Art, Identity & Place

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


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


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Anbangbang Billabong Revisited

Early this century I joined an art tour to the Northern Territory where we spent time sketching and painting in Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks at sites like Ubirr Rock, Katherine Gorge and at Anbangbang Billabong near Nourlangi Rock.

I produced, among others, two images one about Anbangbang Billabong and the other about Ubirr Rock on Fabriano print paper as it readily absorbed diluted indian ink and damp grated pastel and water plus a little gesso as I depicted part of the dried billabong quickly before the moist surface dried in the heat.

A collector bought the two originals. With permission I put their files into ‘Sketchbook’ and made a few alterations digitally from which several smaller prints of the digital images were made and printed onto Hanhlemehule printmaking paper in keeping with the originals. A small problem was that although I liked the colour before printing, later I wasn’t as happy as the colour seemed too bright. So I left them for a while and returned to oil painting.

 

But the November sales of printmaking, handmade and rice papers in Fitzroy turned out to be a paper fest. – so hard to go past so many wonderful surfaces, textures, semi-transparencies and muted colours all completely filling my plan drawers. An affinity between the drawer in which these gorgeous papers lay and the drawer below in which the reproduced prints lay sparked in my mind. I imagined the strongly coloured prints placed behind the recently purchased semi-transparent papers and thought that there could be an interesting juxtaposition between not quite literal format of the printed images and the wabi sabi effect of rice paper etc.  So I got to it – the evolution of an image.

In the  last image of the first composition titled Memory at Anbangbang Billabong, 2016 little remains visible of imagery beneath, having completely covered any reference to the landform in the background top section of the composition. The black and mauve shape echoes the original but is back to front. Beneath the semi trans-parent sheet of paper with an ink stain provided a surface into which I carved out short lines with a scalpel alluding to the lines in the original that indicated the presence of a dried flood plain minus its billabong having evaporated by scorching sun in a cloudless sky so characteristic of the dry season in northern Australia.

In Preliminary Sketch at Ubirr Rock, 2016 an ink washed piece of rice paper became the first layer into which I carved different shapes again revealing glimpses of the print beneath. The simplicity provided by the textured and slightly tonally graded rice paper alluded to rocky texture with out being too literal. Once again less was more.

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Just returned from Kardinia Framers where the buyer made a good choice with a plain wooden frame.

From Rust to Rock 2014, 39x19 cm print, 50x35 cm paper, intaglio, frottage and collage


Abstract Landscape Etching (intaglio, chine-colle, collage) ‘Triptych’

 

The triptych has a history dating from the late Middle Ages to early Renaissance and was designed to tell a story. It consisted of a central panel with two smaller side panels placed behind the high altar. In an era before the invention of perspective this format was a device that illustrated the drama of the main protagonist, quite often a crucifixion scene, with supporting roles on the side panels .

Famous people and members of the aristocracy also found this form useful for secular story-telling, for example there is a triptych featuring a centrally placed Martin Luther accompanied by side panels that illustrated  his deeds; a type of curriculum vitae writ large. This type of portraiture was commissioned not only by aristocrats but members of the ‘middle class’.

By reading this abstracted landscape (which belongs to the series part of which is shown on my website Home Page titled And then the Ocean Rusted 2013-2014,) in a triptych format a viewer could detect an allusion to a type of geological narrative. In a way the central panel summed up the action on the ‘side panels’. It was all about rusty sediment.

The purchaser of these three prints decided to hang them together in ‘triptych’ format. I liked this arrangement. In comparison with the traditional triptych format the print on central panel is smaller than the prints on side panels. However the central panel/print although smaller attracts the eye first due to the intensity of colour and contrast in the composition, but also the larger surround of printmaking paper creates another contrast. The textures of chine-colle on rice paper and the frottage while enlarging both the panel/print images has a softening effect and gives the central image room to ‘breathe’.


Etching and Collage about Sea Erosion

Sea Erosion Theme

This continuing theme expressed through etching and collage will replace the gouache and mixed media artwork about the topic on my Home Page. I wonder sometimes if the medium of etching, intaglio, drypoint on rice paper, handmade and printmaking paper seems a more urgent direct, stark way to represent this subject in comparison with oil and gouache painting where the element of colour tends to dominate. With colour taking a secondary place strong tonal contrast becomes the main game.

All these images are single, unique one off pieces of artwork. They are not part of an edition of prints. I enjoy playing with one etched plate and then combine the print with different media such as collage of hand made paper, chine-colle on rice paper, ink wash, pen and pencil drawing and also staples.

These artworks are part of a series titled Return to Sand and Water. 


Art about Heads, part 1

Metaphor for the Human Condition

Portraits can tell a story without a long narrative structure because the artist tries to capture a point or in this case points in time within the space of one image. The image is still but it alluded to action and thought. I tried to capture some aspects of the mother and daughter relationship at a time when the mother’s influence waned and prominence of the peer group and the daughter’s sense of identity took the stage. The abstracted shapes like the keyhole and window referred to elements of vision about elucidation, obscurity and transition. The red column shape echoed those in ancient Minoan rituals that depicted aspects of female initiation.

