Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stuck On Art

I have recently fallen in love with, and been inspired by, the work of German Dada artist Hannah Hoch. Viewing her work recently has restored, or rather enhanced, my interest in the medium of collage.

I have used collage in my paintings and drawings for the past few of years, however, it mostly featured in the background of my work or was used subtly to compliment other media. I am now interested in exploring collage as the feature [medium] in some of my works.

Another collage artist who I have admired in the past is Raoul Hausmann, a co-founder of the Berlin Dada movement in 1917 and incidentally was once Hoch's lover. Whilst many texts suggest that their relationship may have been quite destructive on a personal level it was certainly one that had a strong affect on their work as it was during their relationship that the two of them entered the world of collage. It seems however, back in the day, Hoch was considered Hausmann's lover, not his equal.

I think her work speaks for itself.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Short and Sweet

Just got back from seeing the first ten plays of Short and Sweet 2006. Each play was ten minutes or under and although not all were to my ideal taste, I developed an appreciation for every one of them. It must be extremely difficult to contain a plot or story to such a short time frame and to be able to connect with the audience on an emotional level in this small amount of time or at least capture and hold their attention. I felt a certain artistic empathy and appreciation whilst watching these short plays and left the theatre feeling, in many ways, inspired.

I do enjoy live theatre and I have not been to a show since late February, when I saw Edge, a play based on the last day of Sylvia Plath's life, starring Angela Torn.

The two plays that stood out for me last night were When We Fall, by Tamara Searle (VIC), and The Emotional Anatomy of a Relationship Breakdown, by Suzie Miller (NSW). For me they were the most enjoyable and dynamic, featuring characters and/or stories that I felt sympathetic or empathic towards.

Like with most things I observe, I relate them (or thoughts on them), in some way, to my art or the way I think about or approach it. Tonight was no different and I found myself thinking a lot about the audience (or viewers) of art and the relationship or connection they may or may not have with specific works - in any medium.

I have many thoughts racing around inside my head. I shall sleep on them.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

B is for Bourgeois

During a recent discussion with a Berlin gallerist, Louise Bourgeois's name was mentioned, reminding me of the book I have on her. I plucked it from my shelf today and almost every page is a reminder of why she is, for me, such an influential and inspirational artist.

I was fortunate enough to see an exhibition of her work, (mostly drawings), whilst I was is Dublin a couple of years ago. I had no idea it was showing and when I entered the gallery to discover a Bourgeois exhibition I was delighted and extremely grateful.

She was first brought to my attention around five or six years ago when I was staying at a friend's, (artist, Margarita Georgiadis), place in Sydney. Margarita and I were writing stream of consciousness prose together when she showed me her copy of Louise Bourgeois, Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father. As soon as I returned to Melbourne I went straight to the Arts Bookshop and adopted my own copy.

The book is full of intimate, intricate and informative excerpts in the form of diary notes, artist statements, autobiographical notes, interviews and acceptance speeches. There are a few I wish to catalogue here.

An artist's words are always to be taken cautiously. The finished work is often a stranger to, and sometimes very much at odds with what the artist felt or wished when he began. At best the artist does what he can, rather than what he wants to do. After the battle is over and the damage faced up to, the result may be surprisingly dull - but sometimes it is surprisingly interesting. The mountain brought forth a mouse, but the bee will create a miracle of beauty and order. Asked to enlighten us on their creative process, both would be embarrassed, and probably uninterested. The artist who discusses the so-called meaning of his work is usually describing a literary side-issue. The core of his original impulse is to be found, if at all, in the work itself.
Louise Bourgeois, from an article published in 1954 in Design Quarterly, no. 30.

...and this, from 'Forum: Women in Art' in the February 1971 edition of Arts magazine when asked by Cindy Nemser: How do you feel about the position of women in the art world today?
Louise Bourgeois: A woman has no place as an artist until she proves over and over that she won't be eliminated.

...and these two statements from 1979:

I didn't have the security of any kind of religion, so in the end, that is how I became an artist - to find a mode of survival.

I have had a guilt complex about pushing my art, so much so that every time I was about to show I would have some sort of attack. So I decided it was better simply not to try. It was just that I had the feeling the art scene belonged to the men, and that I was in some way invading their domain. Therefore the work was done and hidden away. I felt more comfortable hiding it. On the other hand, I destroyed nothing. I kept every fragment.
Nowadays, however, I am making an effort to change.

...and this; On Teaching Art, (previously unpublished), from the 1990's:

To be born an artist is both a privilege and a curse. How can it be taught? It is not possible to become one, you can just accept or refuse the gift. It is not in my power or is it my responsibility or am I willing to try the impossible aim [of] teaching someone to "become" an artist.
However, we can talk about Art Education until the cows come home. It is nice and it can even be funny.
Artists in the medical profession (Therapy) could be invaluable [teachers] because of their insight and their access to the unconscious - their tolerance and understanding of the disturbed.

...and finally, when asked in 1971, by Alexis Rafael Krasilovsky, (question 51 of 61):

How do you spend your days?
Louise answered: I work like a bee and feel that I accomplish little.

Bourgeois will turn 95 this year. That in it self is a huge accomplishment, but she has accomplished so much more.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Fortunate Feeling

I have grown to appreciate the feeling of being out somewhere, even if it's only briefly, and having such a strong desire to get back home and into the studio amongst my canvas, paint and ever flowing stream of ideas. It reminds me just how wonderful and fortunate it is for me to possess such a desire. To have such a strong passion for something that I yearn for it.

I speak to so many people who are so lackluster and tell me they have no real passion in their lives, some even admit to having no real direction. I have been told numerous times how lucky I am to have known what I wanted to do and pursue from such an early age. I guess I have, at times, taken this for granted but when I do look back, it really is what I was always passionate about and what I always wanted to pursue, without a doubt.

My art is one thing I can truly call my own. It is something that I conceive, something I give birth to. It is something I have to feed and it is what feeds me. It is what I look forward to. It is all this and more. It is my passion, my life. My art gives me a greater sense of purpose and without it I would feel lost. It is a necessity and I am grateful to feel this way.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Always On My Mind

Contrast to last Sunday, this one was a day of rest - at least in the physical sense. Even on these rare days where I do not set foot in the studio, not even to contemplate a work in progress, my mind is still full of thoughts and new inspirations that relate to my art - that part never stops.

