A VISUAL LIFE | Creative Direction + Design

Tag: art gallery of nsw

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 // robert mapplethorpe

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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’.

MASTERSTROKE // here comes the sun

John Olsen is one of the most revered Australian artists with a career spanning 70 years. I’ve always admired his painting style which is full of energy, fluidity and colour. His current exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW showcases his paintings, ceramics, tapestries and works on paper. It’s clear in these artworks that he loves nature and the Australian landscape that also forms our identity. The you beaut country exhibition showcases his iconic landscape series depicting the beauty of places such as Sydney Harbour and Lake Eyre. My favourite is the large-scale Sydney Sun with the intricate layering of shapes and flowing lines. This particularly inspired me as I have watched the film The King Sun: John Olsen a few times. It’s an amazing documentary following John as he paints the second largest mural he’s ever done (The King Sun). It’s a personal insight as he works on the masterpiece, while sharing his thought process and his philosophy on life.

DEAR DIARY // musical faces

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Carla Fletcher ‘Dan Sultan’ (pencil, graphite, spray paint on linen)

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Sophia Hewson ‘Artist kisses subject’ (oil on board)

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James Powditch ‘Citizen Kave’ (mixed media)

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Jason Benjamin ‘I just wanna dream’ (oil on linen)

Music is one of my true loves and everything about it is an inspiration – genres depict an era in time, musicians become icons, fans set style trends. There is nothing like a song to link you back to a memory, evoke a feeling or make a connection with people.

I loved how there were so many portraits in this year’s Archibald Prize that depicted Australian musical artists. Obviously art, music and fashion have always been intrinsically linked but these artworks proved it. A delicate but strong portrayal of singer/songwriter Dan Sultan. The amazing realism of the artist herself kissing singer/songwriter/actress Missy Higgins. Then the clever fictional film poster of artist Nick Cave to convey his influence and power. Also a soulful look reflecting the multiple facets and personality of musician Tim Rogers.

This year’s exhibition held an amazing array of artistic talent but I wanted to share what really made my heart sing…

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