Exhibition Queensland Art Gallery O’Keeffe, Preston and Cossington Smith: Making Modernism

I visited the Queensland Art Gallery last week and also the week before to attend the Exhibition: O’Keeffe, Preston and Cossington Smith:  Making Modernism.  The Exhibition had also been held in Victoria and the Art Gallery of NSW.

The Exhibition explores the theme through 90 works .  Thirty work portfolios of three artists Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) and the well known artists of Australian modernism Margaret Preston (1875-1963) and Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984).   It was great to see a number of O’Keeffe’s works here but it was also interesting for me to see a large number of Preston and Cossington Smith works.

Although defined as modernists their work is different.  O’Keeffe has a clean, bold, simplified approach to extract and abstract with many works depicting the New Mexico landscape.  Preston has fabulous woodcuts and bright coloured flowers in her still lives and recognition of the centrality of Aboriginal culture. Cossington Smith who lived most of her life in the north shore of Sydney has chosen everyday life as a focus.  The Exhibition was divided into basically a room space for each Artist.  As American curator Cody Hartley writes in the catalogue, each woman, in her irreducible individuality, “found new ways to communicate, new things to say, and new ways to make art significant to their national cultures”.  Modernism may be seen as an attitude to life and lived location.

Exhibition O'Keeffe

I liked the strongness of each artists work like O’Keeffe’s Canna Leaves and Blue A and Blue Black and Grey works, Preston’s bold woodcuts and her oil Australian Coral Flowers and Cossington Smith’s The Sock Knitter.  I came away appreciating the work of Australian Margaret Preston’s work it had far more colour than I had thought from a brief glimpse of a painting a long while ago.  Her colours depict the Australian bush so well in a number of her still life.

I have a Pinterest Board for Margaret Preston https://au.pinterest.com/chocflower/margaret-preston/

and one for Grace Cossington Smith  https://au.pinterest.com/chocflower/grace-cossington-smith/

I own a number of Georgia O’Keefe books.

Reference:  L. Harding and D mimmocchi, Heide Museum of Modern Art and Art Gallery of NSW, 2016, O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith:  Making Modernism

Visit to National Gallery of Australia

I had the opportunity to visit the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra last week.


I was drawn to viewing the International Gallery – Contemporary works.  The prize painting in this area is “Blue Poles”(1952)  by Jackson Pollock USA 1912-1956.  It was purchased in 1974 by the Gallery costing a very large amount and being a very controversial acquisition.  To produce his ‘drip type paintings’ Pollock would place an unstretched canvas on the ground and then throw, drip and pour paint across it.  Blue Poles is an important example of this energetic result using this method.  The painting also shows the complex layering of the paint surface and I think achieves much movement.  It has been painted using oil, enamel, aluminium paint, glass on canvas.

Blue PolesIMG_8623

Blue Poles closeupIMG_8625

The NGA has a sign next to the painting which includes the following:

“Abstract Expressionist arts considered the act of creation the primary importance.  Spontaneity allowed them to bypass the constraints of tradition, encouraging direct expression on the canvas.”

I found the painting very complex.  It has constant movement created so effectively by the extended layering.   When you look at it across the gallery it has a very powerful presence aided by its dramatic ‘blue poles’.

NERAM Exhibitions March 2017

Last week I was in the New England Region of New South Wales and went to look at the Exhibitions being held at the New England Regional Art Museum in Armidale(a University town on the NE Tablelands).

The major Exhibition was “Cloth: from seeds to bloom”.  Julie Paterson, Britsh born artist and designer, draws inspiration from the Australian bush and creates fabulous fabrics in a range of colours, floral forms and patterns.  The Exhibition features original artworks, sketches and drawings, fabrics and furnishings taken through the late 1990s to 2014. Julie is a leading textile designer in Australia and works from her Studio in Blackheath in the NSW Blue Mountains.


The two main galleries were filled with metres of handprinted fabric with sketchbook work or stylised room settings.  This piece is typical of the native bush in the Blue Mountains I could almost smell the ‘bush smells’ and hear the bellbirds when I look at this piece of work.  The screen print is a great image with the detail and shading.


