Australian Fine Artist

As a Curtin Alumni member, I was recently contact to give my support to a new initiate called “The Carrolup Centre for Truth-Telling”.

The centre will restore and hold as a permanent home artworks created by Aboriginal children who were removed from the Carrolup Native settlement, in Western Australia, during the 1940s.

The collection travelled the world during the 1950s, and was retrieved from overseas galleries’ storage facilities for Curtin to be its custodian.

The collaboration between the Carrolup Elders of the university will mean that the stories of these children will be brought to light through their art, hopefully to help to rid Australia of any remnants of cultural biases or racism.

The financing for this project comes corporations, the community, and staff and alumni of Curtin University.

As an artist, art teacher and arts writer, I am happy to support any venture that that restores and preserves Australia’s cultural history for the future, so that we will always know where we came from, how far we have come, and the work yet to be done to make Australia the amazing country we all know it can be.

If you would like to support this worthy cause, the link to the site for more information is: https://alumniandgive.curtin.edu.au/carrolup-centre/?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

The site also has a button to click for donations.

If you have a moment, why not pop in to see what you may be able to contribute.

INTRODUCTION

This paper will examine journalism’s alliances with satirical artists during the French Revolution, and compare them with current day collaborations. It will reveal that it was due to unlicensed (and uncensored) newspapers and pamphlets during such social upheaval that commentary, critique, and satire of and by the government and dissenters, was made available to the public.

Additionally, the following research will respond to the question of the perceived influence the combination of art (EG: ‘high art’, caricatures or cartooning), political satire, and propaganda potentially has on the public’s grasp of the politics of the day. It will also underline the continual need for visual and written journalist practice to communicate
with the public.

This is important to my practice as an artist and arts commentator because in a closed society freedom of expression is suppressed, banned and sometimes outlawed. While in Australia,
we do not have the First Amendment rights of the United States, we do have certain liberties under the law, enabling the prerogative to create and publish critiques addressing social issues. It is because of such freedoms that I can produce illustrative and textual disapproval, objection, or satirical observation of issues I find of personal or public interest. A liberty that has been deficient historically, and currently suppressed in certain other countries.

Similar to current instances in the world such as China and Iran, Pre-revolutionary France was not built on equality, democracy, or meritocracy. The hierarchy of the three ‘Estates’
(the clergy, the nobility, the majority of the people) ensured that those in power, in the first two of these tightly controlled information in the form of propaganda, leaving the majority of the population (the third estate) virtually powerless. A situation that was debated and argued for generations, and disputed by pamphleteers who fought for the rights of the common people (Margerison, 1987, pp. 88-89). It was in this environment that the seeds of the revolution, and the role of the press to challenge and inform grew.

History

According to Dowd, social status in the art world was also not equal in France, as evidenced by the minority of artists who achieved status in the Salons, or as members of the Royal Academy (1959, pp. 128-129). As a result, artists in general, including those in the Academy, greeted the revolution in 1789 with enthusiasm producing visual criticisms and propaganda in paintings and illustrations for print.

Another group, restricted and censored during the Old Regime, was journalists. Chisick states that periodicals were tightly controlled by the French government with no toleration for “independent political reporting”, forcing many journalists to go underground, or publish from another country (1988, p. 626). Jean Luzac, professor and lawyer, is one example, who edited the Gazette de Leyde from 1772 until 1798 from Leiden in Holland. Luzac, who disliked violence and despots, attempted to appear impartial, but this didn’t prevent certain governments outside France from censoring articles about the French Revolution that undermined their positions (Smith, 2018, p. 2).

Those who remained in France regularly changed the names of their publications to avoid censorship, and risked their lives during the Reign of Terror ( Sept. 5, 1793 to July 27, 1794) as control by the government became worse than under the Old Regime. Camille Desmoulins, pamphleteer and political activist, for example, met his death at the guillotine
in 1794 after being charged with corruption and counter-revolutionary conspiracy (Hartcup, 1975, pp. 244-245). In 21stcentury Australia, while it is extremely doubtful that a critique would attract a violent response, it is important to remember certain legal considerations such as copyright, slander, and liable. In overseas countries, however, certain strongly-held religious and cultural beliefs, and extremism, have proven to be the sources of savage responses, like the example of Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

L’Ami du people (Friend of the people) 6th Edition
© http://blogs.bu.edu/guidedhistory/moderneurope/haley-witsell/
journalism-of-the-french-revolution/.

