Category Archives: art and photography

The Manly Sisters

There’s frustration. It’s not overwhelming, just niggling in the background. Events in 2019 have made my usual trips to the mainland not possible. It doesn’t weigh heavily, although there’s people there I’d love to see. Hobart provides ample attraction – but up, up and awaying has been a constant in recent years.

To Melbourne and Sydney, I love those journeys, especially if accompanied by my lovely lady. But this year they just haven’t happened.

In each city I have my favourite galleries. Naturally there are the biggies – the two NGVs and the Art Gallery of NSW. The winter mega-shows at each have been highlights of my forays over time, but I have discovered some lesser venues, in each, that also offer very fine viewings of prominent, if not great, practitioners. It is my habit to wander around these, notebook in hand, to jot down the names of those who catch my eye; that are perhaps worth an excursion to the ether for further investigation.

One of these locations, in Harbour City, is the Manly Art Gallery and Museum. On a sunny day – for a sunny day gives this place extra allure with panoramas from it out across the harbour back to the towers of CBD – it is a joy. The bonus that a trip to there is that it means a crossing on the iconic ferry to the suburb behind North Head – always an adventure, especially if there’s a little roll in the waves. Of course, the whole shebang may well involve a meander up the Corso as well, a beer in a beach side pub and maybe some time watching the passing parade on the golden strand rimming the Pacific. On weekends there are markets too. But I divert. To get to the Gallery involves a turn left as one exits the ferry terminal. Then it’s just simple. Follow the little cove around and the destination will soon be spotted. Usually there are several exhibitions on at any given time to peruse, many featuring members of the art community of the Northern Beaches.

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An example, last year, was the ‘Natural Collection’, featuring the efforts of many print makers from the Warringah Shire. The two names I jotted down from this were Annie Day and Robin Ezra. Their product obviously stood out from the rest for me. To my surprise, when later I went on-line to garner more gen about them, I found out they were sisters. Now I’m not up with printmaking techniques, but maybe some reading this may have a notion as to what waterless lithography entails. The duo are experts in it. It certainly gives stunning results. Both – and they often exhibit together – conduct workshops in the process around the country and further afield.

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Annie has been involved in art since her graduation from the National Art School in Sydney in 1974. She has mostly engaged in portraiture and she’s captured such luminaries as Nancy Wake and Max Dupain in the art form. Bob and Blanche had her on the walls of their former harbour side home. Robin’s lovely stuff tends to focus on the natural world. She delves into painting and graphite drawing as well as her printmaking. Ms Ezra, as opposed to Ms Day, began her career much later and is self taught. Together the two travel to the UK and Italy most years to teach and enhance their skills.

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Take a journey through the ether yourself to the sister’s joint website. There are reminders, I think, in their work of some of our local artists here in Tassie. Perhaps that’s another reason my eye was drawn to them that Manly day.

The sisters’ website – https://www.annieday.com.au/

A Thing of True Beauty

You could tell by the slight tremor in his voice, a hint of extra gleam in his eyes that he was excited to be showing me; see how much pride he took in his thing of true beauty. As a whole it was gorgeous; individual items exquisite. It was obviously put together with the utmost of care and respect for each post-carded image. I was gobsmacked and felt very privileged that he took each display panel out of its protective wrapping to show me. I was so entranced by his thing of true beauty that I couldn’t complete the viewing during my first visit. I had to come back another day to see the last couple of captivating sections.

He, like me, is a collector – turning his passions into a business. But with what he showed me my efforts paled into insignificance. Whereas I’m all over the shop, he, in this instance, is specific, narrow and specialised. Therefore his knowledge of the subject is, on the other hand, broad.

I’ve been visiting David’s premises now for several years and it is, as I’ve told him many times, a cornucopia of delights. Philately is my interest but my approach is scatter gun. Nowadays I receive my joy by buying for grandchildren in the hope of encouraging their interest. So far, to my delight, it seems to be working. Over this period of time I have gradually realised that David and I share some interests. He too thrives on beauty in art, relishes an historical tale, particularly involving our island, one often semi-lost with the passage of time. He’s widely read and enthuses about his recent tomes. He’s always up for a chat about my latest interest and confides his to me.

