodbine Art Gallery in Malmsbury in September.

Re-Evolution at Woodbine Art Gallery, Malmsbury

I made several new zines during the year, most notably the Moth Woman Vigilantes (see Moth Woman Press). I'm thrilled that the State Library of Victoria has expressed interest in all of them.

Aside from several group exhibitions, I participated once again in some of Rona Green’s projects, including Familiar/Unfamiliar, an international portfolio exchange exhibition that will tour to Tweed River Art Gallery, NSW in 2012.

Looking Back to See, 2011, linocut, chine colle, featured
in Familiar/Unfamiliar

Days after it was launched at C3 contemporary art space in late September, I flew to London for a month, followed by a fortnight in Berlin. It was my first visit to the latter city and was a lifelong dream come true. I can hardly wait to go back again. (More about this in future blog posts).

In Suspense at Hand Held Gallery, curated by Megan Herring and Duality at Banyule Art Gallery, curated by Claire Watson, both opened when I was overseas, but I caught up with them when I returned. Both were terrific exhibitions that I was proud to be part of.

Making New Year Resolutions is sorely tempting fate. These might be Famous Last Words (I hope not) but I’ve earmarked 2012 as a year to be spent primarily in the studio, with as few outside distractions as possible. There are several projects I’m keen to pursue that have been put on the back burner for far too long.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, creative and peaceful New Year.

Section of the Berlin Wall, October 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

London Retrospective IV: The Courtauld Gallery

London has some of the finest museums in the world, but for the unwary they are not without their perils. The vastness of some, for example, the British Museum, is overwhelming. You enter tormented with the knowledge that unless you have the strength of character to be brutally selective, you will only be able to see a fraction of their treasures before mental and physical fatigue set in. You can end up forgetting what you have been able to take in, but too exhausted even to care.

The Courtauld Gallery in the Strand block of Somerset House is relatively small by the standard of most London museums. It’s a joy to stroll through its elegant rooms, fully engage with its numerous gems and be spared the distracting, energy-draining impediment of sardine-like crowds that frequent most other institutions, even outside of the tourist season.

One of its many strengths is its Impressionist and Post Impressionist collection, some of which are featured here, along with an exquisite portrait by the early German Expressionist artist Paula Modersohn-Becker, on loan from a private collection.

From top:

Staircase from main gallery

From left: Paul Cezanne, Pot of Flowers and Pears, c 1888-90, oil on canvas and Still Life with Plaster Cupid, c 1894, oil on paper laid on board

Former Ante-Room of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquities; painting in the ceiling cove: Biagio Rebecca: panel from The Four Elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water); above mantle: Paul Cezanne: Man with a Pipe, c 1892-96, oil on canvas

Edgar Degas, Dancers, contre-jour

Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Follies Bergere, 1882, oil on canvas (on right: Shane Jones)

Georges Seurat, Young Woman Powdering Herself, c 1888-90, oil on canvas

Georges Seurat, The Bridge at Courbevoie, c 1886-87, oil on canvas

Vincent van Gogh, Peach Trees in Flower, 1889, oil on canvas

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Portrait of a Girl, 1906, oil on board

Friday, December 16, 2011

London Retrospective llI: The Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood

For many years I’ve wanted to visit the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum. But with so much on in London, and insufficient time to experience but a fraction of it on any one visit, this somehow got put off until the next time, and the next... It’s hard enough simply trying to reconnect with all the places you already know and love. And so the decades passed.

Now that I’ve finally made it there and discovered what a magical place it is, I’m trying to convince myself that it’s a case of better late than never, rather than berating myself for not going years earlier. Please indulge my lack of restraint regarding the number of pictures. Believe it or not, I did several edits; I could have posted dozens more.

Also on view was a temporary exhibit, My Giant Colouring Book, a suite of etchings by Jake and Dinos Chapman. To see a selection of the works, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

(Pictured above: Quote by Carl Jung on Bethnal Green Museum blind. Click on image to enlarge.) The museum's website can be viewed HERE.

Pictured above:

