28 February 2020

sleigh-ride into luminosity

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,  19 February, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

A gentle touch for this picture painted over a week ago. I liked it for its simplicity and its very simple colour harmony. 

Upon arriving at the small dune while unpacking my materials I give a quick look out at the sea. Quite often, I am  seized by a visual idea which pushes me into the session without much hesitation. But at other times I silently groan to myself if the sky looks leaden and absent of any luminosity.  On an evening (like above) it is a sleigh-ride downhill.

27 February 2020

Sisyphus, and the daily painting session.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 20 February, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

I was very happy whilst painting this picture last week. It was a moment when I was pushed through my concepts and thoughts of what I habitually do in front of this motif. Ideally, one would wish for this to happen all the time, but it rarely does. However, it is in the ritual of work; the daily slog  which provokes all of these small insights, and great leaps into a fresh unknown. Sisyphus reminds of this, though sadly for him, it was his daily appointment with his boulder, and a steep hill all day long.

Unfortunately, this painting didn't photograph well. Sometimes that happens. But there is something in it which lit a small fire for me when I was working. 

And it is always for those moments which one paints.

26 February 2020

painting a picture while Trumps screws up the world

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 19 February, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

A study from last week which I wasn't really happy with when I had finished it, but a few days later, I came to see it differently. This is the wisdom I have learned so late in life that one needs to do the work; then shut up the brain, put the picture away, and go home for dinner, and read about how Trump screwed up today.

20 February 2020

stripes of sky


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 16 September 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This picture from last year pleases me for its quiet abstract simplicity and its formal qualities. 

19 February 2020

Clouds on Valentine's Day

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 February, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 February, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

A difficult session this evening due to the Western sky being blocked off with clouds. The Eastern horizon was deprived of much luminosity. I think of these evenings as being 'Northern Skies' because they remind me  so much of what happens, too often, in Northern Europe. The colours seem to run away like animals do when hunters appear. One has to pull tears from stone on nights like these. And yet, because of a rainy week I hadn't been out to work, and I was desperate to make anything on the dunes. 

After even a few days of not painting the Sea and Sky I can become weirdly anxious and insecure. And, I lose confidence in myself. These are such small, modest offerings to the big material world beyond me. It may be  insignificant work in the greater large world of Man and Machines, but there are gifts to myself, at least. Without them I am a miser. 

17 February 2020

Whisper quiet, sea and sky.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 7 February, 2020, oil on canvas     board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 7 February, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Two studies made from the twilight hour when the sky was very hazy, and the colour didn't shine brightly. I make the best of these sessions in spite of small irritation that 'it isn't what I want' sort of mood. Surprisingly, now, with a small 10 days of distance away from it. I find that I like the top one which was actually the second study from the session done after the colours had softened the motif as a whole. 

15 February 2020

Tightrope walking

     Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,  early 2018, oil on canvas board 20 X 26 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,  19 January 2019, oil on canvas board, 25 X 30 cm

What a difference two years of work make in a painting series. The palette has lightened up radically, and there is more concern towards the motif instead of towards a more personal and an expressive concern. Simply put, less of me and more of the motif.

There is always a danger, when working from Nature, that one can fall too much in love with the 'Motif' or Nature, creating a sentimental attachment. Yet conversely, one can remain too fixated upon one's own self-expressive feelings and conceptual obsessions  rendering one visually blind in front of what  Nature has to offer.

Myself, I think that the middle ground might feel like walking upon a tightrope to describe the work from Nature. One must not be too close to the sentimental in Nature, while at the same time, one cannot be too pulled into one's self. 

13 February 2020

Australian winter twilight

     Prayer Brunswick Heads, 29 January, 2019, oil on canvas board 40 X 30 cm

A picture from last year, when the Australian winter gives birth to unusually warm and often melodramatic skies. The ocean often turns deep red violet at the peak of its  twilight transformation into the winter night. I am there on the dunes to capture it.

11 February 2020

The austerity of Leo Marchutz

Peter's denial of Christ, tempora on linen, circa 1973

The big problem for me after being Leo’s student is that he didn’t offer a ‘physical’ path forward. He gave his students an understanding of both light, and form derived from the history of painting in the western world. But in his work he reduced the 'materiality' in a very personal way, to the barest of bones on a canvas. And yet, within that world, Leo forms images into a universe both complete and cogent.

So where can a painter proceed after that?
That is my problem, but I presume that it poses a problem for others. Painting is about vision, but it is also a physical and material vocation. And, aside from the problem of ‘the idea’, or content in a picture, there is the equally existential difficulty of rendering that idea on its own terms with the viscosity of paint. 

10 February 2020

the red sea


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 21 August 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

There is colour everywhere. I have to work small because Nature's changes move so quickly around the twilight hour. But I have found out to myself that it is possible to capture something, a fragment even of a visual memory. And because I believe that all paintings are invented from one's memory, anything is possible in front of a motif. Sometimes I am able to make 3 and even 4 studies in an hour session before the sky and sea give up their magic.

09 February 2020

Van Gogh's greenish yellow reimagined


Evening Prayer, Brunswick Heads, N.S.W. 2 February, 2020, oil, 30 X 25 cm

The yellow green sky at the top reminds me of the garish light in the painting of the bar in Arles which Van Gogh painted. And yet, this is of natural light at dusk on beach halfway around the world from the south of France. 

I wish I could find something intelligent to say about it but I cannot. It was done quickly, in about 15 minutes perhaps, and was number two out of three painted that evening before the darkness stopped me.