Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Flourish Art Festival

A few months ago I got an email from an old friend; Dona Spencer from the Southport Uniting Church. She was a fellow art teacher and has recently moved into ministry. She combined her passions and took on the mammoth task of organising an art fair. So, with the prospect of catching up, make money and the opportunity to network, I signed up. It was also an opportunity for me to experiment. I had paintings, watercolours from the Moo-Chi diaries, (Moo-Chi.blogspot.com) prints, cards and most importantly, the opportunity to interact with people. I must say that I had a wonderful time turning my watercolours in to cards, and spent a fair bit of time (and paper) getting the best printer settings. So, last week I spent in isolation with my printer and cellophane, wrapping it all up and giving it some lovely tags.

The big day arrived and the alarm-clock jangled a tune at 4.30. Fifteen minutes later I actually managed to say something intelligible, along the lines of 'Need...caffeine..'. David very kindly ground the beans, boiled water and made a great cup of coffee. At 5.15 we hit the road. At the Broadwater Parklands helpful volunteers guided us to my spot. I enjoy the process of hanging up my work and making it look good. The thing is, when you work from home like I do, most of your work is safely stacked away, so seeing the fruits of your work on display is very pleasing.

During the day there was entertainment in a variety of music and dance. There was also ample opportunity to meet other artists. I connected with  a wonderful artist from Zimbabwe called Jonathan. Check out his happy and colourful work at Madzinga.com.au!

People could also participate in workshops and I taught a small but receptive group of people, portraiture. I probably overloaded them a bit, however, they now know the basic techniques and principles. All it takes now from them is...practice, practice and more practice. Whatever you want to achieve in life, nobody can take the p-word

away from you...So, all-in-all, it was a wonderful day! The atmosphere was great and so was the music. The response to my work was very positive. It was great to see Dona again. My thanks goes to her and her wonderful team of volunteers. We arrived home exhausted, happy and with a well-deserved bag of Thai take-away!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Kenmore library

Q: What do lemons, bowls, waterlilies and faces have in common? No, it is not a person tasting a sour lemon, twisting his face and spitting it out in a bowl. They are, in fact, the subject matters of a series of paintings of mine. Currently they are on display in the Kenmore Library, and will be there until the end of September.

A few short years ago, Kenmore finally got a library, and a beautiful library it is. I am a great fan of libraries. To me, they are an oasis of quiet, information, inspiration and relaxation. Also, they have saved me lots and lots of money over the years, since books and magazines are a true weakness of mine. Small point but important!!

As most libraries in Brisbane, Kenmore library has, besides a large collection of books, cd's, movies and magazines, areas to relax and read, benches for computers, a study-room and a large table with newspapers. It also has a strikingly orange display wall. So I arranged to have my work displayed for the month of September. The main part of my work is beautifully situated against an orange wall, and a few more paintings hang in the study room, with soothing blue walls. People working in the study room graciously let me interfere and fiddle with my paintings until they hung straight.


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Walking down a comfortable track....

Some paintings can be a real struggle to make, like a path with many twists and turns and some serious backtracking. Some paintings or inspirations can push my boundaries and trigger a personal revelation. You reach the crest of a hill or the top of a mountain and a new landscape lays before you. Some, however, are like walking down a comfortable track that I've laid before. This is one of those paintings. It is the second one in a series that I described in an earlier blog-entry called 'Zen, and reflections on inspiration'.
For this painting I picked up a lovely cup with a beautiful blue glazing on the inside, (no, it is not bigger on the inside...) (that was an inside-joke.... sorry), and the outside being matte black. It's one of those cups that look great, and never seem to be used... except  now.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The art of being less selfish

My first 'official' portrait

Most artists are pretty self-absorbed. At the end of the day you work alone, creating a substantial image from the nebulous one that forms in your mind. My paintings are mostly just about me: about what I think is meaningful and harmonious; how far I can stretch myself creatively and technically. You could call it selfish, and I am definitely not beyond reproach. Now I am also writing about this process, again, a somewhat self- absorbed, solitary exercise. However, both writing and art, at their best, can be about connecting and communicating. I can assure you, ‘writing’ and I were not always big buddies. The fact that I have begun to write regularly is in itself a near-miracle. 