Not sure, though, if the subject matter of David’s thing of true beauty fits the category of being lost in the mists of time. For Raphael Kirchner has left the globe with a lasting legacy. He is well known to collectors with his best, or rarest, fetching a goodly price – and justly so. His product was sublime, appealing to the senses and to one’s notion of muted sensuality. In the Golden Age of Postcards he designed over a thousand of them. His Art Nouveau works, featuring charmingly clad women, were slightly risqué certainly, but tasteful to our eyes. They radiate emphasis on beauty rather than sexuality. Some reflected the Japanese influence on the period in Europe leading up to World War 1. There were representations of women at leisure or engaged in the joys of Parisian life, Kirchner moving to the city after a period in his native-born Vienna. Many of his cards featured, or were based on, the looks of his muse, wife Nina.

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Born in 1876, Raphael Kirchner was reportedly influenced by Beardsley as he trained for his future work. He moved to the City of Light around 1900, illustrating for magazine La Vie Parisienne, leading to a lucrative side-earner in postcards.

In 1914 he decided that the Continent was not the place to be for a German speaker and he moved to the USA, quickly establishing himself as a source for the little rectangles soldiers took to war, reminding them of just what they were fighting for, particularly once America entered the bloodshed in 1917. For the purpose Kirchner amped up the eroticism a tad, but sadly he passed away before the guns fell silent, the death having a devastating lasting effect on Nina.

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But he’s left us a legacy – and so has she as his inspiration. The term ‘a Kirchner girl’ has been, ever since his demise, a reference for feminine beauty and subtle allurement. As well, his influence on the development of the art of the pin-up was and still is immense. And it’s those wonderful postcards that David at some stage decided garner. Now that his collection is extensive enough he has put together a compilation of panels representing all the stages of Kirchner’s career. These are for exhibition around the country. Viewing them piece by piece in his shop was perhaps not the best way of getting the overall effect, but they still had impact. Putting it together; taking time and patience, would have no doubt been a labour of love. The little he couldn’t do himself he outsourced.

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I visit David and wife Kim every couple of weeks at ‘The Coin and Stamp Place’ (Trafalgar on Collins, 110 Collins), often toting in a list of postage items. Rarely does he not have at hand what he needs to service my wishes. I thoroughly enjoy my engagement with what he sells; my engagement with the man himself. I was blessed to see his thing of true beauty. See you soon David.

And you can view his thing of beauty here :- https://www.tazitiger.com/information/links/exhibits/sydney-2019.html

Fernande of her Time

She’s a bit of an enigma – there’s so much we do not know. But transport Dita von Teese back to that era and that’ll give you a hint of her. It is difficult carrying her life story through in the ether. We are not even certain that what you, hopefully, are about to read is of the one woman, so lost in time are the facts. But below is what I’ve pieced together about Miss Fernande/Fernande Barrey from what there is on-line. She does intrigue and she had a profound effect on the men of her era. As Miss Fernande she tantalised the troops in the trenches during World War One. Then, an erotic postcard of her gave many a soldier a certain kind of warmth as the Hun’s bombs rained down from above. Each picture they surreptitiously passed from one to the other as they fixed bayonets and prepared to go over the top may have been the last glimpse of beauty these guys would see before they headed into the teeth of German machine guns. They probably would not have noted the JA signature in the bottom corner of the card, but JA gave the girl her start. Later, as Fernande Barrey, she rubbed shoulders with the greats of Paris when it ruled the artistic planet. Of course these days access to acres of bare flesh can be garnered with just a few clicks on the laptop, but before the digital age it was not so readily available. One had to go into a newsagent to attain a Playboy or Penthouse. Anything more extreme would be housed in a plastic bag. For something that actually moved on a home screen one had to send away to Canberra or the Northern Territory. But before Hefner, Guccione and the rest, what was the go?

