Monday, September 24, 2012

Brett Whiteley's visitation

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's ghost #3,
charcoal, watercolour and acrylic on paper, 76c55cm.

Continuing to explore Brett Whitetley's ghost, i have followed up Brett Whitetley's ghost #1 (which was painted in the dark) by making a few drawings in daylight.

These were exploratory 'doodles' in preparation for my final work, a 190 x 270 cm triptych depicting Brett Whiteley's apotheosis into the cultural firmament of Australia.

This triptych will culminate my Brett Whiteley series and be the final work towards my Masters degree. Hopefully my next posting will be able to show it!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Brett Whiteley's haunting

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's haunting, 
charcoal, shellac, oil and varnish on paper, 76 x 55 cm.

I have been haunted by Brett Whiteley - man, artist, cultural icon. This series of works has been both that haunting and an exorcism.

The drawing above is designed to be viewed through back lighting, such over a light box or illuminated by strong sunlight from behind, otherwise it is a dark and murky, almost undecipherable image. 

But given the aforementioned illumination it suddenly 'appears' as a golden glow, the shellac having rendered the watercolour paper translucent.  

Just like a ghostly apparition should.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Brett Whiteley's ghost

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's ghost, oil on aluminium panel, 90x120cm.

I wanted to explore further the co-agency of media in creative practice. I wanted to discover, by doing, how oil paint that had been been substantially thinned with gum turps and Liquol might behave if given fairly free flow. Could i use repeated pourings of puddles to built up an expressive portrait? I envisaged a process very much like that employed in water color washes but using a pouring dispenser instead of brushes..

For that, i needed two other characteristics of water color - a reflective support and translucent pigments. For i knew from experience that watercolor paintings (unlike gouache) gain their glow from the light passing through the pigment and reflecting back out of the painting off the white paper beneath to the viewer.

I hoped that polished aluminium plate might achieve a similar effect but with more luminous 'edge'. I think it does. But trying to polish out the imperfections in the surface of a 900x1200x0.8mm plate is exhausting and requires more patience than i have. I used a wax based metal polish which made me worry about subsequent paint adhesion.

Since then i have discovered cerium oxide powder ($35 for 250gm) which is used to polish and clean glass. I haven't as yet tried it on metal. But it has promise and the huge advantage of being a powder that you mix with water to make a slurry. After rinsing there is absolutely no residue left on the surface.

For translucent paints i selected some semi-transluscent oil colors - Prussian blue (PB27), Viridian PG7) and Dioxazine Purple (PV23).

I had also wanted to find out what the best way of mixing, storing and applying might be. In the end I settled on used tomato ketchup plastic squeeze bottles with their screw-valve tops.

Once poured out onto the aluminium surface, allowed to settle and dry, I found the paint even granulated like watercolour. Was it the result of the Liquol mix left standing for a few days?

Unfortunately my photo fails to capture both the effects of scale (the image has a significant presence) and of reflective surface. The light gleams off the exposed parts and through the paint as one moves past and around the painting. It has an inorganic coldness  about it quite suited to the subject - Whiteley's ghost. And the work feels very permanent, being on metal.

Would i do another? Probably not. Not unless i could purchase perfectly polished sheets (unlike the dented and scratched panel i got from an industrial estate). And if i did, the pools of paint would be larger and more layered. And most importantly, i would have to acquire a work easel that i could tilt in all directions, including dead level. So, some investment needed if this were to become a polished professional art form. 

Meantime, it's been an interesting learning experience. And here it is .... Brett Whiteley's ghost.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brett Whiteley dances in the wilderness

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley dances in the desert, oil on canvas, 50x60cm

I am haunted by the image of Brett Whiteley dancing in the desert. And so i painted this exploratory small oil, full of unresolved problems, but a springboard to larger paintings to follow that will flesh out the idea.

However, i was so dissatisfied with this painting that i deleted this blog post the following day, hoping to re-paint this subject. This was some months back, prior to painting Brett Whiteley dances on water. But time has run away with me. The new work is not done.  But for the sake of completion am re-posting it now. 

It started when i read Steve Meacham's story in the Sydney Morning Herald (here) (re-run in the Mudgee Guardian four days later ) about the controversial and now notorious time that Brett Whiteley painted a series of faux Aboriginal rock paintings in what might have been a sacred site.

Meacham wrote:
"It's summer, 1970. And Brett Whiteley strips naked to paint an Aboriginal-inspired mural on a sandstone underhang at The Drip gorge, scoured by the Goulburn River over millions of years into one of the most beautiful scenic wonders of NSW."

Why the Mudgee Guardian? Because The Drip Gorge lies near the town of Mudgee and in subsequent years there had been much debate in the pubs as to the value of the 'aboriginal art' in the Gorge. The matter had recently been brought to a head by the intention of a mining company to flood some of the nearby land for mine workings.