These sporadic occasions allow me to realign my thoughts and prioritise ideas that I wish to transform - it's like renovating the studio that is located inside my head and it allows me to see things more clearly when I step into the other one.

On a day of no prac, there is still theory and in a world where balance seems so difficult to attain - I think this week saw the scales pose symmetrically.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Random Excerpt of the Day

Boomer had asked her once, in a telephone call from Virginia, "Why does this stuff, these hand-painted hallucinations that don't do nothin' but confuse the puddin' out of a perfectly reasonable wall, why does it mean so much to you?"
It was a poor connection, but he could have sworn he heard her say, "In the haunted house of life, art is the only stair that doesn't creak."

-Tom Robbins, excerpt from Skinny Legs and All

Friday, November 24, 2006

Eastern Influences

I had a fascination for Japan long before I first travelled there in July, 2003, so it was no surprise that I fell in love with so many things about the place. It was a delightful and wonderfully humbling experience. I returned home with a strong desire to travel there again. I did so in September last year, this time with my partner.

I purposely avoided Tokyo on both occasions in the hope of experiencing a more 'traditional' Japan, and after spending the majority of my time in Kyoto, I was not disappointed. Sure, Kyoto has its fair share of the modern day mundane, the high tech, the fast food chains that seem to be taking over the world and other things you can see in almost any city of the modern world. However, to me all this was perfectly balanced by the traditional elements of Kyoto; the temples and shrines and the city's evident rich cultural history. It seemed a very proud city, and rightly so.

I was so thrilled to be back there in 2005. Other than New York City, Kyoto (via Osaka) is the only place I have travelled to twice, and as much as I loved New York, if I had to choose between the two, I would choose Kyoto.

As an artist I had been greatly inspired by Japanese art and culture for quite some time before I actually travelled there, however, everything was heightened after my first visit.

After painting predominantly Japanese inspired works for two exhibitions I was asked if this would be a continual theme in my work. I have no idea how this question was posed but it prompted me to ask myself the same thing and to then explore other artistic influences. I suppose I was a little concerned, (only temporarily), that I may become pigeon-holed and known only as the 'artist who paints Japanese faces' etc.

In early 2004 I travelled to Germany to visit the birth town of my mother. I also visited Berlin and was most impressed with the abundance of art, galleries and street culture that I saw. It was a fantastic experience and one that encouraged me to experiment with new subject matter, technique and ideas. Whilst I enjoyed the change and new artistic challenges, I always seemed to revert back to my Eastern influences - it was just something that seemed to work for me, it was something I felt a strong connection with, just like the country, (Japan), itself.

I am constantly referring to and continuously exploring my (personal) relationship with Japan in my art and there is still so much yet to explore, which is something that excites me. Each year the work I produce has become more and more personal (intimate) yet I still strive to create and communicate in a visual language/dialogue that allows others into my works, (and the ideas behind them), and maybe even relate to or share the experience. I paint for myself but I am aware of the fact that the work will be seen and considered by the public. I do not expect that everyone will connect or relate to the work, or even like the work, however I always try to communicate, as best I can, my experiences and emotions through my work. For me it is an intimate process.

I still possess a strong desire to return again to Japan to further explore it's rich historical culture and now also to immerse myself in it's contemporary culture and the high tech Japan. It is an amazing country, rich, diverse and like no other place on earth, and certainly one that continues to intrigue, entice and inspire me as an artist.

This may be a case of 'the grass is always greener' as I tend to lack an interest in the history of my own country. I have discussed this in depth with my partner who suggests that the Japanese may feel the same way about their cultural history. Who knows. Perhaps it is my own ignorance that forbids me to seek or find inspiration from my own country's history and I mean no disrespect - but for now that's just the way it is.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Word Play

Still on the subject of words, early last year I was playing around with anagrams of my name. I produced a painting from this 'word game' and called it Fragments and Anagrams I.

I then played around with the words 'Self' and 'Portrait' and produced a second work, Fragments and Anagrams II. 'Felt Airports' was my favourite anagram of Self Portrait.

These two works were produced during a time of personal transition and the fragments and anagrams reference held great symbolism for me.

I came up with quite a number of anagrams for my name, my ten favourites were, (in no particular order):

* Say Mine Random

* Drama In My Nose (or Nose In My Drama)

* Is My Nomad Near
* Damn Is My Ear On
* Yes In Mad Roman
* My Man Does Rain
* No As In My Dream
* Noisy Man Dream
* MOMA Nine Yards

* Me A Darn Simony

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Sea and Other Stories

I have been neglecting my other online blog recently, devoting most of my online activity to writing in this one. Because of this, there will no doubt be entries that are not directly related to my art, which could defeat the whole purpose of this blog if I am not diligent. Therefore, as these non-direct entries are bound to find their way here, I will endeavour to oversee that they are at least indirectly related, in some way, to my art; be it things, people or places that have an affect on or influence my art. After all, this blog was created for my 'artist' self; as a place for me to regularly and freely ramble, vent, document and reflect.

I have just returned home. My shoes sounded like maracas as I walked back from the beach. I decided I needed to get out of the studio, (and the house), for a while. Now that the weather is improving I can take advantage of our close proximity to the sea more often. I have not just sat on the beach for ages and it was most enjoyable to do so once again; listening to the rhythmic sound of the waves lapping, the seagulls squawking, smelling the salty air and squinting at the sun as it heads for the horizon.

Two inquisitive seagulls kept me company for sometime, hoping I would produce something edible from my bag. Much to their dismay, all I had in my bag were three poetry books.

There was no one else around for the majority of my time sitting on the sand, it was so very peaceful and the perfect setting for reading poetry.