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The advent of the camera in the C19th changed the world of erotica forever. Illustrated likenesses gave way to real women in poses. It was quickly deduced that some real money could be made if a photographer could persuade a young maiden to dispense of her clothing. The likenesses could be printed off in their dozens and sold on the street. It was initially thought that it was mainly prostitutes who posed, but research has shown it was usually the ordinary working class girl who was being cajoled to make some easy money on the side. Then came the post card – and the industry boomed. And the French, including Fernand’s capturer JA, were marvels at it. They turned it into an art form that today’s collectors, with a taste for exotica, are prepared to pay far more than the few centimes the punters of the first decade or two of the century before last forked out for them.

So who was JA? It took a while for us to find out, from what I read, but eventually he emerged from obscurity. JA was Jean Agélou, whom we now know had already established himself in a studio on the Rue Armand Gauthier by 1908. Now that was the same year that the French Government, somewhat taken aback by the proliferation of images of naked female bodies openly available on the streets of France in postcard form, yielded even their reasonably liberal views on the subject and made life a little tougher for those engaged in selling that product. This is despite the fact that it was still legal for girls as young as fourteen to pose in the nude. Many photographers, just to be on the safe side, kept their identities closely guarded by signing just their initials to their work. This now became commonplace because of the new law. And it was the same year, or thereabouts, that Fernande, we presume Barrey, moved from Picady to the capital. If she was the Fernande of later in the story she may have been in dire straits on her arrival as it is recorded she quickly moved into prostitution to get by.

By the end of that year the girl of the night, aged 15, and the photographer, just turned 30, were lovers. It is not known how they came into contact – on the street as she pedalled her wares, in a house of ill-repute or in one of the many cafés for the bohemian set in which working girls circulated, attempting to find a ‘gentleman’ to attach themselves to as some form of security. Whatever, she was soon his bed partner and willing model. Those in the know state that she was with him long enough for them to chart the changes in her body as she moved from youthfulness to a fulsome, mature woman in the years leading up to the Great War.

Agélou had already made a name for himself with his pictures of beautiful women, tastefully arranged in the nude, with his photographs for the periodical ‘L’Étude académique’. Designed initially for artists, with a subscription of over 20,000, it obviously appealed to many more in the community.

But the laws of 1908 saw more explicit material, even if tastefully presented, go beneath the covers – akin to the plastic bags of our lifetimes. Magazines couldn’t carry nude depictions and genitalia had to be erased or covered.

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By the war’s end the photographer had moved on to landscapes. His brother, formerly behind the scenes doing the accounts as Jean recruited the girls and photographed them, took over behind the lens. It had all changed. Why? Was there greater money to be made in more family-friendly fare? Did Jean have a change of heart about the nudes now that distribution was effectively underground? Or was there a marked change in his personal life? Fernande continued to step out of her garments for brother George’s camera, so JA was replaced by GA – or was this just another cover? We can speculate, but it’s doubtful we’ll ever know. The brothers did not last long after the armistice in any case. They died, together, in a road accident in 1921.

But we do know that, assuming Miss Fernande is indeed Miss Barrey, that in 1917 she took a new lover. It was a whirlwind romance. She and he met in one those aforementioned boho cafés and married after thirteen days of infatuation. As we are now coming at it from this new fellow’s angle, we do not seem to be certain that this was the same woman who posed for the brothers.

But we’ll assume that it is. Fernande and her lover were decidedly out of step with their times, but certainly not with their clique. Europe of La Belle Époque was most taken by Japan. It was opening up to the West and the West was definitely besotted with it. That is reflected in the art and popular culture of the time. So what could be more with-it than to take a Japanese lover? And Tsuguharu Foujita could paint as well. He was not one who achieved fame after his death. He was no archetype living in a garret. He had it all then and there. His forte of applying Japanese techniques to Western style works caught on – so much so that he could afford to bankroll trips to the South of France for all his mates. There they could paint and earn a pretty centime or two from the burgeoning tourist trade. He associated with all the to be greats – Modigliani, Soutine, Gris, Picasso, Léger and Matisse. Isadora Duncan taught him how to dance. He’d painted Man Ray’s lover, Kiki, in the nude – posing brazenly for him in his courtyard in Montparnasse. The result was a sensation. He was made. Why, he could even afford to install a bath with hot running water, so no wonder lesser lights flocked to be around him. With such largess, he was a catch.

