Sunday, January 1, 2012

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Khaled Sabsabi's Australians

I've been working on a residency with the Museum of the Riverina.  I'm producing an identikit of features from visitors to the museum between March and June 2012 and I remembered an interesting work that I saw at Gallery 4A in 2009 by Khaled Sabsabi titled Australian's (2006-9).

Khaled Sabsabi
Australian's 2006-2009
Mixed Media 
Gallery 4A, Sydney, Australia

Australians is a portrait of Australia, made with the facial features of individuals from different ethnic groups and ages transitioning at different intervals producing a "phenotypic panoply".(Faird, 1)  Michael Desmond has written of Australian's:

Australians can be read as three faces, portraits of Australians in 2009.  Sabsabi suggests that national identity is a collaboration of individual features and individual identities but with an emphasis on the variety in each component feature. - (42)

Sabsabi is a political artist (McNeill, 185) exploring issues of identity, ethnicity and social divide.(Havilah, 188)  The "polycultural" subjects of Australians emphasise the political nature of the body and face merging different racial physiognomies highlighting the differences between the facial features, of different ethnic groups and individuals.(Farid, 1)  By collapsing the identities of individual Australian people Sabsabi dissolves issues of ethnicity, identity and the ideas of self and other.  Australians transcends any cultural readings introducing a grammar of portraiture, which is cross-culturally relevant and transforms the particular into the universal.(Havilah, 189)

To produce Australians Sabsabi has obviously sourced and filmed extreme close-ups of many Australian people - a process similar to what I have proposed at the Museum of the Riverina.  However,  instead of exploring issues of identity, ethnicity and culture, I will be exploring issues of how the person is considered from a physiognomic and forensic standpoint point which intersects with the portrait.


Desmond, Michael.  Khaled Sabsabi in 'Present tense: an imagined grammar of portraiture in the digital age'.  Canberra, Australia.  National Portrait Gallery, 2009.

Farid, Farid.  Scarred Spaces.  Catalogue Essay for 'Integration, Assimilation and a Fair Go for All' Exhibition by Khaled Sabsabi.  Sydney, Australia:  Gallery 4A.

Havilah, Lisa.  The True Life of Khaled Sabsabi.  Contemporary Visual Art + Culture Broadsheet 38.3 (2009): 188-189.

McNeill, David.  Khaled Sabsabi, or How to Tell When You're Listening to a Fool Contemporary Visual Art + Culture Broadsheet 38.3 (2009): 184-187.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I Tend To Avoid Photography When I Make Art

I was sitting at a cafe with my Dad, who had been mulling over a project I'm preparing for next year as artist in residence at the Museum of the Riverina.  I'll be producing an identikit of people in the Riverina area who visit the museum as part of a ongoing investigation into portraiture.  My Dad had been thinking about whether it would be useful to take photographs of people's facial features as a means to collect the variation of people's visual identities.  I knew I didn't want to involve photography in the production of the work, but I wasn't sure why.

I've worked in several projects which involve drawing from life as a means to study and record a visual likeness of something to be then re-used and incorporated into a larger body of work.  Many people have asked why I produce drawing studies and not photographic studies.

This has turned into a critical crisis within my work - it lingers as an aspect of my practice, unjustified or unexplained beyond the fact that I just like to draw rather than take photographs.  So I thought I ought to probe the issue a little more to see what my motivating force for the drawing was at the expense of photography.  I wrote the following:

Photography is ubiquitous.  Therefore I don't want to produce more of it, there is little I can contribute to the aesthetics of photography, particularly because I am untrained in it.

I am trained in drawing.  Drawing incorporates for me a union between my thought and movement, recording my response to what and how I see.

I am interested in using art to understand the world.  By taking a photograph the visual field becomes encoded on a medium that is outside of myself and depends on the parameters set by its manufacturer.  The camera is not only a different medium to drawing and painting but every camera has its own technical features and quirks that to study a subject with a camera, the subject is further alienated from me by the details of the lens chosen as well as details of apertures, focal points and depths of field.

To use drawing as a tool for study, understanding the subject occurs during the process of drawing.  Using photography to study, the understanding of the subject occurs upon looking at the photograph - thus the knowledge is encoded into a linguistic system reshaping the information which I reference.