The three books I had with me were:
Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing, recently given to me by my dear friend Andrea, (who was also the one who, around five years ago, suggested I read Beautiful Losers and kindly leant me his copy - I believe that is around the time my love affair with Mr. Cohen really began).
The second was Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath which my partner brought back from America for me last year, only to discover that I already it. We have kept both copies.
He also brought back with him the third book I had with me today, The Essential Neruda -Collected Poems . In fact it was my partner who introduced me to Pablo Neruda's work and I instantly fell in love with it. Just as beautiful as the poetry within the book was my partner's inscription which reads:
My dearest Simone
May your life always inspire and derive joy from the love and longing and passion contained within the mysterious language of your own beautiful poetic world of words.
- J. 16.06.05

The written word has always been, and continues to be, a huge influence for me in life and art.

A few years ago I wrote a series of 'ramblings' aptly named 'psychobabble'. I also did a series of works on paper based on these writings and have recently reacquainted myself with these pieces and have even began to rework a couple. Reflection can be an inspiring thing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mood Music

For the past two days I have had four tracks from the soundtrack to Wong Kar-Wai's film In the Mood for Love on continuous rotation; Yumeji's Theme, In the Mood for Love I, II and III.

The music is every bit as beautiful and emotive as I remember the film being and I have been captivated and inspired by its well composed beauty these past 48 hours.

Free Time

Sometimes I feel a slight sense of claustrophobia with my work. I find it hard to 'free up' at times and often spend far too many minutes, hours, even days on the finer details. I sometimes make a mark that is loose and flowing and will be quite pleased with it, but too often I cannot resist the urge to re-work it and then re-work it some more.

After leaving high school, at the tender age of 15, I worked as a graphic designer for a number of years. I also spent many years drawing with pencil and in pen and ink. The works were all of a realist nature and were highly rendered with incredible attention to detail.

When I first began painting I held the brush the same way I held a pencil or pen; which was with such intensity that it has caused a very distinct curve in the middle finger of my right hand. It bends to the right. For me painting was initially like drawing with a brush.

As a painter, I was once a little concerned about the graphic nature, (as in style not content), of my work, thinking it perhaps closer to graphic design or illustration rather than painting. I learnt to embrace it however, as it is the way I paint. Many of my artistic influences happen to be of a graphic or illustrative nature and be it painters or illustrators they are all artists.

Every now and then however I do like to paint a number of works on paper and attempt to loosen my grip and relax my attention to detail. Many of these works will never make it to one of my exhibitions but they are vital to me in the studio and sometimes even assist my 'sense of sane'.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Me, Myself and I

In the past I have been asked what my reasons are/were for painting self-portraits.

During my 2003 exhibition at Jackman Gallery I had many people comment on the similarities between the faces of my Geisha paintings and my own; a lot seeing a definite resemblance, some even asking if one or two of them were me. None of them were. Personally I could not see the similarities but perhaps I subconsciously painted elements of myself in them all. I certainly felt a strong connection with the works, (at first without even truly understanding why), which stemmed from my fascination with Geisha and their painted faces and flawless aesthetic perfection.

Just after beginning that body of work I flew up to Sydney to meet with artist, Margarita Georgiadis. I arrived at her studio as a Gallery Manager but conversed with her as an artist. We talked about art for hours and it was the first time I had really openly discussed my work and influences with anyone. Our in depth conversation prompted me to investigate the reasons behind this influential allurement of mine even further. I was fascinated with my discoveries and the (deeper) psychological connection I had with my subject and just how symbolic the Geisha's perfection and painted faces were. I certainly was not just painting them because they looked pretty.

It was the first time someone had really pushed me to explore my art further, someone other than myself that is. I began to then realise so many things about my work, (that had quite possibly been obvious to others), that I had perhaps been avoiding, as they were somewhat confrontational. I am still grateful for that conversation with Margarita, and also grateful that we ultimately became friends rather than business associates.

It is amazing how sometimes we, (or perhaps I should only speak for myself and say 'I'), can paint something and not completely understand what or why we have created a particular piece until some time later. I recently watched a musician's acceptance speech where he said that sometimes it is not until a particular song has been recorded and listened to a few times that he actually 'gets it' himself or understands exactly what he was trying to say or what the song ultimately means. It was along those lines anyway, and for a brief moment I felt a refreshing wave of empathy flow through me.

I didn't paint a self-portrait until preparing for my exhibition the following year. I never saw it as an ego driven desire, (to paint oneself), but I suppose many would argue that it is. I felt comforted by the fact that most, if not all, artists go through a self-portrait phase at some stage of their career. For me, self-portraits became a form of artistic self-exploration. More recently, however, I guess it has more to do with my lack of resources as we no longer live in the city and I no longer have any models other than myself. Besides, there is no subject one can know better than oneself, or you would at least hope this to be the case. Perhaps self-portraits allow me to get to know myself even better.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Creative Intentions

Not the most colourful or creative day in the studio but a day in the studio none the less.

Some days, despite being full of inspiration and having a multitude of ideas inside my head, I find it so difficult to make the first mark on a new canvas. There is a certain trepidation that at times causes me to procrastinate or vacillate and often sees me fall victim to the simplest distractions in order to delay what needs to be done.

I even try to convince myself that my distractions are constructive ones while I sit at the computer sorting through reference photos or perhaps take some new ones. I'll write down some ideas or write in my blog. I may even go for a walk to 'clear my mind', and whilst these are not bad things, all I am really succeeding in doing is avoiding my canvas's need for attention.

Whilst surfing the web,
(another distraction to fuel my procrastination), for Osaka galleries today, I came across a particular site that had the following quote on it's home page:

Whatever the results are going to be, you've got to roll up your sleeves and get started. Just thinking about it won't get anything done.

How appropriate!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Not Guilty

Not a mark has been made nor a single thing done in the studio today. I am having a rather lazy day, which up until very recently was something I would always feel terribly guilty about. Now, however, I realise that these days can be just as important for me as an artist as the days spent hunched over canvas and covered in paint.

Instead I am spending the best part of the day reclining on the couch with a monthly inconvenience, a good book and an unattractive (but practical) hot water bottle, which, despite its ugliness, I have never been able to throw out. I purchased it in Chicago several years ago in a time of need and it cost a small fortune, as far as hot water bottles go, but it was the only one to be found and I felt it a necessity. I figured I should hold on to it and get my moneys worth.