As many of my family and friends can attest to, once upon a time I was pretty slack at answering emails. There was a standard waiting period of three months, if not more. Self-absorbed? ‘Yes’. Selfish? Again ‘yes’. That changed for the better a few years ago when I travelled alone for a few months through South-America. I was newly hooked-up to Facebook and Skype. I discovered that the computer was a wonderful means by which I could stay in touch with loved ones. So when I travelled through Argentina and Chile, I was able to stay fairly well connected with them. Even whilst working in an animal-refuge centre in the Bolivian jungle, there was an internet-cafĂ© with a high-speed connection. What I found was that the more I reached out, the more came back. What a pleasant surprise. Being less selfish definitely has its perks. And at low cost, I might add. What a contrast to the travels I made through Australia 17 years ago. A fax was the 'bees knees' for me, and a $5 phone-card ran out before 5 minutes passed.

My grandfather

With my artwork, it wasn’t technology that helped me to reach out. It was family. When I make a painting, I certainly hope that some people will connect with it in a positive way. However, it is not the starting point for me. Instead, I have to connect with it. But, as some people will have noticed by now, besides my paintings I also draw portraits. I absolutely love it. Portraiture for me is a way to give and reach out to people personally. A portrait is deeply personal. How many people have an anonymous portrait on their wall? Not many. Mostly it will be about people you love or adore. 

My history in portraiture started when the mother of an aunt died. She sadly died relatively young from cancer. I was given a photo with a kind, gentle and sensitive, request to, 'give it a shot'. I was studying fine art, so I was the woman for the job. And indeed, about six months later (procrastination and I are close buddies), I returned a lovely hand-drawn portrait and got 'rewarded' with some teary eyes. A few years later I was asked to draw my own grandfather when he passed away. A family tradition was born. I technically got better, and I was still rewarded with rather emotional responses. There is a point in the process where I make a small change in the drawing. I either darken something, or move a feature ever so slightly, and suddenly 'someone' stares back at me. It is often an eerie experience, slightly akin to an A-HA moment, and highly rewarding in itself.

When I was 10 years old, my mother commissioned a portrait of me. It became a lovely pastel drawing and it currently hangs in my parent's home. I emigrated 13 years ago, prompting my mother to lend it to my grandparents, in an attempt to compensate for the loss of me leaving. The story goes that my grandfather would greet the portrait every morning before saying good-morning to his own wife. We never saw each other again. For my grandmother, the portrait I made of him became a source of comfort. So, when you'd ask me if portraiture is meaningful, I can whole-heartedly say: Yes! If you'd again ask me if a portrait helps you to 'connect', I would again say 'yes'. Not in the way of a phone call or Skype or a letter, but it can connect you to a loving memory, and fill a space with its presence.


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Waterlilies, Monet and some demons.....

Stage 1
One beautiful afternoon we took a stroll to our pond. This painting is the result of that, and it resolves some serious inner struggles. It started innocently enough. One sunny Saturday afternoon, we picked up our gumboots and went for a walk, me with my camera in hand.
This is a pond I adore. I am always mesmerised by its colours, reflections, and meandering fragrances. It is a beautiful spot, magical even, supporting: native (and non-native) waterlilies; surrounded by gum-trees; sky and clouds reflecting in the water; dragon-flies hovering above the water. In short, it is our little slice of rain-forest paradise.

Stage 2
I have always loved ponds and waterlilies. I am also a painter. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that I love Monet's later work. Visiting the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris was a moment in my life that recaptured my original awe for painting, this having been sanded down somewhat by a stiff and formal education. The Musee de l'Orangerie has two large oval rooms in which the walls are covered with Monet's waterlilies, called Nympheas. The paintings are presented in the best possible light, thanks to the diffuse illumination coming from above. The eight large canvases are glued to the curved walls, aligned to the contours, and represent different times of the day. For me, it was like treading in a sacred space of beauty, paint, light, colour and atmosphere... And, oh yes, waterlilies. My impression was that these works by Monet wasn't about the lillies per se, but came from a sense of wonderment from the artist. In my opinion, the beauty of these paintings in the Musee de l,Orangerie, the way they have been sequenced, are without parallel in impressionism.

Which brings me to my dilemma: why even bother attempting to produce a painting, a process, like that?!

Water lillies, 80x80, acrylic on canvas
Yes, out came the demons:
'You can't be a copy-cat...you are nowhere near good enough...it's all been done before and, really, they're unsurpassable.' It didn't stop there. The inner voices pushed on:
'Lack of originality has always been your problem.. haven't you got anything meaningful to say?... all you want to do is make pretty pictures - how shallow!...'
These were echoes from my training. However, I had to admit, as I've done so many times before, that focussing on the harsher elements of reality, or making a political statement was just not what I signed up for as an artist. Sometimes, it seems to me that, certainly for the art world, beauty for the sake of beauty, is not appreciated. Monet himself copped some of this "Beauty for beauty's sake" criticism. Meanwhile, originality for the sake of it, is lauded. As an example, I remember visiting a renowned museum in Holland where an artist had thrown down a bundle of ropes in a corner of a room. He stated that the way they fell down, and the spontaneity of that process made it art....sigh. Perhaps this is also an example of arrogance for arrogance sake. 

