You may or may not have heard the rumours – but YES we are working on a new Lighthouse Keeper book!!!
Thought I’d been a bit quiet recently? Here’s why:
You may or may not have heard the rumours – but YES we are working on a new Lighthouse Keeper book!!!
Scholastic came to us a several months ago and took us for a lovely dinner, a new book was suggested and we agreed upon a concept, which as you will see has a very important and topical theme.
Ronda’s done her bit, so now it’s up to me to do justice to her words with some illustrations, with the Lighthouse Keeper brand of colour, detail and humour.
It’s wonderful to be creating a new book, having recently celebrated 40 years since the first Lighthouse Keeper book was published, and to know that new generations of readers are discovering a love of reading through our books.
We’re currently looking at a release date sometime in spring 2020, which will hopefully coincide with a large exhibition of mine featuring original illustrations from the new book. So watch this space for more details in due course.
My latest series of paintings, inspired by landscapes and our precious planet Earth. Semi-abstract, giving an impression or an unconventional view.
These paintings are created on paper, utilising techniques which I have developed in both branches of my practice – painting and illustration.
Inks, watercolour, dyes, acrylic and a form of monoprint are combined to give depth and rich colours. High quality aquarelle paper in the perfect base to absorb and hold the vibrant waterbased inks and paints.
My native Tasmania and Australia are still a strong influence. The baked landscapes, colours and forms crop up again and again. The land will remain forever in my blood.
Obviously Sussex, and the landscapes of the South Downs National Park have also been a strong influence. And those who have visited may recognise the looping curves of the Cuckmere.
All of these paintings are mixed media on paper, and can be purchased framed or unframed. A selection are currently on display at Studio+Gallery in Seaford, June 6 – July 7. They are also available individually or as a set for loans or exhibitions. Please contact me for further details.
Many thanks to all those who have already been to see my new exhibition, over in Seaford, at the brand new Studio+Gallery. Below are some shots of my paintings in situ at this lovely exhibition space. All of the paintings are relatively new, mostly created this year, and include work from both the Earth Watch series and the Still Life series.
The gallery is a beautifully renovated space, with crisp white walls and professional overhead spot lighting, which habits the ground floor of a lovely old town house in one of Seaford’s oldest streets. The scale of the space demonstrates how well my work can sit in a more domestic setting.
The float mount used to frame these works on paper, really sets them off perfectly. It’s lovely to see the naturally ruffled edges of the high quality aquarelle paper that I use for these paintings. I also love it against the rough brick wall behind!
Two little stunners, proving you can still get all the colour, depth and interest in a small package. Even in a small space either of these would light up the room.
The exhibition is open Thursday through Sunday up to the 7th July, 11am – 5pm. There are also two artists Q&A sessions, see their website for details.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the work, please contact the gallery.
The Uffizi was all that it claimed to be and did not disappoint. How could it? It also confirmed my love and preference for the painters of the Quattrocento… Masaccio, Bellini, Uccelo and most of all Piero Della Francesca.
The ‘High Renaissance’ with all its immense technical trappings simply became too 3 dimensional and denied the two dimensional surface on which the marks were made. I am certain that this opinion would have got Renaissance scholars quaking in their boots.
The journey south through Italy was, and is, a visual joy, both from the landscape and the splendid architecture. Initially we headed north east to Ravenna and the wondrous basilica of San Vitale completed in 547. Therein we see the Empress Theodora, a mosaic marvel. She, along with her husband Justinian, were immensely powerful. She was quite a girl, being variously described as beautiful, intelligent and, depending on what one reads, her sex life could hardly be described as pedestrian. What is not beyond doubt is her virtual invention of feminism, an amazing achievement in that day and age.
South then to Brindisi and the car ferry to Greece. Some of the Greek myths and legends percolated back from childhood as we crossed the wine dark sea. How I hated Theseus and, in some versions at least, his treatment of Ariadne. Bastard. Later on, what was not in doubt, was the savoury delights of the Corinth Canal lamb kebabs. En route to Athens we stopped at a small village tavern for lunch. It was all agreeable enough, but the passport/ nationality issue re-appeared with a fine symmetry, although not quite as happily as previously. In my response to the usual nationality question my single word response ‘Australian’ got the world spinning again. Why? This was the time of the Vietnam war and the Australians were sending conscripts to this conflict. Further, some of these conscripts could have come from the very large Greek community in Australia. This was not good. Our village was fiercely communist, but we had to eat and the landlord wanted the business. So we sat at a large table in the company of our hostile fellow diners. This was very stressful, to say the least. We were not welcome.
