Monday, February 4, 2013

Some landscapes

Recollections of Tooms Lake

Hi everyone. I've just returned from a lengthy summer vacation during which time i didn't paint a scrap and neither did i, regrettably, do any blogging. So all your lovely comments have had to wait until now before i could respond. Hope you understand.

But i thought i had best post something to show that i'm still alive, despite not having any new work, and so i thought i'd trot out some watercolor landscapes from six or seven years ago. They are mostly of Tasmania, within half an hours drive of where i live. The style belongs to the Claude picturesque, though i hope to move away from this in the coming year as i make my return to landscape painting.

Tamar Marine from Richies Mill, 2004

Tamar River from West Launceston

Dock of the Bay,  St Helens, 2007

Cressy, looking to Arthur's Lake

Beyond Evandale, 2007

Gum trees

Noosa, 2004

And these a little minatures, 16x12 cm, were painted with the one brush in 5 mins as a discipline.

Behind Evandale

Behind Evandale

Battery Point from Jane Franklin Hall

Soooo, here goes 2013 ......


Thursday, December 6, 2012

2012 Graduate Exhibition at the SVPA, Utas

Exhibition masthead with Sue Henderson, my supervisor, on the left.

The School of Visual and Performing Arts 'Graduate Exhibition' ran for a week and  is now over, and the last of my work has returned home marking the completion my university life.

Except, of course, for my assessment result. And that too is now in. 

The examiners awarded me a Distinction. 

All that remains now is the graduation ceremony in a few weeks when i'll get to clomp over a stage to be awarded a Master of Contemporary Arts degree. 

Kerry Finch MLC congratulating the wonderful Amelia Rowe on her residency to Paris.  

View through the milling crowd to my exhibition space.

The three works on exhibition.

The Graduate Exhibition above was a different exhibition to the assessment exhibition in the previous post. Unlike the assessment exhibition which i had to select and hang myself, this one was curated and hung by a curatorial team. The three works of mine chosen by curator Melanie Kershaw for the Graduate Exhibition were:

Harry Kent, Whiteley in Ultramarine,
oil and acrylic on canvas, 76x102cm.

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

Harry Kent, Facing Facts
acrylic gap filler and paint, 76 x 102 cm.

And so ends a chapter.

I've decided to keep this blog going but i don't yet know with what frequency. Part of me is dying for a rest. Another part is keen to try new things.

Perhaps i'll post some of my old watercolour landscapes to reset the scene while i complete a sizable landscape in oil. 

Thanks everybody for your continuing interest and support. Have a wonderful Christmas!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Assessment exhibition

This Thursday i was forbidden to come onto campus. The markers were in!

On Monday/Tuesday I was required to set up an exhibition of key works, informed by my prior Contextual Studies Paper and oral presentation at a Post Grad Critique.

At 5.30pm i was allowed back on campus for post exam drinkies - a pleasant hour and a half where friends and gallery owners could peruse and ponder this year's crop. My allotted exhibition space was modest but enabled me to put up eight of the sixty-odd works i have created over the last three years. Adjoining my area were several other gallery alcoves where fellow students had set up their assessment exhibitions - mainly  installations. The pics below tell a little of the story.

Meanwhile, in a neighbouring lecture theatre, i had piled up the other 52 (called 'support materials' - a vaguely dismissive term, i always thought), and  my journals. 

I won't find out the result until the end of November when i will be given a grade and written report. But on the night people were very kind. Though i still really have no sense of the merit or otherwise of what i done. 

So my biggest lift came when one of the staff actually BOUGHT one of my paintings from the exhibition! 

Harry Kent, Dark night, oil on board, 60x90cm. SOLD

What pleased me so much was the genuine engagement with the image that this purchase signified. And that the buyer, a man of quiet intensity, is someone i respect.  Until that moment, it had felt rather strange to have strangers wander past my agonised self portraits like they were window-shoppers and i was one of the consumables of the evening. There is blood in these works, my blood. But on the night, it's all quips and smiles as we enter into a tacit conspiracy that life is simply one entertainment after another.

So now i read through the reams of instructions for the graduation ceremony (assuming i will be graduating) with all those icky arrangements for gown hire etc. I think i'll just pull my doctoral gown and hood out of moth balls and save myself $160 gown hire.Hoping my fellow graduands won't mind. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brett Whiteley's starry night


Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's starry night, oil on canvas, 120x270cm.

My final work in the Brett Whiteley series, and the final work towards to Masters degree, is this triptych celebrating Brett Whiteley's  apotheosis ...  his ascension into Australia's cultural firmament - a star at last.

The 270x120 cm work consists of three 90x120cm panels:
Brett Whiteley departs Thirroul
Peter Pan over Lavender Bay
Brett Whiteley illumines our firmament
While each panel is intended to work as a self-contained painting, the work was envisaged as the three placed together to form a complete narrative.