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Initially, at that café, she didn’t see much in him. She, on the other hand, left such an impression that he asked for her address. She obviously gave it as he was there on her doorstep the next morning bearing flowers. Fernande invited him in for tea – and in the bat of an eye they were hitched.

But convention wasn’t their thing. The Tokyo-trained dauber and his new muse had what we would term today an open marriage. Both were free to cuckold the other. And they did.

She was still posing for the artists in her set. She did so for Amedeo Modigliani and became close to the Italian’s wife, Jeanne Hébuterne. When her common law husband died prematurely Jeanne was distraught. It was Fernande who did the most to try and comfort her; to attempt to get her through her grief. She was shattered when the young woman committed suicide soon after.

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Shadows were gathering over her own relationship. Fernande overstepped the mark when she commenced an affair with her hubby’s cousin, Koyanahi. Taking an unknown new bed partner was one thing, family was another. Foujita fled from her in response like the wind to his own current squeeze, Youki. Knowing nothing of this and fearing the worst, his wife scoured the morgues of Paris for his body. His body was in another not-so-cold place entirely. When he re-emerged, both parties realised it was over. She shacked up with her new Japanese beau; one who turned out to be a stayer, supporting her for the rest of her life. She, too, began dabbling in artistic pursuits, even doing a little exhibiting. Her former husband went on to more fame and adventures around the world, best known these days for his ‘Book of Cats’. Check it out. It’s one of the world’s most expensive tomes to own. A copy will set you back around $80,000.

For the later years with Miss Barrey we draw a blank. We can only assume, perhaps with her looks fading, that she withdrew to a quieter, less flamboyant existence. Her days of posing nude were over, but for her time she was the epitome of the liberated free spirit..

She gloriously lives on in the paintings and the Brothers Agélou images of her. Just as those WW1 soldiers secreted the latter away close to their hearts, we too can view them, if we desire, with a simple Google search. They are charming and of their time – but delectable all the same. With the other women, like Kiki (Alice Prin) and Youki (Lucie Badoul); ones who moved in her orb, there are probably other fascinating stories to be had of lives well led; lives refusing to conform. Then along came wars, power-crazed dictators and hard times to blow it all away.

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Inge, the Llama and Marilyn

Sometimes, down a rabbit hole, cruising the Net, you do stumble on stuff you least expect, given your starting point. When I saw the llama, who’d have thought it would lead me all the way to Marilyn? And also to a great love story – not hers, but she’s a part of it.

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I hadn’t stumbled across it before, the image. It’s not unusual for me to find a commencement point for a scribbling with an image. Evidently this one, though, is quite iconic in its own right, but it was new to me and caused me to chortle when I saw her. I thought that some contemporary camera-snapper had struck it lucky, but on closer inspection I discovered it had been taken way back in 1957. I didn’t recognise the photographer’s name. Perhaps I should have, for she has since achieved some degree of fame. And it wasn’t a fortunate snap. Inge Morath had set it up as part of her assignment for ‘Life’ magazine.

Seems as though, back then (I can’t imagine that it would be allowed to happen today), there was a whole menage of exotic animals living in the brownstones of NYC. Biggish mammals, like Linda the Llama, were co-inhabiting New York apartments with their trainers. Together they would eke out a living hiring out the trained beasts to movies and television shows. Of course they had to be transported to the various sets around town. Linda’s human did that in the rear seat of his car, with her head poking out the window, taking in the view. ‘Life’ honchos had cottoned on that this unusual arrangement was occurring in the Big Apple; these animals with unusual lifestyles. They commissioned Magnum member Inge Morath to put together a photographic essay of their days in an urban environment. Thus this image caught my eye down the rabbit hole. The story does get juicier, but let’s spend some time with Inge first. How did she come from an Austrian upbringing to be standing in Times Square, with a camera, waiting for a llama?

