I secured a circular canvas, from the hard rubbish, as is my wont. Problematic from the start I cut off the hideous decorator design on plastic canvas and discovered a worthy stretcher underneath. Pleating the canvas, and rabbit skin gluing it, was a laborious process. At the end i had a superlative canvas to wield my painterly brushmanship on.
This is an attempt I am semi pleased with . It addresses the roundness of the canvas. I realised after much striving, and consultation with Peter Burke, esteemed VU lecturer, I have to let the canvas shape dictate to me, I cannot control it with a regulation static composition.
Have a piece I am vaguely satisfied with. Will put it away for another day. I learnt a lot. Circular painting isn’t all its cracked up to be. Just ask Sonia Delaunay.
A chance conversation in the lift at VU, led to a visit to ACMI, to see the much feted Bowie show. My niece, an artist, from Hobart, and I plunged into the abyss, preparing to be dazzled, and we were.
Its a comprehensive show exported from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and is exuberant, cunningly staged and encapsulates the man, his art, and life’s work, in an easy to view format.
I loved Bowie as a teen and was mightily impressed by his vision, and body of work. My highly prized ” Diamond Dogs” vinyl LP was on permanent rotation in our lounge room, only being marginally louder than the racket coming from the ladies lounge below us, as we lived above the family run pub. It was the heady days of the 70’s, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and I adored the music of the Stones, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Led Zeppelin and Hendrix, to name a few. My 16 year old self would gyrate to Rebel, Rebel, in in my crushed velvet, turquoise, bellbottoms, tottering on my green patent leather wedges, under the scornful eye of my elder brother. He would run to his room and play the Beatles, White Album, hoping to drown Bowie out.
A cacophony of sound rang across the rooftops of South Melbourne, Bowie and the Beatles providing the soundtrack of my youth, whilst the ladies swilled sweet sherry and shandies, in the saloon below. The hair was always problematic, my wild unruly curls refused to be tamed into the regulation bowiesque, red dyed, bristled, dunny brush look, and I had to content myself with the Hendrix Afro.
The afro has subsided, the bellbottoms, and patent leather wedgies are long gone, as is the pub, but my son has purloined my vinyl. I caught him smuggling it put of the house, and one day I will return it to its rightful owner. Go and see Bowie’s show. The paintings and linocuts of his Berlin period are particularly poignant and powerfully executed, providing a record of his and Iggy Pop’s, battle with drug addiction. I particularly loved his Union Jack ensemble, up close its torn,
pockmarked, distressed and purposefully aged appearance, is an aesthetic I love, and use in my own visual art practice. An innovative, enquiring, multi talented, visual and sound artist across many fields of creative output, his work remains highly relevant, stimulating and stunning to this day.
The offer of $8,000 to travel anywhere overseas to paint, draw, and more, was an irresistible offer. As VU training artists we were all eligible to apply. Much decision making ensued. Where to go, what to do and what to see. Easy right ? That decision was easy, but the writing of the grant application proved more problematic. Initially it involved detailed research, followed by a complex series of emails, to establish connections with a city to which you had never been, relying on the goodwill of people you had never met. Many questions were asked, solutions sought, and networking via cyber space was attempted. Favourable responses, were elicited from most parties, and with a swathe of references, a detailed series of proposals, and several further training prospects, the dreaded application was now to be written. Much procrastination, on my part resulted. I thrashed around ideas in my head,ad nauseam, and I became more than a little obsessive about the whole process. I slept ,thought,ate and workshopped travel grant, before I actually sat down to commence the writing process. My long suffering friends and family adopted pained looks when I started to gabble those three taboo words, travel grant application. Their eyes glazed over at the mention of the “D” word, and I’m not talking Denise
here, but that other “D” word, Detroit the place of my obsession, the holy grail of discarded and found objects, city of abandonment, my nirvana, and where I so desperately want to go, with $8,000 in my purse.
Several false starts were attempted before I got the nuance of writing clearly and concisely.It was a lengthy and difficult process. A lot of help from Robert, our VU teacher was invaluable, as he made me think about the themes I would be exploring, and how to articulate my reasoning. The dedication to the cause just had to be applied. It was too valuable an opportunity to let slip through my fingers. A harried Robert was seen darting in and out of the photo copy room and classrooms of the 16th floor, 300 Flinders St, VU HQ, all that long week as the deadline for the application grew steadily nearer.
It was a great struggle but I managed to pull it all together, and the last day saw me typing up my final draft, after multiple scrapped attempts. My piece was finally ready for submission, and I gratefully emailed it off with several hours to spare. I learnt a lot from the whole process, specifically how to articulate, who I am, what I do, what are the principles of my artistic practice, and how much I really wanted to win the grant.
Saw Fiona somerville’s show at bright spaces gallery in st Kilda last week .
It’ was titled “ruined ” . Conjures up many pre – conceived ideas and visual images . The show was not what I was expecting . The artist has a unique choice of subject matter . Her work is about the detritus of Australia’s more recent rural past. She depicts the remnants of shacks, humpys and dongas lying about in our landscape . She depicts them in a clean , almost candy box like format . The lines are clean , the palette pastel and their is an absence of the bush landscapes and people native to the region of her work . An engaging and visceral body of work it challenges the viewer to disassociate ourselves from the obvious expectation of the title to view the work .
As a visual artist I work with of sea ravaged , gathered and ruined objects . It challenged and expanded my expectations of this subject matter .
It was big , unwieldy and eminently untransportable . How to get it to VU ? certainly not on a slow moving Sandringham line train . I could just hear the shouts of indignation , and rude expletives as I tried to wedge it sideways onto the commuter train at 8.03 am monday morning .
Nothing for it , it would have to be driven in !! Gasp ! its like ! huge , t he 17 year old learner driver exclaimed as I attempted to secure it to the roof of the car . Not my car , its too small , but the larger other car had to be called into service . Dangling tent guy ropes , old shoelaces , torn rags , any binding agent that I thought would work was used to secure it .
Hmm , didn’t look that big when I first rescued it from the hard rubbish , and skewed it home , hanging out the boot of my car .
A slow procession was made through the sleepy sunday morning streets of Elsternwick . No speeding I exhorted to the hapless driven , or we might become airborne ! A foray into chaotic Kings Way saw us take the outside line , proceeding at a gentle 55 km per hour . I was on tenterhooks as we sometimes accelerated , waiting for the dreaded ripping sound as the canvas left its moorings and pirouetted into the path of the oncoming traffic . Didn’t happen . Town loomed and I exhaled gradually . Stopping in Flinders St I finally breathed and gleefully congratulated my daughter on getting us there intact . Trembling , I unloaded the canvas easing it out of its haphazard bondage , and sauntered into the lift at VU . It was a Sunday , and it would insist on stopping only at the 15th floor . I couldn’t cajole it to go any further despite frantic swiping with my fob . Exiting , I plunged toward the stairwell , and feverishly dragged the enormous canvas up the two flights of stairs to level 17 . Finally , secured in my studio looking resplendent with a coat of gesso , its all ready to go . Now what to do with it !! Watch this space .