Above the Window,1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on Fabriano

Above the Window, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on Fabriano 28×18 cm print, 50×35 cm paper

 

The title of the series to which these prints belong is Natalie with the Gaze and the Glance, 2009 – 2010.

Red Column, 2009, intaglio and drypoint

Red Column 1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 25×18 cm print, 35×25 cm paper

Red Column 2, 1/1, 2009, 26x18 cm print, 37x28 cm on Fabriano paper

Red Column 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio, 26×18 cm print, 37×28 cm paper

Imago, 1/1, 2009, 25x21 cm print, 37x28 cm paper, drypoint and intaglio

Imago, 1/1, 2009, drypoint and intaglio 25×21 cm print, 37×28 cm paper

Growing Persona, 1/1, 2009,  intaglio and drypoint.

Growing Persona, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 26×18 cm print, 50×35 cm paper

In Focus, 1/1, 2009,  intaglio and drypoint

In Focus, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 25×18 cm print, 50×35 cm paper

Growing Focus, 1/1, 2009,  intaglio and drypoint. Sold

Growing Focus, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint. Sold

Risen, 1/1, 2009,  intaglio and drypoint

Risen, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 26×18 cm print, 38×28 cm paper

Enchroaching Memory 1, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint

Enchroaching Memory 1, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 25×18 cm print, 37×25 cm paper

Enchroaching Memory 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint.

Enchroaching Memory 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 24×20 cm print, 35×28 cm paper

The Keyhole 1, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on rice paper

The Keyhole Image 1, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on rice paper. Sold

The Keyhole Image 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on rice paper

The Keyhole Image 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on rice paper.

Terms “gaze and “glance” referred to modes of seeing by artists, the first produced a structured work arranged in layers where underneath paint layers were gradually obscured until attainment of the desired effect for example in European oil painting. On the other hand the glance mode was more immediate and brush work encapsulated the image in one layer as in Oriental brush painting. I integrated both ways of seeing into my compositions.

In earlier blog titled Line drawing with faces and figures I discussed styles of line work and printmaking.


Frottage from gorges

I took several rubbings from different sections of particular gorges. This is my was to reconnect to a place when I paint it later in my studio. Often I adhere frottage or stained paper to the canvas surface by placing it in a gesso solution as part of the under-painting. Because the materials are rice paper and graphite or charcoal there is a flexibility that enables me to alter dimensions by folding or tearing the paper to fit the theme and the composition.

Daled Gorge pathway frottage, 19/04/13, 3.00 pm., graphite and pastel on rice paper.

Dales Gorge pathway frottage, 19/04/13, 3.00 pm., graphite and pastel on rice paper.

Dales Gorge frottage, 20/04/13, 12.00 am, graphite on rice paper

Dales Gorge frottage, 20/04/13, 12.00 am, graphite on rice paper

Weano gorge frottage, 21/04/13, 10.50 am, one of the Karijini National Park gorges, graphite on rice paper.

Weano gorge frottage, 21/04/13, 10.50 am, one of the Karijini National Park gorges, graphite on rice paper.

Weano Gorge frottage, 21/04/13, 10.45 am, taken on gorge rim at the lookout, graphite on rice paper.

Weano Gorge frottage, 21/04/13, 10.45 am, taken on gorge rim at the lookout, graphite on rice paper.

The image below is a mixed media titled Stress Fold, 2004 that is one of a series of images which I titled An Archaeology of Landscape. This previous series consisted of oil, mixed media, gouache and pastel stain and was produced as a result of exploring different sites in the Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks in the Northern Territory. Viewers may peruse this series  at : desterreart.com.au   Stress Fold is an example of how pieces of frottage  meld into a larger composition.

Stress Fold, 2004, paper, pastel, thread, staples and canvas gessoed on to board.

Stress Fold, 2004, paper, pastel, thread, staples and canvas gessoed on to board 200×90 cm, from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.


Preliminary records of W.Wallabi Island

One of my activities apart from photographic documentation of different landforms was to make a couple of small frottage prints at a specific site. This quick procedure entailed placing rice paper over a specific piece of rock formation and rubbing over the surface with compressed charcoal, graphite or pastel as a way to produce a ‘ print ‘ with place-name, date and time. Because my type of contemporary landscape painting and mixed media is not painted on site but produced in my studio these ‘prints ‘ are like a touchstone that can connect me back to the original place when I insert them into a composition. For example I did two frottages or ‘prints ‘ of rocks at the Pinnacles and at W.Wallabi island.

Pinnacle frottage 1                                                 Pinnacle frottage 2

Pinnacle frottage 1 and 2, one in compressed charcoal and two with a graphite stick.

W.Wallabi frottage 1W.Wallabi frottage 2

W.Wallabi island frottage 1 and 2 both pencil rubbings

on rice paper because it is flexible and durable.

Previous examples of this technique and their application can be viewed on my website at desterreart.com.au in the Gallery under a section titled An Archaeology of Landscape. The two images below are examples of mixed media artworks from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape produced several years ago as the result of an artist’s  tour where we worked in Katherine Gorge and at falls in Litchfield National Park.

Fold, 2003

Fold, 2003, 150×78 cm, mixed media from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

Layer, 2003

Layer, 2003, 165×85 cm, mixed media from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape