23 December 2009

Season's Greetings

It's been a difficult few weeks for me, with some health problems now getting clarification and while pain has robbed me of concentration, it is now established that there is no life-threatening situation (aside from being 66!). I am taking a break to allow the creative processes to resolve and clarify.

I have three art works in the summer exhibition of Jervis Bay and Basin Arts.

Copenhagen has sharply reminded us all of climate issues. It seems that we have a long way to go to recognise that the shape of world politics is shifting very very quickly. There is no longer a capacity for the US and Western Europe and others (such as ourselves, in Australia) to imagine we can determine the shape of things. China has most of the capacity to finance seemingly limitless US inclination to deficit spending, China has most of the world's manufacturing. We assert that we need to be consuming so much carbon because it is efficient to produce aluminium and (a little) steel here. But it remains that we, like but ahead of the rest of the developed world, produce four times the amount of CO2 compared with China. It is a fantasy to expect China (or developing countries generally) to accept major limitations on their development while we seem incapable of making adjustments ourselves. There really is a life or death quality to the underlying questions of mutual understanding and capacity for dialogue which confront the real world, which makes writing fiction difficult for me right now.

On a lighter note...

Our Christmas card, above, is based on the unexpected guest (a pelican) at lunch as we sat in the car by Lake Illawarra several month ago.

see you next year... may it be full of warm surprises for us all.

best wishes


16 November 2009

Mosaic in place!

Well, we went to Dora's workshop and you can find photos of the wonderful event here: happy crowd, day-long industry, great food, anxieties about what it would look like before we grouted, the fun of messy grouting after exacting work on the tiles, elation at products. Thank you Dora, Marcus, Thor and Billie, for the privilege and delight.

I have my mosaic element of coffee table in place, glued to the table, the dark grout and the intensity of the colours mean that the painting will have to be strong and dark. I have sketched in something that may work, including with the light from the lighthouse on Point Perpendicular illuminating god. Integral Energy will be chuffed, I am sure.

13 November 2009

can I do this with mosaic?

Helen and I go a mosaicing workshop with Dora http://madcowstudio.com/ tomorrow.

We may do pavers for Helen's garden, but I hanker to do something a bit different. I have another old coffee table to paint and want to try to put mosaic on PART only of the top.

In the charcoal sketch (on cardboard, sitting on the table) of Jervis Bay (see colour photo of actuality) God (female, naked, dark-skinned, recumbent in clouds over Governor Head) is reaching down (over Bowen Island) after the manner of the 'Creation of Adam' Sistine Chapel item.

God is saying to the dolphins "Hey beauties, they may give this place a funny name and argue over how to pronounce it but it really has no name: no labels, no control, just enjoy. As for that species on two legs, I give up on getting them to love each other, but I bet they'll fall in love with you if they can stop admiring their own shadows and look around."

And the dog says "Woof woof" and God says "Oh, someone throw the dog a bone. Yes, Dog, you are loved too."

This is only implausible as the title of a painting if you reject the notions [a] that it is actually a coffee table and [b] that God is a woman.

Please go with my absurdism: two visits to hospital this week, more next week, the absurd seems real.

10 November 2009

location, appropriateness, style

Yesterday while three hours at the hospital in the Accident and Emergency waiting area, a forest of signs.
  • At the admissions clerk's window, almost entirely out of sight, the sign saying "please tell someone if you decide not to wait". Hidden behind many pamphlets. While I was there four people were called and were not present, which did not help me get through much more quickly as the practitioner went away for a long time to ruminate over who to pick next.
  • high on a notice board, almost out of sight, a sign asking that children be supervised if using the play table and chairs.
  • Above the play table and chairs, the sign about the television (above, you can enlarge and give to your mother, she may thank you). The television itself was way out of reach, suspended from the roof on a mounting, tipped towards potential viewers, sun on its screen. It thus breached at least two points in the safety instructions. Surely the safety instructions should have been placed on the device itself. Helen said: "It should say 'In case of earthquake danger, do not stand under the television'."
Somebody has to deal with these things, but the state of the waiting room with 50 notices seemed to reflect the self-absorption of the organisation, rather than presentation to the world. May I please be able to pull my novel together better! :-)

May I praise the doctor I eventually saw: born in Bangladesh, commuted yesterday to work here from Sydney, seven years experience from 1985 in the Hamadan hospital on the Iran side of the Iran-Iraq border, a hospital frequently bombed, two wars, the one with the Americans supporting Saddam, then the other one; his wife also a doctor, his greatest daily fear for his young son then; his gastric practice experience not just from sadly gastric-diseased Bangladesh but also from treating many small children in Iran who unlike their parents did not peel watermelon seeds before eating them. Such a gracious, modest, warm and helpful doctor... may you be granted such a wonderful and experienced person to help when and if you have any digestive problem. Thank you Karim.

09 November 2009

can you hear a photo?

I spent time today drafting some work ideas for Helen, then in attending to emails, somehow looked back to web pages I have designed in the past, with words and pictures.

This one I can hear. Maybe you can't, you were not there? Or maybe it is close enough to your experience to hear it.

This one I can feel. The rip of water around me, as well as the advanced-tinnitus-like constant roar of the sea risen and gone wild in the night, captured on camera, standing in the water's edge at dawn. I've written that scene into the novel, here's a bit, can you feel it, can you feel the shell under your feet, can you hear the roar? Look at that link at the top of this para before reading.

There was nothing like it, the utter fresh after rain, the continued drift of sea air and surf spray; the organic edge from churned sea life. He found his way to the top of the dune in the threads of light from the half obscured three-quarter moon behind his back. It surprised him that the sea seemed now so far away, down the dune and across this beach, when it had seemed to fill his ears and mind when inside the canvas. He set off down the beach towards the water, over sand hammered hard by overnight rain. His step uneven over pockmarks of old footprints rendered unyielding by rain pelt.

The storm continued in the body of the sea. As he approached there was little else but white churn visible in the scant light, way way out in wave after wave, close waves fought up together in the turbulence of the storm. Eddies of froth and wreckage of sea life blew on the beach, lodged in heaps, surged on the front of scarcely visible waves.

He stood still. How far he now was from times past, from masses of people, pedantries of protocol, nuances of speech and inflection, slights and power plays, postures and pretensions, egos on the run, timetables and conferences.

He rolled his track pants up, stepped into the shallow rush of water. Icing his toes, chilling his calves for several minutes before his circulation adjusted and he sensed the warmth of the whole ocean reaching for him. A higher wave caught the edge of his jacket in the gloom, wet the folded bottom of his track suit. He grinned, hoisting his camera high, looked around at this wild nameless company. A worn shell-edge pressed the sole of his foot; he stood still and absorbed all the sensations around him.

Far out there now, an edge of light, of approaching dawn, showed below clouds. He stood still, allowing maximum absorption of this new sense. He had spent the night with the sound of the sea and the slight rocking of his sturdy mini-truck by the storm; the pent of rain now torn inland, to the highlands. At the beginning of the storm, round by the rock pool, sheltering under a ledge, he had seen a woman arrive, tear off her dress then be followed to the pool by a man. He had not stayed, had not sought to invade their privacy, had slipped away, he hoped unnoticed. Nobody could notice anything in such sudden wild storm. Now he watched light increase from near nil.

Now there was light sufficient for him to begin to use the camera. A handful of gulls squalled past, demanding answers of each other, none from him. Even the gulls had company. He had come to this place seeking company but company was eluding him, while life chased others with vigour, or a vigour that gripped them but to him seemed flimsy, slight.

08 November 2009

Aki Kaurismäki

For years I have had stuck in my head the most memorable line in any film (forget the "Play it again Sam" misquote), from Kaurismäki's I Hired a Contract Killer (the film in which there is an assignation at the hamburger stand by Karl Marx's grave in Hampstead Cemetery). The protagonist, a modest and shy man, has decided he must end it all, and seeks advice on where to find a contract killer to kill himself. He is directed to a bar, the camera follow him down smoky stairs, into gloom, the piano stops, men with grim faces swivel and frown. The protagonist speaks: "Where I come from, we eat places like this for breakfast." (For the record, and it's scarcely a spoiler, he hires the killer, tells the killer to surprise him, promptly falls in love and ... (I won't spoil the rest).

This weekend we have also watched Kaurismäki's Mies vailla menneisyyttä [The Man Without a Past], which is sort of Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan but explores the life after bashing rather more extensively. It is a film about very ordinary very decent people told in a beautifully paced and theatrical manner. It is full of lessons in photography, in precision, in fine detail, wryness, avoidance of the obvious, tight construction and simple complexity. The heart warms. Kathryn Heyman urged me at her master class in May: "the reader must know what the protagonist wants and yearn for its achievement." This film is a master class in that. It won the 2003 Grand Prix at Cannes and was nominated for best foreign film for the Oscars. The director boycotted the latter. In a letter to the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he wrote that the United States was “preparing a crime against humanity for the purpose of shameless economic interests”.

Kaurismäki had been invited to the New York Film Festival in 2002, but stayed away..."in protest of the U.S. failure to grant Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami a visa to attend the festival. A letter to the festival director read, in part:
“Under the circumstances, I, too, am forced to cancel my participation – for if the government of the United States does not want an Iranian, it will hardly have any use for a Finn. We do not even have the oil. But I would like to invite the American secretary of defense [Donald Rumsfeld] to see me in Finland. We could take a walk in the woods and pick mushrooms*. That might calm him down.”
[quoted from first link above]
* There is a mushroom-picking walk in the woods in The Man without a Past

Almodóvar's "Hable con Ella" [Talk to Her]

If you want beautiful deliberate straight-line film, see Bertolucci's work, among which I rate Il Conformista [The Conformist] and Besieged especially highly for their deliberate process combined with mystery... and sheer beauty.

Almodóvar's films have often been straight-line, but last night we watched something else: his extraordinary Hable Con Ella [Talk to Her]. I know I saw it once before, in a film festival, but privately on wide screen at home it was easier to absorb properly. And as I am in the midst of endeavour to weave the novel backwards and forwards in time, and deal sensitively with and present complex issues clearly but not smugly or obviously, on the evidence and not in judgemental terms, the majesty of the achievement of this film sets it apart as an example of how one might hope one day to be able to present a story thus. Oh, bloody hell, don't ask me to tell the story, just please watch it. And don't read any blurbs before you watch it, please.

John Banville

John Banville's prose was a considerable influence early this year, in its intensity. Beginning with Eclipse and The Sea, then reading into The Revolutions Trilogy, books on Copernicus, Kepler and Newton. I confess I have not yet finished Doctor Copernicus, but it has had especial influence. It shares with other Banville work his 'literariness'; his visual, visceral, emotional tugging; the precision, clarity and obscurity:

Waterborne he comes, at dead of night, sliding sleek on the river's gleaming back, snout lifted, sniffing, under the drawbridge, the portcullis, past the drowsing sentry. Brief scrabble of claws on the slimed steps below the wall, brief glint of a bared tooth. In the darkness for an instant an intimation of agony and anguish, and the night flinches. Now he scales the wall, creeps under the window, grinning. In the shadow of the tower he squats, wrapped in a black cloak, waiting for dawn. Comes the knocking, the pinched voice, the sly step on the stair, and how is it that I alone can hear the water dripping at his heels?

One that would speak with you, Canon.

No, no keep him hence...

John Banville, Doctor Copernicus, in The Revolutions Trilogy, Picador Edition 2001, page 107
Welcome to the fever-wracked world of Canon Koppernigk in the misery of the Baltic states 500 years ago.

These points:
  • if you don't love language, read someone else
  • if you need to understand everything or think you do or should, or expect a story unravelling in chronological order, then what kind of reality do you live in? Give me mystery or give me death :-)
  • key things in Doctor Copernicus for me were:
  1. the portrayal of the pain and conflict of genius and the possession of new ideas
  2. the presentation of a reality in which the genius with the new ideas has to do a whole lot of other things, like, in this case, governing and doctoring and churching and being mortal and physical variously
  3. the beauty of story driving itself along in its own smoking rhythm
  4. oh yeah, ok, ok, also its complexity, I do love the complexity, though it makes it hard to finish when you are reading half a dozen books at a time, or part-time.

07 November 2009

Jervis Bay Arts Silent Auction

Woo hoo, someone has bid already on my entry in the Silent Auction, see Loose Woman.

It looks pretty good in the gallery under a spectacular photo by Richard Morecroft (click on the image of Fire Trail to get a better glimpse.)

Bidding continues till 28 November. You can bid online.

01 November 2009

Joni Mitchell

I caught part of this lovely program with and about Joni Mitchell, inspiration, in my mind, of much of what is poetry and clarity in modern music.

Three things to note:
  1. JM spoke of the demands on the performing artist, versus the painter. Nobody, she said, ever called out to van Gogh, "hey Vincent, do x again for us!" True. But then the painter in general suffers a different angst (I have begun to understand in recent times), that of creating children who then are sold to strangers, or at the least to people who do not really understand their birth. With one painting away to the slave market... I only just know this directly. When does one pass to factory mode of thinking? Perhaps the writer has it easiest, of not needing to let go...
  2. JM spoke of how she resisted demands of the industry to stay within genre, stay with her fans, not develop what she wanted to say. So important, if you want to be other than a factory;
  3. JM spoke of her concept of 'crop rotation' - of her need to move between painting and poetry and back again, for her brain's sake. This I understand very well, and I alsoinclude the permaculture garden in the backyard in the rotation in my head, a garden in which profuse nature is allowed a fairly free rein, providing many lessons and opportunities for observation, discovery; gasping with delight and amusement.
view from my studio workspace, into very young garden, including Helen's chocolate labrador, George, dozing in parsley sunshine

30 October 2009

part 2 of novel

After recovering from a Menieres Disease/fibromyalgia attack yesterday, last night I did an extensive rewrite of the beginning of part 2 - 2300 words. In a documentary style, covering Lucy's father's life to 1957. And this morning, after distraction of central focus to reading a couple of other things, including the Calvino but starting lighter, the way forward from 1957 suddenly appeared in my fringe vision... a flash back from 1975 in her mother's voice, mother telling story to daughter.

I know I am in good shape when I wake with a fresh idea, not a dark idea...

impressionistic writing, evocation

In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino* presents cities as described, with great difficulty, over barriers of language and culture and credulity, by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan.

It is a book that can be read at multiple levels. According to Wikipedia, it has been an inspiration to architects seeking ways of seeing places in their essences. In my reading, focused on my writing, what Calvino writes about a city could well be a way of seeing a book, or seeing life, or looking at life generally. The first city described by Marco to KK is 'Diomira'. The description is three sentences long. This is the third sentence:

"But the special quality of this city for the man who arrives here on a September evening, when the days are growing shorter, and the multicoloured lamps are lighted all at once at the doors of the food stalls and from a terrace a woman cries ooh!, is that he feels envy toward those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they were happy, that time."
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972, translated by William Weaver 1974, Harvest Edition, p 7

Replace the word 'city' with the word 'book'. Yearn to write it. At the same time, see why Calvino had no more to say, needed to say no more, before passing on to describe the second city.

Or consider this as a metaphorical way of describing a novel structure:

"This is the foundation of the city [of Octavia]: a net which serves as passage and support. All the rest, instead of rising up, is hung below: rope ladders, hammocks, houses made like sacks, clothes hangers, terraces like gondolas, skins of water, gas jets, spits, baskets of strings, dumb-waiters, showers, trapezes and rings for children's games, cable cars, chandeliers, pots with trailing plants."

ibid, p 7

*I am going to provide links like that to Better World Books, no income for me, a better deal for you - rather than attach myself to other bookselling sites on the web which encourage a little pyramid selling)

29 October 2009

Vladimir Propp

Going back through my notes from Kathryn Heyman's masterclass, which I attended in May, I realised I had not followed up her recommendation to read Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folk Tale, published in Russia in 1928. Copies are hard to find, check at Better World Books.

Meanwhile the Wikipedia entry on Propp is very helpful and provocative.

28 October 2009

item for silent auction to support Jervis Bay Arts

Jervis Bay Arts are holding a silent auction at Huskisson Picture Framing 1- 28 November, as a fundraiser for next years SeeChange Festival.

I have loosely lined the drawers of the Loose Woman and am entering her in the auction.

AND when I delivered it, they said, oh wow, she looks much better in the flesh!

Happy bidding! :-)

26 October 2009

Novel - sent part one to Nalo

I have (ahead of 1 November deadline) sent forty pages of the draft novel to my mentor,
Nalo Hopkinson, essentially my intended part 1, this introduces the two main characters in scenes in 1975, 1968, 1998 and the present. I have also provided a scoping paper, outlining how I see the story developing (rather than a firm structure). Now to work on next sections!

Image is of a possible cover with working title.
‘Sensuous’ and ‘intersection’ — at the close-in person-to-person level as well as in the broader Australian to Chinese and indigenous to non indigenous connection levels. The difficulty of life intersection at any sensitive level.

Street art in Melbourne

Helen and I went to Melbourne at the weekend for Nick's birthday. I have placed some photos of street art on two web pages, YOU CAN SEE MUCH MORE BY CLICKING HERE.

Those pages predated blogging as a mass activity. The internet offers opportunities to weave art and information. The Ngukurr school mosaic garden covered in the 2005 photos was also covered by a story on ABC RN Bush Telegraph, for which I also offered this spoken commentary, also designing art teacher Simon Normand's web site.

15 October 2009

using the second person, finding perspectives

In text quoted below I am using the second person ["you"] rather than first [I] or third [She] or more abstract ["It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."]

I do not intend to use the second person through the whole book. Nikki Gemmell fiercely uses the second person throughout The Bride Stripped Bare, an extraordinary and difficult piece of writing, teetering in places, needing to be read as a whole, not hunting for saucy bits as some may. The 'you' works, the book to be taken very seriously. Maybe easier to start with Cleave, published in the US as Alice Springs: Gemmell's raw, chafed, hunting, hunted rhythm and style there have been a big influence on me.

I was very pleased when a member of my local writers group, reading my opening second person chapter (see last entry and 'writing fiction', a couple of entries below that) told me he found it very confronting. Excellent, I said, I am delighted that you found it uncomfortable to be inside of the head of an 18 year old young woman on her way back to Beijing from political imprisonment in 1975.

Other voices will be used, to provide different viewpoints and more documentary passages.

the nature of writing, thinking, existing

I was struck by reading this quote, several years ago, when organising a photo diary.
We saw that Life did not narrate, but made impressions on our brains. We, in turn, if we wished to produce on you an effect of life, must not narrate but render impressions.
Ford Madox Ford, writing to Joseph Conrad

It helped me understand what I was doing, organising an impressionistic photodiary with written content... before the rise of Web2 technologies, using the beauty of old html.

The statement also impacts my writing. There is a strange tendency in reading, for many if not most to want a clear story, when in most of our lives, stories around us are far from clear, the inside of our heads are not clear. So one objective in my writing is to stay inside this 'disclarity' or reality, not make it all too easy. It is valuable to read about the unreality of reality to keep balance in all this. Start here perhaps.

This however brings the writer into the arena of consideration of 'tacit knowledge'. We all have things in our head, local, personal, family knowledge that shapes what we say and how we say it and how we interpret what others say. The difficulty in being too impressionistic is the extent to which the writer may fail to make clear the tacit background, without which the impression is meaningless.

As a first step, the impression obligation is to describe rather than put a value on the object. Too easy to poison a text with own values, not just in saying "he was ugly" rather than that "he stood in the shadow and seemed part of the shadow, dark, short, eyes fixed on me, mouth open as if about to damn me." That's pretty obvious, but in writing I am trying to step right away back from judgement; the characters have feelings, that's for them, they are articulate, but their credibility depends also on depth of reader empathy, which means the reader needs to be able to understand why their feelings are thus and be willing to share that. I am now committed (after several other starts) to the opening in my entry below "Writing fiction" (12 October, my time) but it has seemed too mysterious, so I have added this current day reverie ahead of it:

  1. Slow Steam Train, Xining to Beijing, March 1975
You sit on the top of this hill and look to the sea, alone with this view this early morning. You are alone; it is hard every day to connect, hard to connect also with your own life so much of which seems so far away. People around you seem to have lives they regard as complex, they look at you as nothing, as outsider, some as unwelcome; or, some of them, as foreign trophy. You must be, it seems, the refugee who can’t really be a refugee because she doesn’t seem to have anything wrong with her. Wrong with you? What these days is right? What has been right when? You look back to when you were eighteen, to one of the many hinge points of your existence, etched with acid on you at the other side of the earth. Your mind drifts to sharp recall, always you can recall that time. You sit in warming sun and drowse and jerking through your sleep you can recall it all, the cold of the Qinghai plateau north of Tibet, the comfort of routine in the prison farm, the fear of travelling back from there…

13 October 2009

Mentorship - my great good fortune

I am delighted to have been accepted by Nalo Hopkinson for mentoring of my novel. Nalo works mainly in science fiction and fantasy, but the energy and directness, the humour and raw honesty of her writing should make this very valuable. As will Nalo's cross-cultural and social issues perspectives.

I have to have 40 to 60 pages to her by 1 November ditto 1 December and 1 January, have already been at work revising and developing existing text, lots to build, lots to chuck, I did a typo in my acceptance email saying I still needed an ending of a dynamic kink, meant kind, but kink will do better...

