Proximity

December 2, 2017

A short while ago, through the convenient though sly medium of Facebook, I reconnected with a friend I haven’t seen or spoken to for over 20 years.

Much has changed for him in that time. I hardly recognise the new man. But is that because I’m seeing only his created images and written words? They are clues, sure, but we are not our art. When I see him, hear him or hug him, I might begin to know him again.

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So I’ve been thinking about Friends with whom I’ve had consistent contact but haven’t seen or heard in a long time. The longer it is between meetings, the more fractured their reality becomes. I realised I’m always making assumptions about them, constructed from memories that I think still fit. A story of them.

It has unsettled me. My senses are what I have to perceive the world. Skewed as my perception might be, they’re a good start. I still want proximity.

It’s a conjuring trick, being a cyber friend. We post what we want the world to know, not what could be read in a glance or a touch or a tone of voice.

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View from the train

August 15, 2016

Today on the train with Portia, we talked about the urge to record the world via smart phone, or drawing it. How are they similar and how different? Something to think about.

   
  
 I love rural train travel. The cinematic window view, a good soundtrack in my ears, and perhaps some poetry to read. An epic drama unfolds before me. Or alternatively there’s a conversation with a stranger. 

On urban trains people are less inclined to speak. Although these same people smile and respond warmly to my clumsy offerings. I feel relieved by that.

Some days I don’t want to speak either.
  

Gestalt

June 19, 2014

How little visual information do we need to recognise a person? From a surprisingly great distance all we need is the shape, the shapes a body makes as it moves in its own particular fashion.

Copy of image_5Skin, the outline of us, is stretched and molded by what lies beneath, a great metaphor. We protect ourselves with further coverings and yet the elemental shapes of a person can reveal so much.

Laying watercolor onto paper is like feeling the skin, as a liquid membrane. Steadfast in it’s role as protector, skin is what separates us physically from almost everything else. It contains the unique shape and form of each of us.

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Spending time at Mayday

February 11, 2014

Spending time in a place, drawing painting looking listening touching, you’d think it would make you feel as though you’re getting to know it.

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But knowing takes a long time.

In the meantime I’ll borrow the shapes and colours and lines of this place, an old asylum with a garden of trees that have seen everything unfold for one hundred and fifty years.

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Start stop start

June 6, 2013

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A bit numb after the show, after being away, after having a cold. Excuses I know. Just keep my hands busy. Make these postcards from throw away boxes during cold winter evenings. Resort to the comfortable old pull of needle and thread. Just make something.

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From well before Elemental ended in Wangaratta on Monday (followed by the inevitable low on Tuesday) my mind has been charging up for the next push into the world around me.

These past many years, I’ve spent studio time developing work beyond initial sketches, pushing the imagery towards abstraction, untangling ideas from memory and curiosites, deepening the experience of making – for both myself and the potential viewer. And yet very often, the works that touch even the most developed art practitioners around me, are the drawings and paintings I make while physically immersed in the subject.

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Maybe it’s a nourishing loop – subject to painter to object to viewer to subject…

However, most of the best known and loved artworks were done in a studio. Studio practice requires the honing of skills; continuous learning about materials and conceptual development, and drawing on every virtue I was taught in my catholic upbringing! It isn’t for the faint-hearted. It enriches ability, broadens visual vocabulary, and shakes up any complacency.

And as a bonus it’s given me a new ease when I venture out into the world to look and feel and draw and paint. I love it now more than ever. It’s a banquet out there! And if you see me in my trusty red van (The Red Limo), give us a toot!

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Living in a Gallery #4

March 31, 2013

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Living in a gallery #3

March 27, 2013

Travelling backwards to the end of this residency.

A while back we had a little stall out the front of the gallery. Cigdem sold her beautiful spiral woven brooches. Vernon drew the passers by – only legs and arms and hair. Instead of drawing portraits as was the plan, I drew the street.

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We have a little collection of post-it note drawings by visitors into our temporary studio. The trees along the street, each surrounded by a brick circle, are memorable to others besides me.

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A few ideas have had a start, but mostly there isn’t enough time to develop them. At least not this week.

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Today my youngest son Tom is 25 years old.

Although he lives away, I think of him out there in the world, living his brave and colourful life.

This week my exhibition, Elemental, opens at Wangaratta Art Gallery. My sons will be there, and it’s a marvel how happy that makes me feel. A strange business, being a happy parent. Taming this too enthusiastic joy down to a less embarrassing version of delight when they’re around.

Happy birthday my dear Tom.

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Living in a gallery #2

March 26, 2013

The gallery hums quietly, light is soft, voices and footsteps loud. Visitors are welcome and sometimes draw or get drawn.