Born in Graz in 1921, Morath moved to Berlin to study languages, becoming fluent in French and English. That ensured some of her early years were dominated by the Nazis. She saw many horrors that influenced so much she did in later life, being reflected in her product – both with pen and camera. In the immediate post-war years she encountered Ernst Haas, noted fellow countryperson, who was earning a crust with his photojournalism. He, too, as a Jew, suffered under Hitler’s regime. He used the young woman to write the essay accompaniment to his commissioned images. That in turn led to contact with Robert Capa and an invitation to join Magnum, in Paris, as an editor. One of her roles there was to assist Henri Cartier-Bresson as a researcher; he mentoring her growing fascination with the camera. Her writing, she felt, was being hampered by reactions to her German-speaking background. Behind the lens she felt no such hindrance. Initially she used a man’s name to market her product, assisted by the connections she had built up working with a stable of talented camera pointers. Eventually she gained enough confidence to stand up for her gender and market under her own name. So successful was she that, in 1955, she was handed the holy grail – full membership of Magnum. She was one of its first female image-makers. She continued to be in demand, particularly for the photo essay with which she excelled.

All this I found out because of my encounter with Linda the llama. But what came later for this pioneering photographer? A visit to her on-line site allowed me into her world and its many delights. It was liberally laced with haunting images of both Audrey H and Marilyn M. I marvelled at their intimacy. I was especially taken with one of the irreplaceable MM in bed. Further investigation as to its genesis took me to the set of ‘The Misfits’, a film, made in 1960, that promised so much but delivered seemingly only sadness. As well as the blonde superstar, Clark Gable, Eli Wallach and her mate, Montgomery Clift featured on the cast list. Little were the participants aware that it would be the last movie for two of the aforementioned. Clift, Marilyn’s buddy as well, was never the same after it. Marilyn described him as being in worse shape on set than she was – and she was struggling; handicapped by depression and filling her body with chemicals to cope.

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But she was still radiant. Morath describes her as being ‘…marvellous to look at: there was a shimmery, mother-of-pearl quality totally her own…’ Her friendship with with Clift and director John Houston gave her and Cartier-Bresson unfettered freedom on set – but Inge took that to the limit. She soon had Marilyn’s trust, thus the up close and personal snaps we see on-line. Also on set was the great Arthur Miller, writer of the screenplay for the production. Inge thought that the famous playwright would be, on the evidence of a number of his plays that she’d seen, forlorn, distant and austere. She found that he was more the opposite – ‘… a very funny figure.’ Marilyn, of course, was also married to him, but all was far from rosy with their love life. She would disappear for hours to have deep and meaningfuls with him. Inge photographed them doing so in a car on one occasion. The situation could not have been more fraught with Ms Monroe playing a seductive innocent, expected to engage in love scenes with several of her fellow actors.

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Rebecca Miller, Arthur’s daughter (and wife of Daniel Day Lewis), commented in an interview that Inge’s ‘…pictures are particularly empathetic and touching as she caught Marilyn’s anguish beneath her celebrity, the pain as well as the joy in her life.’

But was there even more going on behind the scenes on ‘The Misfits’? Did the images tell the whole story? It has to be asked for in 1962 Inge Morath married Arthur Miller, not long after he and MM divorced. She, Marilyn, died a few months later. Morath and Miller were together for, from what we can gather, forty largely happy years. She passed in 2002, he three years later. They had two children together, Rebecca and the mysterious Daniel. He had Down syndrome and Miller disowned the little fellow almost immediately, having nothing to do with him for the rest of his life. This placed a strain on the couple as Inge did her best for him. But that is another tale in itself. Apart form that, in their years together the couple had many adventures, either together or as a result of their separate talents.

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And Linda led me to all that. Many know Arthur M mainly through Marilyn and certainly nobody could possibly outshine her – back then, even today. Inge was not her and so remains largely in the shadows, but hers is a story worth recounting. From her escape from the Nazis and her dalliances with the stars, she has been accorded a smattering of legendary status as her star ascends in recent times. Just track down the lovely YouTube montage (just enter the two names) of her breathtaking images of the screen goddess on the set of ‘The Misfits’ and you can see why. Thank you Linda, the llama that led to all this.