Accordingly, as historic examples indicate, despite the French revolution allowing conditions for “true political periodicals appear”, sorting news from opinion became an increasingly dangerous and difficult issue, and alliances quickly changed during a time of “unlimited freedom” tangled with extremist views (1988, p. 627). This is further underpinned by the often perilous collaborations that formed between certain artists and ‘the press’ to support
the various factions prior to Napoleon seizing power in 1899.

Le people sous l’ancien Regime, 18th C.ananymous political cartoon.
© World History Archive https://www.alamy.com

Examples from this period are artist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), and journalist and politician Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793). Marat virtually ran the L’Ami du people until his death in 1793, and is an example of the propaganda of the time. Marat also wrote for Le Moniteur patriote the predecessor of the L’Ami du people. It was via these publications that a redefinition of the public sphere, and “new identities for workers, women and members of the middle classes” both in France and Europe was able to occur (Witsell, n.d. p. 10). His death (by the hand royalist sympathizer Charlotte Corday) is dramatically rendered, in an effort to romanticize his memory, by friend and artist Jean-Louis David (below) in an effort to raise his eminence in the revolution.

Jacques-Louis David. Detail from The Death of Marat. 1793. © phaidon.com

David, himself, was a chameleon, prospering during the Old Regime, the revolution of 1789, the reign of Napoleon, and the 1830 revolution. Few examples of his carefully targeted satire can be found, however, the one below indicates his prudent choice of topic, pointed across the channel at England.

Jacques-Louis David. The English Government. 1794.
© http://vintageprintable.swivelchairmedia.com

Another is example of the power of imagery and text during the later ‘July Monarchy’ and 1830 revolution can be seen in the newspaper La Caricature.

Gargantua © Forbes, 2008. Source L’Association Mensuelle, December 1831.

 As Forbes states: “Throughout the early 1830s, satire repeatedly challenged the July Monarchy’s claims to a free press and even legitimacy itself. [La] Gazette, [mouthpiece of the royalist faction, the Legitimists], publicized trials, arrests, and confiscations, and satirists learned of their colleagues’ tribulations in letters and even in shared prison quarters. Such trials made room for audiences to render verdicts on not only the individuals in question, but also the judicial system that appeared to prosecute artists merely for expressing “the truth” as they saw it, a phrase invoked by satirists and their legal representatives that simultaneously appealed to objective truth and protection of mere subjective expression” (Forbes, 2008, p. 45).

Such satire was the basis of trials debating free-speech and artistic rights in the face of perceived public ‘harm’, which in reality was more to do with who retained power to govern. (Jang, 2016, p. 253). As Jang states, this situation was not restricted to France, as the views
of Charles Pigott (unkown-1794) in The Jockey Club and A Sketch of the Manners of the Age in England indicate. Coming from a privileged background, and well-connected, Pigott has been widely overlooked by researchers because he didn’t fit within their narratives, however I would argue that he was in a particularly unique position to expose corruption in the aristocracy (Jang, 2016, p. 252; Rogers, 1993, p. 248). In addition, he was not alone in his attempts to sway public opinion. James Gillray (1756-1815), who studied at the Royal Academy in England, also published scathing illustrations reflecting his fears of the effects of the French revolution in England (Loussouarn, 2016, pp. 328, 331, 334-340). Such was the popularity of the pamphlets (and newspapers) that carried such political rhetoric, that in England alone an approximate four thousand were published from 1790 to 1802 (Goodrich, 2005. p.213).

The Zenith of French Glory – The Pinnacle of Liberty. James Gillray, 1793 © Reaktion Books 2008

Modern practice: Political journalists and cartoonists

The legacy of these activities in France and England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries can be seen in publications such as Charlie Hebdo, a weekly magazine that reflects a tradition of holding the government to account, and blunt criticism of what they see as social inequality, extremism, or injustice. Founded in 1970, it hired most of the staff from Hara-Kiri after it was banned in France for mocking the death of Charles de Gaulle. It has never shied away from controversy, and this has led to criticism from religious groups and politicians, the fire-bombing of offices in 2011, and shootings in their premises in 2015 after critiquing and satirising Islamic beliefs (Gibson, 2015, pp. 4-11).