Images 1 and 2: Exterior and interior views of the museum
Image 3: A Praxinoscope
Image 4: My companions Bev Murray and Shane Jones pose with Robbie the Robot
Image 5: Victorian clockwork monkeys
Image 6: 19th century Pantins (Jumping Jacks)
Image 7: Struwwelpeter Jumping Jack, 1983
Images 8-9: Marionette puppets
Image 10: Background: marionnetes; foreground: Charlie Chaplin Jumping Jack
Image 11: Display case including Oriental dolls and silhouettes
Image 12: Detail from above: silhouettes with moving parts by German animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger; used in her film Papageno, 1935, based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute
Image 13: A selection of rag books, 1910-72 
Image 14: One of many spectacular dolls houses that were on display
Image 15: The Royal Punch and Judy Show
Image 16: Punch and Judy detail
Image 17: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel, 1885 edition, with Mad Hatter’s Tea Party playset, 1900-20
Image 18: Elder Mother Tree, 1932 by Arthur Rackham, watercolour illustration (from Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales)
Image 19: Victorian novelty cards
Image 20: The glove puppet-magician Sooty and assorted magic tricks
Image 21: More magic tricks, including Der Kleiner Zauberer (The Little Conjurer) c 1910 and Maskelyne’s Mysteries, 1950-59
Image 22: Theatrical posters. Note the central poster advertising the magic act of Cleopatra, c 1900-30. To quote the museum’s label: A woman’s role in the world of magic is usually confined to that of assistant but there have been women magicians in their own right. These were usually magician’s wives, such as Adelaide Herrmann, The Queen of Magic, or daughters, such as Ionia The Enchantress. Cleopatra  was probably French but is something of a mystery. Far right: photograph of Tommy Cooper.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

London Retrospective ll: Tate à Tate

A standout at Tate Modern was Poetry and Dream – Dark Humour. Suites of Marcel Dzama’s drawings and Louise Bourgeois’s prints were included, along with works by David Shrigley and Jake and Dinos Chapman. The exhibition directly linked the artists’ singular brands of humour to the Surrealists, for whom dark humour was central. Anthology of Black Humour, edited by Surrealist leader Andre Breton (first published in 1940 and still in print) identified gallows humour as ‘the mortal enemy of sentimentality’. Dzama’s fragmented narratives, partly influenced by his voracious childhood consumption of comic books, typically incorporate hybridised animals and plants interacting with humans; Bourgeois characteristically used humour to undercut traumatic subject matter.

Above, from top:

Marcel Dzama: All works Untitled, 2000-2003, ink, pencil and watercolour on paper

Marcel Dzama: Untitled, 2003, ink, pencil and watercolour

Louise Bourgeois: From Autobiographical Series, 1994, Drypoints on paper
Top row, left to right: Sculptress; Sewing; Birth; Paternity; Children in a Tub; Woman in a Bathtub; Woman and ClockBottom row, left to right: Man, Keys, Phone, Clock; Sleeping Man; Empty Nest; Woman with Suitcase; Scissors; Toilette

Somewhat thematically connected to this exhibition were the photographs of Diane Arbus, whose work I’ve long admired. It’s been many years since I’ve seen such a substantial exhibition of her unnerving, powerful imagery.

Pictured above: 

Diane Arbus, from A Box of Ten Photographs: Identical Twins, Roselle, NJ, 1967, 1967, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper

In complete contrast were the introspective, melancholic portraits of Gwen John, one of my favourite artists. In this context, John’s portraits also serve as a bridge from one Tate to the other.

Above, from top:

Gwen John at Tate Modern: Chloe Boughton-Leigh (with loose hair), 1905-08, oil on canvas

Gwen John at Tate Britain: Left to right: Nude Girl, 1909-10 and  Self Portrait, 1902, both oil on canvas

The installation view at Tate Britain directly below includes several other well-loved paintings.

Second and third from top:

One of the pictures that over years has consistently captured my imagination:
British School, The Cholmondeley Ladies, c 1600-10, oil on wood

Marcus Gheeraerts ll, Portrait of an Unknown Lady, c 1595, oil on wood

Richard Hamilton is one of several very fine artists who sadly died this year. As a tribute, Tate Britain exhibited a handful of his key works, including these two:

From top: Ostensibly his most iconic image, Just what was it that made yesterday’s homes, so different, so appealing? 2004 (upgrade) Inkjet print on paper 

Interior II, 1964, oil paint, cellulose paint and collage on board (with Shane Jones in foreground)

Another work with dark overtones (supposedly it is an anti-war protest) is Mark Gertler’s Merry-Go-Round, one of the paintings that I’ve most revered since my first visit in 1973 to what was then the one and only Tate Gallery. I used to hang out there a lot back in those days. As far as the London Tate Galleries go, for me it is still the one and only.

Pictured above: Mark Gertler, Merry-Go-Round, 1916, oil on canvas

Saturday, December 3, 2011

London Retrospective: Room 55, The National Gallery

Invariably The National Gallery is one of my first stops when in London. The Sainsbury Wing, added in 1991, focuses on early Renaissance Art. This facet of the collection has had a profound affect on my own work since my first visit in 1993.

Within the extensive Sainsbury Wing is the relatively miniscule Room 55. For my partner Shane and I it is the beating heart of the National Gallery. Its most famous inhabitant is Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434 - a fine picture to be sure.  But these are my own favourites:

From top: 
Robert Campin, A Man and a Woman, c 1435
Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, A Man Reading, c 1450
Jan van Eyck, Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?) 1433
Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, Portrait of a Lady, c 1464
Rogier van der Weyden, The Magdalen Reading, before 1438