To use a camera means that I would cease to be studying the subject and instead would study the photograph of a subject biased by all my expectations around seeing photographs.

Drawing on the other hand records two things:
  1. How I see
  2. How I draw
The choice is then made about whether the drawing reflects what or how I see.  Therefore every drawing if edited sufficiently will, as a process, show my understanding of a subject while at the same time show how I came to that understanding of a subject.

I also thought I ought to go beyond me, that I ought to look at some writing about drawing and photography.  I made some interesting discoveries in John Berger's Selected Essays.

In Berger's Essay Drawing (1958, p10-14) he describes drawing as a process of visual dissection,an autobiographical record (10).  Where as painting is about replicating a visual experience, drawing is an act of studying it.

"But Nevertheless the fundamental distinction is in the working of the artists'mind.  A drawing is essentially a private work, related only to the artist's own needs." (11)

For Berger drawing is a process of recognizing and feeling the subject,(13) through scrutiny seeing the shapes, the rhythm and visual form of the subject rather than simply identifying what it is.(14)

The photograph on the other hand as Berger writes in The Uses of Photography (1978, p286-293) is to document for testimonial.  The photograph has been considered the arbiter of objective truth since the mid 20th Century.(286)  The photograph is a trace of the real - it does not replace drawing or painting but replaces memory, prolonging the moment as a trace to be referred back to.(287).  According to Berger, photography is a tool for capitalism providing spectacle for the masses and surveillance for the ruling class.(290)

In Drawn to That Moment (1976, p419-423) Berger distinguishes between drawing, painting and photography:

"The drawn image contains the experience of looking.  A photograph is evidence of an encounter between event and photographer.  A drawing slowly questions an event's appearance and in doing so reminds us that appearances are always a construction within history.  (Our aspiration towards objectivity can only proceed from the admission of subjectivity.)  We use photographs by taking them with us, in our lives, our arguments, our memories; it is we who move them.  Whereas a drawing or painting forces us to stop and enter its time.  A photograph is static because it has stopped time.  A drawing or painting is static because it encompasses time."

When I draw, I want to produce a raw document of my engagement with the subject.  I want to study it, to make sure I've seen as much of it as is necessary for the purposes of the engagement.  But this is only one of three types of drawing that Berger mentions.  In Drawing on Paper (1987, p559-564), Berger discusses:  The study, the sketch, and the memory.  The study is the visual dissection, the sketch is a visual invention and the memory is the depiction of a memory made tangible.

However I have not abandoned photography completely. I continue to use it as a documenting tool for exhibitions, digitizing drawings documenting them in space as proof that the works exist and have been completed.  These are administrative processes which do not bleed into the artistic work.

Drawing is a tool which requires a pencil and a piece of paper.  It depends on the relationship between my body, imagination and perception and the subject which is either scrutinized, recollected or invented in the process, by my whole self - body and mind, through a series of moments, gestures and gazes until judged to be sufficient.  There is little place for photography in the production of my art when considering the opportunities drawing provides.  This is why I tend to avoid photography when I make art.

Berger, John.  Selected Essays, edited by Geoff Dyer.  New York, USA:  Vintage Books, 2001.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Modern Portraiture Despite the White Cube

"The notions of what constitutes a satisfying likeness are constantly redefined by the prevailing understanding of the nature of the object of portraiture - the sitter - and the means for its portrayal." (Tscherny, p193)

I discovered an artist whose work I'd never seen when I was reading the most recent Artist Profile Magazine (#16).  It includes an interview with an artist named Szabolcs Veres from Romania whose portraits are an uncanny and strange type of figurative art, which one can confidently call portraiure because of its composition which includes mainly the head and shoulders of its subject.  This reminded me that the advance of portraiture in contemporary art continued on a progression of development within the domain of drawing and painting that didn't necessarily parallel contemporary art wince the white cube.  I decided to outline a few examples of this type of portraiture including some antecedental  work from other artists since the influences of romanticism on figurative art practices.

