Emma Hack

I wondered into Seaview Gallery whilst I was in Queenscliff over the weekend and found the art of Emma Hack. Her most famous work would be the cubist patterns she created in Gotye’s video clip for Somebody I Used To Know, but her other work is just as, if not more amazing


Peony Cradled Budgie

Here is the link to her website: Emma Hack


ACCA Review: Pat Brassington

An exhibition at ACCA, “Á Rebours”, features work from Australian artist Pat Brassington. Though Brassington has exhibited many times, this particular show is a collection of her 30 years of practice.

Described as charming as well as menacing, her work focuses on the underbelly of the human condition. Rather than depicting large moments in life, she tends to pinpoint the small ones, including small moments, small thoughts and unspoken feelings. She’s a photomedia artist, working on the tensions between desire and repulsion, the strange and the familiar.

Her work is surrealism and cinema reinterpreted through photography, though some of it is verging on abstraction. It’s quite discomforting, blurring the boundaries between the real and the imagined. There’s a sense of digital restraint in her pieces, with the idea of building a photograph rather than taking one being a more appropriate way of describing her practice.

“I’ve always been inclined to experiment,” she says. “I have been a straight photographer and some of my pieces today still fall into that category. As for source material, the main ingredient often comes from my own archive of negatives and black and white prints. Sometimes I might throw into the mix a scanned found image or a potentially suitable object. If I don’t have what I want I’ll reach for the camera,” she says.

The exhibition ran from August 11 – September 23 2012.


The Secret


pigment print
                            80  x 62 cm

VU Grad Show 2012

The VU Grad Show opened on Tuesday night. Thanks to everyone who came along, and congratulations to the following for winning awards:

Tom Burns

Kirby Sens

Pablo Lopez

Mehdi Jaghuri

Cathy Johnstone

Robin (?)

If you’ve got the time over the next couple of weeks you should definitely come see it


Graeme Drendel giving a speech


The audience during speeches


Kirby receiving her award


Mehdi receiving his award


My work and me

Artist Statement

This emerging artist uses drawing and painting to portray her reflections on two much loved subjects; landscapes and nature. Focusing specifically on the Australian scenes found on her bush property in Buxton, Victoria, she is influenced by not only early childhood memories but also the impact the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires had on her and her family. The colour, form and texture that can be found in the Australian landscape inspires her; she sees it as an almost escape from the suburban area of Melbourne she lives in otherwise. By studying certain artists from the Heidelberg group, she is influenced by the intimate yet rough techniques used in many of their works. Frederick McCubbin’s use of a muted palette, for example, is a technique that is portrayed throughout her art. Other artists such as Ursula Theinert, who created her own works that focus on the bushfires, also impact her practice.

Artist: Graeme Drendel

Australian artist Graeme Drendel works as a figurative painter and printmaker in Melbourne. He grew up on a wheat farm in Ouyen, Northern Victoria, and spent his childhood surrounded by paddocks and scrub in a harsh dry climate. The impact this environment had on him is seen quite clearly in his work.

Generally, his pieces compose of a character or an ensemble of characters surrounded by a spacious landscape situated indefinitely under a romantic Australian sky, the shadows included often suggesting the time of day or weather. The focus of his work is on the psychology between the figures, somehow making them seem isolated even though they’re together. He does this through their stance, expression and body language as well as the vast space surrounding them, creating a tragic solemn mood in the process. This restraint between each person creates a tension; it shows the struggle between people. It’s a modernised depiction of a figure or figures in a landscape.

An example is found in his 2006 piece, “The Channel”. Five characters feature in this work, all situated in amongst a miniature town that has been built around a small channel. The scene is framed by an overly dramatic sky. The work not only shows how he tends to assemble his figures, but also the narrative element he generally includes. The water channel that runs through this piece comes from the water supply from the Grampians, an area he grew up near (he moved to Melbourne at age 19). Back at home, the channels would fill into the dams during winter. He saw the channels like arteries, and thus has depicted them as such.


The Channel


oil on canvas


Drendel believes you should paint what you know. This may be why he works out of his imagination rather than translating an image in front of him. To construct a painting, he usually starts with one figure and creates a composition around that. He doesn’t plan his painting, liking the notion of not knowing what’s going to happen next. Everything sorts itself out as he goes, although he’s willing to reconstruct an entire painting if he finds it necessary. He’s largely self-taught, using sketch books to train himself in the art of observation. Generally, his sketches are done in one sitting; he may spend an hour or so completing a portrait.