I am continuing to read Victoria Finlay's wonderful adventures and intricate research on colour and despite having a quiet day as far as the practical side of things go, I am feeling incredibly inspired at the moment and look forward to a creative, colourful and productive day in the studio tomorrow: Sunday - the day of no rest.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mellowed by Yellow

I was having trouble getting to sleep last night. I broke my strict diet late yesterday, after 63 days, by indulging in a glass of organic shiraz and 2 pieces of organic dark chocolate. I am not sure whether it was the consumption of those or the anxiety related to consuming them that made me and my digestive system feel a bit unsettled, but whatever it was, I was restless and unable to relax properly.

To rectify this, I picked up a book. I often find when I am unsettled late of an evening that reading is the one thing that can bring a sense of calm. I randomly selected a title from my bookshelf which happened to be Colour - Travels Through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay, (which I think was later re-released as Colour - The Natural History of the Palette). My dear friend Karyn had bought me this book for my 29th birthday, and in over three years, I had not managed to read any of it.

I read a little of the Green chapter and then began to read the chapter on Yellow. I chose yellow in light of a recent commission I had completed. I usually do not accept many commissions, as I find sometimes the expectations and 'guidelines' can limit my artistic freedom. I don't like the idea of being asked to reproduce a particular painting but can I put that there and make that this colour etc. In fact, I never accept commissions of this nature. I do however accept some commissions that allow me that artistic freedom or provide me with a desirable challenge. In this case, it was quite simple, as the only real 'guideline' was that I feature the colour yellow. Although, in a sense, this
golden rule was still something I would usually roll my eyes at a little, I was keen to explore a colour that I had hardly ever used in my work. In fact, in the past I had even found the colour annoying at times. Don't ask me why - I have no idea. I now enjoy a much more positive relationship with the colour in question.

I found the chapter on Yellow absolutely fascinating and by 2am I was having difficulty putting the book down despite feeling incredibly tired. I read until I could no longer keep my eyes open.

(I have often heard questions in regards to whether we dream in colour or 'black and white'. Sleep Laboratory evidence suggests that most dreams are in colour, although most people, when dreaming, frequently do not supply colour information unless prompted to do so. It has been said that people who notice colour more in their 'waking life', such as artists, are far more likely to notice colour in their dreams as well.)

I am not sure if this last statement is true or not but I certainly dreamt in full colour last night.

I have picked up Ms. Finlay's remarkable book again today. I simply admire the dedication and intelligence that went into the research and writing of this book. It is truly intriguing and ultimately inspiring in so many ways. What an amazing woman.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Artistic Research

I first travelled to Japan in July 2003, just a couple of months after I held my exhibition of Geisha paintings at Jackman Gallery in Melbourne. I spent the majority of my time in Kyoto, the ancient capital and traditional home of the Geisha, further exploring my subject matter and feeding both my inspiration and fascination.

I remember seeing my first Geisha, it was quite a breathtaking spectacle. I was strolling along the Kamo Gawa in the early evening when I spotted her on the balcony of one of the elevated restaurants that adorn the banks of the river. I stopped in my tracks, somewhat awe-struck, and observed her for a while, from a distance, as she entertained her business-suit clad gentlemen clients over sushi and copious amounts of sake.

I encountered a couple more of these beauties that evening, my first in Kyoto, and became even more fascinated with the history and culture behind these ladies and their art.

Whilst in Kyoto I did a rather 'touristy' thing, that I prefer to call 'artistic research', and had myself made-up in full Geisha attire. Actually I went through the elaborate process twice, first as a Maiko, (an apprentice Geisha), and a few days later as a Geiko, (Geisha). The whole experience was a curiously intriguing one and until that day I had no idea of some of the intricacies involved.

First you strip down to your underwear and slip into a white smock-like cotton gown and wiggle your feet into the tiny white socks, called tabi, (which are split between the big toe and second toe). Then it's make up time. The hair net goes on first, followed by the porcelain face make up, a little pink around the eyes and on the cheeks, then they paint on the eyebrows with black and pink, add black eye-liner to both top and bottom eyelid, blood red to the lips, and finally a little mascara. Then it's off to pick out one of the superbly crafted silk kimono - as a Maiko I chose emerald green and as a Geiko I decided on black. You are then dressed by two women who pull at all your layers and fasten them so tight that it becomes difficult to breathe. I had no idea that there were two other layers to be wrapped in before you get into the kimono itself, which may I say is insanely heavy for a piece of clothing. The fact that these ladies maintain their elegance under all that weight is incredible. The Obi sash is the last thing to be fitted before the wig, with appropriate 'wig' accessories, completes the ritual. Then you can pose for a series of photographs, and take a few of your own.

The photos that were taken that day ended up becoming studies for a series of self portraits.

The experience certainly heightened my respect and admiration for these women and the painstaking efforts that are put into their appearance night after night.

That day I was the only Westerner being made-over, the other chairs in the make up room were all occupied by Japanese school girls, who, when made-over, looked absolutely stunning. I am sure a few of them wondered what the hell this green eyed Geisha was doing!
Artistic research of course.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Back Where it All Began

Another nostalgic blog entry as I also found this photo whilst at my parents house yesterday. I believe it is the first ever photo of me painting.

I showed this to my partner last night and he commented on the smock, (how could he not), which my mother lovingly made for me to keep my garments from being splattered with paint, suggesting that I could perhaps use one of those now. I do have a habit of wearing good clothes when I paint which then serve no other purpose once stained with dozens of colours to be anything but painting attire.

That smock, as practical as it may well have been, looks big enough to fit two children inside. My partner even suggested it could quite possibly still fit me today. I have no idea what became of the smock but I believe it served it's purpose well.

My clothes actually take on quite a similar appearance to the colorful patterned fabric of that art smock after I have painted in them for a few days.

I shall continue to paint smockless.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Childhood Treasure

Whilst at my parent's house today I came across this drawing. It is the first, (earliest), drawing that I can actually remember doing. We were living in a two storey flat in Carlton on the outskirts of the city. I think my father and I may have attended an AFL football match that day, as we did almost every weekend when I was a young child. The picture is of a football game, more specifically, Richmond players.

