Recently, Illustrators Australia held its 30th anniversary / 9×5 exhibition in the beautiful surrounds of the Victorian Artists Society in East Melbourne, which I would like to believe was the venue for the original Victorian Impressionists 9×5 exhibition in the 1890s. The theme of the exhibition was ‘Grow’ – an interesting topic in that it usually suggests an abundance of good, beautiful things; a mark of modern times is also (what seems to be) the unfettered growth of industry at all costs as a marker of prosperity. Which is why I love Greta Thunberg and her speech at the U.N earlier in the year – a sober reminder that growth can strangle us as well.
The piece for the exhibition was a digital painting printed on ply – thank you to the person that purchased the piece at the show 🙂 For those who are keen, there is a possibility of a limited number of additional ply prints available – please message me and I will add to my online shop x
I recently participated in the latest iteration of ‘The Other Art Fair’ in Melbourne (May 2019). It was a good opportunity for me to focus on creating new works with a central theme all of my own. Many times, over the years, I’ve hesitated creating personal pieces – mainly because I feared I lacked the discipline and / or confidence to: a) choose a credible theme and b) do it justice. There really are too many ideas on my ‘to do’ list, so I thought I’d start at ‘ground zero’ – family.
My parents emigrated to Australia from Germany in the 1950s, and I was born here, in Melbourne. Whilst my father retained contact with his relatives, my mother had a somewhat strained relationship with her siblings – an elder brother, Werner and an elder sister, Ilse. She made only one trip “back home”, when I was around a year old. It was to be the only time I met my maternal grandmother (to my knowledge, I never met my maternal grandfather or my paternal grandparents). I have no memory of the trip.
My parents were children of the Second World War, which formed the catalyst to escape to the other side of the world. Unfortunately part of this escape meant that decided I didn’t need to learn German, which is something I have struggled with ever since. This meant that I could never understand the Sütterlinschrift handwriting that my Grandmother would write on the back of postcards, adorned with Steiff Bears having tea parties – cards reaching out, desperate for a reply that I could never give.
Around the time that I was 12, my Grandmother passed away. It was only as an adult, many years later, that I found out that my aunt Ilse passed away shortly beforehand as well, and it is the circumstances of Ilse’s death which form the basis of this series of works.
My mother’s family roots lay deep in a village called Altenwerder, which lies just across the Elbe from the centre of Hamburg. For generations it was a fishing village, seemingly abundant in nature and community spirit. The post-war reconstruction of Hamburg, however, created a new war of its own – a war waged by commerce, internationalism and streamlining, and Altenwerder was the casualty. In the 1960s, it was decided that Hamburg harbour needed to expand to make way for the new demands of global transportation and warehousing.
Most of the community sold up and moved on, but a few stubborn residents remained, displaying black flags on their houses as protest – my aunt Ilse being one of them. Four days after her 55th birthday in 1979, she decided that she couldn’t bear protesting any longer.
I’ve visited Altenwerder twice – once in 1994, when it was still open fields and abandoned houses, and again in 2015. The experience is alienating and surreal – in a ghostly area of freeways, train shunting yards, endless warehouses and massive wind turbines, you can see a church spire, but you can’t quite get there, if you don’t know the way, or have got off at the wrong bus stop on the other side of the tracks. But with persistence, you can get to St. Gertrud’s, on its little patch of grass and apple trees. And in the churchyard you will find Ilse’s gravestone, forever at rest in the remains of the village that she loved.
I was quite happy with my most recent portrait commission, which is a painting of artist, collector and gallerist Neil McLeod. I guess having a potentially controversial subject matter meant the chances of being selected for the Archibald would be fairly slim (mind you, second guessing the selection criteria is somewhat of a crap shot – after all, in a competition that is “supposed” to be about ‘Australians of note’, a portrait of Kid Congo Powers is eligible?!).
My chances were even slimmer given the recent bombings of Christian churches in Sri Lanka. I would like to clarify, that the explosion in the background is meant to represent nuclear testing at Maralinga in the 50’s; I essentially wanted to make an image that questioned the follies of authority, as well as weave in elements of Neil’s life and work.
