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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Yesterday I had the great pleasure to sit on the ground for about an hour and draw an old shed at my friend’s house.

The subject is a classic, though often maligned as well as misrepresented. Like me, many artists shy away from the lure of the ruin, because there is a tendency to go all nostalgic and sentimental, at the cost of a strong image. But how to do justice to the people who built and have used it, and the persistence of the building itself?

Perhaps it’s about the first impulse – if it gets under your skin. And then to use the power of that in the drawing process. The big shape, and the colour, are what got me.

And this red shed has a good story. Built by a circus performer who had worked in the United States, he built it tall to hold the tents. As soon as I saw it against the gorgeous autumn sky, I felt the pull to record it, with gusto.

Last week the grey days began and so did the blues. Knowing why makes it easier to understand but not to feel. Low light under low clouds, especially in this land of big sky.

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Returning to Australia 10 years ago I stepped out of the airport into the cool night and grinned up at the clear huge stary sky with happy relief. We are so fortunate to have this every day sky, so much breathing space above us.

And now it’s the solstice – the shortest day – and tomorrow the days begin to lengthen again. It always makes me feel better. For a few years when my children were smallish I baked a cake and we celebrated by running around in the dark with sparklers and crying out as happy creatures.

These grey days are just a foil for the many days of ease. And they can be so beautiful.
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Prompted by a recent exhibition called Sacred Land by Barbel Ulrich, I got thinking about my relationship with where I live. How do I connect with the land? For one thing, I look for a hill or mountain nearby as a point of reference – to know that I am home.

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I have always lived in towns, so contact with the land from day to day is either intimate in the garden, or public in parks. (For a time I also had a secret life along the magic corridor on Beechworth Road, in the evenings, before the drought.)

And then when the drought broke last year I was compelled to paint the sky. The sky is always with me. A free gift every day that requires only my attention.

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Falls Creek in May

May 8, 2011

Today a cloud was blown around me by a small breeze as I sat on top of Mount McKay. It covered the sun and arched above my head and filled my view in a half dome. A chill came with it and a feeling of expectancy.

For much of the past two days up there in the alps the clouds skipped across a blue sky and threw shadows on yellow ochre plains. Silver skeletons of burnt bleached snow gums looked like fur from a distance and like cast metal close up.

While I sat there painting, my son Tom rang to wish me a happy mothers day. I was very happy, and here is the painting.

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I have always loved the sea, but living here near the mountains I’m discovering a different peacefulness that comes from emersing myself in a wild place. It’s the quiet and the coolness.

I know it can be the opposite to that, but not this time.

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Bunch of Birds

April 19, 2011

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A flock, a gaggling squawking bunch of birds,

the sound coming closer across the sea of sky ahead.

They come towards me sitting there at Mum’s back door

eating toast drinking coffee on this quiet Sunday morning.

They flash and flutter, wheeling in unison

then disperse then gather again.

Is this Hitchcock’s dream?

Arguing at high volume

checking positions or deciding where to land

or maybe exclaiming delight for the view

they dance over me and around and away.

The noise fades and I see at last

they are flashing jewels, confetti, a celebration.

Fly away and see the world

February 3, 2011

Yesterday my very dear friend flew away, with her man and a back pack and no phone. Gone to explore South America. For twelve months she’ll be away, and I’ll miss her.

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A few years ago I made a little painting in her studio.

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Clouds around the Solstice

December 21, 2010

What a great Spring we’ve had – are still having despite it being Christmas on Saturday.
When the drought finally broke I was compelled to paint the sky, from whence water comes, and goes on, and on. My studio has windows all along its western wall. They’re tinted because it gets so hot in summer. The view is vast and dramatic on a cloudy day, and with the windows open the clear light and all kinds of weather flow into the room.

Accompanied by this free and constant view I’ve begun to paint what I remember of visual experiences beyond my studio. One such memory is of the evening sky, driving home around the edge of Lake Hume. Orange and purple clouds in a rich blue space.

  
Today was the longest one of the year.