Art, Identity & Place

How wild places, deep time and archaeology inform my contemporary art process


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From 1970 to 2017

 

Comparing Artwork from the last century with that of the 21st century.

The first column consists of my recent artwork which I placed adjacent to the second column. On my website home page are more images from the past, several of which were teaching demos. for students who wanted to explore the styles, techniques and artists of the Modern era. While I likes many aspects of Modernism I wanted to convey  sense of  specific persons and places captured at a particular moment in time which then led me to apply several combinations of style and technique.

On one hand this meant retaining some realism or naturalism in my later work compared to earlier depictions where the figuration was freer but on the other hand, paint was more free flowing and random in recent work but more controlled on earlier images. I like the different qualities of the wet on wet oil medium with random areas of flow, bleeding edges, transparencies and impasto so I gradually left behind some aspects of painting built up by using wet on dry techniques. The result is that I do combinations of both.

 

 

 

 


Anbangbang Billabong Revisited – cont.

The collage treatment of my original artwork digitalised into an edition onto printmaking paper continues, allowing strong colour beneath to show through the finely textured rice paper. This effect is similar to an oil painting technique where a thin semi transparent veil of paint can be painted over often flat strong colour as a way to give atmospheric depth to a composition. I love the play of opaque surfaces with tonal atmospheric and nuanced texture and much overlapping adding to the sense of ‘painting with paper’.

Nuanced texture and atmospheric tonal values made from overlapping transparent, semi transparent and semi opaque layers of either paper or paint produce and effect that seem so characteristic of outback Australian landscapes – no glaringly obvious focal points, in-defined shapes, blinding sunlight and obscuring dust haze and quivering mirage obscuring clear any horizon line.

We arrived at this location in the dry season when burning off was in progress making the haze, glare, heat contribute to how I imagined these images as I sat next to the dried billabong with its remnant and dried vegetation transported by wet season floods left caught on sticks and branches scattered across the dusty surface that resembled triangular stooks of hay.

Anbangbang Billabong Flood Plain, 2017

Anbangbang Billabong Flood Plain, 2017, rice paper collage and pen and ink, 75×30 cm

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Flood Plain Across Anbangbang Billabong, 2017, rice paper collage on original digital image plus ink wash and pen, 75×30 cm


Adventure and Allegory of Painting at Mungo

This small oil on gessoed printmaking paper began as an incomplete intaglio print as underpainting two years ago. During that time when I left it to dry I became dissatisfied with it and put it away for a while.

My mood and colour scheme had changed from lilac to blue. In the first pink/lilac stage I wanted to recapture the vanishing light at Mungo and its subtle flash of a citrine cold yellow before sunset. The blue rendition was a confused attempt to pick up the theme of how environmental conditions affect shape and image construction that morphed into a ‘listening to the land’ theme influenced by a series of collages titled ‘Sounds of Drought’

A recent science programme demonstrated new techniques and equipment that when placed in strategic places in a habitat could monitor particular sounds, types and  numbers of different creatures at a given time. The data created a picture on computer screen of the health of that particular area. A validition of my images with ears reaching into landforms esp. Mungo perhaps?.

 

 

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Lake Mungo Landscape (work in progress)

At a half way stage through another Mungo scape difficulties often arise. Before this stage I often feel that I have the composition under control with the first few layers of thin lean paint consistency shapes texture, line, colour and forms coalesce into a flash memory of the particular place. Random shapes that settle after poured, spattered and bleeding paint often suggest other avenues. At this juncture another mental image appears and interrupts the original flash memory. By letting the composition evolve and not trying to control it by wanting to recapture a former memory, some other aspect often reveals itself. I have to wait, then pounce and hope that I will like it.

 


Lake Mungo Experience

In this continuation of the Mungo Experience I tried to merge the idea of history represented by the ear and converge it in the artist’s mind with the atmosphere of this place represented by the sun.

 

 

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Previous stages of Watching by a Mungo Dune, 2016

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Lake Mungo and Poet

This painting has been through the wringer. I was trying to capture an image of a poet or artist entering the landscape as it seeps into the mind and the person ‘becomes’ the landscape and the image of the person fuses with aspects of it in this case, one of the dunes at Lake Mungo. In my first rendition in moody grey green I returned to an older type of imagery of the visionary figure and interior, a total side track that I dropped and began the thought process. The harsh outdoors, the heat and desiccated landscape and its effect on the artist/poet took over again. changing from artist and brush and light bulb to artist near dune with sun replacing the light bulb image. The dune image also obscured the light bulb.

Reversal didn’t work and I felt that the weight and volume of the head had been lost in colour and brush strokes. I dithered and fiddled with the image of the ear representing ‘history’ and ‘information’ as it changed from an obscured shape to a clearer representation. Unhappy with head in box imagery and as time went by the painting changed  from that of artist into the representation of the poet with a vast blue sky background.

The meaning also evolved when I painted the head in mental constraints represented by lines of a box shape outside of which an ear reached to earth and so I titled the composition at that stage, The Sound of History at Mungo, 2015. Not happy and time passed again.

I decided to cover up what was looking like fussiness. The head solid but part of the forehead became dune shaped and also the dune image reflected onto the black spectacle lens. I repeated the image of the dune shape near the mouth as a way to represent the poet’s words. Then it seemed that the basic shape of the dune being a triangle was shared like the letter “A” placed on the left of the composition; the experience of the flesh merging with the matter of the landscape created the symbol. The title now is The Flesh Created the Symbol at Lake Mungo, 2016

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“Mungo Strata Exposed”: a painting commission

This commission began several months ago after an exploration of Mungo in printmaking ie etching etc media. Now returning to this topic, a combination of collage and oil, I feel a freedom painting on a larger surface. The surface consists of canvas on board which lends itself to application of any material with a staple gun.

The first image consists of printmaking paper onto which frottage images, taken from surfaces of Lake Mungo’s terrain adhere. In the background are oil washes that loosely resemble dunes behind the clay pan. The frottage was done with graphite in the left section and in the central area I combined it with part of the clay pan and clay/sand mixture. The paper in the right hand area had been moulded to the surface of the land leaving sunken shaped into which ink settled as well as grated pastel.

The piece of frottage dated 2001, lay in my plan draws until not long ago as I have found it difficult to get my head around how to express the feeling of total exposure and blinding light when first arriving. And while I studied it geology and history and took my usual approach of collecting data, I still couldn’t find a way into it.

I think I was side-tracked with a sense of romanticism due to spectacular sunsets and sunrises so stunning in a desert and which are popular subjects esp. for photographers. Anyway, the second stage as I felt my way into a composition began with tearing away excess paper, making cut-out areas into which I poured paint.

IMG_3709Close up of  2 sections

Also I blocked out with masking tape pieces of frottage that didn’t need paint yet or at all.