Hill End Residency

Upon resettling to Australia in 2018 I immediately began a residency at the historic mining town of Hill End in rural New Sew Wales. The Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) runs a wonderful residency program for artists who can live and work in several charming cottages- originally the homes of the important artists Donald Friend and Jean Bellette.

For the month of June last year I had the chance to create a small body of work which was exhibited at Lethbridge Gallery in Brisbane.

After several years overseas it was a lovely experience to be in such a quaint and isolated place, back in the Australian landscape and able to work directly from life. Long European winters had prepared me for a somewhat chilly month, so I could stay fairly productive.

Below are many of the studies and the final artwork which I created at that time.

Home. Don’s Cottage.

Home. Don’s Cottage.

Preparing canvases. Running out of things in an isolated town- such as staples- really sucks.

Preparing canvases. Running out of things in an isolated town- such as staples- really sucks.

While walking around Hill End I came to love its sunken areas and bizarre landscape, now eroding after many years of mining. The small drawing on the left is my first response that prompted me to prepare a canvas and set up using mid-morning light. A daily routine of rotating paintings was a great discipline which structured my days on the residency, allowing me to consider each subject at a consistent time and in changing weather conditions. It is interesting to let the forms evolve in the painting process and depart from the subject so dramatically. It took the longest time to develop the surreal landscape and hold back from painting the finer foreground structures.

While walking around Hill End I came to love its sunken areas and bizarre landscape, now eroding after many years of mining. The small drawing on the left is my first response that prompted me to prepare a canvas and set up using mid-morning light. A daily routine of rotating paintings was a great discipline which structured my days on the residency, allowing me to consider each subject at a consistent time and in changing weather conditions. It is interesting to let the forms evolve in the painting process and depart from the subject so dramatically. It took the longest time to develop the surreal landscape and hold back from painting the finer foreground structures.

“Dissolving Mine. Hill End” 41x51cm. Oil on linen  I love the low viewport/ rugged middle-ground/ band of blue and towering tree forms. The dark pockets of shadow in the bottom half contrast the openings of sky at the top of the format.

“Dissolving Mine. Hill End” 41x51cm. Oil on linen

I love the low viewport/ rugged middle-ground/ band of blue and towering tree forms. The dark pockets of shadow in the bottom half contrast the openings of sky at the top of the format.

My nights were spent drawing by the fireplace from objects that I collected while on walks- but always finding a new position to draw my other hand.

My nights were spent drawing by the fireplace from objects that I collected while on walks- but always finding a new position to draw my other hand.

A study made on the first day looking south from Kissing Point.

A study made on the first day looking south from Kissing Point.

I knew instantly these dead tree stumps had to find their way into a painting. The tight cropping was useful to exaggerate their writhing characteristics and create a competitive tension between them.

I knew instantly these dead tree stumps had to find their way into a painting. The tight cropping was useful to exaggerate their writhing characteristics and create a competitive tension between them.

This was the early morning painting, so there were often difficult sessions because of freezing temperatures and volatile weather. I quickly discovered that the spot which I sat for this painting (on the west slope of Kissing Point) was the only location in the town where I could get phone reception and chat with my girlfriend who was on the other side of the world. The background was not much developed and let to recede, but originally I hoped to use the broad pink plane of a neighbouring mountain to feature small scale trees, as a kind of wall paper behind the foliage.

This was the early morning painting, so there were often difficult sessions because of freezing temperatures and volatile weather. I quickly discovered that the spot which I sat for this painting (on the west slope of Kissing Point) was the only location in the town where I could get phone reception and chat with my girlfriend who was on the other side of the world. The background was not much developed and let to recede, but originally I hoped to use the broad pink plane of a neighbouring mountain to feature small scale trees, as a kind of wall paper behind the foliage.

Sketchbook pages were filled as I tried to find the right subject to paint. These moments have stimulated new painting ideas which I am now developing at a larger scale, back in my Brisbane studio.

Sketchbook pages were filled as I tried to find the right subject to paint. These moments have stimulated new painting ideas which I am now developing at a larger scale, back in my Brisbane studio.

First thumbnail for the Golden Gully painting.  On the right is the early block-in stage, as I stand in a dry creek bed.

First thumbnail for the Golden Gully painting.

On the right is the early block-in stage, as I stand in a dry creek bed.

