Monday 28 November 2022

Watercolour-collage 'Sunset garden'

I made the watercolours for ‘Sunset garden’ on Saturday during the Eastern Suburbs Art Group painting session organised for the afternoon. It was fun to sit around inside making little paintings of the dark green colocasia leaves, the reddish-black stems, and the white pebbles of the light well. 

There were three of us there and we all had different solutions to the problem of representation, a topical issue as on the day there was an election in Victoria. Figurative art never seems to go away though for a while there it seemed that high art had completely abandoned figuration – there’s an exhibition on at Chau Chak Wing Museum at the moment of 70s and 80 abstract art – but artists in 2022 have it available if they feel inclined to work out ways to extract the abstract from actual views of the world.

I went to see a show on at Damien Minton’s little gallery in Waterloo where Sidney Teodoruk’s lovely paintings – some oils and others collages combining cut-up paintings, words, and colours – inspired me to continue a trend in my own work that’d started a bit earlier when I was making colour-field paintings and sticking collage on top.

Yesterday I took this idea further by combining it with the figurative play of the Colocasia paintings, helped by my iPhone where I’d been noting down words with six letters. I chose “sunset” and “garden” then decided what source material to use for the collage. 

As usual I didn’t think too much about this part of the exercise though I’d already decided to use a waste paramontage that features a poem written on 11 March, and 15, 23 and 26 September 2021. The Bondi photos were taken on 9 March 2008 just before a major episode that I did survive and the poem features an historical subject, the idea that major political centres often get established on waterways, I was thinking when writing the poem of how the Vikings settled beaches then towns grew up around the resulting entrepots.

The reason why the paramontage was waste is because it’d been printed at the wrong size. I started making paramontages in April and got the grid-form ones done early in the process, the type-6 paramontages eventually being rejected in favour of works with different-sized photos in them. This type 6 is titled ‘Oswald eats a peach’ and it has a poem that goes like this.
Archers and melons make suitable sport
for these ambitious sons, fixing to sing.
A model once formed is a new resort
from the loathing and fear twisting the ring 
as immigrants fit our linguistic rules
and letters in books that land on the beach
infest our guts so that His very stools
nourish crops nourishing men within reach. 
Strict recitative fumbles a button
while priests magnificent with verbal tools
inscribe His reluctant fiat upon
the warbands scrappy as next-morning fools. 
When streets are laid out it becomes a port 
once a warrior’s seat – becomes a court.
Here is the set of watercolours and I’ve decided to get them framed when I go to Richmond for that purpose on Wednesday.

Tuesday 15 November 2022

'Social animals' series of collages

In the past few days I’ve been doing a lot of works in the ‘Social animals’ series that is developing alongside other works as the inspiration takes me. It started with several iterations of Television Man then came four exemplars of Flip-phone Dog and finally Computer Mouse, the theme connecting them all is our symbiotic relationship with machines, we seem to be tied very closely to these complex manufactured items and we surround ourselves with images and sounds that come from them. 

Television Man

We use machines to transport us from one place to another, achieving in minutes what in an earlier age took days to accomplish. We spend hours each day watching a device play content manufactured for our use by people on a different continent, people we’ll never meet or communicate with apart from in our own minds.

Flip-phone Dog

Science fiction 100 years ago never predicted what we throw away nowadays as rubbish when it no longer works. We leave discarded devices on the street kerb to get wet in the rain and count it lucky if we don’t get fined. We give away items that once would’ve been considered magical if they no longer serve us, or if we decide to go to a different continent (the journey taking a few hours) and need to empty our house quickly.

Computer Mouse

Documents that we’ve made when we got up at dawn to write are now stored for safekeeping in machines located on that distant continent, the storage achieved without our even concerning ourselves about it. We’ve eclipsed the old shamans and their spirits in our service to mythical objects that are advertised while we’re plugged into the news of the day streaming at the speed of light through the atmosphere.

