2014 ART EXHIBITION…OCTOBER 25TH, Art On Cairncross Gallery, Maleny, Qld.

THIS NEXT EXHIBITION IS ABOUT THE BARMAH FOREST…, a River  Red Gum Reserve on the border of N.S.Wales and Victoria, in Australia. I spent a lot of time on the NSW side of this enormous wetland several years ago when my mother lived at a small town named Mathoura.

The region continues to haunt my memory and I am creating images which bring the spirit of the forest to the fore. It was the food source of local indigineous tribes, mainly the Orta Orta people.

AS WELL AS SERVING THE ROLE OF FILTER FOR THE MURRAY RIVER and the Edwards and Goulburn river systems, the wild-life in the wetlands are benefitting from a new conservation program aimed at managing the entire fragile ecology for future generations and for the health of the larger river system downstream from Barmah. Logging has been stopped except for a few “thinning” programs occasionally. Charcoal burners used to burn the refuse from logging .This no longer occurs. Indigenous people are being trained to manage the area themselves.

If  ”A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS”, then this exhibition will extend the awareness of the Barmah Forest via the images I create in response to it.

Several mediums will be used from oils, gouache, pastels, mixed media, painting, drawing, etchings and dry-point to serigraphs and collographs

Some of the images will be fairly literal studies, others are spiritual images and artworks which attempt to convey what I feel when I am in that area, sitting quietly observing the natural surrounds in silence. It would be an insensitive soul which could not feel moved by this vast area of tranquility.

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ART COMPETITIONS AND PRIZES

What does a prize mean, apart from the prize-money?  This varies enormously across the range of art competitions run by various groups for various reasons. Once the number of entries goes beyond a manageable quantity the entire system by which the entries will be judged has to be adjusted accordingly. Preliminary selection of a “short list” is usually applied by a panel. The final judge will not see many of the entries at all and the number unseen could be the first choice of the final judge.( e.g. If 1,000 entries are received and reduced to a final selection of 50 works, 950 entries are not seen at all by the final judge)

An artist who is rejected should not draw anything from that regarding the quality of their work. It can simply come down to limitation of space and time for the pre-selection process and final judging to be done in a more fair manner. The credentials of the final judge are used to provide credibility to the competition. This loses all meaning if all entries are not viewed by the final judge. This is unworkable when a high number of entries from interstate and local artists is involved. One solution could be to show the final judge a slide of every entry and show which have been pre-selected as finalists. The judge could then adjust  which works are finalists. The judge is also being “judged” and  should have the final say regarding which artworks are seen to be the final pick from which he/she has selected the winner. too often an artist who does not get into the final  selection believes the judge rejected their work. I know there will be occasions when the winner will be one of the works rejected by the pre-selection panel!  When the prize is a considerable amount of money it is able to make a huge difference to the career of an artist. This needs to be addressed so that winning a major art prize has some meaning beyond the prize-money, and for the integrity of the competition to have some standing among the art community.

A judge should be open enough to award the prize to an artwork they don’t like personally, but because the artwork meets the criteria best among all entries. The criteria for an ART competition (not a “picture” competition” should be along the following lines: Creativity, Innovation, Originaiity,  and execution of the craft involved in making the artwork. When each of these elements are present in an artwork, then other works which also meet these criteria should be the artworks from which the winner is chosen. Too many illustrations are included in art competitions, and no matter how well these are done, they only meet a small part of the criteria. To be fair to artists specialising in illustrative works is to have a competition for that type of art. Modern views of what constitutes good art are those artworks which show images that are telling us something ABOUT the subject. Illustration is a depiction OF the subject. In art there is a vast difference between the two.

Scale is another issue. Images sent via email do not provide the scale of an artwork,. Many times I have thought a particular work was significant but when seeing it in reality, it falls away as a weak insignificant piece. At the same time, another work which seemed just passable in a small photo on the computer takes on a new power it never had as a small mage.

I have been involved in judging art competitions for 37 years and write this blog from experience. Something needs  to be done to give competitions more meaning. 

ART versus CRAFT

Every now and then I see a revival of the discussion on art and craft, with attempts to put both into separate boxes. I don’t know when, but I do remember it being dealt with many years ago and the conclusion was simple enough. Craft can be art  and art can be craft. The viewer of visual art brings a whole set of personal experiences with them to shape their perception. “Art is whatever we choose it to be”. Duchamp established this view and Damien Hirst  continues this view today. Why either artist was picked up by the “high-art” world and given the position it enjoys is a more meaningful question. I think the money associated with these new art idioms are what causes the confusion.

The art market has little to do with art these days, art is another commodity traded under the same conditions as the rest of the investment industry. The reasons for purchasing one artist’s work over another is as complex as every other form of investment. Artists are too concerned about who is selling what when they should be spending their time producing art. If one produces art for the money as motivator, the soul of art and what it gives the artist and the public is lost. It does not mean starving in a garret. If money is the motivator, design commercial artworks for that purpose, but don’t expect to be hailed as some modern-day Rembrandt. Politics, fashion and interior design are involved in art more than it did in the past.

