Sunday, December 18, 2011

Durer's rhinoceros

I've been looking at Durer's drawing of a rhinoceros for decades and I was always aware that he never saw a rhinoceros, meaning that his drawing was done through descriptions and a quick sketch by another artist. I always thought he exaggerated the facts but when I visited the Berlin Zoo recently there was this Indian rhinoceros which looked like Durer's drawing. There are a few minor mistakes in regard to the anatomy but I never knew there were rhinos that looked like the one in Berlin, so hats off to Durer.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kathe Kollwitz Museum Berlin

The Kathe Kollwitz Museum in Berlin is a must see. She was a printmaker, draughtswoman and sculptor and the pain which surrounded her and touched her personally was often the subject matter of her art. Her husband was a doctor so she was acquainted with the harsh conditions of the working classes. She experienced the social devastation of two world wars, lost her son in the 1st World War and a grandson in the 2nd World War. One of the greatest artists of any era, she was as good as Rembrandt in her sense of form and the power of her psychological expression. She produced over fifty amazing self portraits but words aren't enough. See her work at the Kathe Kollwitz Museum website

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bode Museum

The Bode Museum in Berlin focuses on sculpture. Sculptures were often coloured but when we see them in museums they are generally white. Time gradually erodes the pigments  and leaves us with a ghost image of its former self. The Bode Museum has stunning examples of how sculptures were generally viewed at the time they were made. The bottom example by Pedro Roldan is amazing especially in the way he creates tears running down the face.  Its title is Maria die Schmerzensreiche (Our Lady of Sorrows) 1670-76. The carving of all of these works is very crisp, a quality that only strong concentration can give a work of art.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Berlin was a a great experience and very different to London. It wasn't as crowded and because of that it felt more relaxed. Of course there were many outstanding museums around the city. The Pergamon, so named because it has the 2nd Century Pergamon Altar as one of its main features (top image) was an inspiration. It's best to google it to read about its history. Obviously only fragments survive, and some of the reasons for this is that when the German archeologist, Carl Humann, began excavations in 1878, the frieze was systematically being torn down to reuse the stones for other buildings and the marble figures were being burnt to get lime! Imagine that! There is an amazing drawing under the frieze where the artist, Yadegar Asisi, imagined what the completed sculpture might look like. Here is a sculpture fragment and the drawing of it as an example (3rd and 4th from top). The entire drawing has been photographed on an angle as it was the only way I could fit it in.

I was also taken with the encaustic portraits from ancient Greece, as shown above. These were funeral images but the artists have conveyed the life of their sitters in these images, almost as a contradiction that the person has passed on. You could speak to her.

Friday, November 25, 2011


During my visit to Cambridge University, I saw an exhibition titled Vermeer's Women, Secrets and Silence. I expected to see quite a few of Vermeer's works but out of a total of twenty eight paintings, only three and a half were by Vermeer. It was another example of a touring exhibition being promoted to be something that it isn't. Sure, there were many outstanding pictures by Vermeer's contemporaries, so why not include their input into the exhibition by reflecting this in the title? Three and a half Vermeer's? The half is the Vermeer pictured above. It was recently sold for $A30 million dollars. Technical analysis says that it was painted on a piece of canvas identical to the canvas on which Vermeer painted The Lacemaker, but what a difference in quality!! When I first saw it I was a little shocked that this is supposed to be a Vermeer. The face seems to have been retouched by another hand or cleaning has removed some of the paint Vermeer put on himself. There is a lack of resolve in the face. The yellow cloak seems heavy, the light contrast is severe for a typical Vermeer light and the proportions lack the elegance of his mind. When Vermeer died he left many debts so how could his family repay them? It would be unlikely that an incomplete painting could be sold so might it be that this is a picture Vermeer didn't complete at his death and someone else has finished it? It looks like it to me. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A visit to England

I've just returned from a trip to England and Berlin with my partner, Deborah Klein, and what a fantastic time we had. It's always a thrill and a privilege to visit the great museums of England and Europe. Whenever we visit London, we stay with  Barbara and Sue in Hampstead, about a five minute walk to the heath, and sometimes with Bev and Roger.

Since a visit to London means seeing many things, I thought I would highlight just a few of them to give you a taste of what awaits those who are interested in art.

One of my favourite Turner paintings (top) was inspired by the light at Petworth Park where he often visited. This hangs in Tate Britain in the section devoted to the work of Turner. It's an interesting part of the gallery because there are a few unfinished abstract paintings there and they are hypnotic to see. It's tempting to say that he practiced Abstract Expressionism before 20th Century American artists did.