Romantic portraiture changed the face of portraiture by presenting individual's thoughts, feelings and subjectivity through their visible appearance rather than previously where costume and dress could serve as an indicator of the subject.(Tscherney, p193)

As can be seen in Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait of Dr. Samuel Johnson the painting includes a psychological element - Johnson's intensely gesticulating hands.  In this image Reynolds depicts a grotesqueness about his subject which pre-empts much portraiture of the years to follow. (Ibid, p194)  This was a step away from the "discreet and general" towards the "intimate and detailed" in portraiture.(Ibid, p195)

Samuel Johnson, 1770
by Joshua Reynolds
Oil on canvas 30" x 25 1/8"
Knole, Lord Sackville.

The Developments in Expressionism

Earlier this year the National Portrait Gallery of Australia produced an exhibition titled Inner Worlds:  Psychology and Portraiture which traced the relationship between psychology and portraiture in Australian painting.  Of these artists three mark a strong tendency in the path of modern portraiture and they are Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan and Joy Hester, who painted in the style of "psycho-expressionism" (Damousi, p115).

These developments could be seen even earlier particularly in Europe before the second World War and around the time of the first.  Artists such as Egon Shiele and Otto Dix documented the tragedies of war and captured charged emotions of the subjects that they depict.  It can be seen that in this expressionistic period a looseness of style developed and managed to abstract the face allowing further exaggerations with the material, and less canonically academic.  In doing so the artists working this way  developed a non-physical more psychological presence in the work.  The work appears less contrived and more spontaneous as if it were true document from the mind of its creator.

Despairing Head 1942 by Albert Tucker (1914-1999). 
Pastel on paper. 
Australian War Memorial, Canberra. 
Purchased 1990. Copyright Barbara Tucker.

 Miner 1, 1970-1979. 
by Sidney Nolan
Oil on Board.  
© The Sidney Nolan Trust

Face (with yellow background), 1947 
by Joy Hester
Heide Museum of Modern Art


Self Portrait.  Full-of-fear soldier in view of the trench and gases, 1983
by Dale Frank
Synthetic polymer paint and varnish on canvas, 200.0 x 180.0cm
Gift of the Morris Arts Grant 1988

"Throughout the 1980s he produced a series of large-scale drawings that visually explored heightened physical and psychological aspects of the body's sensations.  These images depicted exaggerated body parts (eyes, genitals, limbs) and surfaces that suggested expanses of stretched skin or muscle.  In these drawings the sense of self was keenly expressed as an experience of high sensitivity and raw feeling.  Artist and writer Jennifer McCamley suggested:  'This is an enactment and rendition of a state of extreme receptivity where, under the barrage of sensations, boundaries between self and other, interior and exterior became porous and permeable.'" (Chapman, p214)

His room was full of photos of himself justifiably proudly naked surrounded always by fully clothed acquaintances and friends, 2011
by Dale Frank.
varnish on canvas
200 × 200cm.

  Untitled Self Portrait No. 4:  From a series of 6, 1989. 
By Mike Parr
107.0 x 87.0cm dry-point etching on paper
Edition 5/8
Gift of the artist and Veridian Press 2005.

Mike Parr's drawings have a loose quality to the line.  They are documentations of a performative process which expose the "broader realms of the human psyche and cultural memory". (Hart, p206)  The etching plate is attacked by Parr as he hastily produces drawings allowing for his subconscious to hold control, this is also facilitated by Parr's lack of formal talent as a draughtsman. (Ibid, p208)  The idea of the uniqueness of the artist is ever present in the work of Mike Parr, particularly because of his physical disability - Parr has only one arm, a feature that empowers him by virtue of his difference and allows him to explore unique psychological themes (Ibid, p209).

Rorschach Woman, 1998.
By Marlene Dumas
Watercolour on paper, 125 x 71cm
MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main

Marlene Dumas work directly references the psychological concept of projection by the reference to the Rorschach inkblot in the image.  The psychological referencing is evidence that the development in this kind of abstraction is toward an understanding of the psychology of either the subject, or of the audience with whom it engages.  There is no part of the picture which is given detail to theextent of early romantic portraiture or before.  The rorschach aesthetic has clearly influenced the construction of Dumas practice allowing for a loose approach where accident can occur to be corrected by the interpretation made by the viewer.

