Saturday, June 15, 2019

"scratching the surface"

It is always surprises me how we can keep generating "new" ideas and ways of working.  Sometimes, I am influenced by the content of work by other artists but sometimes it's the media and new processes used that gets me excited. 
Recently, I have been working with carbon in the form of charcoal from trees in a bush fire and the idea of carbon capture . However, it was a series of black/grey graphite sculptural works at the Asia Pacific Triennial that got me exploring other forms of carbon. These works by Ayesha Sultana were highly polished, minimalist graphite works that gave off a lustrous metallic sheen. 
As she explains -"Instead of reading into an image or work of art, I slowly began to discover what ‘looking’ could be. Drawing is useful and concentrated in this manner in that I’m able, to an extent, to assimilate experience by recording myself looking. It was a gradual but deliberate process of discarding the narrative content in the work."
Even though her abstract approach and concepts behind her work,  differ greatly from mine, I was captivated by how she would have made these surfaces. This resulted in a process of graphite (pencil) rubbings on different papers to create surfaces completely new to me. Once I had different surfaces to play with I started looking for ideas that overlapped with the physical qualities of the papers.

This has resulted in a series of "black" books using graphite and carbon paper exploring different themes. The different layers can be accessed by opening flaps.

"Scratching the Surface" is a Black book that uses  layered pages with openings that can be open and closed. The densely black pages have been scratched, cut, damaged or pierced to suggest  surfaces like indigenous skin with the interior content peeping through. These inner layers are from images for an earlier book on Uluru and consist of  symbols and references to early maps and geographical features. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Manly visit

This year I was lucky enough to be able to get to Manly from Brisbane to check out the 2019 Northern Beaches Library Artists' Book Award. 
What a delightful treat!
Beautifully displayed and lit.
Wonderful range of different book formats.
Thought-provoking themes and content.
(If you click onto the image you can get a better look.)

Bernard Appassamy's
"2,422 Haircuts"
Made from the paper wrappers of the disposable razors barbers use.  

"A Prayer in Hell"

I was thrilled to be in such esteemed company. Only another two years before the next one.

Friday, April 12, 2019

2019 Northern Beaches Library Artists’ Book Award

 Good news, I'm quite excited, I have been accepted into this years  Northern Beaches Library Artists’ Book Award formerly the Manly Library Artists' Book Award. This great exhibition attracts artists from all over the world and I am thrilled to be in there with them. 

My book,  "A Prayer in Hell " , made it to last years Libris Award in Mackay and is travelling south this year for another great showing. I have never been to see the Manly exhibition myself and plan to visit this year to have a good look at all the other lucky entrants.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

"A well kept footpath"

"a well kept footpath"

Recently I met up again with friends who are one of my longest art supporters from the early 1980's. They have just downsized from an old Queenslander and moved into a new apartment. I was thrilled to see that they still have one of my very early works on the wall . When I saw my early work from 40 years ago, I was reminded of some good advice from my favourite art teacher Roy Churcher. "Don't be in a hurry to exhibit, wait a while till you find your feet or you will want to buy back some of your early work as you will move on so much." While coming face to face again with one of my first paintings out of Art School was a little daunting, I could see a connection with  my work today and felt comfortable that I didn't show too early.

My friends are great travellers and like ourselves, include Prague as one of our favourite cities. In 2001, since my daughters were both working in London, my wife and I met up with them in Prague to explore the city together for a week. 

Later when I got home, I used my diaries and ephemera in a series of mixed media works for an exhibition -  "In Praha 2002" at Doggett Street Gallery. The exhibition was only a very modest success and I had some works left unsold. What better way to downsize myself than by giving my friends a choice of some of these reminders of their favourite city to book-end my other earlier work.

I always find it amazing how others can find their own links and connections with artworks. Often the original connection or meaning can be quite different but still very valid. If you click on the images and open them in a new tab, by right clicking, you can enlarge the work and see some of the detail like in "A well kept footpath" :  "Massive City Cleanup planned ". Just what was being planned for the poor dogs???

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"drawings for a doctor"

I have been working for some time on a series of drawings based on surgery and wounds. It is a series that I turn to in between books or when I'm in a new place while I decide on a new theme or interest to explore. They are the sort of drawing that is cumulative and not done in one sitting. Sometimes the different processes such as waxing or staining have to dry before going to another stage. They were done in an A5 visual diary which is very portable and easy to take with me on planes and trains or keep handy on my desk at all times. 
They are a continuation of earlier work "Cut" and "Blind Spots".

These new drawings are not as raw or juicy but meant to be more like an instruction manual or notebook a doctor use. They are of course totally imaginary although the cover is made from an old X-Ray of mine. I have only used 15 pages for this book and hope to explore different bindings for some of the remaining works in this series.

The drawings are on both side of each page and the open wounds and mesh allow you to look through to the next operation or back to the previous.

The materials used in these drawings include pigment, turmeric, wax, dressmaking patterns, shellac, thread, mesh, dressings,  inks and letter stamps.

The little book has 30 pages of images and directions and very fine ink or pencil drawings. They are more fun if you can enlarge the images as the detail is so small. If you right mouse click on the image and select 'open in another tab' you can enlarge the image and have a good poke around.Enjoy!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

icons and masks of memory

"Sticky Beak"

I haven't blogged for a while but have been very busy in this new year. 
Just taking a break from the artist books while I explore another of my favourite 3D areas. I like to use materials that have a history, hopefully one that has left marks and traces of earlier times. I'm currently trying to declutter and get rid of stuff I've had for decades. But I can't get rid of things I've saved as it would be admitting that keeping things for all these years was a total waste of time.

So, I'm giving things a new life while thinking of the old original use  long ago. I think it helps me establish some sort of continuous thread that links it all together.

The main materials that sparked this latest burst of activity have been bits of timber from old school desks that were being discarded from schools I worked in. Most have scratches on both sides, engravings and scribbles, the odd obscenity and lots of initials.

"side winder"

"so long"

These mainly chunky iconic wooden pieces gradually changed when I started deconstructing one of my mother's old excercise books she used for her dressmaking subject at school.

"personal baggage"

The shallower low relief masks used some of my oldest ephemera such as a luggage tag from the ship we went overseas in the 70's and one newspaper add from 1900's of the ship we came to Australia in the "Esperance Bay"
esperance bay

The "nose" is the original spine inside out of mum's exercise book. The base is the book cover. Army blankets and bitumen paint are powerful reminders of my youth.

"gold eyes"

The masks ended up more painterly and complex texturally - a long way from the original starting point of the simple wooden blocks. I think both approaches work well in very different ways. 

I just love the accidental scratches and marks that seem to come from nowhere.

A close up allows you to get a glimpse of the surfaces both old and new on the masks.

The test tube has dutch instructions from my mother's dressmaking notebook. Collage on another lid with original nails from Sri Lanka used very old envelopes and book spines. Some of the board came from an old cabin trunk we brought with us on board the Esperance Bay when we migrated. 
In a way I probably haven't strayed very far conceptually from the artist book. 

"George from Brisbane"

"George from Brisbane" utilises old school desk and part of an old envelope and mount board for a low relief. George is an imaginary man from Cooroy whose correspondence I found in an antique shop years ago.  


lid mask

This mask refers to my childhood in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The board is from a small box of tea which my father sent us when we first came to Australia.
I have transformed some of my clutter which is now more compact but will be even harder to finally dispose of (unless I give them away to a worthy cause.)