 Cover that preceded office bombing. © Charlie Hebdo 2011

Cover from 2013 © Charlie Hebdo 2013

Crude or insulting as a publication like this may seem to some, internationally a large amount of support was voiced in support of Charlie Hebdo’s right to produce it in a secular society like France despite an increase in Islamophobic incidents after the attacks (Petrikowski, 2015, p. 10). In response, Australian artist and cartoonist for The Daily Telegraph, Warren Brown drew on an 1830 French revolutionary painting by Eugene Delacroix, Liberty leading the people, to express his feelings to readers.

Despite such extreme examples like Charlie Hebdo, artists, of all genres, should to be able to practice in an environment that encourages ‘free speech’ or put another way, freedom of expression under the law (Steel, 2012, ch.2). This underpins the principles of journalism’s and contemporary cartooning’s codes of practice for social commentary in journalism and visual satire (Australian Press Council, 2011; 2016, pp. 8, 10). As an Australian artist, arts blogger, and journalist I contend that creatives and reporters must operate assuming an enlightened ‘readership’ and broad social tolerance. The examples put forward in this paper typify the importance of critiquing injustices in society, unhindered by fear or intimidation.

© Warren Brown 2015 The Daily Telegraph

In light of the example of Charlie Hebdo, the repercussions of such editorial and satirical cartooning show the power of imagery to support strong opinion and criticism, and the dangers that continue to be involved in a modern society. It isn’t only from a regional legal, academic, or social structure that criticism may arise as has been indicated. In a more ‘globalised’ and connected world, insult can be taken by any number of nations, groups, or individuals.

For example, a cartoon by Bill Leak, based on comments made by Indigenous leaders, in The Australian in 2016 was criticized by the then Indigenous Affairs Minister as racist, leading to widespread condemnation (Patel 2026). Fortunately, criticism was not followed by violence, but encouraged public discussion.

© Bill Leak 2016 The Australian

In Australia, whilst having a history of cartooning and the visual arts tackling current issues, they haven’t been as controversial or to the same level of ‘lewdness’ as Charlie Hebdo in widely distributed newspapers. For example, the current COVID-19 pandemic has been reported by journalists, and visualised by cartoonists like Michael Leunig who are able to mix political satire into current events in the news such as the Federal Government’s refusal to release COVID-19 documents to the press (Knaus, 2020).

Political Pandemic © Michael Leunig

The collaboration between cartoonist Mark David and journalist Grant Turner in Independent Australia in July 2020 is a recent example of how text, satirical illustration, and reader involvement raises the level of political discussion, and how the internet is enabling creative avenues for art and journalists to continue working together (Turner, 2020).

COVID-19 Critique © Mark David

Vashti Fox, writer for the Red Flag, a socialist independent publication, recently used photography and a cartoon from the 1930s to compare the Great Depression with the current COVID-19 crisis, pointing out the social impact of such events on low income families. The inclusion of a ‘cartoon’ by an unknown artist serves to underpin her well-researched story indicating a history of Australian journalism’s dedication to telling stories both textually and visually (Fox, 2020).

Bloody, but unbowed © Red Flag

A recent example from Melbourne is by Wesley Mountain, who holds a Master of Journalism and a BA in literature and visual arts. He also has broad experience in writing and customer service. At present he is multi-media editor for The Conversation Group which involves journalism, illustration, and cartooning. In contrast to the often controversial work by Mark Knight and Bill Leak, Mountain has been described as allowing his “humanity to shine through”. As Mountain says: “It may play against me because people aren’t necessarily looking for humanity in political cartoons, but I really care about that stuff. I think if you don’t, you risk becoming someone like Mark Knight or Bill Leak.

Knight infamously published a controversial cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams, while Leak depicted a neglectful Aboriginal father in a political cartoon for The Australian. Both cartoons were widely called out as being racist.

You see older cartoonists in particular who are there to ‘make the joke’, taking the ‘everyone should be able to be criticised’ approach. That’s totally true, but they start to see freedom of speech as the point rather than the thing that allows you to make good observations. I think about that stuff a lot” (Ogle, 2020. p. 9).

World Leaders Playing a Game of Risk © Wesley Mountain

The refreshing aspect about The Conversation web site for an artist and art journalist, is that the art and culture is not hidden beneath several layers of tabs. In contrast to most major news publishers, a variety of topics are given equal attention, which may indicate a positive direction for arts journalism into the future. In addition, the synthesis of classical philosophy, ‘high’ art, cartooning, and current events by The Conversion’s writers, like Matthew Sharpe, indicates a depth of knowledge and analysis that recalls the writing style of the early 20th century while remaining current. Evidence, I believe, that although print media is currently struggling in the face of the growth of digital media, the alliance between the arts and journalism has a positive future.

A statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome’s Piazza del Campidoglio.
© Jean-Pol Grandmont/Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

The long-standing alliance between art and journalism reminds us about how together they can tell a more complete story, criticize, analyse, and sway public opinion. In an environment where literacy was poor, critical and satirical cartoons were used for propaganda and political protest. This alliance has continued into the 21st-Century, as independent thought has evolved from the printed pamphlet to independent blogs and web sites on the internet.

Whatever form these commentaries and critiques take, the case of Charlie Hebdo reminds us that even in a modern tolerant society, artists and journalists must be aware of the risks that are involved. The importance, however, is the need to ensure that freedom of speech in all its formats continues to be supported so that artists and journalists can continue to point out what they see as injustices, failures, and trends in society.

How this impacts my practice as an artist and arts commentator is because freedom of expression is still suppressed, banned, and outlawed in certain closed societies in contrast
to Australia where I have the liberty to express my views, based on valid information and research. Australian law protects individuals and groups from slander and liable, but leaves room for criticism, commentary, and pursuit of stories of public interest which is something that needs to be celebrated and protected because, as the French revolution, and years surrounding it indicate, they are liberties that can easily be lost.

References

Australian Press Council. (2011). Standards of practice. Retrieved from https://www.presscouncil.org.au/standards-of-practice/.

Australian Press Council. (2016). Media release 6 Sept 2016. Retrieved from https://www.presscouncil.org.au/media-release-6-sept-2016/.

Chisick, H. (1988). Pamphlets and Journalism in the Early French Revolution: The Offices of the Ami du Roi of the Abbé Royou as a Center of Royalist Propaganda. French Historical Studies, 15(4), 623-645. doi:10.2307/286549.

Dowd, D. (1959). The French Revolution and the Painters. French Historical Studies, 1(2), 127-148. doi:10.2307/286252.

Forbes, A. W. (2008). The lithographic conspiracy: How satire framed liberal political debate in nineteenth-century France. French Politics, Culture & Society, 26(2), 16-50, 152. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/194692961?accountid=10344.

Fox, V. (2020). The bitter years: Class struggle in depression era Australia. Retrieved from https://redflag.org.au/node/7080.

Gibson, M. (2015). The provocative history of French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Retrieved from https://time.com/3657256/charlie-hebdo-paris-attack/.

Goodrich, A. (2005). Debating England’s aristocracy in the 1790s: Pamphlets, polemics and political ideas. New York: Boydell press.

Gough, H. (1980). Recent Publications on the French Revolution. The Historical Journal, 23(4), 967-983. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2638735.

Hartcup, J. (1975). Camille Desmoulins. History Today25(4), 238-245. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=7d9269a4-cc0a-45d3-8f6f-f7f2760ec3cd%40pdc-v-sessmgr02.

Knaus, C. (2020). Australian PM’s department refuses to release Covid-19 commission documents. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/30/australian-pms-department-refuses-to-release-covid-19-commission-documents.

Loussouarn, S. (2016). Gillray and the French Revolution. National Identities, 18(3), 327-343,
doi: 10.1080/14608944.2015.1047333.

Margerison, K. (1987). History, Representative Institutions, and Political Rights in the French Pre-Revolution (1787-1789). French Historical Studies, 15(1), 68-98. doi:10.2307/286504.

Ogle, T. (2020). Wes Mountain’s fearless political cartoons will make you laugh and then wince, the way they should. Retrieved from https://www.artthyneighbour.com/artists/wes-mountains-fearless-political-cartoons-will-make-you-laugh-and-then-wince-the-way-they-should.

Petrikowski, N. (2015). Charlie Hebdo shooting. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/event/Charlie-Hebdo-shooting.

Popkin, J. (1989). Pamphlet Journalism at the End of the Old Regime. Eighteenth-Century Studies, 22(3), 351-367. doi:10.2307/2738892.

Rogers, N. (1993). Pigott’s private eye: Radicalism and sexual scandal in eighteenth-century England. Retrieved from https://www.erudit.org/en/journals/jcha/1900-v1-n1-jcha1000/031065ar.pdf.

Smith, J. (2018). 18th-Century journalism and notable journalists. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/9781118841570.iejs0148.