We have a kind of rhythm now, each of us working in our own way, stopping for a chat or a cup of tea. Three weeks feels short. So many ideas. Lots of great conversation and even music sometimes – what a treat.

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Living in a gallery

March 8, 2013

Most days until Easter I’ll be working at Albury Art Gallery with a few other artists. We’re in a beautiful room upstairs that began life as Council Chambers more than a hundred years ago.

As we go along I’ll keep you posted.

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Meeting Aida and Ildiko

February 10, 2013

At the end of next month I am fortunate to be exhibiting some drawings and small paintings at Wangaratta Art Gallery.

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I have always loved the space, a converted chapel with movable walls and warm wooden ceiling.

Last night a show opened there that is surely a great treat for anyone who loves paint. My friend Jo Davenport’s work is hanging alongside Aida Tomescu, Ildiko Kovacs, Sally Gabori and Todd Hunter. A sumptuous room of colour and movement. Action/Abstraction it’s called, curated by Diane Mangan.

I was completely enthralled by Aida Tomescu as she spoke with clarity and conviction about the content, as distinct from the subject, in painting. No matter what the suject, and it may be indiscernible, as in abstraction, the content is what matters. She spoke about the unified nature of painting, about it’s own life, and we the nuturers of that life. It requires that paradoxical state (as does all creative work) of intelligent engagement and intuitive detachment.

Although these ideas are familiar to me, I was moved, and told her so as we spoke afterwards, and she said I need to read Flaubert.

This idea of the work being something other than me has always felt like a great relief. It depends on me only to draw it out, and then to let it be, for others to engage with.
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A question of distance

November 8, 2010

I’ve been crumpling used envelopes. Crumpling and straightening out, crumpling and straightening out again. Some with a crackling window and some without, and my name and address in a neat or florid hand. I think of Mum and of my dear friend Olive long ago passed away, and of the many letters by many people, sent to me.

And through this filter of words on paper, the thought that stays is DISTANCE – the space between the writer and the recipient. I’ve always lived far away from people and places I love. And then there’s migration – a whole other level of distance, and again I think of my parents.

When I left Gippsland many years ago, I missed green.

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So here’s my question to you – What do you miss when you’re far away? I would really like to know. It will grace one of my envelopes, and join over voices. A song of longings.

Time and distance

April 13, 2010

I’m off to visit Mum tomorrow. When I stay for a few days we settle into an easy companionship, having slipped through the time and distance that hardens like wax between us.

Copy of wax vases 1I’ll draw some more objects from her life. And maybe some quiet moments from her face, hands, movements – as I’ve done before. And record stories as she tells them.

mumwatchinginsprex1(Is there a recording somewhere out there of Dad singing?) It’s good to have these stories from Mum – the sound of her contralto voice and girlish laugh while she remembers.

Holding it together

April 11, 2010

An osteopath once told me that the tension I carry is mostly in the fascia, or connective tissue, that holds everything in place. This tissue surrounds, separates, protects, stabilizes and generally holds everything together. It’s all about control. It does this whether I try to help it or not. It does its job. I’m grateful for that.

A few years back I asked Mum what was the most significant thing she has learned in her life. She said, “to let go”.

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Soft steady rain

April 6, 2010

In Dutch there are many words for rain. The cousin who told me that, didn’t tell me what they are, so I’m left to imagine. Rain, shower, sheet, drips, plips, drumming, rushing, drift, spots, curtain, wet, buckets. In English,  ‘rain’ is added to the end of a description – driving rain, pouring rain, heavy rain, soft rain, soaking rain.

My father’s birthday has just passed. It’s raining, as it did when he was buried. When I first began work in my current studio, he came to mind – my first creative ally. I made a series of small drawings in watercolour – quietly weaving patterns like the ones he wove on the loom that he made.

Copy of dot weave 2It was the seventies. Mum was a spinner and she knitted and crocheted. Still does. Dad loved the sheep, the wool, the shearing. Together they went searching for plants and bark to boil up dyes and then made things with the freshly spun and dyed wool.

Hands ought to be productive. And if beautiful things come from it, all the better for the world.

Sensory input

April 4, 2010

My father was a musician. My earliest memory is of lying against his chest feeling comforted by the vibration of his voice – warm baritone hum. I also remember his voice when it filled the house and either thrilled or scared me. And the long hours I spent immersed in the smells and sounds of his wood-work shed.

My mother worked long each day to run the household. I remember the fabric of her coats, her apron, the doilies we crocheted together, the vegemite toast she brought me when I was home from school with my annual cold, and the smell of pea and ham soup. And I can see her reading and writing, pulled between the English of her second life and the Dutch of her first.

And many many other things come back as I write.

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