Here are pages regarding Nalo:

My daughter Liz (see also here) drew my attention to this opportunity last week, thanks Liz.

... and thanks indeed Nalo :-)

12 October 2009

Writing fiction

  • There are a number of links in this entry. Click to go there, use the back button to come back.
I am endeavouring to construct a novel located around where I live but also (as one of the characters advised me in June) in China.

Here is a piece I wrote in January, as the drawing and painting transformed my writing.

Here a fragment written in March, beginning to build a voice and rhythm and style.
-- noting Italo Calvino's insight:
The novella is like a horse, a means of transport with its own pace, a trot or a gallop according to the distance and ground it has to travel over; but the speed Boccaccio [in text he just quoted] is talking about is a mental speed. The listed [by Boccaccio] defects of the clumsy storyteller are above all offenses against rhythm, as well as being defects of style, because he does not use the expressions appropriate either to the characters or to the events. In other words, even correctness of style is a question of quick adjustment, of agility of both thought and expression.
Italo Calvino, Six Lessons for the Next Millenium, Vintage edition 1988, p 39.
You see how I went looking for rhythm on that train (not horse) - link above.

Here is the current (October 2009) opening chapter, placing the reader in the head of an 18 year old returning to Beijing with her mother from a labour prison in 1975, late in the Cultural Revolution.

And here is an excerpt from a later turning-point in the book (which will not all be in second person)

... getting away from old areas of writing, like this. There is also the challenge in fiction that, unlike a speech, the novel writer must not preach, must not teach, must find other means to express ideas and make minds go tick tick boing

Photo taken Eyre Peninsula, 2006, life has risks, follow the sign...

Full energy

I had the tabletop [90 x 148cm] with "Winter Dreaming" on it.
I needed to hang it outside in my studio space, under cover, so you could see the big garden vision from the door, distance of about 8 metres.

I needed to paint on the other side of the table, a more indoors vision, a summer vision.
So here she is, life sized, enticingly through the lattice:
"No, don't feel you have to keep your shirt on."

That is the view in from my one year old suburban food garden,
where this new arrival has some company, in fact:
a gifted scarecrow, gift from Banjo
and a semi-buried hitchhiker.
The hitchhiker I picked up last year, lying in a somewhat disarrayed
(and incomplete) state, beside a road near Sydney.
Interesting psychological experience to stuff her in the boot and bury her in the garden.
Police helicopters fly by but so far no sudden interest!
When I was planting the Yarrow in broken crevices of the torso I was unaware
that the foliage of this herb Achillea Millefolium is technically described
as hairy pubescent
So here below is
"No, Don't Feel You Have to Keep Your Shirt On"
without the lattice in the way.

charcoal on acrylic on particle board table top
90 x 146cm

I knew very soon after this quick sketch - soon, that it, after I had sprayed the fixative and it was unalterable, that there were things that could have been done better...
but I am pleased my drawing is becoming more free and confident.

and it's really good to draw on a solid surface and life-size

back to table size

I had been trying to understand how to combine light and dark and also physiology and form in painting with acrylic, back mid year. There is an image here showing a photo from the internet and small charcoal drawing [A4] and washy attempt at rendering it with acrylic. I hung this up for some weeks as a lesson to myself, to study, repent, revise... but rather than revise the same - I was getting bored with the look of it anyway - I took this door (120cm x 78cm) back to rough white acrylic undercoat (interior house paint, the base of everything I do) and last Tuesday, while awaiting the arrival of my local Berry Writers' Group, I painted "Waiting for the Rain on Tuesday 6 October 2009". Violent rain and thunder and lightning arrived as I finished. Very pleased with the listless calm and preoccupation in the picture. You will see a slight Caribbean influence, I had been reading the web site of Nalo Hopkinson. It looks like my work will have one continuing factor, of being done very quickly. This may define media I use. There is a current preoccupation with the female form, the highest form of geography in my opinion. It is also a form that it seems one must paint, must acquire competence to paint, or nothing. Later maybe who knows what... but also sensuality will be a constant, I expect.

work above experiment in understanding light and dark and form
painted over as below
acrylic above,
charcoal on acrylic on 120cm x 78cm plywood
click image to enlarge, use the back button to return

11 October 2009

small dark tabletop phase

I found myself with a curious little three legged phone table and another rectangular coffee table, which may have been a TV stand - in days when television sets were smaller - with a 'lazy susan' top, that swivels around.