Steel, J. (2012). Journalism and free speech. Oxford: Routledge. Retrieved from https://books.google.com.au/books?id=0lhRWlkKOk0C&pg=PT44&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Turner, G. (2020). Coalition government cannot use COViD-19 as an excuse for its failings. Retrieved from https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/coalition-government-cannot-use-covid-19-as-an-excuse-for-its-failings,14070.

Witsell, H. Journalism of the French Revolution. Retrieved from http://blogs.bu.edu/guidedhistory/moderneurope/haley-witsell/journalism-of-the-french-revolution/.

Jang, S. (2016). “The overturning of an arbitrary government”: Pigott’s radical challenge to standard lexicography. Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 58(3), 251-277.
doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/10.7560/TSLL58301.

Truth, according to philosophy, will depend on which philosopher you listen to. Plato thought that an eternal truth, or Form[1], existed that was beyond human ability to reproduce in art, and difficult to explain. We often ask for, or even demand truth, or “the truth” in the legal system, and society in general, but is it subjective and how do we know when it is being manipulated or subverted for various reasons?

I ask this because art, especially fine art has grappled with this concept for thousands of years. Additionally, we expect unbiased truth from our communicators and leaders, and are sadly disappointed at the least when they fail to meet these expectations.

Heidegger claimed that “When truth sets itself in the work, beauty appears. This appearing (as this being of truth in the works and as the work) is beauty.” [2] Which sounds good, but truth in the real world is not always beautiful, sometimes it is ugly and painful. So, how does this relate to journalism? How are the two related, and what comparisons, or contrasts can be drawn between the two?

Let’s look at art from another perspective. Art can connect with people by revealing a story, or narrative, it can be emotive – making you feel joy, sorrow, anger, empathy, it can attempt to tell a truth as interpreted by the artist. However, as we may know from eye witness accounts of crime, ten people witnessing the same event can provide ten different versions, because human attention, memory, and vision is not perfect, and we are influenced by our personal life experiences. The artist, therefore, rarely tries to tell “the truth”, they tell “a truth” for the viewer to see and analyse for themselves. This is subjective, whilst being analytical, and always as a product of the artist’s creative imagination. We are not meant to look at a painting like the charge of the light brigade (Scotland Forever, 1881) by Lady Elizabeth Butler as an historically accurate representation. It is meant to raise the emotions and patriotism of the viewer, to praise heroism, not to report the facts. In 1922, she is quoted as saying as much.

Now let’s look at journalism in the 21st century. What is its purpose? As it can come in a variety of forms, investigative, commentative, feature writing, and opinion piece, for example, how do we separate one type from another, and do they overlap, allowing opinion to bleed into investigative and ‘hard’ news?

Personally, when I watch the 7pm news on ABC for example, I want unbiased facts, and just the facts. There isn’t a lot of time to tell all of the events of the day, so I have little patience for emotive rhetoric padding out stories taking up precious air time. If I want opinions, I will watch or read clearly labelled opinion articles and blogs. Conversely, I know that when I access opinion pieces, in addition to a certain amount of fact, that can be verified if I care to do so, there will be subjective ideas and critique from the author/speaker.

Journalists tell us stories, like artists, they can be interpreted via the fallible senses of a human, but the difference between artists and journalists is that it is the job of the news to as much as is possible, present ‘the facts’ without bias, or favour. Personal and corporate opinion needs to remain in the area of the blog or opinion piece, and not discolour the picture being presented so that fact and bias become so intermingled that one cannot be distinguished from the other.

A small example occurred today. The report was about the impeachment of President Trump. The reporter talked about the only other times presidents had been impeached. The reporter said that Johnson and Clinton had both been impeached, and later acquitted – facts. They then went on to say that Nixon ‘fled’ from office when faced with three articles of impeachment. This is just a small thing, but the addition of emotive language into reporting changes how we hear it. Nixon resigned – fact. Why not state the fact?