This tiny little childhood drawing holds great significance for me. I clearly remember drawing this picture for my father, as though it was yesterday; I must have been about three years old. I sat down at the dining room table and announced that I was going to draw a picture for him. As I handed the drawing to my father I then announced, rather adamantly, that I was going to be an artist.

It measures about 6cm square, or at least it did once. It is no longer square in shape. It is crumpled, creased, discoloured and slightly torn in places but I love the fact that after all these years he still proudly possesses this tiny and frail piece of paper.

A Thousand Words Paint a Picture

Last night I read a handful of entries from Linotte, The Early Dairies of Anais Nin, 1914-1920. Her writing never ceases to amaze and please me. I find her use and understanding of language, even at the tender age of eleven, outstanding. She wrote with such eloquence. I find myself often in awe of this when I read her work. I consider her one of my foremost literary and creative influences.

Literature has influenced my work as a visual artist for quite some time and in September this year I wrote about an idea I had in my analogue diary. The idea was based
on exploring the relationship between art and literature, primarily the influence of the written word on the visual artist.

When we read we are prompted to use our imagination f
or with written text there is no other visual platform. We must create the imagery ourselves from our imagination, allowing the written words or dialogue to conjure up images inside our head. In a sense we are merging the writer's imagination with our own.

In some cases, for me, the images that form are very literal and straight forward, parallel to the descriptive text. At other times the words can trigger a memory and the outcome is a more personal interpretation of the author's text – I may perhaps even visualise myself as a particular character or project myself into a specific context. Sometimes a simple sentence or description might trigger an idea or vision within my creative mind, which I then incorporate into a painting. Conversely many writers could possibly write an entire story based on a two dimensional work of art.

I wanted to examine these concepts further and thus at the beginning of this month I set up an online project with several other artists to explore this relationship. I am now taking this one step further and am in the process of curating an exhibition around this idea.

For me the relationship is an important one. I have even sometimes wondered if some authors are artists who cannot paint, (and even if some artists are struggling writers who find it hard to express themselves in a written medium thus choosing the visual alternative). Sometimes when I am reading the likes of Cohen, Murakami, Winterson, Robbins and other favourites, I think, 'I wish I had written that', as it perfectly describes the way I feel, think about or see something. Often when I can't find the right words, I paint. I paint for many reasons and at the end of the day, just like writing, it is a form of expression - self or otherwise.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I have spent the best part of the past two days hunching over a canvas and my back is now starting to feel it. I have an easel, a rather handsome one that I purchased about six years ago, but I don't think I've ever used it. For me it is just not practical. I work mostly with my canvas on the floor and occasionally up against the studio wall.

I often get so caught up in what I am doing that I forget to periodically compensate my slouching with stretching. By the time I do think of it the stiffness has settled in. I must make a conscious effort to rectify this in order to avoid a Quasimodo-esque posture.

The one thing I do miss about our old humble city flat is a bathtub. Despite the roomier dimensions of this dwelling it has no bath, though I guess with the current water situation in Victoria that's probably a good thing. Still, after a day of hunching in the studio I am sure my muscles would be grateful for the luxury.

There is not a single blank canvas left in the house, I cannot remember the last time this was the case, so today I ordered the rest of the canvas for my next exhibition. Inspired by Saturday's blog entry and for my own amusement, (in the nicest possible way), the majority will be 77 x 53cm.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This Charming Man

Yesterday afternoon, after hearing of Jack Palance's passing, I put on my old VHS copy of Bagdad Cafe, (a.k.a Out of Rosenheim), whilst I painted, pausing attentively for Jack's scenes. I think the role of Rudi Cox was possibly the most charming of Palance's film career, and for me it was certainly the most memorable.

I first watched this film in the late 80's and fell in love with everything about it, in particular, Palance's character, Rudi Cox, an artist who ultimately falls in love with the main character. The scenes where Palance is painting Jasmine, played by the adorable Marianne Sagebrecht, are just delightful and I fell in love with them and Rudi Cox all over again yesterday.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Does Size Really Matter?

It was such a glorious morning earlier that I almost felt guilty for being in the studio painting. I tried to compromise by painting outside on the verandah but as much as I love the quick drying nature of acrylic paint, the sun was actually drying the paint too fast and causing my lovely new brush to harden, making painting rather difficult.

I guess I have to learn how to manage my time better in regards to things other than painting. I hardly do any exercise and often feel quite disgusted with myself for this. The main reason we moved here was for the space factor, a place that was big enough to provide me with a studio that was not part of any other room, so I could leave everything set up at the end of the day and not have to pack it all away when we had guests or wanted to use the living are for other purposes. Another reason we moved was the lifestyle factor and I feel I have not done that side of things justice. We moved in December last year and after 11 months I still have not taken up yoga again. When we first moved here I was swimming almost every day, I guess as the year went on the weather played a big part in the demise of that. However, with the weather getting better now and the beach only a 5 minute walk away, I have no excuse.

A year ago we were living in a one bedroom flat and I was using a section of our small living area as my studio or designated painting area. This makes me think of a question that was put to me recently. I was asked why I don't paint larger works, with the average size of my works being around 70 x 50cm. I wasn't offended by the question itself but perhaps a little by the way it was asked with a kind of 'bigger is better' attitude. I guess I have never really felt the desire or need to paint huge paintings, which possibly had a lot to do with the fact that up until 11 months ago I didn't have the space to paint big, so perhaps I was painting to accommodate my environment. Even now though, with the space, I don't really feel the necessity to upsize. I do paint the occasional larger piece and I'm sure I may surprise myself one day - I certainly have nothing against large scale paintings, but I certainly don't believe that bigger is better when it comes to a work of art. Perhaps I should have reminded my inquirer that one of the world's most recognised and iconic works of art measures only 77 x 53cm. Whilst I'm not saying it's the greatest work of art, there is certainly no denying that Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, in all it's modest sized glory, is one of the most famous.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Brush Stoked and Keen on Green

I finally got around to buying new brushes on Monday after forcing out every last stroke from my old faithfuls. I christened them today. I'd forgotten the joy of using new, pristine brushes and I have vowed to make sure I do this more often. It makes pushing paint along the canvas surface that much more enjoyable.