The first become Violet, the "Loose Woman" [acrylic on wood]... who lent herself to a label for marmalade made from grapefruit given to us by two women with a remarkable sustainable property not far from here. The purpose of making marmalade is the design of labels (in case you were not aware of this).

The second one, the one that turns around, became a much more complex work, with many layers of charcoal and acrylic... "The hands that Turn the Table."

Rotate the computer to get the full picture here!
Many hands and handsfull, bent on turning the tables.

from furniture to structure

I had made a start on pieces of furniture, had other items gathered to work on, scratching my head while walking past them... but meanwhile I had had some found at recycle nineteenth century windows and french doors installed to divide the house in two. I needed to paint around the new work, but painting the frame of the door got out of hand immediately and then.. and then I began reverse painting on glass.

Reverse painting a person on glass is interesting, interesting technical challenge, also interesting psychologically as you have to begin with the make-up, the superficial... and then move onto the skin and in to the deeper tissue. I had, I confess, developed the image of "Greeter" before coming to terms with the need that she needed more on the back than what was on the glass... there had to be a whole person. And it was evident that such a wild spirit needed the support of her Alter Ego - behind the wilder side of each of us, maybe, maybe, is a sterner, assertive, perhaps still precocious Alter Ego.

They have had their impact on the house....


I do expect my work to continue to change.

Here I had gone in a short space from general drawing to landscape in which female forms instantly became evident, to placing the nude in the landscape.. then the landscape disappeared and the business of human form took over, largely with charcoal. With charcoal or acrylic, I might make the all-important line with the instrument, but develop texture and shading with the hand, the primary organ of engagement with human form. In this case another modest back view (the line as pure as possible, this a one minute sketch) and a table painted as "Fallen Woman"

large, larger!

Picking up items from kerbside chuck-out.... And here I found myself with two tables. These presented challenge because of their sheer size, what to do... Here is the evolution of one table, into a painting called "Winter Dreamer". Took months... walking past daily, hiding it away and getting it out again, doing smaller items in between.

no more classes, no more canvas

I have always had a difficulty with boundaries. And always tended in galleries to look at the interesting practical devices (temperature controllers, bugle head screws, fire extinguishers) more than the contrivances of so-called installations.

I began gathering bits of furniture from the tip and painting on them. Here are two works from early 09:
"Mind your Toes" - on a small stool
"Serving Wench" - on a wheeled trolley

modestly drawing from marble image

In January 2009 Clare Vivian had taken me for a walk around the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, where we spent some time admiring the Venus de Milo-like figure of Rosina, in the nunnery courtyard... one could speculate on the role of such a figure in such a place in former times, with generations of nuns passing by... it was an opportunity to photograph and sketch. Light and shade and more difficulty with face than else. As with the writing, one thing to tell a story, another to define and build characters.

art class

I enrolled for an art class in early 09, attended several classes but found it had more emphasis on rules than tools, I got enough tools and left.

We were to do landscape, I found myself seeing human forms in landscape, they seemed to take over... and you can see the influence of my attendance at Joan Miro's workshop at the golf course :-)

To Drawing Group

I spent a little time late 2008 in a drawing group, getting some basics of charcoal and conte crayon, teaching myself largely, in the company of others.

drawing, painting, writing

I had come to realise that the gap between my non-fiction writing and fiction writing – I was edging across the gap here in this web site of mine – required something of a jump from a cliff as required in drawing and painting. A world of difference between developing and editing a text and placing marks on a surface, which seem to develop a life of their own. I had been framing images in the camera for a long time, in 2008 these images became a little abstract, no, that's not the right word, I was pulling the emotion and intensity from the situation, as in these photos taken in the edge of surf at dawn, Coledale beach, June 2008, after a wild storm. More pictures of that are here.

But this is child's play, camera play, using a whole device for capturing an image, not the same as story writing or painting from nothing. Well, maybe not child's play, but a whole different business, the eye and brain with little reliance on the hands. Some earlier photos of mine, in a format more complex than simple blog, are here.

Thanks to Ruth for looking at these images and others from that day and saying: "You have to paint."

to begin at the beginning

Drawing at Crams Road with Ruth, December 2008. Looking down at Ruth drawing, when two teenage boys hastened by to dive into the river, one after the other.