Of course, we want journalists to be empathetic when a disaster is being reported, BUT, they must also remain objective. Stephen Ward wrote, “Reporters are not automatons, but emotion in journalism can be manipulated.” That is why there are professional standards, which I think, are being eroded by the infiltration of subtle emotive rhetoric and bias. Ward seems to have a pessimistic outlook for 21st century journalism, when he writes, “Journalism of the early 21st c., irreproachable from outside, differs in essence and is completely reflected on by the realities of the informative era, so that through functional transformation, certain objective pre-conditions of self-destruction arise. Among the symptomatic signs of devaluation of professional standards, the most expressive and most notable ones, according to a destructive force, are tendentious, purposeful global changes of conceptual tasks (to control and construct – depending on the model of journalism: whether informative or analytical), on secondary tasks (to entertain and advertise). Sometimes it is combined as an incomprehensible hybrid.”[3]

Just as we are swayed by the emotive content of a painting, designed to do so by the artist, some journalists of today are attempting to sway feelings and emotions by surreptitiously including emotive language into their reporting. As you look at a work of art, for example, The Third of May, 1808 by Goya, and feel your empathy and possibly anger rise witnessing the murder by firing squad of members of the Spanish resistance, examine how you react to the next stories presented in the newspaper, online or on the TV. Is your reaction valid, and authentic, or is it being manipulated by the emotive words placed amongst the facts by the journalist? Are they reporting the story based on the facts, or are they attempting to sway your opinions, and future action, with clever manipulation of words to ‘paint a picture’ distorted by their interpretation and biases?

Remember, a painting’s purpose is usually to make you cognitively think and imagine, and relate to the artist’s story on a human, and usually emotional level. It is the ‘artist’s truth’, unlike the task of the ‘hard news’ journalist, which should be to present you with, as far as is humanly possible, ‘the facts’, irrespective of their personal opinion.

References

[1] Plato’s Republic

[2] Mersch, D. (n.d.) A Short History of “Truth” in Art Retrieved from https://www.diaphanes.net/titel/a-short-history-of-truth-in-art-4090.

[3] Ward, S. (2010). Emotion in Reporting: Use and Abuse. Retrieved from https://ethics.journalism.wisc.edu/2010/08/23/emotion-in-reporting/.

Keeping it Simple

I had the opportunity to visit my painting teacher recently to catch up with my painting skills. University study has meant less time to paint, so very little has been done in several months.

When you are in this situation, it doesn’t hurt to go back to the basics, to reinforce the techniques that make an ordinary painting into something special.

As I love landscapes and seascapes, and a seascape workshop spot was available I decided to pop in for the day.

David Chen, whose practice is only growing Australia-wide, spoke about the need to look at any subject as a series of forms, colours and tones. We often get caught up in the little details in a photo in particular, before looking at the ‘bigger picture’. This means we start fiddling around trying to imitate ‘reality’ instead of planning how we are to create an artwork that reflects our responses to the land and sea.

If we approach painting with the right mindset, we can create rather than imitating, changing what, in the beginning may look like a pretty dreary looking scene into something striking.

Below, see how my paintings evolved under the instruction from David as he indicated how to add colour to areas, and simplify forms to bring out the drama in a painting.

The first three works were under his direct teaching with his additions in the second example. The following two show a quick sketch begun at the end of the session, which I enhanced in my studio the next day.

Have a look at how tonal values, vivid colour, and warm and cool colours, are used to push and pull form and add to the perspective in all the examples.

Final version. Note how the darkening of the area on the mid-left is brining the foreground further forward.

With David’s input.Note the addition of reflctive colour in the mid area and clean greens and blues improves the sea.
The spots of vivid red also attract they eye to the focal point.

Original version.

Finished version. Darkening of tonal values add depth, effectively pulling the crashing wave from the background, and depth to the scene.

Original version.

Impressionism is not dead, nor is it’s modern application a sentimental reflection of 19th century fine art. I am a modern Impressionist painter and fine artist. This is a simple statement of who I am. As a modern Impressionist painter, I ‘see’ the environment differently, expressing my interpretation of the land and sea using Impressionist techniques and theories. As a fine artist I create paintings that are ‘historically reflexive’, and according to Beardsley “capable of affording an aesthetic experience valuable for [their] marked aesthetic character” (Davies, 2002. pp. 171-173). This may appear to be an outdated way of thinking confining me to a narrow perspective of who I am and what I do, but it is my opinion that an artist must develop a clear understanding of themselves and their work, to place them in context with (or against) the broader ‘Artworld’. This is in contradiction to Lieu, who states that the distinction between fine art and other definitions is artificial and that most art can be placed into any category (fine, visual, illustration) (Lieu, 2013. p. 5). Davies also argues that with the introduction of ready-mades by Duchamp in the early 20thcentury, the definition of art has only become more difficult. Their opinions, however, do not mean that I have to agree with them. As an informed and experienced artist, it is more important, in my view, to clearly establish my identity and purpose, whilst remaining mindful of the movement and artists that have inspired me.