Porthunt 16, 2010, 
Oil on canvas, 150 x 120 cm

Veres' composition is unquestionably that of  portrait, however the subjects of his work are of no particular person.  Veres presents the audience with the grotesque and seeking to break down subject-object distinctions (Lopes, p53).  Though the firgures in Veres' work are distinctly the features are left ambiguous in such a way that faces can be projected onto them.  Veres is exploring the grotesque and the effect is sublime and haunting - an emotional and psychological presence - testing the audiences capacity to accept or deny the faces that gaze back at them.

The notion of subject and object - self and other are enduring problems which have arisen out of the romantic notion of the empowered individual through reason and imagination.  Although contemporary art practices such as digital media, installation practices, photography and other newly developing artistic processes, the portrait painting and drawing on a two-dimensional platform is clearly alive and well on its own track toward exploring the body and mind.  Unlike the portraiture of the feudal pre-romantic world portraiture has the power to penetrate the nature of the individual, of experience and of being in the world as a subject of the portrait, the painter or the audience.


Chapman, Christopher "The Art of Inner Worlds" in Inner Worlds:  Portraits and Psychology edited by Christopher Chapman.  203-218.  ACT:  National Portrait Gallery, 2011.

Damousi, Joy.  "War Trauma, Psychology and Portraiture" in Inner Worlds:  Portraits and Psychology edited by Christopher Chapman.  111-118.  ACT:  National Portrait Gallery, 2011.

Hart, Deborah.  "Mike Parr:  The Absence of Memory" in Art and Australia Volume 32 No.2 (1994):  206-217.

Lopes, Steve.  "EMERGE Szabolcs Veres" in Artist Profile Issue 16 (2011):  53-55.

Tscherny, Nadia.  "Likeness in Early Romantic Portraiture" in Art Journal Volume 46, No 3 (1987):  193-199.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Definition of Mind - Definition of Body: According to Descartes

I'm looking further into the mind and body problem for further study in portraiture after this year.  For my paper on visual perception I came to point where I had to read Descartes to make sure that what other theorists were saying about him were good readings of his work.  As a coincidence I'm working on a PhD proposal around the idea of mind and body so I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I decided to go right back to the beginnings of the mind/body problem to Descartes' Second and Sixth Meditation, to get to the centre of how Descartes saw the relationship between mind and body.

Of Physical Bodies

it must be concluded that corporeal objects exist.  Nevertheless they are not perhaps exactly such as we perceive by the senses, for their comprehension of the senses is, in many instances, very obscure and confused (p134).

Descartes says here that there are definately physical things in the world, but that our senses might be inadequate to experience them completely.

To describe physical bodies (not to be confused with the body, physical bodies refer to material things) in the world, Descartes uses a metaphor of candle wax before and after it's been melted.  Despite the fact that all aspects of sensory interaction with wax changes after it has been melted and reshaped, it still appears to be the same wax (p91).  The mind alone perceives the wax by considering the waxes flexibility (p92) through an intuition within the mind  which is prone to error (ibid).

Descartes Conception of the body

By body I understand all that can be terminated by a certain figure; that can be comprised in a certain place, and so fill a certain space as therefrom to exclude every other body; that can be perceived either by touch, sight, hearing, taste or smell; that can be moved in different ways, not indeed of itself, but by something foreign to it by which it is touched [and from which it receives the impression]; for the power of self motivation, as likewise that of perceiving and thinking, I held as by no means pertaining to the nature of the body; on the contrary, I was somewhat astonished to find such faculties existing in some bodies.  - p87

We can see through the above quote that there is a complexity with how Descartes viewed the body.  In his clarification of the body he discusses a wholeness, a placeness, an ability to sense, the capacity for movement when there is an agent to move it.  Of particular interest is where Descartes says toward the end that self motivation, perceiving and thinking "existing in some bodies" (Ibid).  The body is thus capable of self motivation, perceiving and thinking.

The body according to Descartes consists of  “hands, arms, and all the fabric of members that appear in a corpse.” (p87).  It is mechanical and can malfunction or be formed incorrectly in the first place by its maker (p138).  Perception exists within both the body and the soul (p88).  Nothing can ever be perceived without passing through the body through the sense organs (p130).  It moves, senses, perceives and stores memories [imagines] (p89).

