This site began as a personal exploration complementing my formal study and practice in visual arts. I have always been a writer, writing for a living as an academic for many years, and now writing fiction and memoirs (visit my companion site here). I have written and published about art – drawing, painting, photography, as an observer and analyst. I also write about my own art practice, mainly in lovely thick-papered journals which I illustrate with prints and sketches and use as a kind of art-making in their own right. As my practice develops I will try to translate some of that into my artist’s site, currently under construction.
Writing about art only makes sense if someone wants to read it. Many practicing artists have little or no interest in anything written about art, theoretical or academic. People who love art like to know more about it, but their main interest is often in the artist’s life. Biographies and biopics are enough for them. It is hard to find much written about the technical and practical experience of art-making.
Personally I love reading about art in all its forms. I write the occasional book and film review for this blog, not as often as I would like. Recently I have been working through as much writing as I can find on techniques of landscape painting, as I re-encounter the landscape projects I began twenty years ago.
The philosophy of art is another fascination. Right at the beginning of my art explorations I started thinking about the idea of the Void, a powerful meme in recent philosophy related to concepts such as Black Holes and other way-out stuff in modern physics and cosmology. I have described some of the ways in which the Void can be explored through contemporary art in my prize-winning essay on the work of Anne Judell here.
Although I published several academic studies and reviews on art – especially my paper on Neo Rauch* which was published in Germany and is widely cited – see below – I wanted to have an experiential knowledge of painting, and not just to write about painting. In 2014 and 2015 I undertook formal study in the Advanced Diploma in Visual Art at the Nepean Art and Design Centre. As part of my studio work I began an extended meditation on the role of time, memory and history based around my family’s house on the Hawkesbury River. I started a series of monochromes which I called The Drift, a meditation on movement through space and time, from generation to generation. I finished up angry with most of these paintings because I could not get them to support my vision. I have never shown them outside the student context and recently destroyed many of them. It was a major mistake to paint in 20 x 20 inch square format. Squares are awful. Using acrylic paints and making greys from black, white and premixed greys was another stupid mistake. I intend now to start the series again, still in monochrome but using other media in different formats and maybe on different supports.
When I first started landscapes in oil I was obsessed by Central Australia. The challenge of the Red Centre was overwhelming. Two years living in Northwest South Australia and many months spent working on Land Claims around Alice Springs had made this environment feel totally familiar, and yet the possibility of painting it seemed increasingly unachievable. A few of these paintings have survived, strangely terrible though they are.
Since 2013 I have lived mostly in the Blue Mountains, and of course I want to paint this amazing place also. I began my work in the Petersham studio back in 2002 with the idea of a series “Red Mountains, Blue Mountains” and I am back to this idea again in 2019.
There are brilliant local landscape artists here, most notably John Wilson, Warwick Fuller and Robyn Collier. Stunning realist work, brilliant in colour and tonality. I admire their work enormously, but I want to keep my main focus on art as it intersects with history and ethnography. However the technical elements involved in painting realist Australian landscapes in oils have been compelling me more and more I’ve decided to take one of John Wilson’s workshops at the end of January 2019. Will report on that in a Post soon.
* NEO RAUCH is usually identified with the Leipzig School. Rauch present an astonishing body of semi-realist highly technically detailed large-scale paintings unlike anything else in recent Western art. I have written a long essay on Neo Rauch, published in a book on Collective Creativity, available on Academia.com at