Speaking of paint, I have been using a lot of green paint lately. It is actually my favourite colour but until recently I had avoided using too much of it, if any, in my paintings, possibly due to a theory that I'd been told in the past. I can't remember who told me, but it was more than one person on more than one occasion, that green was not a popular colour in painting. I think the way one person phrased it was "paintings with (too much) green in them don't sell." I was fairly young at the time and only just starting to use colour in my work, so I must have stored that information and subconsciously took their advice on board.

Looking back, I have started introducing more green/s into my work particularly over the last 12 months, and further more, some of these greener works have actually sold. I don't know where these people got their theory from, or whether there is even a skerrick of truth behind it. I am sure there are people who despise the colour green and wouldn't buy a painting with any shade of it whatsoever, but this could perhaps apply with any colour. I must say, having worked in galleries before, I was often sickened by the amount of people with thousands upon thousands to spend that would want to colour coordinate a painting with there furnishings and decor. I remember one woman even bringing in her interior designer and fabric swatches of her new sofa and holding them up to the painting she'd had her eye on to see if they worked together. I was so disgusted by this that I had to get my co-worker to deal with her. I can't remember whether she bought the piece or not, I just remember thinking that she should buy the painting because she loved the painting, regardless of how it worked with the sofa. I know there are collectors who buy works they may not particularly like for the purpose of investment, but to match a piece of furniture...

Getting back to green, when I look at some of the so called masters of the field, there were many artists who seemed to explore and exploit the colour. After all, it is the colour of nature, it is also the colour of balance. Van Gogh was a big fan of green, it also featured heavily in the works of Die Brucke artists Kirchner, Pechstein and Heckel, and Matisse seemed to find it non-offensive. The list goes on, but I must also give special mention to Picasso's Weeping Woman.

If it was good enough for these chaps, (and so many others), it can't be all that bad, even if it doesn't match your sofa.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Words of Art

I've been blogging online for around 4 years now. Prior to that, on and off since the age of 14, I kept an old fashioned diary - the pen to paper kind. My other online blog covers everything from depression, anxiety, emotions of all colours and flavours, relationships - old and new, to childhood memories, events of the everyday life and random thoughts of the day - some being deep and profound, others bordering on ridiculous. It's an outlet and it is mine.

Despite having written in this way for years, I have hardly written anything that relates to my art, or even art in general. When I look back on all the entries I have made over the years I am amazed at exactly how little mention of it there is. This fuelled my decision to create this here blog. A place where I can document my thoughts, (and images), that relate directly, or even indirectly, to my art.

On saying I have never really put much into words on the subject, there is of course the time, every year, when my exhibition/s come around and I am expected to write a few paragraphs in relation to the (body of) works on exhibition. In the past some clients have also asked me for written information on a particular piece, which I sometimes find amusing. These things I do, but it's not the same as having an ongoing dialogue on the subject.

All in all I have left my art, as a whole, mostly to imagery - and I guess as a general rule this is how it should be for a visual artist as it is a visual medium, and I continually strive to create a visual dialogue between my art and the viewer. Recently however, I have had a desire to start writing more on the subject, for my own reference and benefit. I see this form of documentation as an important thing and something I can hopefully continue to look back on, observing personal evolution. I wanted to create a place where I can just write, raw and uncensored, not re-read, edited and then re-edited to abide by, or adhere to, others needs and expectations as I am ultimately doing this for myself.

I make art because I feel it is necessary for me to do so.
I make art because I love to make art.
I certainly do not expect everyone to love the art I make.
(or like what I write)
However, if people like what I do, that's a definite bonus.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pop Goes the Geisha

I am looking forward to seeing Tezuka the Marvel of Manga which is now showing at the National Gallery of Victoria. It opened last Friday and as eager as I am to see it, I will wait another week or so in the hope that there will be less of a crowd by then. I find crowded galleries distracting, especially when I am interested in the art hanging on the wall...when I am not, they are a welcome distraction.

It is no secret that I have been inspired by Japanese pop culture, (and traditional culture), for a number of years. The pop influence is probably more evident in my earlier works.
In 1993, my first solo exhibition at Jackman Gallery consisted of works of a pure pop nature with the theme being Japanese Geisha. There were many reasons I chose that particular subject, reasons that stem far beyond my fascination with Jap-Pop culture and with Geisha themselves. Reasons I will not go into, not in this post anyway.

My 2004 exhibition moved away from the Geisha theme but the Japanese influences were evident in other ways. One reviewer described the new works as 'painterly pop'. Whatever the case, I felt my art was moving in a new direction, at least stylistically, which is why I painted Astro Geisha.
During a review of that exhibition on
Radio Australia, Phil Kafcaloudes referenced that particular piece and his own interpretation of it...
"...Maynard is heavily influenced by Japanese culture, especially what is dubbed Jap-Pop culture. An eastern version perhaps of Warhol or Lichtenstein, which includes Astro Boy, from the 1960's, a Japanese cartoon character with rocket legs. Maynard paints him as a her, as a transsexual Geisha in a kimono still flying off to save the world..."

That last line still makes me laugh.

With an obvious reference to Astro Boy this piece was a fun and symbolic one for me as it was the last piece I painted in a true Jap-Pop style.
Astro Geisha was not painted as a transsexual. She had green eyes, as do I, and she wasn't flying off to save the world, just flying in a new direction.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Paper Liberation

I have recently rediscovered the joy of working on paper. There is a certain artistic freedom that presents itself to me when I am working on paper. Perhaps it's because paper is sometimes a little less intimidating than a blank canvas. I often find myself more hesitant making my first mark on a pristine canvas than I do on a sheet of paper. It's strange logic, I know. I just find paper lends itself more to artistic error, for want of a better term. (Not that they are really errors as such, I just can't think of a better term right now).
'I deny the accident'
comes to mind.
Paper also lends itself more to drawing, which is where it all began for me as an artist.