This small drawing helped me articulate the major forms and organise the debris, preparing for the larger painting.

This small drawing helped me articulate the major forms and organise the debris, preparing for the larger painting.

“Golden Gully. Hill End” 50x71cm Oil on linen  The afternoon painting.

“Golden Gully. Hill End” 50x71cm Oil on linen

The afternoon painting.

Monster split rock at Kissing Point.

Monster split rock at Kissing Point.

Two sketchbook pages made while wandering around.

Two sketchbook pages made while wandering around.

As Hill End is a gold mining town, quartz is scattered everywhere. The backyard and gardens of my cottage were lined with these beautiful rocks which I schlepped inside to paint, as well a few faux gold nuggets found in the cottage.

As Hill End is a gold mining town, quartz is scattered everywhere. The backyard and gardens of my cottage were lined with these beautiful rocks which I schlepped inside to paint, as well a few faux gold nuggets found in the cottage.

Donald Friend made this stove the centre of his home many years ago. A comment on my  Instagram  account reminded me that Friend and  Margret Olley  found these tiles at various abandoned homes around the town. The branch is from a blackberry plant, beautifully placed for my future painting by a former resident from France.  Unfortunately the locally grown pumpkin was never eaten because it took me the whole month to develop the painting.

Donald Friend made this stove the centre of his home many years ago. A comment on my Instagram account reminded me that Friend and Margret Olley found these tiles at various abandoned homes around the town. The branch is from a blackberry plant, beautifully placed for my future painting by a former resident from France.

Unfortunately the locally grown pumpkin was never eaten because it took me the whole month to develop the painting.

Sedimente Exhibition event

Images taken earlier this month of LIA's 10 year anniversary event "Sedimente" held in the Werkschau building within the Spinnerei complex.

"Sedimente" Jubiläumsausstellung

It is an important 10 year anniversary for the Leipzig International Art Program (LIA) which I attended from 2015-16. 

Key artworks from the LIA collection are part of this group exhibition at the huge Werkschau building in the Spinnerei. Several of my own paintings are also included. 

We've just finished installing the work and setting up the space for the opening night on 8th March. The exhibition runs until 24 March

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Process of a painting: "Cockaigne"

Flashback to my Cockaigne painting which was made for the inaugural Qld Figurative Award at the RQAS in 2014.

The theme motivating the imagery was the ancient myth of Cockaigne. An inspiration was the important painting titled the "Land of Cockaigne" by Pieter Bruegel, in Munich. His influential picture is one of my earliest art memories and has come back to my mind constantly throughout the years. 

My painting is a soft interpretation of the themes in Cockagine and it was designed to be evocative and not explicit. 

At the time I was looking a lot at the Berlin artist Ruprecht von Kaufmann, especially his works from 2008-10. Ruprecht was later to help me a lot and support my work as a mentor.

This post gives a sense of the process used for most pictures which I create.

Left: Some very early ideas / Right: A later composition which established some important connections through the image

Left: Some very early ideas / Right: A later composition which established some important connections through the image

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A good friend modelling in my Brisbane studio

A good friend modelling in my Brisbane studio

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Initial small sketchbook ideas from imagination for the floating figures. The two on the left were used as final reference for the small figures at the top right of the painting

Initial small sketchbook ideas from imagination for the floating figures. The two on the left were used as final reference for the small figures at the top right of the painting

Studies from life model for the floating figure- giving myself options to choose from later on

Studies from life model for the floating figure- giving myself options to choose from later on

I was continuously moving elements around in such studies until they sat together well and felt right

I was continuously moving elements around in such studies until they sat together well and felt right

Bonus little Ivor Hele copy in the top right corner

Bonus little Ivor Hele copy in the top right corner

In a still image, the subtle differences between attitudes of a figure mean a lot

In a still image, the subtle differences between attitudes of a figure mean a lot

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Quick colour studies, swapping elements and relationships

Quick colour studies, swapping elements and relationships

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Left: Ground plane. Right: Hands and head

Left: Ground plane. Right: Hands and head

Building up the final painting: From a thin washy block-in / to a drawing phase / then creating refined, opaque colour masses/ and finally modelling complex forms

Building up the final painting: From a thin washy block-in / to a drawing phase / then creating refined, opaque colour masses/ and finally modelling complex forms

The finished painting

The finished painting

"Affects on Absorption" exhibition

This weekend will be interesting as I have work in and will attend the Autumn Rundgang at the Spinnerei in Leipzig. Its an epic public event and always really fun to see the Spinnerei come to life in this way, as it is usually a quiet set of buildings where artists work. 

