Category Archives: art and photography

Peter of the Bay

The exhibition wasn’t shouty shouty like the seasonal masterpieces at our nation’s great galleries, but it did make my in-flight mag as I flew my way to Harbour City. I took note and duly visited. It was, on reflection, somewhat more ‘how’s your father’ to those curated within-an-inch-of themselves behemoths of the annual arts calendar of must sees. But I’m glad this more cobbled together affair I went to on Virgin’s recommendation at the dusty Sydney Museum was on, for I loved it – the possibly deliberate cobbled togetherness being part of its charm for me. Maybe the SM’s curators knew something after all.

It was centred around a couple of in your face canvasses by Brett Whiteley, that raucous demon child of the Australian art scene for a couple of decades late last century. We all know him and his precocious talents, his oeuvre ranging from the bombastic to the banal, the latter coming more to the fore as he sank further into his drug induced stupor.

Lavender Bay has a lovely ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s a small indentation in the Harbour, close to Luna Park and the home to Wendy’s Secret Garden, on my wish list for another visit (Wendy being Brett’s wife who managed to drag herself up out of the abyss of drug-taking – something hubby could never manage).

The Sydney Museum, despite its lack of interior grandeur, is a delightful venue for any showing. Last time I’d spent an hour or two perusing a showing about the criminal underbelly of the city in times past, far grittier and greasier than the tele series based on those same felons that was popular a while back. And now there was this one.

SONY DSC

Lavender Bay. It’s not up there with Heide or Heidelberg as an instantly recognised centrepiece for artistic endeavour and the shenanigans of Australia’s art legends – but perhaps it should be. Those curators, at the Museum, did their darnedest to make it so. And yes, Whiteley was the star turn, but it was a lesser known figure whose work fascinated me. He partook of the fun and games at Whiteley’s, but also lived to tell the tale. All gravitated to that rowdy home back in the 70s and 80s – Australian celebs, overseas names wanting a taste of the local wild side of life; as well as the usual hangers-on and wannabes hoping a bit of Whiteley’s bad boy rep would rub off on them.

But, on quieter days, the area and closeness to the icon attracted some with real and lasting artistic chops – Tim Storrier, Gary Shead, John Firth-Smith and Tom Carment. Some of those I encountered for the first time on that balmy Sydney day.

I could do an unhurried ramble around this showing unimpeded by the crush that infects the big galleries when a major is on. There were only a few other souls viewing and I liked that. I could even get up close to the BWs. But for me the day belonged to someone more subdued – almost the antithesis. His name – Peter Kingston.

pk03

There was a goodly range of his works there – sketches, drawings and what can only be described as cartoons, as well as paintings. He had a whimsical eye for his corner of the metropolis and its denizens, even including the four-legged variety. There was a focus on the harbour too, with special attention given to the little wooden ferries that once serviced Lavender Bay. I was to read later he fought long and hard to keep these old boats running after the bean-counters demanded they be scrapped. To help remember them by, in their hey-day, we have a hokey film that Shead made with a youthful Kingston starring as a Phantom-like figure engaged in daring escapades, some of it set on one of the venerable ferries. I watched a little of it that day, but it was pretty ordinary. There also remains, though, his lovely drawings and paintings of the small vessels.

pk

Today he is still a feature of the city’s art scene. He has an affinity with Luna Park nearby. He was part of the design team working to refurbish it up until the horrific events of 1979 occurred when six children died in the Ghost Train Fire. It still weighs heavily

Made in Plasticine and cast in bronze, the artist now has turned his hand to making unique chess sets on various themes. There’s one based on Popeye and another, an Aussie comic set with Magic Pudding, Snugglepot, Cuddlepie, Ginger Meggs and Blinky Bill to the fore. There is, too, an ssemblage that he keeps close to his heart in a functioning Ghost Train.

pk01

So do go on-line and Google in Peter Kingston’s Artworks, click on images and I assure you that you too will be entranced. The results you’ll find are not flash nor reeking of colour like his mate Whiteley’s. His are toned down, more subtle and detailed. For you see his Lavender Bay wasn’t as brash as that of the more famed dauber. As much as I admire the departed famous one, I’m thankful for that.