The Mind

When perceiving the world, one must not:

draw any conclusions respecting external objects without a previous [careful and mature] consideration of them by the mind: for it is, as appears to me, the office of mind alone, and not of the composite whole of mind and body, to discern the truth in those matters. - p136  

The mind is a thinking thing.  It “doubts, understands [conceives] affirms, denies, wills, refuses, that imagines also, and perceives.” (p89).  It makes judgements about what the body and soul perceive (p88).  The mind only receives input from the brain, no other part of the body (p139).  The mind can conceive of ideas but not necessarily imagine them.  This is because conceiving is a thinking action.  The mind thus consists of a smaller function than the body.  Compared to the complexity that Descartes has outlined of the body, the mind is specialised and narrower in its scope.

The Separation of Mind and Body

it is certain that I [that is, my mind, by which I am when I am] am entirely distinct from my body, and may exist without it.  - Descartes, p132-3.

Descartes point of the independence of mind from body must be qualified here.  Descartes talks elsewhere about the necessary unity of the body and mind such as when he states that nothing can be judged by the mind unless passed through the body's sense organs (p130).  Descartes'contradition here could be explained by a bias toward a transcendent model of self so as not to suggest that the self is comprised of worldly and not spiritual matter.  If he believes the self resides in the mind and is distinct from the body, he contradicts himself regularly in his meditations.  

To draw further distinction of the separation between mind and body he says:

there is a vast difference between mind and body, in respect that body from its nature is always divisible, and that mind is entirely indivisble...  although the whole mind seems to be united to the whole body, yet, when a foot, an arm, or any other part is cut off, I am conscious that nothing has been taken from my mind. - p139

Descartes point is valid in so far as the discussion is restricted to amputations of flesh, however these days it is commonly known that damage to brain regions by physical trauma and induced trauma such as a labotomy can result in the impairment of activities of mind.  Psychiatric medications can often work in similar ways, so it's important to consider Descartes statement within the the context of tissue and flesh.

Another distinction worth mentioning is the distinction between imagining and conceiving.  Things are imagined only through experience and memories which are processes of the body.  Conceiving is an activity of the mind, of intellect (p127-8).

The Body and Mind Together

My mind and body compose a certain unity. - p135

Descartes concedes that although the body and mind serve different functions and can be separated intellectually they are unified by their dependence on each other:   Material things exist because bodies exist because minds exist (p127).

Descartes conceptions of the mind and the body have been increasingly blurring, however.  Since he wrote about mind/body great leaps have occurred in theories of body and mind, particularly from scientific disciplines which unite the thinking mind, with the imagining, memorising, sensing and perceiving body.  Some examples of this blurring are illusions, theories of unconscious drives and neurobiology.

Descartes wrote:

And yet I have sometimes been informed by parties whose arm or leg had been amputated, and they still occasionally seemed to feel pain in that part of the body which they had lost, - a circumstance that led me to think that I could not be quite certain even that any of my members was affected when I felt pain in it.  - Descartes, p132.

This is probably also why Descartes believed that if you cut off part of the body it doesn't affect the mind. However Phantom Limb Pain has been  by V.S. Ramaschandran (p357) and others (Giummurra et al., p791), and it can be seen that current knowledge of phantom limb pain demystifies (ibid) this phenomena which led to his doubt because it occurs through rewired nerve circuitry in the brain.

There is a problem with Descartes conception of the mind and that is that it refers only to thinking and intellect as an overseer of the input from the body.  The mind for Descartes looks to truth despite the untruthful distortions provided by the body.  The mind weighs up the information based on all the information it has - doubting, conceiving etc, to arrive at what's true.  The main parallels between the mind and body Descartes articulates are through perception and imagination.  In some places Descartes calls perception an activity of the body (p88) and of the mind (p89) and as both (p133).  He calls imagination an activity of the body and the mind (p89).

Perception and imagination, however are not the same;  Imagination comes from memory and the body (p89) while perception comes from the sense organs (p130).  They are a bridge between Descartes theory of mind and body.