By chance we sat next to a little girl (5/6?) who was busy with her pens and colouring book . By instinct I started to help her with this task. This took the form of me drawing a load of animals and she supplied the appropriate Baaa, Mooo, or whatever. This game went through several mutations, including birds, machines and the like. The best bit was giving clues to the identity of the creature by gradually adding bits until she guessed correctly. We entered a good world and became wholly engrossed, oblivious to the previous situation. More generally, and thankfully , the implacable hostility melted away, as I became aware of adult participation in the guessing game . The lunch was delicious.
And so to Athens and the conclusion of this part of the journey. We took Esmeralda to a local dealer and despite the transmission problems and sad appearance, he gave us a fair price for this splendid piece of engineering.
Off to New Zealand to meet the in- laws. Transport was provided by the now ubiquitous Boeing 707, another splendid piece of engineering and a darn sight quicker than the Ellenis.
But, I did miss the table tennis…after all, it changed my life.
Clockwise from top left: Still Life with Ginger Plant, mixed media on canvas, 100 x 76cm; Green Handbag, mixed media on canvas, 76 x 50 cm; Interior with Bed, mixed media on canvas, 100 x 76 cm; Still Life with Window, mixed media on canvas, 100 x 76 cm.
This series of works is inspired by domestic interiors. The simplicity of a bag hanging on the back of a door, an unmade bed, a vase, a table. Colours and forms spring forth and through an abstracted lense can become something beyond themselves.
The tradition of painting still lifes is deeply entrenched in fine art, and indeed has been a recurring element in my own practice over the decades. The colours and forms of real life objects have been inspiring artists for millenia, and I find great satisfaction in finding ways to represent, and suggest those forms in the most expressive way; so that you don’t just see a vase, or a bowl of fruit, or a chair; but you feel it. The expressive marks and deep colours pull you in and come to life, and allow you to make your own impressions of what they are.
To see East Germany as a refuge after the previous encounters would be a folly indeed.
This was the cold war alright, both psychologically and materially. Even the air seemed to be contaminated by the insidious power of the STASI. We paused somewhere to check on directions. This involved the simple procedure of knocking on the door of an unremarkable house. The reception from the male occupant was a symbiosis of suspicion and palpable fear. GO AWAY. Maybe somebody had been informing and he dreaded the chilling rattle of an unknown visitor… An unnerving experience for both of us.
The STASI or Ministry of Security was founded in 1950. At it’s height it was the largest and most feared state security outfit on the planet. The scale of ‘informing’ on your fellow citizens was staggering. One could simply disappear. Citizens turned informants became a vast network. It had strong links to the KGB and could infiltrate Western countries.
Materially the traffic and roadside furniture were the embodiment of menace.The whole theatre was given dramatic emphasis by being enveloped in freezing fog. Troop carriers, half-tracks and tanks emerged from the misty depths and rumbled on their way. The roadside borders consisted of watch towers, barbed wire and search lights. The ‘Third Man’ was not in this league. It was the culmination of all the totalitarian literature and experience that one had ever read. One pathetic consolation, our German plates would not raise an eyebrow here.
In the encircling gloom and darkness we got to West Berlin. The whole process of finding somewhere to stay, let alone pay for it, was beyond us. A cosy night in Esmeralda beckoned. Oh joy. In the morning, through the fogged up windows, we could see the plump, well breakfasted inhabitants toddling off to work, chatting away, life on earth turned upside down. How could this be? What about the world we had just left?
Esmeralda had a freshen up and a pep talk. The fading clutch continued in fade mode. I pretended the gear box was full of newly hatched chickens, gently does it. Off to the south through West Germany en route to Munich, progressing through an agreeable landscape. Ahead, a signpost, a rather flimsy affair, almost an afterthought. One word. Dachau. We get there.
One abiding image; a grainy 2 metre square photograph of a pile of children’s shoes.
How such an image of apparent innocence could have such unimaginable implications burns itself into your head. Forever.
Onward across the Western Alps and into northern Italy. By now a few green shoots of spring were starting to appear. As we descended around a sharp corner, a small bank of lovely wildflowers presented themselves. A moment’s inattention. Keep your eyes on the road David! Too late.
Two motorcycle policemen were dead ahead as I drifted to the left. They were impressive and would not disgrace an Italian rugby team, their whole physicality set off by their splendid tan uniforms, Sam Brown belts and the shiniest of black boots imaginable. Even their bikes were Concours standard. Black shades glared. They passed by. I counted to ten. By the time I got to six they had re-appeared, one at the front of the car, one at the rear. God they were menacing. The German plates screamed at them. A notebook was produced as we were ordered out of the car. Ronda was quite blonde and could pass for German, I was close enough. A fine of horrendous proportions was mentioned. We would pay for this, and how.