More of Peter’s art works = https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/?artist_id=kingston-peter

Sylvia, Charlotte and Aley

I wanted this to be about them, but in the end it was about her. The ether didn’t deliver – and perhaps, for Charlotte and Aley, that’s how it should be. The photo stands for itself.

sylvia

The State Library of NSW delivered up many pathways to investigate during my visit last year. A winning photograph, on display there for the 2018 Nikon-Walkley, certainly stopped me in my tracks as I perused the entries on show at the august institution. ‘Trapped in the Wrong Body’ was challenging to look at, but that was nothing compared to the challenges in setting it up. In turn, the image-sitters, Charlotte and Aley, were courageous, beautiful and ultimately, compelling.

The shooter, Sylvia Liber, graduated in fine arts in 1994 and began her career in photo-journalism at the Illawarra Mercury. She’s won other awards before, doubling up with two wins for this prize, the second being ‘Deep Love for Dance’ in the Community/Regional section. But let her tell the story of capturing the winning image for the Portraiture section:-

sylvia liber b deep love of the dance

For “Trapped in the Wrong Body”, I hoped to gain a greater understanding of the lives of transgender people. To most, someone’s sex is something determined by biology and gender is entirely separate. For many transgender people their gender identity is the way they feel they should fit into society, and does not align with the sex the doctor put on their birth certificate. I wanted to tell a story in an intimate way through the raw passion and love Charlotte and Aley share for each other. I wanted to push social boundaries in a way that would challenge and educate our community.

The biggest challenge for “Trapped in the Wrong Body” was my lack of understanding. I found I needed to educate myself on the subjects and gain their trust. The girls thought I was gravitating towards tired transgender tropes. I had to try and emphasise how that didn’t ring true in their lives.

It makes me proud to know these stories have the potential to open minds or inspire others in some way by pushing the boundaries. Being able to document these stories in time forever also gives me a deep sense of pride.

sylvia liber

The photographer’s website  = http://www.sylvialiberphotography.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=38713&Akey=4WAFJ7YF

The Walkers and the Dauber

There is a resemblance to both, isn’t there? It’s not just me, is it? You can see it too, can’t you?

Every wall of each of three rooms was covered in paintings, many of them portraits. In the first I ventured into, they were from the colonial period and my eye was immediately drawn to her. I knew that face, or so I thought. I soon realised I couldn’t have, given her provenance and lack of fame; also given she died in 1889. And this was painted decades earlier than that. I thought she was beautiful; undeniably striking. There was no descriptive tag to her on the wall, so I had to resort to something I usually abhor for her details – a centrally placed computer device that the Library of New South Wales assured would provide all the viewer could wish to know about any given item in this particular exhibition, simply called ‘Paintings from the Collection’.

maurice felton mrs-anna-elizabeth-walke

Normally I hate anything to do with digital technology and art galleries. Try as I might to use those hand held devices at Mona, I always end up giving it away in disgust. To me they ruin the experience there, to the extent that I’d rather not be in the know. But I quickly mastered the ones in Sydney and at least made a start getting to know my lady from two centuries ago. In the gen it provided I was delighted that there was a Tasmanian connection with her. I scribbled down a few of the details concerning the art work in question and resolved, as is invariably the case, to delve deeper once on home soil, for Anna Elizabeth Walker was really beginning to intrigue. And a part of that was trying to rack my memory cells as to just whom she reminded me of. Eventually the penny dropped, two fold as it turns out, but I’ll save that for later.

Now at home I wasn’t illuminated much more about her than I discovered in Harbour City, but, as one might expect from those times, of the man she devoted her life to, we could ascertain a great deal. And he seems a prickly sort of go-getting customer.

He had arrived on New Holland shores in 1818 – so quite early on. He was a Yorkshireman by birth, having entered the world in 1791 to a relatively well-to-do family. He had served his country at Waterloo and other engagements in the war against Napoleon; later remaining in service as a master of stores. This led to attachment to the good ship ‘Friendship’ (oxymoron?) which took him and a cargo of convicts to New South Wales. He spent less than a year in Sydney. He was soon sent to take charge of the infant settlement of Port Dalrymple, across Bass Strait, on Van Diemen’s Land’s Tamar River. He immediately took a shine to that scenic part of our island and started to think it may be the place to build a future. To that end he constructed himself a stone house in George Town. But, by the time it was completed, he was finding it impossible to get along with his immediate superior, one Gilbert Cimitiere. Relationships had sunk so low in the small European community that all communication was conducted via their respective clerks. When the latter became so fed up with that and complained about him to Governor Sorell in Hobart, Thomas Walker felt it was in his best interests to hightail it back to Sydney Cove. Once there he was found a position being responsible for the growing burbs of Windsor and Parramatta. He built a home in the district, calling it Rhodes, after his mother’s family pile back in the Mother Country. And around this time he began successfully courting Anna, daughter of prominent citizen and Blue Mountains conqueror Gregory Blaxland. Was it a love match? Did one T Walker see it as improving his social standing? There are indications he was that kind of guy, but we’ll never know. They wedded in 1823.

