Blog posts

Past Controversies!

‘Those paintings, how they arouse people’

Back in 1973 I won a prize at the North Shore Arts Festival in Auckland. My painting was considered by some to be quite controversial at the time and it has certainly been eye opening (and perhaps shocking!) for my assistant who has been reading and copying the old newspaper clippings and articles from that time.

As yet I have been unable to locate a colour image of the painting, but the colours would be similar to those in this blog post about some other works of mine from that period, which are still in the collection at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki

Below are a few of those newspaper articles and clippings which I have kept in a scrap book for many years, but which my assistant insisted must see the light of day – she seemed to find it fascinating and thought others would too.

Note the wonderful composition of this photograph with the head of Festival President Ron Forbes covering the ‘offending’ area!
The article is from the North Shore Times, February 1973.

It seems I caused rather a stir, some of the opinions written in to the papers are hilarious – or infuriating – depending on your viewpoint.

This – signed ‘Not a Prude’ – is a particularly ugly example (the original clipping is rather damaged so I will quote a section):

Two ugly, course, grotesque figures, sprawled out, one in a most disgusting attitude, and not in any way pleasing to the eye…. why not paint two nice young girls (nudes, if he likes) with lovely long flowing hair, throwing a beach ball.

From the opinion s section of the North Shore Times Advertiser,
February 1973

I feel that the author of this letter has said a lot more about himself than the painting – and not in a good way!

Here is a more positive one though:

In fact there were many positive responses, and the painting was bought by Grahame Chote, collector and director of the International Art Centre, Auckland. I recently got in touch with his daughter Fran Davies who is now the director, and she was able to provide me with this image of the painting in their downstairs gallery in the early ’70’s.

Image supplied by International Art Centre, Auckland, New Zealand. 

The following article is Grahame’s response in the Auckland Star, to the controversy surrounding the painting.

And from the newsletter:

He was not the only interested party:

I would love to know who those ‘American tourists’ were! [Ed.]

However, the controversies continued:

You never would have thought I was such an enfant terrible in my youth… would you??!!

Transfigured Night

This painting is titled after Schoenberg’s entrancing chamber piece, composed for six strings, and inspired by the poem by Richard Dehmel.

This is a wonderfully atmospheric evocation in which a woman shares a dark secret with her new lover as they walk through a dark moonlit forest.

Could be mawkish, but isn’t.

Transfigured Night, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 160 x 140 cm


The painting responds to the ambiguity and mystery of a moonlit landscape/ garden with the tonal and sliding colour modulations reflecting the rich chromatic language and the implied narrative in the music. A painting is a painting, music is music, but more often than not, I find it hard to separate the two. But, why should I?

Arnold Schoenberg “Verklarte Nacht” (Transfigured Night) Op. 4 for String Orchestra
Chamber Orchestra Kremlin; Misha Rachlevsky, conductor

In recent years the music has also inspired a dance piece choreographed by Rambert dance company.

Transfigured Night performed by Rambert dance company

See more of my paintings inspired by classical music in the Music Box category

Oxford Exhibition August 2020

***UPDATE***

This exhibition will now run:

31 JULY – 18 OCTOBER

I am pleased to announce the new exhibition dates. This will be the first exhibition for the re-opening of the gallery after lockdown, and will now be an extended exhibition of more than 10 weeks.

This exhibition will feature a full range of my work, from book illustrations up to my large abstract paintings. The catalogue is now available, which you can view / download via the link below, or message me if you would like a hardcopy sent to you.

Click here for more details.

Please see the gallery website for opening times. https://www.thejamfactoryoxford.com/

Collections

The wonderful Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki still has a few of my early pieces in their collection. Nice to know someone still loves me!

Table and mirror and a green interior, 1973, Dye on canvas, 1785 x 1632 mm
Iris, 1972, Acrylic on canvas, 1756 x 1422 mm
Interior with chair, 1970, Dye on canvas, 1829 x 2159 mm
Girl on a bed, 1973, Acrylic on canvas, 1855 x 5025 mm

https://www.aucklandartgallery.com/explore-art-and-ideas/artwork/12652/girl-on-a-bed

Albania

A tall tale from this ancient Adriatic gem.

Here I am in Albania, going off to set up my big show. (Racy pants)

Just locked up my Albanian studio…

Spotted at the opening of my show!!

The gallery is impressive!…. a bit draughty though…

Lovely Roman ruins….

Lovely gracious rococo hotel with panoramic views…

A review of my show! Seen in the Corfu Chronicle, (hence the Greek.) Still, as you see, it makes good reading.

DISASTER! Artist falls down dis-used mine shaft!

This is my fave AIR B and B so far….

My new best friend Alesia. She is an absolute gem at I.T. ….And publicity for my Albanian show! What a find!

Much Anticipated

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:

Visuals for the *new book* spread across my studio floor!

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.

Earth Watch

My latest series of paintings, inspired by landscapes and our precious planet Earth. Semi-abstract, giving an impression or an unconventional view.

Billabong.

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.

Estuary 2
Oasis.

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.

River Bend.
Meander.

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.

Seaford Exhibition June 2019

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.

Left to right: Orange Handbag, dye and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 76 cm; Provnece, mixed media on canvas, 30 x 30 cm; Handbag, mixed media on canvas, 30 x 30 cm; Schubert’s Bed, dye and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 76 cm.

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.

On the left work by Abigail Myers. One the right two pieces from my Earth Watch series: Estuary 2, and Meander, both mixed media on paper, 38 x 28 cm, and framed in a float mount frame.
Endurance, mixed media on paper, 40 x 30 cm

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!

Left: Church Window, mixed media on canvas, 30 x 30 cm; Right: Church Window 3, mixed media on canvas, 40 x 30 cm.

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.

Studioplusgallery.com

In Vino Veritas 24

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.

Piero della Francesca;
Legend of the True Cross – the Queen of Sheba Meeting with Solomon (c. 1452-66, Fresco, San Francesco, Arezzo, Italy)

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.


Go back to the Previous Episode

Or Start at the beginning

Still 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.

Blue Handbag, mixed media on canvas, 76 x 50 cm
Interior with Mirror, mixed media on canvas, 113 x 100 cm.