Inge’s website = http://ingemorath.org/

YouTube of Inge’s images of MM on ‘The Misfits’ set = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GG4uRQwIPuE

Stamp

I found her as I was ambling around an Australian art site on one of my journeys into the ether. She has to be related, doesn’t she? Just hang on a sec while I check out her bio….Yep, she is.

I’ve come out to a few who know me well, but now it’s time to come out to everybody. Yes, I’m one of those throwbacks. I’m owning up to it. I’m a philatelist; a stamp collector. Many would find that sad and shake their heads in derision – that’s why I keep a low profile about it. But I relish my affliction. It’s been in my DNA ever since I was was old enough to first hold my mother’s precious album in my little hands. I was enthralled way back then in the fifties – and now still am. At times, especially in my uni years, I tried to disown it as I perceived it to be a totally uncool diversion, but I soon gave up. I realised I was hooked for life. I’m not sure about making it public but beautiful daughter, I think, has a bit of the bug too and I have great hopes for my granddaughter, the amazing Tessa Tiger. My lovely Leigh’s grandson, Brynner, seems fascinated too. I love buying stamps for them – as they are released from AusPost or from the knowledgeable, affable David at Hobart’s Coin and Stamp Place (110 Collins St).

It will mean much to have someone enthusiastic to pass all those folders of stamps on to.

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Now if someone ever asked me what my favourite ever single issue of a stamp was I’d have no hesitation in saying the ‘The Blue Dress’ release of 1990. For some years I used its depiction of a painting featuring a young lady on a beach as a teaching tool with my creative writing students. A large poster of it graced my teaching room. My inspiration for that came in 1991 when prominent author Libby Hathorn edited a collection of stories from some of our country’s leading YA writers – Brian Caswell, Gary Crew, Sophie Masson etc. She asked them to commit to print their take on the girl on the stamp. I used a couple of the stories to motivate my classes before asking them, ‘Who is she, do you think? Tell me about her. What’s her story?’

Turns out writer Libby had more than just an inking about the girl in the picture. It was her own daughter, Lisa, posing for it. The fact that she was on a beach to do so was another selling point for me.

Of course back then I was keen to find out more about the creator of the delightful image. I discovered that the prominent artist of the piece at times hated his job. His love was working on figurative studies of ‘The Blue Dress’ kind, but to fund this he received commissions for portraits, becoming so competent he was even asked to paint the Queen. He turned in quite a beautiful and unusual completed product for this, easily found on-line. His sumptuous figures, mostly gorgeously robed but occasionally nude; sometimes in a home setting, sometimes in the great outdoors, are all quite luminous. His work is instantly recognisable. He was popular with art-lovers from almost the time he took up a brush and had a long career, culminating with his death in 2009.

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So when I encountered Sophie Dunlop in my wanderings, I did wonder if she was akin to the great Brian – but you already know the answer to that. She was one of his two daughters.

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Although Sophie cites her father as one of the great influences on her own artistic endeavours, the Adelaide dauber has chosen not to follow in his figurative footsteps. Still life is the road she travels, having achieved a great deal of success with it as you too may discern if you check her work out on her site. ‘It’s the beauty I see in fruit, the flowers of my local marketplace and in nature that inspire me. I am attracted to distant lands and the exotic. I relish the intricate details and the uniqueness of the subjects I paint.’ I was almost as drawn to her oeuvre as I am to her father’s.

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So finding her on-line drew me back to Brian Dunlop as well and that special stamp. I know fully well my darling daughter and the extraordinary Tessa will treasure my collections too when the time comes. It’s a part of me that I’ll be passing on.

Brian Dunlop’s website = http://www.briandunlop.com/

Sophie Dunlop’s website = https://www.sophiedunlop.com/

Coin and Stamp Place, Hobart = https://www.tazitiger.com/

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.