The spirits of our ancestors beckon us but we’re too busy watching Netflix or Prime. We’re the odd angle in the tree of evolution, we are breaking new paths and editing the material of descent with new machines that our elected representatives haven’t yet understood or, for that matter, bargained for. 

The world is changing in the Anthropocene.

Friday 11 November 2022

Watercolour- and collage-making

A few days ago I started making watercolour collages starting with flowers, something simple and happy, something not too demanding, something fun. I was drawing on the Eastern Suburbs Art Group session of 29 October, when we did something similar together in my front room overlooking the street.

I made about five or six flower paintings with magazines I’d picked up for the group, there are women’s magazines, New Scientist, a stack of motoring magazines, a whole range of things salvaged from landfill. When I was talking to my friend Basia – who’s always been very supportive of my artmaking efforts – and as I was outlining the reasons making collages is so much fun I mentioned this aspect or collage-making, the fact that you’re recycling and giving a new use to something most people would see as rubbish.

The next series I made had rockets in them. The photo above shows one of these, and it’s one that Roger, who I went to school with 45 years ago, identified as his favourite from the set. He liked the humour, and I guess that collage lends itself to making fun because of this reuse aspect.

Although the watercolour part determined the use of rockets because I wanted a theme to use the bleed in the centre, where the excess liquid has damaged the pristine line, infiltrated the swatch of paint, it’s impossible with collage to anticipate exactly what will happen in the creative process. I look at magazine pages and just pick out things that appeal to me, then when I’m assembling the collage I just pick things up off the table top and glue them down in a seamless movement. 

There’s thought but it’s all done on the fly. The next series I did was cars, and I used a square of water from the beginning to get the TV-like shape in the middle that’s filled with bleeding colour. The car series are quite self-conscious in this way and I got images of cars out of the motorsport magazines to link to the cut-shape cars I made with scissors. There’s a good deal of skill involved in making these figures, you have to know where to turn the paper to get the right outline.

After the cars I turned to the theme of death because I’d been talking with Basia and she had shown me photos of dead birds she’d made in the 80s. The colour is still joyous but the works’re getting more serious, more contemplative, more difficult.

I returned to the TV-shaped bleeds in the television man series, which’re just silly little things with a subtext, I like the way that they make fun of themselves, the electric zaps at the top were quite hard to do and the hands often wouldn’t stick down the first time. Unlike one of the birds I didn’t tear any of these.

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Doorbell/intercom breaks down again

Ok so after Dan the electrician got the Akuvox doorbell installed on my house the thing worked for exactly ONE DAY before it broke down. I got it to buzz reliably on one occasion and then when a friend came to visit he had to call me from outside on the pavement because I wasn’t answering. 

I wasn’t answering because the doorbell didn’t sound. This was because it had broken down again. I was back in groundhog day, sort of like enjoying sunny days in Sydney in November 2022. For a few hours the sun shines and then BANG the clouds come overhead and it starts to spit.

My doorbell is raining on my parade.

Dan came and tinkered around in the ceiling, then tinkered around in the wall, then did something with a bunch of wires. I asked him at the end about what the problem was and he said something about the wires pulling out of their contacts because of pressure. Apparently he’d combined all the wires into one strand or something – who KNOWS?

When I worked for Yamatake-Honeywell in the nineties we had the sales company and the service company and now I know why they have a separate arm just for service. Because you KNOW that as soon as there’s an opportunity for something to go wrong it’s going to go wrong and it’s going to inconvenience the largest number of people. Just by writing this post I’m jinxing the machine, the machine is watching it’s got an AI component reading every blog in the world and it’s going to see what I’ve so recklessly written and start plotting to take out my doorbell so that my life falls apart.

I still haven’t worked out what to do with the old parts from the previous doorbell/intercom. They’ll probably sit on my bookshelf for 10 years and then get thrown in the garbage. Life is like a box of junk, you think it’s worth something but it turns out the valuables are just taking up space.