Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Space and Light

I've always loved paintings of interiors, not so much for what's in them, but more as a space and a light within which things take their place. Light and space transcend the material, or perhaps it's better to say that they add eternity to the physical because each exists at the same time.

Avigdor Arikha (1929-2010), Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916), Gwen John (1876-1939) and Edward Hopper (1882-1967) are artists whom I admire for the way they sometimes interpreted an interior. An enclosure was transformed into a means where space and light were more important than what was in the room.

The images below show the changes that took place during the painting process - a chair has been eliminated, and the angle of the light coming from a doorway was changed. 

Although the painting was done from life, it's a different image to how it was in actual life. The photograph of the sunroom corresponds to the empty interior in the painting. The photograph from the backyard of the distant view towards the city of Ballarat became the view from the window in the painting; essentially making the work the adoption of two different views to arrive at a final version that looks like a single viewpoint from a light filled room. 

Space and Light, 2016, oil on canvas

Sunroom, transferred into an empty space.

Distant view becomes view from the window in the painting.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Light of the Moon

These two paintings were based on sketches and from a memory of a time the moon was full. Driving back to Melbourne from Ballarat at night can be a magical experience. There is a road trailing down the Pentland Hills and around one of the bends the city lights suddenly appear like a string of glistening jewels laid across the horizon. On one particular occasion the moon sat in the sky with the clouds hanging above it, just like in the painting. The clouds were much whiter that night, but I made them darker because I felt it showed the glow of the moon better. I was also intrigued by the way the light of nature hovered over the light created by human beings, and yet, it's the same light.

The lower painting was turned into a vertical version of a squarer oil sketch. The sketch appears in a previous blog post titled Sketching the Moon (the top image).

These larger works are done by painting the moon and sky first, allowing the surfaces to dry and then adding the clouds later. They are painted with primary colours and white but without the addition of black.

 City Lights and the Moon, 2016, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 92 cm

Full Moon, 2016, oil on canvas, 91.5 x 61 cm

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sketching the Moon

I've been continuing my interest in sketching the moon so here are two more examples. Each painting measures 27.5 x 28.5 cm. They were both painted in a few hours, which was my aim - to capture something of the night the moon shone amongst the clouds. Having said that, I divided the time it took into two sessions. Firstly I sketched the sky and moon, waited for it to dry, and then waited for another full moon and added the clouds. These sketch pictures are mainly inventions because the speed at which clouds change shape makes it impossible to follow their form, so in a way, they can't be painted from life. But just looking into the sky helps to make an image that has something of nature in it.

I've also been painting pictures of the moon on a larger scale and when I do I often have these sketch pictures at hand as a guide to recall the feeling of the night. The memory of what I saw can be a starting point for these larger works but that is different from trying to remember exactly how the scene looked.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Arthur Streeton at Geelong Gallery

Recently I saw an exhibition of the paintings of Arthur Streeton at Geelong Gallery. The exhibition was titled Land of the Golden Fleece - Arthur Streeton in the Western District. The focus was on the landscape paintings Streeton completed in the Western District between 1920 - 32.

Whenever anything is written about Streeton, the assumption is always made that he never reached the heights of his youth, just before he went to England. There are many paintings Streeton did that, although very good, did't attain the magic of his youthful works, but this exhibition cast this assumption into myth. Many of the works have never been seen publicly because they are in private collections, avoiding the gaze of a critical eye.

I have always believed in this myth until I saw the exhibition at Geelong. It was a surprise to me to see such quality, some of them quite breathtaking. Streeton had a sweeping vision and his ability to take one's eye into the infinite is truly amazing. His colour has such richness and warmth and his brushwork was searching and confident instead of settling for superficial bravura. He could capture the air, the smell, the heat and the light of the open spaces of Australia, qualities that cannot be copied but only felt.

Full marks for Geelong Gallery for presenting such a great exhibition from one of the world's great landscape painters.

 The Grampians (Mount Abrupt), 1921, oil on canvas, 51.6 x 76.7cm

 Cliff and Ocean Blue, 1932, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76cm

Mount Rosea, Grampians, 1920, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76cm