This is a closeup of a piece one can see the coarseness of the linen and the bright colour of the orange print, the scale which is larger than lifelike and also the finer line detail of the print.  It to me represents the Australian bush well it is bold, colourful and has scratchy type foliage.


julie3IMG_8457I thought this information was valuable as it gives insight into how Julie works. It reinforces to me the need to carry the small sketchbook everywhere and to make sketches.  I tend to use my iPhone camera to record items or scenes that interest me but need to get more into the habit of drawing too.

The second Exhibition I want to write up was “Of things Unconventional”: Hayley Ward.  Hayley uses found materials like old books, discarded fabrics, patterns and old clothes and uses her way of stitching the pieces together into new objects leaning on the practice of Boro and the concept of Wabi-Sabi.  Hayley uses encaustic wax paint to capture each piece in a moment of time and this prevents further decay or development. Her aim is to focus the eye on the overlooked beauty of worn and discarded objects and to encourage people to reassess the throwaway culture.  The artist is a graduate of University of New England and Monash University and has been exhibiting since 1990.

IMG_8454H2IMG_8453hhIMG_8448I found the work interesting but perhaps a little repetitive.  The wax was applied thickly as you can see from the last photo and I would have preferred a thinner coating so that I could see more of the bottom layers.

Selvedge Magazine #75 – Yarn File

The latest UK Selvedge Magazine (#75) magazine arrived today and there are several articles relevant to my Yarn File.

Selvedge coverIMG_8506

The first is “Old Blue Jeans”(p7) which deals with sustainability.  A Guatamalan company Iris Textiles is using scraps of denim that would otherwise be rubbish to give a second life by transforming them into new fabric.  The denim waste is ground down for its fibres and then respun to create fine yarns which are converted into rejuvenated cotton.  This rejuvenated cotton is used for bedding, shoes, bags and clothing. I thought this was a tremendous project and making a contribution to zero waste. http://www.thenewdenimproject.com

Another interesting article in the magazine is “Linenopolis”(p46) which discusses breathing new life into Irish Linen.  The mechanisation of Irish linen was centred in Belfast, Irelands ‘Linenopolis’ in the 1860s.  With synthetic fabrics and rising cost of manufacture Irish Linen has been reduced to a handful of mills.  The article describes  a small mill called Derrylane Flax-Mills near Limavady in County Derry which is a linen weaving mill producing good quality cloth.  Hermann Bauer and Marion Baur came to Ireland in 1989 and renovated a 250 year old flax scutching mill which now produces machine and handwoven linen.  Some of the flax is grown in Ireland and the rest in Europe.

The Derryland Flax-Mills product is finished nearby at William Clark and Sons linen finished mill at Maghera.  This company produces digital printed linen and is Ireland’s last producer of beetled linen which gives the linen a lustrous sheen.


Cas Holmes – Mote Tree 8 collage

As suggested by my Tutor I should be recording my exploration of the work of others so in this post I am discussing a collage piece I have acquired  by Cas Holmes called “Mote Tree 8”.  An image of the piece is below:

Cas HolmesIMG_8360The subject of the piece attracted me first I am inspired and attracted to trees as subjects for textile work.  It is so interesting to see a small piece like this up front.  There is a mixture of paper and fabric for the background.  The paper includes a contour map segment.  Scrim is also used along with fine cotton or silk.  This background is all very subtle and the combination of colours is well matched with the pale green up in the right hand corner adding interest.  This was a lesson for me as I like working in collage but mine have been bright and the pieces more regular and the results have not always been successful.  So much detail when you really look at the combinations of background materials and thought process in Cas’s piece.

The other item that really struck me was the use of dark green cotton to machine draw the tree.  So many pieces I have seen use black but the dark green is very successful and works well with the background colours.  The machine stitching itself is interesting with single lines in some places and several lines of stitch for example on the left side of the trunk which to me suggests shade and texture on the trunk.