By 1825 the new groom was crook, a factor he put down to the arduous, as he saw it, work expected of him in his Sydney roles. Five years later he uprooted his family to move back to VDL, still mightily peeved that the authorities in the northern colony had not recognised his true worth. He saw there were opportunities, for him and his burgeoning family, out on the Westmoreland Plains, around Longford, so that’s where he decided to settle, constructing another Rhodes. He worked assiduously at building up a real estate portfolio with properties in the two colonies, plus around the developing Port Phillip region. He was made a magistrate in 1837 – finally some recognition.

But let’s return to the eye-catching Anna. She remained by hubby’s side till his death, in the rebranded Tasmania, in 1861, after which she returned to be closer to her family in NSW. It was, though, during an earlier visit to Sydney that artist Maurice Felton was commissioned to paint the likeness that so attracted me that Harbour City morning. For it Anna dressed in black, clearly indicating she was in mourning. During the family’s 1840 visit her brother, John suddenly passed away, causing the Walkers to extend their stay. The red shawl featured, possibly an heirloom, is used to conceal yet another pregnancy, her fourteenth in fact. Alice was born back here early 1841, giving her and Thomas four sons and ten daughters – what a brood! What does that say about their marriage? They were a productive pair, no doubt, but that wasn’t unusual for those times.

As to whom actually outlaid the funds for a portrait is unknown. Thomas certainly commissioned it, but maybe her parents paid for it. A son just gone, a daughter about to travel back to a faraway place with some of their grandchildren, they had reason. Their portraits were also commissioned from the same painter, as well as one of their eldest boy and heir.

We also know something of the artist himself. Felton arrived on Australian soil in 1839, quickly staging his first exhibition in the following year to drum up business, coinciding with the Walkers time in Sydney. Painting was, for him, initially a sideline to his main work as a surgeon, but he obviously hoped to develop it into another source of income. He also opened a shop in George Street to further advertise his gifts.

Back to the present, there was another Felton portrait on display that morning that is also worthy of mention. The sitter was a fair amount younger than Anna and I would have thought little of it till I read the tale associated with it on the computer screen. 21 year old Sophia Stratham O’Brien never sat for her likeness from Felton. We suspect his first contact with her was in his other capacity.

sophia stratham o_brien

She was part of the artist’s 1841 showing in Sydney, but the young lady herself had already been dead some six months. Perhaps Felton was the officiating doctor at her death. He then would have taken a cast of her face and with the assistance of an engraving, said to closely resemble her, put together the image we see framed today. In part, it is similar in structure to a well known painting he’d done of another young woman, Queen Victoria, which was, for a while, the talk of the town. In the days before photography became widespread, his work was the family’s lasting memory of a daughter taken well before her time. Poignant.

Death, sadly, came early to Felton too. Only four years after his arrival he passed away in unknown circumstances.

Again, returning to Anna. What of the question that exercised my mind for some time after the viewing? Just who was it she reminded me of during my time spent at the State Library of New South Wales? I thought and thought and then I twigged – Lady Edith Crawley.

edith100"The Leftovers" New York Premiere - Arrivals

Many, including myself, miss Downton – although there is a movie version, I believe, on its way, primed for release later this year. The middle daughter was always my favourite. Not as beautiful, in the customary way, as the sisters on either side, she was, for a while, quite a shrinking violet. But when she came into her own, in later seasons, she underwent, for her times, a most unorthodox transition. To me the resemblance to the actress who played her, Laura Carmichael, seemed uncanny. Then, one morning in the bath, I dismissed her, replacing her with Janel Moloney, who, as Anna Moss, had to wait to the very final episode of all those seasons of ‘The West Wing’ to get her man. Janel or Laura? I’m none the wiser now, but something about that portrait did a déjà vu on me.

Am I slightly bonkers?