‘PASSPORTS’ one of them snapped. Ronda produced said document. He read the two words on the cover and handed it back, unopened. The world then spun 180 degrees on it’s axis. Our man gazed into space in some kind of reverie. As he crunched the dangerous driving violation into waste paper , he breathed three words…..Orsongna, Cassino, Faenza. From late 1943 to mid 1945, New Zealand regiments fought alongside the Italians in a series of brutal battles. Silence. ‘Where are you going?’, he asked ‘Firenze?’ ‘The Uffizi’, came the reply. Moments later, Esmeralda had a police escort, front and rear, to take us to the gallery. They helped us find a car park and bade us farewell in the most generous terms.
I have taken a trip back to my native Tasmania for a few weeks and have been with my old art school mate. He has unearthed some ancient stuff… all done around 1964/5. A mixture of painting, linocuts and chalk sketches. Some of it’s not bad, if I do say so myself!
Somewhat reminiscent of our old chum Bacon? Who was a huge influence on me can you tell?!!
The above sketch was a study for a painting which was acquired by the Dunedin art gallery. (A few years ago!)
Some 40 plus years later, Ronda and I had an all expenses paid trip, plus fee, to Sakhalin Island, a place described by Chekhov in a landmark series of articles (c.1890) as ‘hell’. It was a prison camp in Tsarist days.
It lies to the north of Japan, being the easternmost part of Russia and was divided into the northern Russian section with the southern belonging to Japan.
At the end of the Second World War, in a brutal conflict, the Russians conquered the whole island and lay claim to it to this day. A big part of the prize lies underground, the huge quantities of oil and gas being heavily exploited. This industry is multi national and the children of the employees, of course, need international schools. Thus it was, early one week Ronda and I were happily doing a school visit in a local village, within a few days we flew to Seoul in Korea and then north to Sakhalin to work with the international kids. A remarkable (and exhausting) experience. Good exercise was provided by a fine tennis court and a sprinkling of tolerable tennis players amongst the staff.
And so into Poland, the nagging premonition still hanging in the freezing air.
My knowledge of this country was basic to say the least. When I was a kid in Tasmania our elderly Polish neighbours had escaped from that country at the end of the war. From my point of view it was hard to see southern Tasmania as a kind of earthly paradise but, to them, it was even more than that. I was too young and ignorant to comprehend the full horror of their lives. Of course, think Poland, think the Chopin who everybody knows, or should. The Polonaises and Mazurkas are old friends but it was his third piano sonata that caught me out. It emerged from the car radio, a sort of son et lumiere as the trailing car headlights indicated I might speed up a bit. I pulled over and entered this sublime world that Ashkenazy picked out with consummate skill. How extraordinary that a series of notes played on a single instrument with no devices, augmentations or frills whatsoever can have such profound power.
The road to Warsaw would not be dignified by such a term. There were no frills here either. At times it was very much a communal thoroughfare, carts, pedestrians, bikes, and the odd cow or two added to this bucolic agrarian landscape. Darkness had descended and Esmeralda’s lights struggled with this farming melange. This was not quite the sophisticated Europe that I had imagined.
The door pillar took the full force of the blow. Down he went with a sickening thud. Rounding a hairpin bend this swaying figure appeared in the middle of the road, 20 metres away. Good reflexes swerved but he was side-swiped. Oh God, we still had those German plates which were seen at once. People materialised from everywhere. By indication and gesture and the Polish for GO! GO! GO! was yelled at us. No we didn’t. Getting out of the car we approached our supine friend and , as we surveyed the damage, we were re-assured. We got him to his feet and a bit of self propelled arm rubbing started to happen. This good sign was dwarfed by the cloud of pungent vodka that wafted round our best efforts. Our man was legless. He seemed OK, but we could not be sure. A lengthy spell in a Polish gaol could be on the cards if things were otherwise, so we followed the advice of our farming friends and got going.
Warsaw cheered things up. At least it’s modest display of neon lights and signs was a tad more welcoming than the Russian equivalent. This city and it’s Jewish community suffered terribly during the war. This pogrom has been well documented, and despite the rebellion in 1944, this again was crushed by the Nazis. In September 1945, the Russians captured Warsaw. By January of 1945 80-90% of the buildings had been destroyed. Re-building of a sort commenced under a Soviet puppet regime. ‘Stalinism’ lasted until 1956.
Esmeralda was performing well, no hint of the sulks, so we set off for the East German border. The journey included the attractive university city of Poznan, it’s architecture and general aura giving a real lift to proceedings. The same could not be said of our ‘in car’ catering, perhaps the food would be better in a Polish prison, one of us joked.
Ho Ho!.. The East German border resembled a military parade ground with a load of police thrown in. Everybody had to get out of their cars and thorough searches of the whole vehicle, inside and out, led to long queues forming. I was almost certain they were looking for something or perhaps some collateral damage, particularly with foreign cars. No more jokes about Polish prison food. We got to the head of this vice-like road block. Nerves jangled.
A rather jaded para military waved us through, he did not even want us to stop.