A VISUAL LIFE | Creative Direction + Design

Category: Art

MASTERSTROKE // revamped classics

Newtown has always been a creative hub and the artwork on display is always changing, so it’s worth taking a stroll to see what gems you find in the streets and laneways. Even the supermarket car park walls have been covered with paintings depicting the faces of the local people, but my favourite is the beautiful mural on the side of a terrace house next door. It covers the whole building but I was unable to capture it all with parked cars blocking the rest of the illustration. It shows a woman reclining surrounded by flowers, cats and birds with a stack of books at her feet (which I’ll try to photograph another time if the car park is ever empty). The style and colours are reminiscent of Katsushika Hokusai‘s print ‘The Great Wave Off Kanagawa’. Taking inspiration from his Japanese woodblock art, the line work is simple yet detailed and the colour palette uses a minimal but tonal range.

Venturing further I came upon other homages to famous artists like Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh. I love how this street art is inspired by renowned traditional artists but in a new expressive interpretation. Wolf&Kitten is the collaboration between Dolan Reskov and Juliette Furio, the artistic duo use paint and collage to create layered chaotic pieces. I’m loving how all these examples have revamped the classics in their own way and I’m looking forward to what I will discover next.

MASTERSTROKE // colour block

Pardon the pun but I couldn’t help myself! Wandering around suburban ‘blocks’ to find this gorgeous art using ‘colour blocking’ turned out to be a perfect combination. This was a fashion trend where an outfit revolves around a palette of multiple solid colours, usually in bold and bright shades.

The first image in Rozelle has window-like panels with murals of people peeking out to reveal themselves or parts of their faces. Painting these in black and white gives them contrast and depth to the colourful background. The second photo is in Ultimo and is an architectural piece reflecting the surrounding city buildings. Located on the industrial historic site of the former rail line, it has now been converted to a pedestrian pathway and cycle way known as The Goods Line. These graphic and abstract designs follow the ‘colour block’ style and brighten up these walls while adding character to the area.

 

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.

MASTERSTROKE // poster poetry

Banksy has become world famous for his political street art but the mystery behind his identity garners just as much interest as his art. I’ve come across posters around the streets of Sydney with profound words but the creators remain anonymous. Sometimes the messaging is simple or has a satirical take with dark humour but the reader can interpret it to their own lives. It’s such a shame that council often removes them, like this second photo I took in Surry Hills years ago which is sadly gone. I came across the first poster recently on a wall in Oxford Street near the cinema, so I’m hoping it stays there for people to see. Coming across these poetic gems not only makes your journey more interesting but also gives you something to think about.

TYPE-RIGHTER // all you need is love

Love is universal and it’s a recurring theme in art, music and film from every culture. We’re told about ‘the power of love’ with many of us experiencing ‘tainted love’ and some people think that ‘love will tear us apart’. Whether you believe in ‘higher love’, you’re ‘addicted to love’, you feel ‘all out of love’ or for you ‘love is a battlefield’ – there’s no denying it’s everywhere. I came across these murals in Bondi which are simple but make a big impact on the street. I realised that I’ve photographed street art in the past based on the word LOVE so it might be a good idea to start a series on this idea. This concept could be my next ‘big love’ so if you have any suggestions on where I can find some great examples of L-O-V-E artwork let me know.

MASTERSTROKE // robert mapplethorpe

ANFM_art-robertmapplethorpe07

ABOVE: ‘Self-portrait’, 1980 (gelatin silver); ‘Self-portrait’, 1983 (gelatin silver); ‘Self-portrait’, 1980 (gelatin silver). BELOW: ‘Patti Smith’, 1979 (gelatin silver); ‘Marianne Faithfull’, 1974 (gelatin silver).

 

BELOW: ‘Deborah Harry’, 1978 (gelatin silver); ‘David Hockney’, 1976 (gelatin silver). BOTTOM: ‘Isabella Rossellini’, 1988 (gelatin silver); ‘Lucy Ferry’, 1986 (gelatin silver).

 

I wish I had a chance to post this before the exhibition closed but life just got in the way. Perfectly timed with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the renowned work of Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium was on show at the Art Gallery of NSW. He was a controversial figure who pushed boundaries and his art was ground breaking. His black and white photography is legendary but it was inspiring to see some of his work that I wasn’t familiar with. Being a designer, it was also nice to see some of the graphic examples from gay publications he collaborated with.

An enclosed room housed the more erotic images as well as his published books – X, Y and Z Portfolios. This three part book series details homosexual sadomasochistic imagery (X), floral still lifes (Y) and nude portraits of African-American men (Z). I loved the sculptural and evocative florals, shot in bold colour with a meticulous play of light and shadows. He was famous for celebrating the human form and his involvement in New York’s gay scene cultivated this, but his contemporary images also caused outrage.

His artistic methods and personal life are also detailed which is fascinating. Robert was friends with famous artists and musicians who he photographed regularly, including his muse Patti Smith. I idolised these icons so I couldn’t go past sharing them here and imagining the story behind each setting. Robert Mapplethorpe had an amazing but tragically short life, although he lives on in his pictures and as he would say ‘perfection in form’.

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