FACSIMILIES OF ARTWORKS MADE POSSIBLE TODAY, USING THE GICLE METHOD

GENESIS image

Since high quality  reproduction of artwork became possible and accessible, it posed a new dilemma for the artist. Musicians/composers faced this same problem when music and performance was able to be recorded . Audio, film and print are now commonplace means of recording.

 There was a time when  a musician  created an original composition, arranged and  performed the piece (perhaps) only once for the pleasure of someone like a king and his royal court  or devotional music commissioned by the church.   Needless to say,only those of an elite high social standing ever got to hear quality orchestral performances of compositions outside of hymns of worship. The other version available was the music of the wandering minstrels who travelled the land with their songs which related stories and events from one area to another.

Mr. Edison changes the music world

All this changed with the invention of the gramophone and radio transmission. Music was suddenly democratised and became accessible to the public via  various  recording and signal transmission methods which continue to evolve to this day.

i-tunes  are yet another way anyone can access any type of music at any time with the click of a button.

Colour Reproduction and Photography Change the Visual art World

Colour reproduction and modern  printing technologies have made it possible to now create high definition reproductions of 2 dimensional artworks which can even fool a trained eye into believing they are looking at an original artwork ,( particularly when applied to a watercolour, pastel or pencil)

Commonly known as “Gicle’”

prints, these reproductions could be more fittingly described  as facsimiles  rather than simple reproductions.

Visual Artists Denied Freedom To RE-Create!

(Thou shalt not go forth and multiply)

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Strangely enough, there is still resistance to accepting these as valid collectable versions of a 2 dimensional artwork which display every characteristic of the original. Now everyone can access high quality images and enjoy art on an affordable level.This does not replace the original , it simply shows more people what the original looks like.

In spite of this obvious fact, there are still collectors who expect the artist of today to only produce  original paintings and not to have it reproduced because they see this as “cheapening” their investment of owning the original.

Would these same people go to a musician in this day and age, asking for the music, total production and creative artwork to only exist in one form, not to be recorded or ever performed again?   would they seriously deny the musician the right to have recordings made and sold to the wider public?

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…Art Lovers Show Gratitude?

That is what visual artists are expected to do these days. Intellectual property and copyright is often totally disregarded  in many cases and I have actually received Thank You cards from buyers of my work featuring my own artwork on the professionally printed card!

Apart from the cost of a restraining order from my solicitor (and the cost to do that) and the bad-will set up from explaining, we decide it is cheaper to do nothing. “One would win the fight, but lose the war.” 

Recorded music does not replace the orchestra, singer or virtuoso instrumentalist, it enables more people to develop an appreciation for the original performances presented from time, but at great expense for the average person wanting  to attend.

Appreciating Art Or What It Is Worth… ?

Art should be appreciated for the image and and personal expression within the artwork, not for the exclusivity of it artificially maintained from sheer snobbery. One is about art appreciation, the other is about ownership.

If one wants to insist on only owning an original Rembrandt or Picasso, they would need a huge amount of money to do so, but it has been shown many times that a famous artists’ work was ignored when offered to the public without the usual hype that the market-place uses to shape public perception.

Mona Lisa, Could Buy Me A Lifestyle…

Jackson Pollock’s painting, “Blue Poles”  ceased to be looked at from an art point of view long ago. Most look at it’s well advertised market value in awe. They have never seen $50 million dollars hanging on a wall before. They imagine what they could do if they had the cash the painting could be converted to. Mona Lisa is another which is priceless and fires the imagination regarding how owning such an artwork would be the ultimate “one-up” on all of one’s rivals in this competitive world where virtually everything is measured and valued by it’s net worth in dollars, plus they see it could buy anything and all the power they ever wanted, (but little they really needed.)

Looking After Number ONE!

 Numbered prints only had/have validity when the process of making the print has some damaging affect on the printing plate. The gradual degradation of the printing image from wear and tear of the process on the plate can  be seen quite obviously as each dozen or so prints are made.

This varies with different printing processes and techniques. e.g. Screen printing  (serigraphy) can give many identical prints numbering thousands if required, but artists and the art market insist on a cut-off at say, 100.

This is an arbitrary number, not because of  the process not being able to print thousands of identical prints without damage from the process, it is to create a deliberate shortage in the market- place for the benefit of collectors.

(This also becomes a nonsense when we consider other collectables such as coins. “Rare” is attributed to something that was originally minted in the thousands instead of the hundreds of thousands which is more the normal output.

There Is Nothing As Rare And Unique as ONE…

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Compared to an original artwork which is unique as well as there being only ONE, the argument for rarity making coins valuable is ridiculous in comparison.) 

On the other hand regarding numbered editions, Etchings and Dry-points deteriorate quickly compared compared with most other methods. Applying and wiping the abrasive ink off the plate is harmful enough, without the added stresses from applying  several tons of pressure for each print.