Descartes conception of the mind is of a conscious mind, of intention, and clear thought and that is the main difference between mind and body.  Mind for Descartes is consciousness and the body consists of everything else.  This is a necessary observation to make so that future investigations of Cartesian philosophy can be viewed in the tradition and with the terminology taken from Descartes Meditations.

Descartes, Rene.  "Of the Nature of the Human Mind; and that it is more easily known than the Body." in A Discourse on Method Translated by John Veitch.  London:  J.M.  Dent and Sons LTD.  85-94.

Descartes, Rene.  "Of the Existence of Material Things, and of the Real Distinction Between Mind and Body of Man" in A Discourse on Method Translated by John Veitch.  London:  J.M.  Dent and Sons LTD.  127-143.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Portraiture as an Outdated and Irrelevant Art Practice: John Berger's Essay "The Changing View of Man in the Portrait"

John Berger wrote a paper in 1967 which condemns the practice of portraiture (p98).  In Berger's essay, the portrait has lost its relevance because of the rise of photography (ibid), a technology which captured the look of things quickly and cheaply, as well as portraiture's failure you get to the essence of its subject (p99), the decline in the value people today place on social roles (p101), the modern conception of the individual and identity (ibid), and the static nature of two-dimensional representation (p102).  These criticisms of Berger's can explain the nature of the demise of the traditional portrait, but does not rule out the opportunities for developments in portrait painting and the value which such developments could provide.

More and more, photography has become a tool in the production of art-making, at the levels of subject studies and also in mixed media art practices which involve painting.

Also Berger's account states that portraiture fails to get to the essence of the subject it targets.  In saying this he states that "ninety-nine percent" of portraits lack a "psychological insight" (p98).  Though the  number seems arbitrary it describes a large non-specific proportion of portrait painting which carries within it a lack of insight of the subject.  Implicit with this line of thought is that a small proportion of the overall portraits painted contain a psychological insight.  The term psychological insight immediately highlights a bias of Berger's and largely the modern world's and that is toward a psychological view of the person, which is a scientific view with a tradition in medicine, psychoanalysis and experimental psychology.  So long as the portrait is viewed as requiring a psychological insight, rather than a physiological, spiritual, or philosophical insight this claim is a worthy criticism.  However, if modern culture moves away from the psychological bias toward another set of theories of self and humanity, then portrait practices could adapt and probably would.  Some portrait painters could even pre-empt or create these new biases and make portraits according to their own theories and ideologies, which would speak to an audience who can appreciate those.  Berger mentions that modern culture has moved away from a theory of self which favours the individual over the social role played by that individual (p101) which was not the case in older portraits painted in more feudal times of kings, merchants, etc.  The artist is the person who should develop theories of the individual and present these through the portrait.

Of all of Berger's reasons for the demise of portraiture the most easily remedied by today's art climate is that audiences are unable to accept that an individual can be justly represented from one angle and through their looks alone:

"We can no longer accept that the identity of a man can be adequately established by preserving and fixing what he looks like from a single viewpoint in one place.......  It seems the demands of modern vision are incompatible with the singularity of viewpoint which is the prerequisite for a static painted 'likeness'." (p102)

Since Berger wrote this paper the artworld has seen a greater proliferation in the white cube gallery space than existed in his time.  Practices of digital media, installation art, and virtual spaces online have changed the way artists produce work.  The static image can be used where appropriate, the moving image otherwise.

I am confident that there is enough precedent in the contemporary artistic vocabulary to produce portraits which contain an aesthetic experience, insight, a theory of the individual, and considers its method of representation more sensitively and less driven by convention.

Berger, John "The Changing View of Man in the Portrait" in John Berger:  Selected Essays.  Edited by Geoff Dyer, 98-102.  London, UK:  Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dennis O'Connor - Layered Studies

Above are the studies I've been working on of Dennis O'Connor, an associate of Arthur Wicks.  I've been working on these layered paintings through trial and error to get the process perfect.  Although I've made drawings like this countless times, these are among the first I've done as a process of portraiture, to capture the actual likeness of a person with this method.  The process is solid now so subsequent works will be made more directly with (hopefully) only one piece as the study.  The finished works for this series will be painted on glass.