The familiar is something that influences his work greatly. The isolation he portrays through his characters may relate back to the isolation he felt on the farm he grew up on. He always had an interest in art and music which generally wasn’t a high priority for others living in the area.  Though his inspirations of course change over time, other recent influences include “Tribute Money” by Masaccio, “Nativity” by Pierro della Francesca, Courbet, Renaissance paintings (they have helped his compositions and formalities), the cinema and literature; he’s inspired especially by writers who talk about their books. He believes though, that you have to make yourself inspired; it shouldn’t come from an outside source. According to him, waiting for inspiration is an excuse; art is hard work. “I think I’m inspired by the process of painting itself… it’s the notion of throwing yourself into the painting,” he said. In saying this, a trip to Italy he took in his thirties has provided him with several years of subject matter.

In 1986 he created a painting titled “Models”. This figurative piece includes not only the urban Italian landscape but also a figure that even now makes its way into his art. In this particular work, the figure is situated in the bottom left corner of a room. It was inspired by a man Drendel met on the streets of Italy who was playing a “pea and cup game” where passers-by gambled on which cup had a pea under it. Drendel lost this game. The man, though featured in a white shirt and black pants in this image, is often drawn as a priest and is used as a metaphor for the fact that religion takes advantage of people, just as this man took advantage of him. Many of his other artworks have religious themes and rituals included in them too. He modernises them though, only hinting at the stories or paintings they came from. Greek legends, as well have made their way into his work.




watercolour and gouache on paper


The Pacemakers”, a 1999-2000 piece, was influenced by a Greek story he grew up with on the radio. The story is about Atalanta, a goddess and the son of King Iasus. Whoever could outrun her in a footrace was rewarded with her hand in marriage. Hippomenes used apples to distract and slow Atalanta down and thus won the race. Drendel’s interpretation is much more ambiguous; the figures in the piece are either running to or from something. The landscape, like many of his other works, is made up.


The Pacemakers


oil on canvas


Drendel has taught art for several years and has been a finalist in the Sulman Prize in Sydney twice and is found in the collections of Artbank (Sydney), the BHP Billiton Collection (Melbourne) and NGA.

Artist: Steve Cox

Steve Cox, a London born artist who moved to Australia in the late 60’s, creates paintings and watercolours that, in general, focus on the human psyche. He is divorced with two children and has ideas that are based on stories of serial killers, the drug and rave culture, extremities of the human condition and artistic taboo. His work ranges from portraiture to narratives to (what he describes as) stream of consciousness landscapes; the latter is quite surreal.

His attraction to murder cases has become a powerful subject in many of his pieces; he has incorporated examples such as Mary Bell, the Pevensey boys, the Bulger murders and Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Brady and Hindley tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered several children in between the ages of 10 and 17. A later idea was to compare the mind of an artists with that of a serial killer; comparing the creative with the murderous. Influenced by the British tabloids, he wishes to show the darker side of the human psyche and highlight the paradox between the innocent and the criminal.

This subject caused him a certain amount of conflict over the past year, where RMIT University’s Head of Art Elizabeth Grierson claimed that his subject matter made her feel threatened. She said it “indicates an obsession with murder”. He argued that those paintings helped him get the job at RMIT in the first place. The real debate was due to Grierson’s decision to create budget cuts within the arts department and Cox protesting against it in the form of comments and posts on facebook. He no longer works at that university, though he won a law case she filed against him.

Another series of works Cox has produced covers the inner and exterior view of the adolescent, particularly the male teen. Depicting the drug and alcohol infected nightclub environment is just one path he has travelled down with this idea, with an example being found in his 2007 piece Rave. Using acrylic on canvas, a portrait of a young man looking directly at the viewer is portrayed. Factors such as dimmed lighting, nightclub smoke and mirror ball reflections limit the face’s visibility, partly veiling him to portray not only the atmosphere he’s a part of, but also the perspective he sees the world from at that point in time. The face is uncomfortable to look at; his eyes are bloodshot, their gaze is direct yet nowhere near sober. Though Cox uses images of friends, colleagues, dating sites and party photos, there is still an individuality about them.




Acrylic on Canvas

The other side of the young male that he shows is the male nude. After studying and the Victorian College of the Arts and Deakin University, he is now undertaking a PhD (Art History) at Monash University. His main area of study is the suppression of homoerotism in Western art since the Renaissance. In his art he has addressed the taboo over the depiction of male genitalia.

Cox tends to focus on uncomfortable subjects that stay on the viewer’s mind long after they see it. The idea of depicting the human condition in its extreme forms is an example of this. He includes animals in his art, creating hybrids of animals and humans to form strange, slightly grotesque creatures. The monkey, for instance, is a cousin of the human, and features in many pieces. They fascinate him due to their primitive, unpredictable, often volatile behaviour.

This artist’s practice is made up of drawings, paintings, collage and text. Though he used to use oil paint, he stopped after he had children due to the fumes. He now mainly uses watercolours and acrylics. The main technique he uses in terms of painting is to create different coloured washes that are layered on top of one another. He waits until each layer is dry before applying another, which means he works on several pieces at a time. The complexity of his tone and colour handling is unusual given his choice of mediums; there is depth in his style that is not often seen.