Paintings from the Collection, State

Melissa’s Courtney

She’s spunky, feisty, boganish – so much so she’d pass muster this side of Hobart’s Flannie Line. In fact, her formative years were partly spent in this city, although she was born in Sydney in 1987, growing up on the Northern Beaches. When she was 16 her family moved to Hobs. Listening to Darren Hanlon and Paul Kelly inspired her to try songwriting herself and learn guitar. 2011 saw a move to Melbourne and she started to make inroads into that burb’s music scene. And as we say, with her winning the gong for Best Rock Album at this year’s ARIAs, the rest is history. I think she’s amazing; her two album releases – this year’s ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’ and 2015’s ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit’ – fantastic. Her lyrics are just so good. Courtney Barnett is proudly gay, as she should be; in a relationship with fellow muso Jen Cloher.

court01

But it’s not the ARIAs this piece is focused on, but more that other award ceremony that raises great interest, the Archibalds. Yep, she was up for that too. ‘Courtney and I are friends. I’m a big fan of her music with its mix of rock, folk, indie and grunge. I also love her guitar playing, and see her as a strong representative of the positive shift happening for women in Australian music.’

When I went into the ether to check out the finalists for the famous artistic award, one image in particular caught my eye. Initially that was for its in-your-face colour and its background design. It took me a second glance to realise the sitter was Courtney. For the artist, she was considerate of two factors when designing how she would portray the increasingly popular rockster. Her ‘…music and witty lyrics are quite colourful, so I have used a lot of colour. The background is inspired by 1930s Australian art deco paintings.’ The result speaks for itself.

court

Like her subject, Melissa Grisancich was born in ‘87 and is Melbourne based. She cites as her influences Henri Rosseau, Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, To my eye her rendering of Ms Barnett was one of the standouts in the competition eventually won by Yvette Coppersmith’s self portrait. I also liked the depictions of Jimmy Barnes (Jamie Preisz), which won the Packing Room Prize, as well as Guy Pearce’s (Anne Middleton). So in a round about way Courtney drew me to Melissa and her works. They’re daubings that would brighten the dullest of moods.

Melissa Grisancich

The artist has been exhibiting since 2011, so her career also kicked off around the same time as Courtney’s. She commenced working in oils, but has now moved on to acrylics. As well as having favourite artists, she is also drawn to old record covers, street art, retro movie posters and vintage Soviet photography to provide stimulus to get her imagination going. Melissa’s bright product, as well as appearing on canvas, also graces clothing and fabric. 2017 saw her first showing, entitled ‘Moonshine’, outside Oz, in a San Francisco gallery.

melissa_grisancic_web_37_2

I like her artistic boldness and hopefully, with her portrait of the musician turning heads, she will gain greater recognition for her distinctive style. Maybe her career will also take off internationally like that of the female rockstar.

An interview with the artist = https://lifewithoutandy.com/featured/mad-love/interview-past-personal-come-life-melissa-grisancich/

Courtney’s website = https://courtneybarnett.com.au/

Sunday Morning and the First Nude

Yes, as far as we know, she was the first nude and she was beautiful. Her name was Mary Ann.

Once a month or so, of a Sunday morning, I take the drive into Salamnca. There I contentedly potter around the shops and galleries. Occasionally I’ll visit the TMAG as well. One such morn of note, back in October, was just so glorious it made me feel buoyant. Often spring in Hobs is little more than a continuation of winter but, as I strode around my regular haunts, wafting in my nostrils, as well as a tinge of blossom, there was the hint of the summer to come. This was so the case that, before I headed off to the museum in my search, some of my outer layers were dispensed with. People were out and about, no doubt thinking winter had been banished for another year. The first cruise liner of the season was in port and I was on my way looking for Mary Ann.

Before all that, though, I visited the RACT Insurance Tasmanian Portraiture Prize, an annual showing at the Long Gallery. Established and emerging artists/photographers displayed their prowess here and yet again I marvelled at the talent our island state possesses, as I did when I later diverted to the Brooke Street Pier.

The Foundry is a new artistic space on the upper level of the floating attraction. The Tasmanian Photography Exhibition 2018 was being held there for the first time and I could only stand and wonder at some of the images presented. Again I wished I had similar technical mastery with my humble attempts at the skill. And again it bought home just how lucky we are to live on this scenic jewel of an island.

Then I was off to meet Mary Ann. She was waiting for me at the gates of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, naked, fluttering in the breeze in all her glory. She was welcoming me inside to view her in various unclad poses.

There followed a fascinating couple of hours that Sunday morning during which most of it was spent with colonial convict dauber Thomas Bock. He is best known for his 1842 rendering of Marthinna, posing in her red dress. The tragic story of the Aboriginal lass has been bought to life in Richard Flanagan’s ‘Wanting’. There were also his portraits of other First Tasmanians; portraits that have been so beneficial to our knowledge of this island’s original owners. Mostly I’d seen them all before, but I had never laid eyes on Mary Anne.