John Constable is one of my favourite artists. I've included one of his cloud studies (second from top) as an example of some of his work I saw. To catch fresh air and natural light in paint is a great achievement  and it's one quality I admire in a painting. Whenever I visit London I always go to Constable's grave (above) in the churchyard of St. John's in Hampstead. Across the road, there is also the grave of Anton Wallbrook, one of the great Hollywood actors who starred in films like The Red Shoes, Gaslight and The Queen of Spades.

There was an interesting exhibition of the work of Gerhard Richter at Tate Modern. I've never been a fan of his until I saw the work in the flesh. Whenever his paintings are reproduced in books, the sense of paint is missing, but this exhibition dispelled all my negative opinions about him. There was a room of all grey abstract pictures, very thickly painted and yet elegant in there realization. I was also impressed with the thoughts behind all the works and the variety of his oeuvre.

Another exhibition I saw was on John Martin, an artist who painted pictures of biblical apocalypses, invading armies and utopian landscapes - a Cecil B. Demille of the early to mid 19th Century. Amazing technique but I don't think I could live with many of his works, the theatrics can be a bit much. He travelled the world with some of his pictures, including Australia, exhibited them in special lighting conditions and charged an admittance fee. Tate Britain set some of these up, just like Martin would have, in a dark room and highlighted sections of them, all very dramatic. But the curators made a big mistake when they decided to overlap the paintings with moving light projections of their own design. This is saying that Martin failed to achieve the drama he aimed for in his work and therefore needed the enhancement of technology to make it better - what complete nonsense and how disrespectful to the artist. It just goes to show how technology has hypnotized the brains of so many people. 

Continuing on with the critical line, I also thought that the light in the museums was too dull. One of the most important characteristics of paintings is their inner light, and this is never allowed out if they hang in a twilight. I understand this from a conservation point of view, but lighting conditions vary a great deal in museums all over the world, so if some can create a good exhibition light then why not all museums.  

One of the highlights of my England trip was a visit to Cambridge University to see the fan-vaulted ceiling of King's College Chapel. Two pictures above will give you an idea of its majesty. It would have to be one of the greatest things ever made by human hands, an awesome sight to behold. For me, that's what art should be - to look at something in wonder and experience a magic that is beyond explanation.

London has so many great and inspiring cultural institutions to explore and you really need many visits or long stays to become familiar with their treasures. The Courtauld Institute of Art (bottom picture with me looking at Manet's Bar at the Folies Begere), the Wallace Collection, Kenwood House, the V&A Museum, The V&A Museum for Childhood, The Imperial War Museum, The British Library, The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge University and many more. Of course that's not all. London theatre, cocktails at the Savoy, snacks at The Crypt, a visit to Gordon's Wine Bar, a trip to the country and catching up with friends, all this makes for a great overseas trip.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Saatchi at the Art Gallery of South Australia

Recently I visited the Art Gallery of South Australia to see the Saatchi collection. I didn't expect to see much work that was inspiring but I was surprised. The paintings were a little disappointing, even incompetent, except for a few works, but some of the installations were engaging. Even if you see a handful of works that are good it makes it worth while. I haven't heard of most of these names because they are the new wave of artists Saatchi is collecting. Here are some examples of what was in the gallery.

From top - 

Jonathan Wateridge
Jungle Scene With Plane, 2007, oil on canvas 

Ged Quinn
The Fall, 2006, oil on linen

Craig Little and Blake Whitehead
It Happened in the Corner, 2007, plaster, wax, foam, hair, clothes

Des Hughes
Endless Endless, 2010, polyester resin, iron powder, fibreglass, plastic wood.

Artist talks at Maroondah Art Gallery

During my recent self portrait exhibition at Maroondah Art Gallery I gave a few talks, which I enjoyed very much. Some young art students from Sacre Coeur College came along one afternoon. I happened to have a painting in progress in the car so I talked to them about how I do a painting and showed them a few technical procedures. This was a coincidence because I had no intention of doing this, it was just that I had been painting outdoors and I went straight to the gallery from the site. At my other talk, most of the people were artists who had come over from their life class. I always appreciate it when people come along to any artist talk because it's like sharing knowledge and ideas with like minded spirits. Thankyou Wendy Garden for taking the photos.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lucian Freud

One of the great artists passed on recently, an artist who has inspired me for decades - Lucian Freud. In the eighties I was introduced to his work by another fan and friend of mine, Bill Reid. In 1992, Bill and I travelled to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to view a survey exhibition of his work and to this day, we still agree it was one of the most awe inspiring and memorable  exhibitions we have experienced. He was not as well known in Australia at that time, demonstrated by the fact that Bill and I had the entire exhibition almost to ourselves. It was fantastic that we could linger in front of the work without interruption. I love one of his sayings - 'I want to paint myself to death' and he did. Like Michelangelo, he was an example that you can get better with age. Although his range was narrow, his work never seemed repetitious and was a wonderful balance of observation and invention. What a body of work he left to future generations.