Below is a preview of an animation I'm working on for my installation Finding Arthur Wicks, scheduled for exhibition in October.

Arthur Wick's Moving Preview from Tony Curran on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Painting Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin (Study #1), 2011.  Acrylic ink on unprimed canvas.

Richard Goodwin (Study #2), 2011.  Acrylic ink on unprimed canvas

Like the other drawings I always get the best likeness on the second attempt.  It's probably because I've already spend quite a bit of time looking at the face and I have a good understanding what drawing approach works better for that face.

Richard Goodwin is the man who sent the cogs spinning in my head to do the portrait of Arthur Wicks when he told me to "Find Arthur Wicks".  Ever since it has been a process of investigative artmaking, where not only have I found where Arthur is, I am also finding people who are giving me a far better insight into who Arthur Wicks is.

Richard has advised me to paint Arthur for the Archibald.

Image courtesy of The Daily Advertiser, Friday 29 July

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I opened an exhibition at Advision in Wagga

Michael Agzarian and the rest of Advision put on an exhibition of phone photography which launched tonight.  I was asked to officially open the exhibition which was a first for me.  The space was full despite what the picture says.

I also wrote a blurb for the room notes which was one of three statements used to discuss the subject matter of the show.  It read:

Giving yourself constraints or limitations often leads to the best results.  Some constraints are deadlines, budgets etc, but choosing a visual medium is a crucial set of constraints within which one chooses to work.

The smartphone camera has some obvious limitations: Its depth of field is second rate, it has a modest range of mega pixels on the sensor, you usually can't control the f-stop or the shutter speed.  However the smartphone camera has the biggest freedom above any other camera:  It is ALWAYS within reach, ready to capture any moment.  People can easily take a photo without having to lug around a big machine or take an extra bag of stuff just in case there's a good picture to be taken.

This has led to a number of criticisms of the so called democratisation of technology.  Andrew Keen refers to it as the "cult of the amateur".  I tend to find that people with these criticisms lack curiosity.  In a changing world its important to have an open of what photography is.  Just recently I heard a fully grown man asserting that if you stage a photograph, then it is in fact not photography.  

Phonography is not to be confused with 19th century phonographs used to record audio.  Phonography carries with it its own aesthetic and its own distribution system.  Images from phone cameras are ubiquitous now and can be seen widely on social media sites like facebook, twitter, tumblr, blogger, and google+.  When one takes a photo the device offers options to email the image, upload it onto a website, or MMS it to a friend.  This method of distribution is as much about the medium as is the zoom, flash or focus.  Some people make entire facebook albums of photos of themselves in swim-wear, some people make entire albums of their newborn pets but some people make interesting and beautiful images like those exhibited here.  The phonographers in this group show give us special moments in time.  They're doing interesting things with composition, working through interesting effects in new ways and showing us slices of life we've not noticed or had access to.  

Included in the exhibition is an iPhone painting I made of Sonya Gee years ago and can be viewed in here:  Sonya at Starbucks, 2009. Digital finger painting

My First Official Art Prize

The Coolamon Up-2-Date store, located right next to Coolamon library hosted their annual art exhibition last Friday.  I submitted five of my drawings of Arthur's head.

I was awarded my first ever art prize which was the 2011 CSU Annual Perpetual Art Prize.  As a result I have begun adding zeroes to the price tags of my work.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dennis O'Connor (Study #1), 2011

Dennis O'Connor (Study #2), 2011

Stephen Payne (Study #1), 2011

Stephen Payne (Study #2), 2011

Arthur Wicks Anamorph #5

The second drawing is always the best likeness of the subject.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Portrait Miniatures

Lately in the studio its been serious production time.  I've been painting away at my portrait miniatures and some larger anamorphic works of Arthur Wick's bust.  The strategy is to make a bunch of them, see which ones work and why and then tweak them to work better if need be.  The above miniatures are of two specific people:  Errol Fielder and Marilyn Thompson and from these ten or so images of each, one will be chosen for the exhibition in October.

The larger anamorphic paintings are painted over some other anamporph's which failed because they weren't gridded up from the beginning.  The result is that they pop into place when you're in the sweet spot.