Thomas_Bock_by_Alfred_Bock

It’s an easy on-line search to find the details of the life of Thomas Bock (1790-1865). He made an extensive contribution to early Tasmanian society, first as a felon gifted with a certain amount of freedom due to his talents, but later as a free man. It was his private life, though, that fascinated me. Before his transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, in 1823, this trained engraver was married to Charity, with whom he sired five offspring. He also had an affair going on that would land him in deep water. Ann Yates was only 17 years old and he managed to get her in the family way. Hoping to keep himself out of trouble with the missus he conspired to procure for his young mistress a termination using the assistance of one Mary Day Underhill. The pair, Bock and Underhill, were both shopped to the authorities and suffered the same fate of shipment to New South Wales.

The artist’s skills were soon in demand on reaching VDL. Lady Jane Franklin was a source of income and he was used at the mortuary to sketch the faces of the recently deceased. I was incredibly touched by one such of a little baby. Another, of the cannibalistic Alexander Pearce, is well known. Bock also became one of the first skilled practitioners of photography in the colony.

tbtb01tb02

Mary Anne had a wall to herself in the exhibition – and so she should have. She must have been a remarkable woman. Bock was, during his time on the island, in a long term relationship with her and she gifted him another seven children. And she also lovingly, we hope, exposed her body for him to sketch, thus giving us our first nudes of a European woman in the colony, as far as we can discern. She was also of convict stock, but her partner’s tender, exquisite drawings of her are so intimate. I doubt very much if they were intended for wider consumption, but who knows? It did seem that, in his maturity, the artist mended his ways for, on hearing of his wife’s death back in England, he made an honest woman of Mary Ann. These beautiful contributions to the artistic heritage of Tasmania were drawn around 1840. They are small, delicate and quite mesmerising. I was moved by Mary Ann.

I read that Bock died not exactly the wealthiest of men, but the community of the city rallied around his widow, putting together the first exhibition of his works to provide her with funds for herself and his large brood. Several of those went on, in their father’s footsteps, to enter into artistic endeavours as well.

Mary Ann, you must have been something really special.

Reflections of Glenorchy, a Legacy

I hadn’t heard of Kate Spade at all. Anthony Bourdain I vaguely knew made television, the vaguely giving the clue I have never watched an episode of his work.

I remember well my first visit to Mona – the walk down the steps to the tennis court and across to the underground temple of sex and death. I was quite gobsmacked by it all and only outraged in minimal doses. It was and is fantastic.

I had my camera with me and I quickly became fascinated, even before I stepped in the door, snapping away furiously. Surrounding the ingress was a mirrored wall, reflecting the souls standing in front of it, but, more spectacularly, giving a reverse view of the houses of Glenorchy, founder David Walsh’s birthplace. He has given back to that bogan-burb in spades, as well as to the city beyond. I had never given that feature, though, much credit as to its thoughtfulness of positioning and its genesis. It is a very clever, well-done thing and had I really considered it, an art work in itself. The man behind it took his own life, at the age of 53, earlier this year.

You can read of some of his achievements in Gabriella Coslovich’s following article, including about his last installation, a symbolic land bridge connecting Victoria to this island.

His public works are spread out across the nation and he had gifted his attention to overseas countries as well, often combining a commission with teaching local wannabe sculptors and stone masons. Receiving his talent included Florida in the US, Zimbabwe and Cambodia. His thirty-plus years of artistic endeavour were soundly based on skills picked up from his Dad as a child. John, a builder, loved crafting wood, especially for marine craft. Matthew Harding underwent training for his artistic future in Canberra and lived there throughout his career. As well as wood and stone, he also fashioned stainless steel.

Harding is deserved to be wider known – as widely as some of his eye-catching, for better or worse, product. Coslovich reports he did struggle at times financially, but I’ve no idea as to why he took the courageous step to end it all. I know there are some who bleat their opinion that suicide is the coward’s way. Maybe doing that horrendous deed is a result of an unwillingness to confront whatever demons is bringing the victim undone, but even in despair, it still takes courage. And I can’t imagine a person taking that step, allowing for state of mind, not considering those left behind.

But yes, what of Matthew Harding’s children – Arabella (10), Lulu (9), Polly (6) and Hugo (4)?