Recently, Cox has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that can include any kind of lymphoma except for Hodgkin’s. This ordeal has forced him to face his own mortality and relook at subjects he had worked with 30 years ago.

In my opinion, though Cox’s art can be somewhat awkward and confronting to look at, the subject matter is still too irresistible; it’s impossible to not be fascinated by it. After viewing his portrayals of the murder cases I find myself wanting to research each case further; his work encourages curiosity. Somewhat contrasting to this, his techniques are relatively easy-going and pleasant to look at. His use of watercolour is amazing, with the technique of layering being something that can definitely learn from in the future.

Artist: Kiki Smith

Using a wide range of methods and materials, Kiki Smith is an American artist who began her career in the 1970’s. Born in 1954, her father was Tony Smith (minimalist sculptor). She grew up in a Catholic household in New Jersey, the themes of which are seen in many of her works. She is largely self-taught, with her art being much more figurative than her father’s was. As an adult, she now lives and works in New York, creating sculptures out of materials such as metal, wax and glass, drawings, prints and paintings.

After studying anatomy books and spending her medical education with cadavers, her main inspiration or focus became the body. This subject, though one of the oldest and most used in the art world, has been the source of some of her most amazing works where she has made the topic fit into a contemporary setting perfectly. A piece that she talks about in an interview with Carlo McCormick (title unknown) depicts the form of the human skin. Made from papier-mâché, it shows the fragility but also the strength of the body. The medium seems weak and frail, yet is actually quite hardy; the human body, though full of life can come to an end if the skin is not there as a shell. “The skin is a surface, or boundary line, of the body’s limit,” she states in the interview. The idea of this work was to show the skin as a form, giving the audience a generic experience where they can bring their own meaning into it. It was made shortly after her sister Beatrice died of AIDs, and coincidentally she was reminded of this when she hung the piece up in her studio causing it to look like a spirit or ghost. A lot of her work relies on her sub conscience, and this is a perfect example of that.

The AIDs outbreak, as well as themes such as mortality and decay influenced a lot of Smith’s earlier work.  In the 1980’s these ideas were very controversial. She purposefully confronted her audience with them, often in graphic and unsettling ways. She depicted the body under constraint or even dead, seeing the body as a social and political object.  She pushed past feminism in the 70’s and modified some of its ideas, often including birth, regeneration and catholic implications. Her idea was that “everyone’s figured out all the technology, how to combine different kinds of material together – you don’t have to make anything up. You just have to pay attention to what’s discarded, or disregarded.” She used confronting moralistic and often controversial ideas to show her audience the pain and suffering of the human body.

As she moved through her practice, she began to include animalistic concepts more and more often. Combining narratives with nature, her work slowly turned from depicting the cruelty in the world into the celebration of life. In 2011, she created a triptych called “Earth” “Underworld” “Sky”. With each tapestry measuring 9 x 6ft, this narrative piece shows her connection to the earth and suggests a spiritual journey. The weaving of the cloth represents childbirth while the overall images show a feminine strength.  The first scene depicts a naked woman in amongst nature while standing in front of a beaming sunrise. The second is a male tangled in roots underground. The third is another woman, posed to represent the moon up in the sky. Small animals, plants and insects are found throughout all three scenes.


Earth, Underworld, and Sky


It is interesting to see how Smith’s ideas have changed from more negative and gruesome to much more spiritual and positive over the last 30 or 40 years (many artists would do the exact opposite). Depicting the human body in a confronting way was out of fashion back in the 70’s and 80’s. In recent times, the disregarded subject is the sentimental, which seems to be her main focus now. The precision and dedication she puts behind her art has earned her a number of exhibitions over her artistic career, and is now included in collections such as New York’s Modern Museum of Art.

VCA Painting

Though this was a while back, I only recently rediscovered this image that was captured on my phone. It’s of an artwork that I saw at the Victorian College of the Arts open day 2012. I don’t know the title.. or the artist.. but I really like how they’ve depicted the figure and landscape in this work. Parts of the canvas are left unpainted, creating a contemporary interpretation of landscape painting. The idea of completing a painting without necessarily filling in every space is really creative; it’s something I wish I had the courage to do.


Platform Exhibition

I got to see the latest exhibition for Platform Art Gallery being set up the other day. According to the Facebook event (found here),  the title of the exhibition is

AGDA Design Biennale 1992 – 2012
Twenty Years of Glass Mountains
The show exhibits an insight into the development of the graphic design industry in Australia and includes artists Laura Bailey and Tess Healy. While Bailey explores how landscapes can be reflected through natural and artificial forms, Healy designs a “real” newspaper the talks about fiction and journalism throughout past and contemporary Melbourne.
The exhibition opened on Friday November 2nd.
Platform Art Gallery can be found on Degraves St  in the subway underneath Flinders St Station.