Numbering each print as it is done has some meaning with these methods because the printing plates have a short life compared to others.

The First time is Not Always The Best…

Maintaining some “rarity” to artworks are a commercial invention built around investment and collectibility, it has nothing to do with art. I have often preferred the 10th or 30th image pulled from a plate than the first one. Something to do with the amount of ink or the speed at which it was wound through the press caused a unique difference which I could not repeat. Select carefully by appearance, not by snobbery .(This variation happens rarely, but if it does, I write a note verso stating the particular print is my personal choice over the others in the edition and say why.

PERMANENT PIGMENTED INKS  ON ALL ARCHIVAL MATERIAL

Each of the gicle images shown here are not like anything one sees in a  colour magazine printed from 4 colours which are not light-fast. My gicles are printed from 10 to 12 colour permanent pigmented inks which have an 80 year light fastness guaranteed for the colours and 300 years for the black inks.

They are printed onto high quality canvas or 300 gsm. archival paper. These Oxley gicles’ will still appear new when some cheap originals  will be long gone due to poorly prepared surfaces or poor technique.

WHEN DOING IS DOING WHAT WE DO REGARDLESS

There is nothing more important than applying ourselves to the role we carved out for ourselves well before we were aware we had done so.

So many distractions attempt to steer us away from the creative activities required to achieve our role satisfactory to ourselves, not some obscure critic with no more right to judge you or me any more than they have any right to judge how I toast my bread. It is personal, no one else’s business.

Fame is not my goal, mine is  simply a wish to demonstrate one can be creative and still be capable of having a relatively “normal” (though private) lifestyle, not wooed by activities outside a satisfying environment which I can now enjoy. This is not insular,  it is mere reflective and internalised richness of one’s inner space without the restlessness of years before. Perhaps that is the trade-off from becoming older, we arrive at another world of content instead of the previous years of discontent.  

I still see through the eyes of a child, still able to see new things about old things and ideas, still able to create connections between the seemingly unconnected. It is this process which enables me to continue to re-invent myself, and others can make of what I do in their own way or ignore it completely. I share the outcomes through these blogs and I hope the reader or viewer of my observations enjoy some of the insights, and recognise connections related to their own.

THE TOP OF ART-WORLD IS FLAT OR POINTED?

The anointed who sit atop the art world created their position via the merit of their work or were they put there by those who have the power to do so? Are all idioms of art (and fashion) shaped by the curators rather than the creatives? Too many forms of creativity will never be seen, heard, read, witnessed or acknowledged because their work will not be put forward by the commentators. A whim of the few decides what is worthy of an audience,illustrated best by the lack of any consistency in criteria by which “high” art is evaluated. How many can occupy the top? Is there room for a handful, or thousands on a global basis?…Or is there only room for two or three decided by the major economic power of the day? What connection is there between super-powers and high art taking centre stage today? How does the commercial success of indigenous Australian art fit alongside these observations? You thoughts and comments please.

"BARMAH FOREST SAPLINGS"
The Barmah Forest is where the Edwards and Murray Rivers meet just over the state of  New South Wales border. My family lived close-by back in the 70’s and I was always intrigued with the red-gums  and the saplings growing to replace the felled old forest growth through the mysterious bush. I have created a series of works on the subject and the patterns of trees within the swampy area. The refuse remaining after harvesting large trees is used to create charcoal. The burning piles of litter smoulder  in various areas to provide scenes from the past.
SHARING NEW IDEAS
I am about to “re-visit” this theme with an exhibition in October this year, (2014). at Art On Cairncross Gallery, Maleny, Qld. SInce beginning the artworks my ideas have changed and continue to shift as I proceed. This is part of the process, so the end result will only be known when I have finished the work.I feel the need to change mediums for some images because certain mediums better suit some concepts. 

"BARMAH FOREST SAPLINGS"

The Barmah Forest is where the Edwards and Murray Rivers meet just over the state of  New South Wales border. My family lived close-by back in the 70’s and I was always intrigued with the red-gums  and the saplings growing to replace the felled old forest growth through the mysterious bush. I have created a series of works on the subject and the patterns of trees within the swampy area. The refuse remaining after harvesting large trees is used to create charcoal. The burning piles of litter smoulder  in various areas to provide scenes from the past.

SHARING NEW IDEAS

I am about to “re-visit” this theme with an exhibition in October this year, (2014). at Art On Cairncross Gallery, Maleny, Qld. SInce beginning the artworks my ideas have changed and continue to shift as I proceed. This is part of the process, so the end result will only be known when I have finished the work.I feel the need to change mediums for some images because certain mediums better suit some concepts. 

ART IS…

Art is saying what we must say, believing what we must say is true…even if it isn’t.

If this were not true, how else do we explain the abundance of great art created over centuries from the viewpoint of every belief system and philosophy known to humanity. i.e.  Truth is subjective. We must search for our own truth.