Matthew Harding’s website = http://matthewharding.com.au/

Gabriella Coslovich’s article = https://www.smh.com.au/opinion/m31columnist-20180302-h0wxl8.html

David Desbois and GofT

For most of it I’ve had no idea about what’s going on; no idea whatsoever. I feel as if I need one of those family tree thingees, the sort some books provide to help out with tons of characters. I can’t get my head around those houses – House of Stark, House of Lanister, House of Baratheon and so it goes on. It puts me in a spin that I am so clueless. My lovely lady has no such trouble, but I don’t like to keep on asking for fear of spoiling it all for her with constant interruptions of, ‘What’s going on?’ So I’ve just sat back and let it wash over me – the whole glorious shebang with its, to me, mess of characters, hideous deeds, rapturous gore, triumphant and not so triumphant nudity and Machiavellian plotting. And I love it. I just love it. It’s the visuality, the immensity, the convolutedness. Is it the pinnacle of present day small screen viewing? After all, the experts now refer to these times as our golden age of television.

‘Game of Thrones’ is a marvel of the age, but it is only with this last released season that I have any notion of a handle on events as we close in on the final showdown. There is so much to relish – the dwarf, Emilia Clarke’s beauty, the stoicism of those guarding the Northern Wall, the White Walkers, those wildly gory weddings and the fact that, at any given moment, a major hero of goodness and chivalry can be hideously dispatched. I was talking to an acquaintance, just the other day, who has refused to watch any further seasons because they beheaded Sean Bean at the end of the first series. But anybody is considered fair game, as long as they don’t dispatch the dwarf. They wouldn’t, would they? Then there was the battle. You all know what I am referring to – the most amazingly choreographed clash that we have ever witnessed in our lounge rooms. The pile on pileness of it left me breathless. And then there are the dragons. I adore the dragons.

Canadian artist David Desbois has been caught up in it too. His regular job, appropriately, is in film and television. He plies his art part time, struggling to keep up with demand for his character work built around GofT and other iconic offerings of our popular culture. He, using coloured markers, creates collector card sets of the major stars of multiple series and franchises that may be readily viewed on deviantART. As well as his work on the behemoth that has emerged from George RR Martin’s sagas, he’s also come up with product from several other of my favourites, including my current obsession, ‘Dexter’, as well as ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Downton’. There’s also character studies for ‘Star Wars’, ‘Harry Potter’, the Marvel and DC comic super-hero gangs, together with much, much more. Check him out.

There will come an end, all too soon, for ‘Game of Thrones’ and no doubt I’ll feel the same way as I did when ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Mad Men’ and the other series I became fixated on over the last decade ceased. After each, for a while, there is a tiny hole in my life, leaving me to seek something to plug it with. But I fail to see, I really do, how GofT will ever be bettered.

David Desbois on deviantART = https://daviddeb.deviantart.com/

Stephanie G

Melancholia. It’s not something I suffer from as a rule. But I had it that last morning in Sydney. And I really had no strong notion as to why. As I set out from my hotel I was flat as. The melancholia shouldn’t have been there. I’d had a marvellous time in Sydney. And at the same time I was also relishing getting back to our abode by the river in Hobs and catching up, after a week away, with my lovely lady. She’d been working assiduously to improve the décor of our little house and I was keen to get back and see the results. I should have been far more buoyant, but there it was, a malaise had come over me. Was it because summer was drawing to an end? That usually got to me once upon a time – but not during my retirement years. The skies over Harbour City were dank and gloomy for the only time during the visit. Perhaps that was it? Maybe it was because I had been anticipating this sojourn for a fair time and now it was drawing to an end. I couldn’t see it as all expectations had been met. It was a trip made partly in memory of a mate who had always planned to accompany me this particular time. I miss him. Could that be the source? Whatever the cause, I needed a lift in spirits before I headed home that afternoon.

The Rocks Market was my destination as I hopped on the train at the Museum Station, heading for Circular Quay. When I arrived the stallholders were still setting up so I had a bit of time to kill. I just wandered aimlessly around, pointing my camera here and there – something that usually has a positive effect on me, but not this time. It all felt somewhat desultory.

I like buying artisan greeting cards at markets, particularly ones created from the artworks or photography of those selling them. I’d also, during my days there been to the Manly and Paddington Markets as well, but the pickings at those outlets were slim. I did a preliminary circuit once back at this market and I could already feel myself lightening up. Now this was more like it.

