Friday 23 December 2011

Season's Greetings

This last post for the year comes with my good wishes to all my readers. May you have time to rest, relax and connect with family and friends.
Thank you for reading and commenting, I value your interest and support.

And to all those whose artists and writers whose blogs have inspired me during the year, I am constantly awed at the talent that is shown - thank you.

I look forward to a new year bursting with new ideas - new drawings, new paintings and new materials to explore.

Friday 16 December 2011

Magic and fantasy

A visit to GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane) today provided further proof that art galleries and young children can be compatible. The Gallery has made a bold move to de-mystify the Gallery space. To re-affirm the notion that art can be fun; that art is to be enjoyed and that if children are introduced to art at a young age they will continue to visit. It is true, though that some of the exhibits test the observation skills of the Gallery staff to the limits.
Yayoi Kusuma: Look Now See Forever transforms the galleries with vibrant pulsating colour. The online catalogue gives a wonderful overview of the exhibition. Huge red and white spotted balloons dwarf the viewer in a red and white spotted room called Dots Obsession.

Dots obsession 2011 in Yayoi Kusuma: Look Now, See Forever

In the next room there are huge fibre-glass Flowers that Bloom at Midnight – all asking to be touched. Then at last, in the Obliteration Room, there’s a place where the usually forbidden is allowed and even encouraged. When the exhibition opened this room was pure white. The room is furnished as a traditional Australian home with locally sourced furniture – all painted white.

On entering each viewer is handed a sheet of brightly coloured stickers – dots of various sizes – and these can be stuck anywhere - on the floor, the furniture, a piano and, for the very tall, the ceiling.

 A couple of weeks later and there are still some white gaps but by the end of the show the room will have been transformed.

Pip and Pop’s installation: we miss you magic land! was commissioned for the Children’s Art Centre. It’s a fairy tale world made out of layers of sugar, modelling clay, mirrors and origami creations - a forest of fantasy plants and flowers. One of the gallery staff I spoke to said she had helped work on the installation. It had taken about eight weeks to complete with a lot of the components arriving already made.

It’s enticing and fascinating and trying to persuade the little ones not to touch is almost impossible.

In fact at times in spite of the watchful eye of numerous Gallery staff the occasional stretch and touch does occur. Take a careful look at the last photograph – the evidence of a touching hand is there!

I've just found a link to the Obsession Room before the dots...

Saturday 10 December 2011

A Year in Australia

A year ago today I stepped off the plane in Brisbane - the beginning of a new adventure in a new country.

Looking back over the last twelve months, the time seems to have passed in a blur. There have been some low times. Adjusting to life in a strange place takes time. It’s hard to leave loved ones behind and start in a place where one has no history. And I get very nostalgic about many things including the glorious aloes.

Aloes – oil on canvas 900mm x 600mm Carol Lee Beckx © 2010

No sooner had I arrived than it started to rain. And rain and rain and rain some more. The January floods hit Queensland and Brisbane hard.The photos remain horrifying. Plans that I had made to visit places, meet people and integrate myself into Australian life had to be put on hold as my new city was swallowed by mud.

Then, not a month later, on the third of February, Cyclone Yasi hit northern Queensland with a vengeance. Brisbane was not directly affected, being some 1500 kilometres south. However, coupled with the damage caused by the floods; the cyclone had widespread effects on both the people and the economy. For one thing the price of bananas sky-rocketed to $15 per kilo!  

But, life goes on. Queenslanders washed off the mud and carried on. I started to find my way around. My surroundings became familiar and, more importantly, I made new friends. I’ve shown paintings on local exhibitions with some success – I won First prize for Still Life and the Redhill Gallery Prize at The Gap Community Art Show. In addition, I received Highly Commended for a painting at the Woodford Biennial.
A high point in my year was when I moved into my own home at the beginning of June. I could set up my studio and was able to start teaching. I started to feel settled. Another milestone was when I built my garden with the help of my son-in-law. A barren patch of dirt became a little sanctuary. I could literally put down roots. Instead of visiting vervet monkeys I have to fight off the attentions of the bush turkeys who a very partial to my parsley.

While part of me remains with family and friends in South Africa and I miss them sorely, technology allows me to remain in close contact with them. I can still be involved.
Even though there have been times when I questioned my sanity for embarking on this crazy venture, I am glad I made the move. I enjoy spending time with my daughter and son-in-law and developing a close relationship with my grandchildren.
My plan to focus on painting and teaching art is becoming a reality. I am working on a new commission for three paintings. The art classes are going well. It’s a good feeling to see my students blossom, growing in confidence and ability after a few short months.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Mysterious Ochre

Every experience is influenced by its context. Our location, current circumstances and even emotional status alters our interpretation of events or experiences.

Some years ago, when I was still living in South Africa, I read a wonderful book by Victoria Finlay called   Colour: Travels through the Paintbox . I had borrowed the book from a friend but enjoyed it so much that I bought my own copy.
However, I scarcely remembered reading the section called The Australian Paintbox. I’m really glad now that I have the book because when I picked it up recently, I re-read it from a completely different perspective. Living in a different country with its own particular history has changed my perception of what Finlay has written.
On discovering that a shaped piece of rock / lump of earth was in fact a chunk of ochre pigment, Finlay realised that it was possibly used by an artist some 5000 years ago. In Greek the word means pale yellow – iron oxide – it was the first pigment. Her search for the origins of the colour led her to the heart of Australia.

The light and heat here is much like South Africa. But if anything it’s brighter and hotter, and the hole in the ozone layer just above us is threatening. The colours of Africa, yellow ochre, burnt sienna and earthy reds have a kinship with Australian earth colours. And then, because the sky here is so blue some days the red earth is even redder.
The Aboriginal painting tradition, the oldest continuous painting tradition, goes back for 40,000 years. The colours are bound up in age-old stories, rituals, mysteries and secrets. So much is hidden below the surface. Ochre was for many years a valuable commodity used as a bartering tool amongst various aboriginal peoples.
Last week I visited GoMA. One of the exhibitions celebrating GoMAs 5th Birthday was Across Country : Five years of Indigenous Art from the Collection.
I turned a corner in the Gallery and walked into an ochre room.

The colour glowed, highlighting the work on the walls and plinths.Indigenous artists from across the country have continued to find innovative ways to interpret their stories and experiences in an increasing range of mediums.