To date my Brett Whiteley series has consisted of numerous works, among others, that explored his vulnerability, isolation and depression so I wanted to finish with this more joyous celebration of his achievement.

The triptych references Vincent's painting Starry night (HERE). I felt this was a fitting motif given that Whiteley worshiped Vincent. He was painting portraits of Vincent in the early 1970's and in 1983 had his his exhibition 'Another way of looking at Vincent Van Gogh' hung by the Gallery of NSW. Brett's tribute received a hostile reception from the critics. One mocked that Brett has been struggling to become Vincent for the past fifteen years. So i thought it only a reasonable gift to Brett to allow him to ascend at last into Vincent's starry heavens.

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley departs Thirroul, oil on canvas, 90x120cm.

This first panel depicts Brett's spirit departing the hotel in Thirroul where he died. He heads upward, out over the East coast of NSW. He seems to be entering a portal on the right of the painting.

Harry Kent, Peter Pan over Lavender Bay, oil on canvas, 90x120cm.

That portal turns out to be the window from his painting, Interior with time past (HERE) with its window of his home looking out over Lavender Bay on Sydney Harbour. And so i depicted Brett's spirit, Brett the eternal boy Peter Pan, flying past outside under the Southern Cross (this is my Oz night sky, not Vincent's French one), sailing over the Opera House sails that reference his painting Opera House (HERE).

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley illumines our firmament, oil on canvas, 90x120cm.

In the third panel he takes his place in the pantheon of stars twinkling down onto the Australian cultural landscape, down on his home town of Sydney and the bridge that used to draw and paint so often, down on those savage critics whose names are already forgotten, and down on the young generations energised by just discovering his work for the first time. This is Brett at his zenith, Harlequin funster and mystic, arms raised in haunting and blessing.

And so, gentle viewer, we arrive at the end of this my Brett Whiteley meditations, and indeed, the end of my Masters research Project. In the next couple of posts I will be reporting on the assessment and giving some thought on where to next with this blog, if anywhere. Thank you one and all for sticking with me through this journey.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

More apparitions


Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's apparition #9, oil on board, 60x90cm.

Here are some, the last, of my Brett Whiteley apparitions. Apparition #9 (above) is my exploration of how much or how little is needed to suggest a face. How clouded, ambiguous, or anomalous can a portrait be? I was thinking about Vincent's comment in a letter to Theo, "The real painter does not paint things as they are, after a dry and learned analysis. They paint them as they themselves feel them to be ... I want my paintings to be inaccurate and anomalous in such a way that they become lies, if you like, but lies that are more truthful than literal truth."

 The others below are two more inks.

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's apparition #7, ink on paper, 

These two ink Apparitions are a bit wilder than some of the more graceful inks in my previous post. Picasso once said, "when i paint a wild horse you may not see the horse but you will sure see the wildness'. Well, these Apparitions purport to be Whiteley, and they are loosely featured on his curly mop, cleft chin, low straight mouth and baggy eyes, but in reality they are invented Expressionist figuration. Which means the wildness is not Whiteley's but mine own, i guess. But then as they used to say in the Renaissance"Ogni pittore dipinge sè" (Every painter paints himself).

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's apparition #8, ink on paper, 

And finally, my apologies everyone for the delay in responding your lovely comments on the previous post. I've only just returned from a trip away to Sydney and have been flat out getting ready for my assessment exhibition. Am so looking forward to getting a life back!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Brett Whiteley's apparition


Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's apparition #3 ink on paper,  56x76cm.

 I am enjoying just producing a series of quick inks on Canson Traditional 250gsm  paper in between writing a Contextual Studies paper for my Project and finishing a large oil towards my assessment.

I was reminded to actually enjoy my creative work and stop worrying about Universities and galleries by that wonderful American Expressionist painter, Dan McCaw:

"I believe that everyone has an inherent desire for original thought, and as an artist I find a passion to visually express something within myself that cannot be defined but have faith that it exists. I am constantly measuring the strength of my own convictions, trying not to change my art to fit what galleries, critics, and society deem acceptable, for when an artist chains himself to the opinions of others he or she will loose the most important thing that he has to contribute: his own voice and individuality.

Everyone has an internal compass, it has no needle to guide, you only know you are heading in the right direction when it just feels right. It is undefinable, your guides are instinct, feeling and intuition. It may lay past the likeness of the subject, you have to be willing to give up the safe, predictable and familiar, you have to be curious, vulnerable and willing to fall on your face. The treasures lay inside each of us waiting to be uncovered"  

What an uplifting breath of sanity.

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's apparition #4, ink on paper,  56x76cm.

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's apparition #5, ink on paper,  56x76cm.

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's apparition #6, ink on paper,  56x76cm.

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's apparition #2, ink on paper,  56x76cm.


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!

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