I noticed her work offerings very early on in my rambling around the stalls and I was immediately back after I had completed my initial looksee. Her selling space was covered in cards featuring her quirky pen and water colour illustrations. I knew two beloved granddaughters who would especially appreciate them and I was soon absorbed in choosing.

And the first thing I noticed about Stephanie, their talented creator, was a gloriously welcoming smile as I handed over my selection for purchasing. I placed her vintage as being around late twenties and although I am notoriously bad with assessing the age of the opposite gender, I later discovered I was around about the mark. But no matter her years on the planet, she was radiant and as it turned out, she was up for a chat. I let her know I was from Hobart and that was a springboard for our conversation. She was familiar with my city, had visited Mona and as it happened, her parents had recently moved to somewhere around its outskirts. She was looking forward to visiting them in the little city under kunanyi. The English born beauty then confided that this was the first time in a while she’d been able to be present at the market as she had only just recently returned from the land of her birth. From there she explained she had in tow with her somebody very dear to introduce a life Down Under to. I sensed she was very excited about this prospect as her eyes were sparkling with joy. By now she had this old fella mesmerised in the best way possible.

But, sadly, I became aware, after five or ten minutes, that I’d already taken up too much of her time as others were now similarly engrossed in her wares. I had to force myself to say farewell and be on my way. Before I did so, though, she gave me her card and requested that I contact her with any suggestions I may have about how to spend one’s time in Hobart. In doing so I was graced with another beaming smile. I was cured. I was back to glass half full, the spring had returned to my step, I looking forward to, on my return to Tassie, fulfilling the task she had set me

Like all of the random people met during my travels it is unlikely our paths will cross again although, hopefully, that visit will not be my last to the Rocks Market, so you never know. I will remember the vivaciousness and charm of Stephanie Gray who, during our conversation, told me how she had her start in her artistic endeavours, a story she also told for the pages of the Daily Telegraph a little further down the track. Seems it all commenced by her designing a set of playing cards for her parents. Now that, in my view, has expanded into something quite special. Of course, once back in my abode by the river, I had taken to the ether to discover more about this person who lifted the gloom for me that day.

Her loveliness lit up the remaining hours till my flight and I returned to my very own vivacious and gorgeous lady without a blue feeling in the world. So thank you to Stephanie. There must be something in the name.

Stephanie’s website = http://erlenmeyer.com.au/portfolio.php

Daily Telegraph article = https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/sydney-artist-stephanie-gray-draws-crosssectional-home-portraits-in-incredible-detail/news-story/846fde7cb64b9deda9e2bebc108a9283

List

She stares blankly back at the camera, her upper torso fully exposed to the lens. It wasn’t so much her that caught my attention, but the caption beneath, on a Tumblr vintage photography site – ‘The Roman Beauty, Vienna, Austria 1944’. Nazi controlled Vienna! That led me, briefly, to dig into the attitude of the Germans to nudity during the Hitler years and I supposed I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find it was fairly liberal, given the work of Leni Riefenstahl. I discovered that a book of nudes was a best seller during the period, it blatantly espousing the physical mastery of the Aryan race.

My attention then turned to the image’s photographer and I discovered a very interesting fellow, Herbert List. He, it turns out, was very focused on photographing his own gender in the altogether – so this young lady was somewhat of an anomaly. The thought did cross my mind that she may have been not quite what she seemed gender-wise, but I knew that’d be a dead-end street for delving. So, what was a gay photographer, who also happened to be a Jew, snapping a photograph of a topless young woman in 1944? I found out quite a bit about the outward man, but zilch about the inner workings. Still, half a story is better than nothing at all.

List was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, not that that counted for much once the Nazis came along – or did it? His family were resident in Hamburg and involved in the coffee trade. For a while this was also Herbert’s vocation, travelling the world, dealing in the lucrative product. During the years of the Weimar Republic he was, as a hobby, recording all of his adventures with a camera. He didn’t take it too seriously until he became caught up in the prolific art scene that was flourishing in his country at the time. He observed that, by now, what he thought of as a mere pastime, was indeed becoming an art form and he decided to push his involvement to the next level. He purchased a Rolleiflex. He played around with it for a while, experimenting on family and friends. But by the 30s he was hooked. Following his proclivities he was now paying male models to pose for him. Also, influenced by the Bauhaus movement, he tried transforming everyday objects into photographic beauty with double exposures and other techniques.