Perhaps I just feel paper is more open to interpretation when it comes to mark making, or perhaps it is that I worry less about ruining a sheet of paper than I do a stretched canvas. Who knows.
I do find, however, when I am working on canvas I am a lot more focused on, or concerned with, precision and detail - not that that is a bad thing - but working on paper does allow me to free up from time to time, which is something that I feel, for me as an artist, is vital.

Monday, November 06, 2006

More Than Just a Pretty Face

In the past, I only ever took photos of my paintings after they were complete. It wasn't until I was painting for my exhibition earlier this year that I started to photograph the stages of a painting.

I receive many comments from people regarding the layering of my work and I figured photographing the stages of a painting would not only be a good way of documenting the process involved in creating each piece, it would also be interesting for clients and viewers of my work, and of course to me.

Many people that have viewed these photographic stages have been quite surprised by the work involved in creating what looks like a rather simple image, proving them to be more than just a pretty face on canvas.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Leonard Cohen's Love Child

My partner recently bought me Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen on dvd. He certainly knows how to inspire me through his thoughtful gifts. I decided to watch it again today to help with my creative restlessness. What an amazing man Leonard Cohen is, I simply adore him and his work. He has been a constant source of creative inspiration to me for a number of years now. A few years ago, a Melbourne gallery director gave me the nickname 'Leonard Cohen's Love Child'. It may not have been meant as an outright compliment, but I was quite pleased with it and became so attached to it that I dedicated a painting to it. It was titled Self Portrait as L.C2.
L. C squared being the abbreviation a friend and I gave to the lengthy nickname.

Creative Cravings

I am finding it terribly hard to concentrate on anything today. Despite continuous efforts in the studio, it has been a non-eventful day creatively. I have managed to start the first piece in a new series of self-portrait works, but I have not achieved as much as I would have liked to this fine day. I am putting it down to the diet I am on, and my cravings, which are unrelenting today. It is day 52 of this very restricted diet, and despite the frequent feeling of the beginning of insanity, I am rather proud of myself for sticking to it so religiously for this long.

For health reasons I am on a diet which restricts my enjoyment of food immensely. After years of quick fixes of a temporary nature I decided to try it. This diet consists of NO dairy, NO wheat or wheat based products of any kind, (including no bread of any kind), NO sugar of any kind - including fructose - which means NO fruit, (lemons and lemon juice are ok), NO fermented foods or beverages - which includes tofu, (one of my staples as an aquatarian), soy sauce, vinegar and all alcohol and NO potato or potato products, NO caffeine in any form.

What is allowed are all vegetables except potato, all legumes, eggs, fish, herbs, garlic, ginger, rice, (rice cakes and corn cakes as a substitute for bread), nuts, seeds and oils, herbal tea and grains such as millet and quinoa.

It's certainly not as difficult now as it was during the first few weeks. My mood swings were ferocious and my cravings were enough to make one pull their own hair out, fortunately the mood swings have settled right down, however the cravings are still present from time to time only not as severe. Also, my cravings have changed, or at least the things I crave for have. I now miss apples, honey and tofu more than I miss wine, chocolate and cheese.

Although it has effected my ultimate enjoyment of food, it has made me a lot more appreciative and I now have much to look forward to once I go back to my regular culinary habits. The good thing is, the diet seems to have helped my symptoms, the negative is that it seems to, at times, be a hindrance to my creativity or at least my creative productivity.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I Deny the Accident

Today, in my studio, looking down at my drop-sheet, I thought of Jackson Pollock. I say this with no disrespect towards Pollock or his work, but rather credit to my imagination. I then remembered seeing the film Pollock in 2002, which subsequently brought back many other memories of that time.

It was October, 2002. It was a crazy time in my life. Dark even. I'd recently ended a 5 year relationship, was working long hours managing a high profile art gallery, and carrying the stresses that went along with it, drinking copious amounts of red wine - (perhaps to help with the level of 'cope', but it ultimately hindered)... It was an emotional roller coaster but certainly a period of great significance in my life, particularly my life as an artist. It was a turning point.

"I deny the accident" is the line I will always remember from that film. At the time I saw it as the perfect statement for an artist. I remember coming home that night and writing in my diary.

Thurs. 31st October, 2002. 9:18pm
The film Pollock inspired me, depressed me and entertained me. Ed Harris was great, Marcia Gay Harden was brilliant, her performance moved me. I saw myself in both of the characters: the woman who puts her life on hold to encourage another, providing inspiration, strength... and the artist who continues on a (self) destructive path. Self obsessed when it comes to one's art, (but aren't we all?), one's own worst enemy and toughest critic, worried about how the world will react to the work, too passionate about the work to even consider changing. Feeling misunderstood, drinking to drown, the foetal position, the frustration, the intensity, the sensitivity. Starving for affection, the affairs, the highs, the disappointment, the realisation and the remorse. The passion. The desire to create.

Five days after seeing the film I flew to Canberra to see the Jackson Pollock exhibition, which was showing along with The Big Americans, at the National Gallery of Australia. I'd never considered myself a fan of Pollock's work, and despite being subjected to a multitude of criticism about him and his work, I was not a non-fan either. Regardless, that day I sat in front of Pollock's Blue Poles for a long time.

47 days later I left my job to further pursue my artistic dream and focus solely on being an artist.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Fabulous Mr. Robbins

The first book my partner bought me, back in the days when we were 'courting', was Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins.

I must admit, prior to this I had actually never heard of him. I had seen the film Even Cowgirls Get the Blues years and years ago, and loved it, but had no idea it was based on Mr. Robbins book of the same name. I have since become a fan of his work.

When my partner and I met, I was painting madly for my 2005 exhibition at Jackman Gallery, so it was some time after I received the book that I was able to sit down and familiarise myself with the world of Ellen Cherry Charles and co.

To me, it has been one of those books that you absolutely love whilst you are reading it, but you fall in love with it even more a week, a month, even a year after you've read it.