Happily, however, Lorin and the commissioning team were fantastic to work with, and luckily the project expanded to me illustrating each of the eight episodes in the series.
Compositionally, I took my cues from mural design – graphic bold images layered atop of each other to reflect the layered stories of the audio. Having spent a lot of time over the years in and around Fitzroy (being a ‘North of the River’ gal all of my life), it was great to be given the opportunity to explore a topic and area so familiar to me.
For those of you in Melbourne – the bi-semi-annual Illustrators Australia 9×5 exhibition is currently on at the Collingwood Gallery in Smith Street until July 26, 2018. There was a great turn out for the opening night last Friday, and a record breaking 120 entries as well! For the first time, works presented were not only “traditional” paint on wood (all of the pieces are presented on 9×5 inch sized pieces of wood, reflecting the Heidelberg School artists of yore who used to paint ‘en plein air’ onto cigar box lids), contributing artists were also able to submit their pieces digitally, to be printed on the wood instead. I was amazed by the quality of the detail and colour – and, yes, that is my piece above: ‘Shout Back’.
Inspired by this new direction in gallery presentation, I wanted to push the medium a little further and decided to experiment with my first piece of ‘augmented reality’ artwork. I really had no idea how to go about this – I knew about the principle, of course, but not about which software or apps would be suitable. After a few dead ends, I came across a group of app developers in Vienna who have developed an app specialising in AR for artists – Artivive . I did a short animation in Photoshop and After Effects to expand on the ideas of the still image (you can download the app for Apple or Android and check out the results by viewing the image above through the app). I was pretty happy with the result!
I was also happy that the piece won ‘Best Digital’ piece on the night. Managed to score a pass to attend ‘Looking Glass’ digital drawing sessions at Jacky Winter, so I’m rapt! Thank you to generous sponsors Procreate (which I already use on my iPad Pro and am keen to learn more about). I’ll let you know how I go!
A sneak preview of one of my portraits featured in the upcoming ‘Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women’ to be published by Penguin early next year! This one, of course, is of Vali Myers, who I would see occasionally when I had my studio in Carlow House and she had her studio in the Nicholas Building (a block away from each other on Flinders Lane, Melbourne). Unfortunately I was always too scared to actually ‘meet’ her :0
This is my second contribution to the upcoming ‘Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women’ to be published by Penguin early next year… a portrait of Alice Anderson, a pioneering car mechanic who worked as a ‘chauffeur to the stars’ of Melbourne in the 1920’s, as well as establishing her own garage in Kew.
From the Penguin Australia website:
Let’s hear it for the Australian women who have shaped our history and are expanding our future!
Shout-outs to 50 awesome Australian women with easy-to-read biographies of their incredible achievements. From Cathy Freeman to Turia Pitt, Edith Cowan to Julia Gillard, Mum Shirl to Vali Myers, plus rally car drivers, molecular biologists and more, this book is a celebration of women in all fields, from all walks of life, and from Australia’s past and present.
Brought to life by colourful illustrations from female artists, Shout Out to the Girls is the ultimate inspirational read for young and old.
All royalties from sales of this book go to The Smith Family.
The Folly of Batmania (2016) Oil on canvas, 760 x 560mm
A while back I heard the rumor that John Batman, famed “founder” of Melbourne, Australia, actually suffered from syphilis and had to wear a silver nose to cover his lack of a real one. Being from an age before photography, sadly any evidence of this was sorely lacking so I decided to see what it might have looked like for myself.
This painting, my first oil painting for many years, will be on display at the A1 Darebin Art Salon, on from August 27 – October 2, 2016 at Bundoora Homestead, Cnr Snake Gully Drive and Prospect Hill Drive, Bundoora.
A portrait of Bruce Springsteen that I recently completed in currently gracing the pages of Rolling Stone Australia (December 2015 edition). I was asked to imagine him circa the release of his album ‘The River’; and I was surprised to find that it was quite an evocative idea – I guess we all have images of musicians / popular culture icons embedded in our imaginations, even if we can’t call ourselves die hard fans. But of course my appreciation of Bruce has matured as I myself have, almost to the point that I can appreciate ‘Born in the USA’ as a cultural touchstone, even though it is an anthem that I wouldn’t nominate as a desert island disc.