This piece is valuable for me as inspiration for  my further collage work.

Follow Up Debbie Lyddon book

As suggested by my Tutor in her feedback for Assignment Four I am going to review two images from Debbie Lyddon’s book “Moments of Being”(2016) and discuss what I see, the materials, the techniques and the colours and my feelings and learnings.

The first image is from The Sluice Creek Cloths:

Debbie L 1IMG_8353

Debbie Lyddon image from “Masts and Halyards 1” – Sluice Creek Cloth

Debbie Lynddon “Marsh Shadows”- Sluice Creek Cloth

The Sluice Creek Cloths are a series of seven that are aimed to represent the movement and change of natural process in space and over time.  In the first image selected Masts and Halyards 1 I was drawn to the holes and the space through the holes – the emptiness.   I really liked the shape that Debbie has used and the way she has used two layers of shapes – larger and smaller and different sizes and the effect this creates – the dimension.  The texture created in the work attracts me with the roughness of the canvas linen and the raised surface of the holes.  The surroundings of the holes are made of wire which has been overcast with thread. One can see that the wire has rusted and given the location it would be caused by the putting of the Cloth into the sea to create the rust. This illustrates to me the degeneration of the cloth and makes me wonder about the background to this effect. The movement of the sea could be a factor and the rawness to me of the pounding of the sea.  The sound of the sea and the wildness of the sea are important.  A halyard is a line for hoisting or lowering a sail so to me that uses energy and that is also reflected in the Cloth piece.   The colours Debbie has chosen I think reflect the colour of the sea and the creek in that area.

The second image is from the “Marshscapes Collage #3/16” in ‘Moments of Being’

Debbie L 3IMG_8485I like the subtle colours used in this piece but with the small bright yellow which gives life. The shapes are simple but strong.  The pale colour at the top suggests light that is also reflected in part of the foreground.  Texture is created with the stitching with the straight lines at the top and the wonderful loops in middle and foreground.  The different shades of grey, black and white in the loops creates interest and energy.  The fabric used is linen with wax used in places with scratching. I really like the ruggedness of these collage pieces and the combination of shapes, colour and stitch and I can see me being influenced by Debbie’s work in my own work but in my own context and natural surroundings which are very different.


Book “Steal like an Artist” notes

I have been reading again the book “Steal like an Artist”by Austin Kleon and have decided this time to make some relevant notes for myself.

  • Nothing is original  – if we are free from trying to be completely original we can embrace influence instead of running away from it
  • Collect good ideas – the more good ideas the more you can choose to be influenced by
  • Climb your own family tree – look at one artist really love and study then find three people that artist loved and find out everything about them and repeat as many times as can. Once you build your tree time to start own branch! Have work of favourite artist in Studio (I have work by some well known textile artists) you can kind of be their apprentice you can learn from them the lesson plan is in their work.
  • School yourself – google, look up references, go deeper than anybody else.  Always be reading, go to Library, collect books (even if you do not plan on reading them right away.  Nothing is more important than an unread library. Search
  • Carry a notebook and pen everywhere and record. Keep a ‘swipe’ file of stuff you like either digitally or in a scrapbook. Use it as an inspiration/ideas file.
  • Start copying – do not steal the style steal the thinking behind the style. Steal to get a glimpse into their minds.  Need to understand where they are coming from or work will never be more than a just a copy. Look at many artist; credit; transform; remix; honour; study.  What is it that makes you different? Amplify this and transform into your own work.
  • Practice productive procrastination – play; have lots of projects going at once so can bounce between them (I sure do this).  Need time to sit and do nothing too.
  • Do not throw any of yourself away – if you have two or three real passions do not feel like you have to choose between them.  It is so important to have a hobby – something that is creative just for you maybe only you see it. “What unifies your work is the fact that you made it”.
  • Make stuff every day – put stuff on the internet.
  • Build your own world – surround yourself with books objects that really like and tape things on the wall – create your own world without leaving home.  Enjoy alone time if  travelling for example.
  • Stand next to talent – follow the best people online
  • Get a Calendar – plan, have concrete goals and stay on track – break work down to daily chunks.  Fill the boxes.
  • Keep a log book – list the things you do every day – ask yourself what is the BEST thing that happened today
  • Choose what to leave out – place some constraints on yourself – make things with the time, space and materials you have right now.