I certainly felt a particular empathy toward the main character, Ellen Cherry Charles, that I have never felt before with a fictional character. By the time I had finished reading it I had dog-eared so many pages that the book had gained extra girth. The very first page that I marked was page 6, and this is why:

'Mockingbirds are the true artists of the bird kingdom. Which is to say, although they're born with a song of their own, an innate riff that happens to be one of the most versatile of all ornithological expressions, mockingbirds aren't content to merely play the hand that is dealt them. Like all artists, they are out to rearrange reality. Innovative, willful, daring, not bound by the rules to which others may blindly adhere, the mockingbird collects snatches of birdsong from this tree and that field, appropriates them, places them in new and unexpected contexts, recreates the world from the world. For example, a mockingbird in South Carolina was heard to blend the songs of thirty-two different kinds of birds into a ten-minute performance, a virtuoso display that served no practical purpose, falling, therefore, into the realm of pure art.' - Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Art For Arts Sake

A friend of mine wrote to me recently, he was feeling frustrated with his work, his art. A feeling I know all too well. I presume many artists have been to that dark place.
Whilst preparing for his exhibition the doubts began knocking at his mind's door. He made the mistake of answering.

He began with:
"I have no meaning!!! Did Picasso have meaning? It seems like he was just as determined to create aesthetic art as I am. Screw meaning. But I feel like it's time I let go of that attitude..."

I could feel his frustration. Being an artist is both frustrating and wonderful at times and at the risk of sounding arrogant, sometimes I feel only other artists truly understand my 'art related' frustrations.

In his letter, my friend then wrote:
"It is very frustrating. I have nothing that is commercially viable!!! The people want meaning!!! If they can't figure it out they write it off as 'different', 'fun' or 'whimsical'. These never add up to a 'strong' piece."

I found myself relating to the first part but totally disagreeing with 'These never add up to a strong piece'.

Picasso's work had meaning, and to me his work is far more than
just aesthetically pleasing. In my opinion he was an artistic genius. I am perhaps correct in saying all art has some meaning. I guess the thing is, when we are talking about the viewers or buyers - and what makes a piece commercially viable - is that it means something to someone else. i.e the viewer or buyer.

He went on to ask me how I would describe his work, telling me a friend of his had placed his work in the category of 'post-surrealism'. I guess it's always post 'something'. I often cringe at categories when it comes to art. I often dread the question, "so what kind of art do you do?" Not because I don't like discussing my art, but because people seem to want to automatically place it in a category or compare it to another artist's work. I guess without seeing the work it is hard for them to visualise what I tell them so it is then easier to compare my explanation to something they are familiar with. So you can imagine the confusion on people's faces when I used to tell them that my work was influenced not only by Japanese 'Pop Art' but also the ancient art of Japanese woodblock prints. I wonder if anyone ever pictured Astro Boy flying over Hokusai's famous wave.

As I began my reply to him I must have mounted my high horse.
I told him I thought his work was fun and that I did not think that was at all a bad thing.
A lot of people go on about 'meaning', or political or controversial jargon in art. I used the word 'jargon' because that is sometimes what I feel it is.

I've been exhibiting my art for around 8 years now and I used to often struggle with the 'deeper meaning' of my work. I used to think people wanted a 'story' to go with a piece of art. Often when talking to prospective buyers about a piece I'd realise there actually was a story there.
Every picture tells a story. True? Or not? Either way I realised that I paint first and fore mostly because I love to paint. I need to paint, to create. I paint things I love, enjoy or feel a connection with. Therefore, at the end of the day, there is meaning. We love, like and connect with things for a reason.

Sometimes I paint without even initially realising why I am creating that particular image. Not all paintings are planned, but either way, there is always something behind it. Obvious or not.
I have come to accept that whatever is behind a piece of art does not always have to be something deep and profound.

I managed a high profile Melbourne gallery for just under 18 months. We exhibited some of Australia's highest profile and top selling artists, both living and dead. As much as I learnt there, I also discovered that some of it is just pandering to people's needs. I noticed some people felt that art had to have some significance that they can relate to, (or pretend to), and say, "Oh yes. Yes. I see". Despite my cynicism, I do admit that there are many artists who do make legitimate 'statements' through their art - be it subtle or in your face - and they pull it off with dignity. These artists have my respect. However, I have also been exposed to a lot of propaganda in the art world. Perhaps this is how my cynicism developed. Or maybe it's just that I am getting older. They say we become more cynical with age.

I used to often worry that I just paint 'pretty pictures', then it dawned on me... After working in three Melbourne galleries, dealing with the general public, serious 'collectors', the self confessed 'ignorant' and the artists themselves, I discovered that a lot of people WANT 'pretty pictures'. People do enjoy 'happy' imagery just as much and sometimes more than bold statements or controversy. Of course there are always exceptions, but this discovery was enough to make me feel a whole lot better about what I do.

I still refer back to a quote in one of my favourite novels of all time, Skinny Legs and All, by Tom Robbins:
"The purpose of art is to create what life does not."

There has been so much shit going on in the world in recent times. Many people find it all very heavy and hard to deal with at times. Recently I have found that a lot of people find it refreshing to NOT have to think too much about a piece of art and simply enjoy looking at it. I have seen people relate to my work for many different reasons, and this always makes me happy. Some people even see things in the work that I do not.

I say 'let art be open to interpretation.'

What drew me to my friend's work was the 'fun' element. It was the quirkiness. It was the whimsical and fantastic nature of it. His work allowed me to enter a different world - and I saw that as a great thing - for aren't there times when we just want to step out of this one for a while? To me, all of these were 'strengths'.

Sometimes I think the more we try to find all these 'meanings' for the work we do, the less enjoyable they become to create. I think it can be simple sometimes. If I enjoy what I do, people can often see that in the work - and that alone can allow someone to fall in love with or connect with a piece.

People are drawn to works of art for so many different reasons and many people who buy art buy it first and foremost because they like it. The majority of buyers I dealt with bought art to hang on their wall and wanted something they could enjoy looking at every day, not something that continually made them question themselves or others, or that reminds them of how fucked up the world can be.

I guess though, the great thing about art is that there is pretty much a place for everything and anything. This can be both frustrating and wonderful.

My closing words to my friend were:
'There is always a story. Just create the work.
The story is already there.'