Pictured above is his Reflection (Self-Portrait) 1985, oil on canvas, 56.2 x 51.2 cm

Monday, July 18, 2011

Self-portraits opening at Maroondah Art Gallery

The opening night to my self portrait exhibition at Maroondah Art Gallery was fantastic. Here are some photos. The top image shows from left to right - Gallery curator Wendy Garden, mayor Alex Makin and Vivien Gaston who wrote the essay for my catalogue and officially opened the exhibition. What a pleasure it has been working with Wendy and Vivien, and a THANK YOU to all those who came and made the night a special one. Read Dmetri Kakmi's review on under the heading Who Am I? Self portraits by Shane Jones

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Self Portraits

From 7 July to 27 August, I'm having a self portrait exhibition at the Maroondah Art Gallery in Ringwood. There will be twenty eight works, paintings, pastel, pencil and charcoal drawings and a sculpture. The exhibition spans the years 1994-2011. As you can see from the invitation, many of the self portraits do not reveal my face. Dr Vivien Gaston will officially open the show on July 14th. I thought I might show you some more examples but of course you should come along and see them in the flesh during the running of the exhibition. 

From left to right - 

Self Portrait, 1994, dry pastel, 73 x 50 cm
Silhouette, 2011, oil on canvas, 50.5 x 40.5 cm
Untitled #68, 2000, oil on canvas, 152 x 83.5 cm
Artist Profile, 2011, oil on linen, 41 x 31 cm

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Proust Questionnaire

A good friend of mine, author Dmetri Kakmi, invited me to participate in a questionnaire on his blog. It's called Proust Questionnaire, inspired by the same named questionnaire that was in Vanity Fair. Check out Dmetri's blog, CORPORATE CANNIBAL, not only for my answers but for the many thought provoking posts he publishes each week. Here it is

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Zart Art

Recently I gave a talk about my work at Zart Art in Box Hill North, called Meet The Artist. It's mainly for art teachers and what an enjoyable night it was too. Zart Art certainly looks after their invited artists with great food, wine and company. A night to remember!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


This is a trompe l'oeil painting of a trompe l'oeil short story by O'Henry. To summarize his words would give away the ending. It's a beautiful but poignant tale and it can be read at

The Last Leaf, 2009, oil on MDF, 17 x 11.5 cm

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Modern Australian Painting

This Painting, Virtual Light, is in the exhibition MODERN AUSTRALIAN PAINTING at Charles Nodrum Gallery. The exhibition shows works spanning many decades, from a John Peter Russell work of 1887 through to 2010. The dates for this exhibition are 17 March-9 April 2011. Charles Nodrum Gallery is at 267 Church Street Richmond, Melbourne or visit the web at

Virtual Light, 2010, oil on linen, 76 x 91 cm

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Art Vault Exhibition at Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery

This painting is in an exhibition at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery which features works from the Art Vault in Mildura and finishes on 20th March. Some of the artists in the exhibition are Deborah Klein, Rosalind Atkins, Mike Parr, John Catapan, Ex de Medici and Martin King.

The idea of a painting in reverse has been done by a number of artists throughout history. The earliest example is a painting by Cornelius Gijbrechts titled Reversed Painting, 1670, which is at the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. Gijbrechts magnificent work was the inspiration for my own version.

Irreversible, 2005, oil on linen, 61 x 50.5 cm

Friday, February 18, 2011

Doll's House painting in progress

Sometimes I make paintings that are three dimensional, and that means the back and sides of the picture get the same attention as the front. The house section is linen, glued onto MDF with rabbit skin glue. The doors are MDF, but they are conected to the house with real hinges, which allows them to open and close. As the images explain, I made a rough model of a doll's house and fitted it with miniature furniture as a guide to painting the picture.

Doll's House, 2007, oil on linen and MDF, 106.5 x 124.75 cm