Book: Moments of Being


The Book “ Moments of Being” by Debbie Lyddon I purchased from Debbie’s website because I really like her textile work. In the book Debbie describes her relationship to Wells-next-the Sea on the North Norfolk coast and the context for the observations and memories that form the basis for her art practice.

The major part of the book shows photographs of 7 Sluice Creek Cloths made by Debbie and she has discussed the pierced cloth and the hole marks in the pieces. The holes are edged with thread bound iron wire and the pieces have been placed in the salt water to speed the change and the rusting from the iron rings. The work is beautiful rugged and to me raw.

There are a number of small works in the book including Salt Works; Liminal Objects and, my favourite, the Marshscape Collages. Debbie discusses how she records and documents the experience of her surroundings. She indicates that her sketchbook has “as many pages of writing as it has drawings”. The writings may be about the weather, the light, the sounds and the colours. She seldom makes work that comes directly from her recording but it increases her awareness of what she sees and experiences in the world around her.

I very much love this little book and living on the other side of the world I have not been able to see her art work but this book gives me insights into her approaches and photographs of her work.

Sketchbook – Everyday and Margaret Olley

I have been drawing in a sketchbook based on the Everyday.  I have visited recently to the Muwillumbah Art Gallery(on the North Coast of NSW) and saw the wonderful exhibition by the painter Margaret Olley’s (1923-2011) and the amazing Margaret Olley Art Centre.  I also went to the New England Regional Art Museum in Armidale in north west NSW last month and viewed the painting they acquired by donations and fundraising called the “Yellow Room Triptych 2007”.  Margaret is a much loved Australian artist and her subject matter was still life; interiors; landscape and self portraits.  The processes she used were painting, drawing and watercolour and print.  The Margaret Olley Art Centre houses a re-creation of rooms from Margaret’s home studio and includes elements of her home and collections.  It is fascinating and drew me to think about the everyday.  Very many of Margaret’s paintings feature still life and interior subjects.


cover of “Margaret Olley”, Barry Pearce, 1996, The Art Gallery of New South Wales

img_8220Booklet produced by Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre – Murwillumbah, NSW

This made me think that in practicing my sketching I should look at the “Everyday”.  Some pages from my sketchbook are below. The group of jugs is in 2B pencil, the standalone jug is charcoal and the old spoon is pencil 2B.


Japanese textiles – Akiko Ike

I had the pleasure to attend the Brisbane Craft and Quilt Show this week and there was an amazing exhibit curated by Japanese textile artist Akiko Ike, the Exhibition include futon covers, patchwork jackets and coats, table runners and curtains a some huge pieces including a seven metre-long carp banner and a crane curtain.

Akiko Ike prefers the bork style of stitching where she uses stitches to bring life to old cloth – she uses the term Chiku Chiku which refers to the sound of the needle passing through the thread.  It is said to invoke a sense of calm and encourage dreaming!

Visitors where encouraged to touch the works and to feel their texture and to look at the layers.  She has used recycled nappies with shibori which are very old, vintage and antique fabrics and even old used mosquito nets.

A simple sashiko running stitch (large) is used with thick cotton thread (2 threads) which the artist hand dyes herself.

I found the Exhibition so exciting I loved the textures created with the thick thread and large running stitch.  The layers created with the stitch over the top of the vintage fabrics was fabulous.  The colours Akiko Ike has used for the threads is also exciting – some pieces had a variety of colours.  I took some photos below:




img_6822img_6896img_6899Akiko Ike lives in Niigata, Japan and began creating her stitched pieces at the age of 60 some twelve years ago.  She has created her own distinctive personal style and she holds several exhibitions each year.