So, with demons in one hand, inspiration and a blank canvas in the other, I took a very deep breath, picked up my brush, and did it my way. Using modern materials like modelling paste and acrylic paints, I started building up layers of paint to resemble the layers of water, reflections and lilies floating on the surface of the pond. Blue skies, muddy waters and purple-rimmed waterlilies emerged slowly but surely. For a change, I'm showing the different stages my painting went through. Please forgive my rudimentary photographic skills, but it is nice to show the straight-forward progress that the evolution of this painting took. It doesn't happen all the time. Plenty of paintings look very different by the time they're finished. Not in this case. Inspiration seemed to flow freely, unfettered. The judgement is yours... I know I am not doing myself any favours here, but to finish off, I'll give you a picture of the master himself. Waterlilies, 1908, oil on canvas, and a picture of one of the walls in the Musee de l'Orangerie.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My Buddha Dilemma

Buddha, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 30 cm
As I mentioned before, sometimes the image of a finished painting is firmly planted in my head. In this case: the lettering, unreadable; the big splash of red; the white rectangle, with weathered paint; and a little bronze Buddha head, very neatly painted. It should have been straight-forward. Technically, it was, at least for me. So, what was my dilemma?
Well, there is a head, not a full-size body, on a large pool of red. This could be interpreted as a chopped-off head in a pool of blood. That is definitely not my intention. In fact, I don't like my images to be confrontational. Instead, I prefer them to be harmonious; make people feel better when they look at it.
There were a few solutions. Firstly, paint a full-size Buddha. Simple. Proportion-wise, though, it didn't work well for me, but it offers the possibility of being used on a subsequent painting with different dimensions.
Secondly, change the big splash of red to another colour. With my mind's eye, I went through the lot of them: blues, yellows, purples and browns. Even greens. However, nothing looked as good as red to me. My third option? Abandon project. My reaction: Nah.... Fourth option: change the interpretation.
There is a Zen-koan that goes like this, "If You Meet The  Buddha on the Road, Kill Him."
That's actually a rather brutal expression from a very peaceful religion. I have heard stories of monks walking with extreme care in order not to squash any ants or other bugs. The precept of No Killing is taken very seriously by many Buddhists. So, where does this expression come from? Apparently it comes from Zen master Linji, but what did he try to say? Without master Linji being present here, all I can offer is my understanding. As I see it, he warns you not to idolise someone or something outside yourself. Be it a person, an idea or an image (mental or otherwise). The Buddha was very clear: we all have Buddha-natures. Worshipping something or someone, placed outside ourselves, is not going to reveal what is already inside us. Believing or having an idea about enlightenment is not going to help us experience our already enlightened nature.
So there you have it. This, for me is a good enough 'justification' for my little painting.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Indooroopilly library

Currently my pictures are hanging in the Indooroopilly library!! The library renovated and upgraded not too long ago, and the result is a library that is bigger, better equipped and has comfortable couches.
They ( my paintings, not the couches ) are hanging in the study corner. Everyone present that day put up, rather graciously, with my interference with their work. Then, to top it off, I asked them if I may take some photographs...
I know, I am totally biased: I love libraries (especially when they have comfortable couches), and I love my work, of course..... I think these paintings look very happy in the study corner, introducing a colourful atmosphere of warmth and peacefulness to the place.

So, if you are in the Indooroopilly area, why not pop in the library and have a look?! My paintings will be there until the end of July!!!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Many objects have their charm. This time my attention was caught by some organic garlic that I bought on a farmers market.
I fotographed it with the light coming from behind, for a more dramatic effect.
Again had fun in the background with a scrumptious type of blue, and a dash of pink seeping through....

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Zen, and reflections on inspiration

Ok, not so abstract any more....
This time the idea came to me as a complete picture. Usually I have to work hard at this aspect, but not this time.
As one of my teachers said: it's 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration. To my chagrin, he was right most of the time.

This painting combines for me my new-found freedom in the background, and a feeling of 'Zen' or simplicity in the bowl.
For those who are wondering: yes- it is a singing bowl, and no- I don't use it for meditation purposes. (In fact, I don't use it at all).
However, very happy with the result!!! :)