Hitler came to power and List saw that his country was soon to become no place for a Jewish gay man. So he high-tailed it out of there and took his camera to the capitals of Western Europe, his hobby now his calling card. A fellow camerasmith submitted his work to Harpers Bazaar and they took him on board for fashion shoots. But posing the female model irked him so, in 1937, he took off to the temples and landscapes of Greece. As well he landed his first solo exhibition in Paris that same year. ‘Life’ also started to feature his projects. He was getting traction on a real career in the field.

In 1941 the Axis powers invaded Greece, caught List up in their net and returned him to the Fatherland. Being a Jew he was forbidden to carry out his profession, so he took it underground. He was still permitted, though, to travel throughout occupied Europe. HL even rubbed shoulders with Cocteau and Picasso in Paris. For a while he was seconded into the army, working in Norway as a map designer. And in 1944 he was in Vienna, producing a series of images of its famous waxworks. In that city he took the likeness of that mysterious model.

So, all in all, considering the fate that could have awaited him, he had a fairly cushy war, or so it seems. After VE Day, he got back down to business with his camera. Much of his secret trove during the war years had been lost, but he didn’t waste time dwelling on that. He was soon being employed chronicling the destruction of the cityscapes of Germany and was editing the art section of a popular magazine. He became involved with Magnum, for a short while, after meeting Capra, but any notion of ongoing association with them vanished once he came under the influence of the great Cartier-Bresson. He emulated, successfully, his techniques, receiving substantial work opportunities as a result. He travelled extensively, publishing books on various locales, especially the Italian peninsula and on Africa.

However, once the swinging 60s hit, young guns were now in vogue and Herbert’s take on the world began to be regarded as old hat. He figured he was too set in his ways to change, so he retired from pointing the lens. By the time he passed in 1975 he had been largely forgotten. But I discovered him through a girl with vacant, but brazen, stare. She, no doubt, had a story too – but I had to make do with only half of his.

More images from Herbert List (above) here = http://monovisions.com/herbert-list/

Brave Sandra

As far as art and the Salamanca Arts Centre is concerned, my main interest lies with the ‘big’ exhibitions in the Long Gallery. But more and more, in recent times, I have been venturing up to the third level; to the more intimate showing areas to be found there. In doing so I have discovered much to relish and intrigue with the wares produced by my city’s vibrant arts community using these spaces.

So one morning it was the product of Sandra Petersen I was casting my eye over. Now the first feature of being ‘up there’ that struck me, soon after the opening of SAC that day, was how perfectly quiet it was. There seemed not a soul around at all – and nor, during the whole length of my stay, did anyone put in an appearance – unlike other times when I ventured up that extra flight of stairs. I suppose it was akin to a private showing.

The second aspect of that morning’s perusal to appeal to me was the variety of genre awaiting examination. What first caught my eye were her prints of Tassie fauna and landscapes. She is a refugee from Queensland and is obviously much taken with her new home. As well, Sandra works in oils, pastels and the carving of wood. She has also invested in photography; Ken Duncan referring to her as a natural. More recently has come her stone masonry. The silent exhibition that day followed on from others she has set-up around this state and across the water. A future one would be well worth a visit.

But it wasn’t until I returned to my home by the river and dived into the ether, to see what else I could find out about her, that I discovered just how difficult her journey has been.

Her introduction to art was as a sickly child, beset and often bedridden by seizures, asthma and diabetes, was the gentle whimsy of Beatrix Potter. Attempting to replicate the author/illustrator’s distinctive furry and feathered creatures set her off on her road to a lifelong love of art. Later on came the local library where she borrowed book after book to see what she could glean from the greats. Paralleling all this came her love of music. She tinkled the ivories and began studying opera. At the end of her formal schooling she was accepted into the Queensland Conservatory of Music. Then she received the offer of scholarships – one to train as a music teacher, the other in the same line of work for art. The latter won out. As she began to raise a family she taught her passion at both secondary and tertiary levels.

Then, with three young ones under the age of seven, her life changed remarkably. A huge truck, carrying a full load, ploughed into her station wagon. It was almost the end of the line. She was left with spinal and head injuries, as well as internal bleeding. All this required eight long years of rehabilitation. Her acquired brain affliction left her with a lack of mobility and speech, together with plenty of on-going pain. To her credit she eventually overcame this major trauma to produce what I saw on display that winter morning. There were numerous plastic folders containing the results of her expert labours and an array of work from many fields.

Her inspiring story is available in more detail on-line and there are various websites, as well, to check out her artistic enthusiasms. It all enhanced a lovely time spent in her absent company that morning.

The Artist’s website = http://www.sandrapetersen.net/