Tuesday 20 January 2015

Time with Chuck

Prints, Process and Collaboration.

I realised soon after entering the exhibition space that I really had no idea of the scale of these portraits. Reading dimensions of an artwork just doesn't give you any idea of the experience when dwarfed by these amazing portraits. 

To give you an idea of scale...

Although photography was allowed, I only had my iPhone so I'm directing you to the MCA website with excellent images so please enjoy them there. Over 200 works are shown in the exhibition and they do live up to the promise of the title. Seeing the stages of each step of the printing process gives one a clear picture of the sheer hard work that goes into the production. Some prints have taken up to two years to be completed.

The exhibition starts with a most recent Self Portrait, 2014  - 84 colour woodblock edition of 70 prints. 
(Here's a reminder of this time consuming process - a woodcut print is made by carving out sections of a woodblock, inked and then paper pressed on to the inked surface. Each colour would be printed separately.)
This portrait is one of many self-portraits, a subject always available for experimentation. 

On an adjacent wall is Bob  1969 - 1970 acrylic on gessoed canvas, one of the earliest breakthrough portraits. These early portraits were made using a gridded black and white photo as a reference, airbrushed in black and white on a white ground. White highlights were scraped away with a razor blade.It's so large and so real you can't believe it's paint and you really just want to reach out and touch it! 

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with printing processes, when you walk into the Gallery showing John, 1998 - 124 colour silk screen, the process becomes clear. 

John, 1998 -The first two proofs in the series

This room shows a series of state proofs. The first few prints are pale pastel colours and gradually with each print, more layers are added and as darker colours are superimposed, the image emerges and becomes defined. It reinforces the belief that many artists hold - that the process is what is most valid - that the doing is of more value than the end product. 

Emma 2002 - 113 colour hand printed ukiyo-e woodcut.
In this room we see both an oil painting of Emma and a woodcut print of the same image as well as the wood blocks used by the printer to make the print.
The individual blocks are relief art works as well.

Here's a panorama I took in the room to give you an idea of the display.

Emma 2002 - and the wood blocks

Georgia 1982 - pulp-paper collage on canvas
This is not a print but a paper collage made of dried pulp paper. There is a video showing how this is done. Displayed alongside is the metal grill which is the matrix for the handmade paper piece.

Georgia 1982 - grid and completed work

The exhibition continues at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney until 15th March 2015. 

Sunday 18 January 2015

Sketching in Sydney

I have had such a lovely start to the year with ten days exploring Sydney. I stayed with an artist friend and it was so good to re-connect after a number of years. Ages ago we worked together on illustrations for school readers published by Juta & Co. one of the oldest publishing houses in South Africa.

My previous experience of Sydney had been limited to a few fly-overs and the airport so everything was new and exciting. One of our first activities was a visit to MCA - the Museum of Contemporary Art to see the exhibition of work by Chuck Close - that visit is a post all on its own coming soon.

On making contact with the sketchers from USK Sydney, I was warmly welcomed. 
Jane Blundell, a talented watercolour artist, kindly took me on an expedition to Cockatoo Island for the day. Since the sun was really fierce we found refuge inside a large warehouse to paint sections of the interior. 

After a coffee break, I opted to stay at the Café since I had a perfect view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and an old crane.

Sydney Harbour Bridge from Cockatoo Island ink and watercolour

A planned trip to draw Balmoral beach, which was crowded with holiday makers, became a visit to Chowder Bay and the East Coast Lounge, a picturesque refuge complete with comfort and good coffee. (At heart I think I am really a comfort sketcher.) If you scroll through the photos on their website you’ll get the idea.

Jetty at Chowder Bay and view from the East Coast Lounge - ink and watercolour

A side trip up to the Northern Beaches was equally enjoyable. I stayed at a charming airbnb - Collaroy Beach House. It was very comfortable and my host was so hospitable. She went out of her way to make my stay pleasant. I highly recommend her home if you visit the area.

On Saturday I met up with sketchers from Sydney. We had fun capturing the 1938 Art Deco Collaroy Cinema, shared a good laugh over lunch, and then I enjoyed a lovely time with Suzi - Vignettes de la Vie - talking art and life. Please do have a look at her blog and her photos on Instagram too.

Collaroy Cinema ink and watercolour 

The Incinerator in Willoughby, was originally a working refuse incinerator now converted Café and Gallery was designed by Walter Burley Griffin in the 1930s. He designed a number of houses in Castle Crag utilizing the plentiful stone in the area and incorporating the native bushland into his designs.

 Looking out - The Incinerator lunch - ink and watercolour

  Lunch at The Incinerator was one of the highlights of my trip as Dee and I were joined by a very special sketcher - Liz Steel. We had a great time, chatting about all things art. Of course we sketched, drank tea and enjoyed cake too. Liz, magically, with her usual speed and well-practised skill produced three sketches in record time. You can read her account here: Lunch in an incinerator

Sadly all good times come to an end. I had such a wonderful time and look forward to a return visit sometime soon.

You can view my Sydney sketches here on Flickr.

I think the sketchbook used for this trip will become a favourite - love the square format. my only concern is that the light linen cover marks quite easily when out on location.

All Sydney sketches were done in a Hand*Book watercolour Journal 8.25" x 8.25" 200gsm