This year is an official relationship with German and Australian Governments, with a cultural program titled Australia Now. The LIA residency studios are exhibiting my work and many other residents from Australia.

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Paper Earth book

Im one of the artists featured in a new monthly volume, created as an ebook series by paperearth.org

The masterminds are the artists Miles Lewis & Steven Van.  

Purchases of this publication support treepeople.com. Based in LA, Tree People plant & care for trees, harvest rain and renew depleted landscapes. 

The book project has a beautiful objective: engaging artists who honour the environment, connecting with the public and raising funds for environmental causes.

Contributing artists include:

Susan Abbott / Erik Linton / Denny Bales / Jeanne Dunn / Lesley Goren / Andrew James Mckay / Cassie Zhang / Cathy Weiss / Skye Amber Sweet / Vivian Shih / Michelle Rozic / Lark Pilinsky / Gregory RadionovFabian Lijtmaer / Cheryl Richey / Carolyn Lord / Toti O'Brien / Donna Leavitt / Philipa Bearle / Julian Perry / Jane Eaton / Tim Craven 

 

Cover artwork by Miles Lewis

A little commission on the side...

While Ive been developing the new work for upcoming exhibitions I took on the challenge of a small mural commission for a local performance group. The mastermind has a fascinating shop called Mikes Werkstatt which specialises in 1920's antiques and other strange paraphernalia.

Mike and Christian are the masterminds who are creating a touring music performance and puppetry show. Of course they need a stage to perform on during their travels around Austria. So I painted a mural of a basic stage for them, in my new studio. Additionally they are building and carving a gypsy travelling caravan which will be pulled by horses, of whom they have also learnt to rear and train. 

Importantly they need help to bring the project to life. Please follow THIS LINK to view the crowdfunding campaign. Their website is Figura Magica

They are also involved in a documentary production about the journey of their travelling troupe dreams. Ive already been filmed while painting the mural and may end up appearing in the final cut. HERE is the first of several videos on YouTube about the Figura Magica adventure.

Below is a small colour study mockup of the overall design as well as the individual panels which are painted in acrylic at full size.

The complete mural is more than 4 metres in height and 3.5 metres wide. Mike and Christian will add all kinds of other interesting additions to this basic mural set up including curtains, lanterns, puppets and moving parts as well fully developed real gold leaf elements.

Quick colour study of the mural in a basic outdoor setting

Quick colour study of the mural in a basic outdoor setting

Upper section. The difference between each panel is because they are photographed separately and grafted together afterward with photoshop. Each plywood panel is a little warped at this stage as are not yet braced and so there is some glare and tonal variation.

Upper section. The difference between each panel is because they are photographed separately and grafted together afterward with photoshop. Each plywood panel is a little warped at this stage as are not yet braced and so there is some glare and tonal variation.

This detail gives a better sense of the colour relationships as well as the resolution. The mural is supposed to carry itself from a distance, I enjoyed this more painterly approach.

This detail gives a better sense of the colour relationships as well as the resolution. The mural is supposed to carry itself from a distance, I enjoyed this more painterly approach.

Bottom section. The wood panelling was really fun on these areas

Bottom section. The wood panelling was really fun on these areas

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Aschersleben residency video

While working on a residency in Aschersleben at the Neo Rauch Grafik Stiftung from July to September in 2016 the residents were interviewed by Thomas Werner for a documentary series.

Check out the video below, or follow this LINK to YouTube.

I hope the Ascherlebeners aren't too upset with my comments and first impressions of the locals!!

This opportunity was a lovely experience and looking back it was important to the development of my work. We were spoilt as residents and I greatly appreciate how rare this kind of support and situation was for my career. I am planning to spend more time in Aschersleben in the future as well as exploring other parts of East Germany, because this area has made an incredibly strong impression on me. 

ID Vice interview

While on the LIA residency over 2015-2016 I was interviewed about Leipzig and its creative scene. The series runs over four episodes, split between the cities of Lisbon and Leipzig. 

They even captured my bed-hair (thanks film crew!) while we chatted in my studio.