Cameron, the art director, suggested a textural / painterly approach, so I painted directly onto ply with acrylic and added some line work in the shirt etc. after the piece was scanned. As mentioned, the idea and composition came quite easily – after all, you don’t mess with Bruce 🙂
Finally I’m able to share my 2015 Australia Post stamps with you! I remember back in my design college days, I actually set myself a stamp series as an assignment , and as a kid I subscribed to the Stamp Bulletin and collected first day covers and presentation packs – so in a way it was finally a ‘dream’ come true. There will be a bit of upcoming press coverage as well, so I’ll post any links when they are available.
When I was told that I was pegged to do the traditional Christmas themed stamps, I was a bit wary – not being particularly religious myself – but I do have an appreciation of the importance of the story of the Nativity, particularly at this time when the Middle East is in such strife and there are countless homeless “Marys” giving birth in less than ideal circumstances even today. I think if anything, the story reinforces the idea of the importance of providing a safe haven – and the good to us all that can come from it. When imagining Mary, I wanted her to have an ambiguous skin colour – an attempt to move away from the tradition of depicting pale Europeans lost in the desert – so I boosted the colour palette, creating a scene that evokes the hues of the season whilst keeping the symbolism of the main characters.
I have been asked by a few people about the prevalence of animals in the design… I did want to put the other stable inhabitants on an equal footing with the rest of the story. Given the way most people regard farm animals, especially during the festive season, I wanted to celebrate their beauty and sacrifice at this time of year as well.
Anyway, these are some of my thought processes behind the image – I’m sure, and I hope, that you will view it in your own way too.
It’s Archibald portrait time of year again – and for many years I have wanted to do a portrait of Kate Durham – Melbourne artist, jewellery maker and ‘activist’ of sorts. When I started out on my own “artistic journey” many years ago, Kate was one of the few Melbourne based female artists who, along with Mirka Mora, seemed larger than life / exotic to me. Over the years I’ve been in peripheral contact with her, and it has been interesting to see how she has been developing both in her artistic work and her interest in politics and helping refugees at this dark time in Australia’s history. Her work is eclectic, her jewellery gathers up objects which to me look like they have washed up on the bank of a river in Mesopotamia, so it made sense to me to depict her as a kind of human Bowerbird, on the surface collecting objects for display whilst drawing upon a rich range of history and tragedy beneath.
The latest issue of Australian Permaculture Magazine ‘Pip’ is about to wend its way to the eager hands of readers and I’m happy to say I had fun investigating funghi for the cover. In the end we settled for ‘Agaricus Bitorquis’ – a mushroom that resembles a field mushroom but with lovely pink colouring underneath. Pip comes out twice a year.
Merry Christmas Brisbane! Hopefully I’ve added Christmas cheer to your streets this year, after being invited to participate in Brisbane City’s ‘Wonder of Christmas’ campaign. It’s great to see the various applications of the work – I’m almost tempted to get on a plane and come and see it for myself 🙂
Supergraph is on its way to Melbourne again in 2015, gracing the hallowed halls of the Royal Exhibition Building on February 13, 14 + 15. As part of my involvement with Illustrators Australia (who will be holding a stall there) I’ll be joining in by offering an exclusive A4 print for sale. Inspired by a recent trip to Tokyo (my second time this year!) I’ve answered the theme of ‘Natural Selection’ by depicting my visit to ‘Fukoro no Mise’ an Owl Cafe near Tsukishima Station. Touching on themes of misplaced nature, novelty, and the never ending quest for memorable content for one’s next blog post.
The story is also quite evocative of searing Australian summers, and the kitsch elements which feature in our lives, so the subject matter was also ‘right up my alley’. All in all I think it turned out well – you can hear the podcast when it is broadcast on Sunday October 26 2014 during the 3pm show ‘Radiotonic’, broadcast on Radio National.
Update: Happily, this production has also since been featured on ‘The Truth’ 🙂
A recent editorial piece for the Monash Uni magazine (where, coincidentally, I’ve been teaching for the past semester). This is accompanying an article about the effect of funding on the judicial system, with special focus on the case of Gabe Watson, whose wife drowned whilst scuba diving in 2003.