A VISUAL LIFE | Creative Direction + Design

MASTERSTROKE // quilty

‘Self-portrait after Afghanistan’, 2012 (oil on linen)

‘Fairy Bower Rorschach’, 2012 (oil on linen)

‘Margaret Olley’, 2011 (oil on linen)

‘Bedford Downs Rorschach’, 2008 (oil on linen)

There are only a few days left to see the latest exhibition from one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists (and one of my personal favourites). Ben Quilty’s last decade of work is showcased in multiple rooms at the Art Gallery of NSW, taking you on an expressive journey on how he sees the world. This quote from Quilty himself reflects his social conscience – “My work is about working out how to live in this world, it’s about compassion and empathy but also anger and resistance. Through it I hope to push compassion to the front of national debate.”

His powerful brushstrokes and vibrant colours evoke strong emotions with the content tackling serious issues and reflecting his political views on the injustices in our society. He has campaigned for inmates, refugees and veterans, visually representing their plights and telling their stories. He was also an official war artist in Afghanistan and these paintings in particular show the pain and torment in facial expressions in his renowned vivid style.

Margaret Olley is also one of my treasured Australian artists so seeing Quilty’s intimate portrait of her that won the 2011 Archibald Prize is a special experience. I particularly love his account of her – “Her lack of ego is so appealing. Margaret didn’t understand why anyone would want to see a portrait of her. She’s such an inspiration. She was a feminist ahead of her time. She’s vigorously passionate about social and political issues, as well as art, and is enormously compassionate. Margaret has such an infectious attitude to both life and death.”

A real standout was the room displaying Quilty’s ‘Rorschach’ landscapes which are inspired by Hermann Rorschach’s ink blots used for psychological testing. This series is mesmerising and Quilty used the method of applying thick layers of oil paint, pressing the still-wet panels into six unpainted panels to create a mirror of the original. Documenting significant events in our dark colonial history by depicting areas such as Myall Creek where Indigenous tribes were attacked in a massacre. Ben Quilty shows the juxtaposition of the picturesque with the turbulence of trauma through the blotted, stain effect. Quilty’s art is as confronting as his subject matter and his bold use of paint represents his strong ethics and viewpoints.

INSTA-JAM // farewell 2019

           

Not only is it the end of 2019 but we are also closing off the decade and saying farewell to the 2010s. For many of us it has been a big year with changes, decisions and some turmoil. This uneasy environment has been playing out on the world stage, especially in politics and climate change issues. We still have to focus on the beauty of life and here are the monthly highlights from my Instagram that I hope will reflect some positive vibes. In Australia it’s very tough at the moment with the summer heatwave creating a bushfire crisis. Growing up beside a national park and experiencing this many times first hand, I know what a tough and stressful situation it is to live through. My thoughts go out to all the people affected and in particular the brave firefighters defending homes and protecting lives. I’m using my Christmas wishes for the fires to end soon, bring plenty of rain, safe holidays for everyone and a better start to 2020.

DEAR DIARY // christmas magic

It is less than a month until Christmas and this time of year can trigger panic and dread for many people. So much more gets crammed into our schedules with parties and catch-ups, let alone trying to buy gifts as well. It’s nice to step back and look through the eyes of a child and take in the wonder that we once had for the festive season. Walking through the crowds shopping in the Queen Victoria Building was a more enjoyable experience when I stopped to take in the QVB Swarovski Christmas tree.

Every year the Sydney icon is assembled by over 100 people to become the city’s tallest tree in the historic and beautifully grand shopping precinct. Standing under the stunning stained glass dome, it towers to the 3 floor span at a height of 24 metres. Topped with a gilded star and decorated with over 100,000 ornaments and 65,000 twinkling lights, it is a magical sight. Swarovski crystals adorn the tree and have been encased in a glass stand at the base with multiple curtains of beaded garland strands like icicles. Mirrored prisms above it reflect the light creating a mesmerising spectacle when you stand underneath. Maybe those mirrors were magic and have given me a fresh ‘crystal clear’ outlook?

TUCKER TIME // stuffed vegetables

Personally I prefer vegetarian dishes since I love all vegetables and have always felt my body prefers them too. Going meat free is growing in popularity as people are more aware of the obvious impact on animals and the environment. There are also a number of documentaries highlighting these issues as well as the health benefits of a plant based diet. Since I was a kid, a favourite dish of my Mum’s are Greek stuffed vegetables called Yemista. Traditionally they always include tomatoes but this family recipe includes a variety of vegetables. Feel free to try others but just keep in mind that the cooking time should be similar so they all cook evenly.

PREP: Rinse tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants and capsicums. Slice the tops off the vegetables and set aside. Scoop out the insides of the vegetables with a spoon leaving the shell. Putting the pulp and flesh that was removed into a blender, blend a little but keep checking so it doesn’t become a puree. In a fry pan, saute olive oil, chopped brown onion and crushed garlic, then place in a bowl. Add to this bowl the blended vegetable mix and short grain white rice (which will cook in the oven). Gauge the amount of rice to be a half/half ratio to the blended vegetables. Mix in chopped parsley and mint, season with salt and pepper then stir well.

COOK: Arrange the empty vegetable shells in a baking dish and sprinkle salt inside, adding a little sugar to the tomatoes to reduce their acidity. Fill the shells with the mixture then replace the lids. Cut potatoes into wedges and place them around the stuffed vegetables in empty areas of the dish. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper over everything and place in the oven. Bake and occasionally remove the lids to check if the rice is cooked. If you’re not vegan, you can sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of the lids when it’s nearly ready and leave it in the oven until the cheese has melted.

HOUSE CALL // harry seidler, vaucluse waters

Soaring above the rugged coastline on the Diamond Bay cliff walk and balancing on the edge, is the 1960’s apartment block Vaucluse Waters. True to the modernist era, it is constructed predominantly of concrete and glass. It stands out in the area due to its vast height compared to the surrounding buildings as well as the prime position on the coast. Designed by renowned architect Harry Seidler, it is possibly one of his less famous projects in comparison to many other landmarks around Sydney.

In typical Seidler fashion, the style is very linear and angular with windows taking advantage of the vista. In old photos it seems there may have been balconies when it was first built, which have been closed in at some stage. The sweeping ocean views are breathtaking but have also subjected the apartments to the harsh weather elements. Unfortunately it is damaged and in need of major repairs, but hopefully the upgrades will be undertaken with respect to the original design. Many of these gems are constantly at risk, either lost completely in demolition or being redeveloped so much that the true architectural character disappears.

DEAR DIARY // hello sunshine

Being on the cusp of a new season and well into the latter half of the year, it feels like a good time to recharge and set a new list of goals. A busy work schedule and organising a new home has slowed progress on a few projects that I had to put on hold. Warmer weather definitely gives me more energy and inspiration, which I’m hoping will help me to rediscover my artistic side. I am looking forward to getting creative again, just picturing myself making art in the afternoon sunshine after spending time lounging at the beach. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I have heard it said that winter, too, will pass, that spring is a sign that summer is due at last. See, all we have to do is hang on.”

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