Some investigative journalism unearthed the truth ... not ancient Aboriginal paintings but hippy doodles from 1970. But despite repeated flooding over the years the paintings are still there today in good condition.

The truth of their origin was clinched by the discovery of a piece of film in which we see BW, naked, dancing and painting. You can watch the brief clip HERE .

So now the local Council has an original Brett Whiteley under its care while the mining company "acknowledges the potential significance of these paintings" and promises that "our mining operations will not disturb these paintings at all.”

Meanwhile, i am left with the haunting image of Brett Whiteley dancing and painting in the Australian landscape. 
Picasso once said, "Painting is a blind man's profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen", which is what i guess i'm doing in this Brett Whiteley series.

So, in my mind's eye i see Brett Whiteley dance corroboree.
I see him dance his Dreaming.
I see his paintings flow from his Dreaming.

I see him dance in the desert ... out in the Never-Never.
Out on the wastes of the Never Never -
That's where the dead men lie!
There where the heat-waves dance forever -
That's where the dead men lie.
[from Barcroft Boake, "Where the Dead Men Lie"].

Although Brett Whiteley was also a deliberate artist, articulate about the skills of trade, well versed in Western and Eastern visual languages, it seems to me that more than any Australian artist he painted from intuition, made a cult of his intuitions, sang and celebrated his intuitions like St Joan her voices. John Olsen refers to BW's artistic 'instinct'.

But an artist who puts himself in thrall to his voices - who lives by exposing his Unconscious to the public - travels a barren and rocky road among society's institutions. For this is a hostile landscape that desiccates the soul. There is no shade or shelter from the politics of The Arts and the imprecations of the culture police ever ready to tell you what you should have painted instead.

So I see him dance through T.S. Eliot's "Wasteland", the army of mediocrities and brown-noses bringing 'no relief'.

"What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water."

All the while he ached for water ... for solace ... for love.

He thought a cool spring lay in public approbation and the adulation of a plethora of hippy hangers-on. But that turned out to be a mirage.

So he took what solace he could, and in the end, like St Joan, died for his voices.

But not defeated.

For i also see him dance Zorba's dance of triumph-amid-catastrophe in the deserts of the heartland.

As i watch Zorba, i see Brett, now transfigured into Bob Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man:

"to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow."

But we who remain have not forgotten.

I had originally embedded a YouTube clip here of Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates dancing Zorba's dance on the beach in the movie, Zorba the Greek. But Fox has sinceblocked the clip for copyright reasons, even though it was only a couple minutes from an entire movie.

Furthermore, Fox has had every clip of any description relating to Zorba removed from YouTube. So i have done the same here and taken down the now frozen image of Zorba.

Even worse, i could not even find a photograph of Anthony Quinn as Zorba on the web through Google. Copyright with bloody vengeance, though I think the only thing Fox has achieved is killing off masses of free publicity for a movie they could be selling. Entire generations will now never even hear of Zorba.  

Well done Fox executives. I hope it makes you a bundle of money, though i fail to see how!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old figure sketches

a very early still life exercise

I was sorting through my old art files when i came across my figure drawings from some years back. They are mostly speed sketches (quick tonal studies, fast gestural drawings, a few contour drawings) drawn from life in assorted art classes and using assorted professional models.

I have put an exercise from 10 years ago, when i was starting out, at the very top so that those who include tachisme among their blogs visited directory will not have a boobs 'n tummies icon on their home page, lolz. No joke actually. Flickr (where i was just going to dump these drawings) wouldn't upload the nudes! Or else they would have changed my family friendly rating! So, this blog post instead.

Since my latest painting is almost (but not quite) finished  - not yet ready to show - and since it might be handy for me to have a record in this blog of how my drawing has developed over time, i thought i'd pop a whole bunch of oldies here, just for the record.

And also this post is a follow-up from Brett's Ghost in the dark last time. The terror of blank page. The aversion to being judged. I figure whacking out a lot of learner's stuff, warts and all, will simply swamp any possibility of contriving an 'arty' image. It's what psychologists call 'flooding' when treating phobias. 

I'll follow up with some old portrait attempts in another post soon, just to finish my 'treatment'. Then all my amateurism will be out in public and i can just get on with muddling through into the future in my own flawed way.

UPDATE:  Have just returned from the theatre. During the play my mind wandered. The thought hit that, like Flickr, Blogspot may want to change my status from family-friendly too. They may insert one of those Adult Content warnings when visitors first try to enter my blog. So i think i had best take down any image containing representations of breasts over the next few days. I'll replace each of them with links to my Pinterest account where i can post these harmless sketches with impunity. Sigh.

Dianne #1

Dianne #3

Dianne #4

Dianne #5

Dianne #6

Emily #1

nude #3

nude #6

Laura #1

Laura #2

Laura #3

Laura #4

Laura #5


quick gestural paint sketch

Emily #4


Thank you, kind art bloggers, for sticking with me through thick and thin.