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The Importance of Getting your Work “Out There”

Creating Art for the People

The depth of research, and explanation, must complement the setting and type of visitors attracted to the venue. The location at Heritage Hill, a listed residence including a restored homestead and buildings, acts as a base for the arts in Dandenong for residencies and exhibitions. 

It attracts tourists, and visitors wanting to fill in some time looking at the gardens and buildings. It follows, that an artist’s deeper meaning intended to inform and enlighten viewers, including art collectors, must be made evident by the resident artist.

According to Langer (1966), “The ancient ubiquitous character of art contrasts sharply with the prevalent idea that art is a luxury product of civilization, a cultural frill, a piece of social veneer”. She goes on to say:

“Wherever art takes a motif from actuality – a flowering branch, a bit of landscape, a historic event or a personal memory, any model or theme from life – it transforms it into a piece of imagination, and imbues its image with artistic vitality. The result is an impregnation of ordinary reality with the significance of created form.”

Assumption and preconceived ideas, such as the role of art in modern society, requires a catalyst to prompt discussions which a residency provides.

Consequently, the work space provided for a residency becomes a meeting place for artists, the art, and the viewer. In this modern context, the working artist illustrates to the public their skill, gained not so much by a ’natural gift’ or “genius”, as it is via practice, training, and education, and how art is relevant in modern society.

Art, therefore, now becomes a vehicle for the artist and viewer to connect on a very human level that predates written and verbal language.

Fine art, according to Kant in The Critique of Judgement (Kant, 1911), “has the effect of advancing the culture of the mental powers in the interests of social communication”. The pleasure from art, he goes on to say is “not one of enjoyment arising out of mere sensation, but must be one of reflection”.

Artworks typically capture a moment in time. The modern artist, due to current digital tools, can, however, create impressions of changes in the landscape. Such is the case in the sketches and paintings included in this book, that reveal how Dandenong grew from bush landscape, to a country town, and then to a thriving modern urban city with Heritage Hill as part of its historic centre.

The Residency Space at Heritage Hill

The residency space for artists is in Laurel Lodge, and for disabled artists, or those with large projects such as sculptors, the nearby outbuildings are also available.

The original bedrooms (upstairs) have plenty of room to draw and paint, and have tranquil views across the gardens. A small couch and seating was made available, along with a set of drawers, large table, and shelves in the master bedroom for this residency. Hanging space on the walls also made the room more inviting for tourists, and visitors to the property, who were welcome to come in to look at the work, and talk about the process of creating it.

The atmosphere of the property and the room itself encourages artists to concentrate on creating, researching, experimenting and producing artworks without the common distractions that can take them away from their work. Especially with a project in mind, it is possible to investigate and deepen artistic practice, and methodology, and pursue new subjects for substantial bodies of work.

As Heritage Hill was a part of the research I was investigating into the history and growth of the Dandenong area during my residency, it provided constant inspiration and a convenient location to base my research, and photography, sketching, and painting.

Research and the Artworks

It is thought by some historians, that the name Dandenong is taken from the indigenous word Tanjenong, meaning lofty mountain. This suits the nearby Mount Dandenong at 630 metres (2,066.93 feet) height, and its dominance of the landscape. As part of the Dandenong Ranges, it was formed more than 300 million years ago from volcanic rock, when a large area of sedimentary rock collapsed into an underlying magma chamber, creating ash flows along the vents.

This series of violent eruptions created four lava flows forming the mountain range, and leaving depressions called caldera, which have collapsed and eroded over time, to be hardly recognisable as the remnants of a volcanic event today.

It was this volcanic activity that laid the foundations for the lush soil, along with regular rainfall, that encouraged the growth of mountain ash, forest ferns and the proliferation of native wildlife like the superb lyrebird, honey eater and Leadbeater’s possum.

For thousands of years this area, extending into the wetlands near what is now Carrum, was the home of the Wurunjeri and Boonerwrung tribes of the Kulin Nation. The clans in what is now the City of Greater Dandenong were the Ngaruk Willam Bunurong and the Mayone Bulluk Bunurong. Sadly, the indigenous population declined severely as squatters took over large areas, with little understanding of the cultures they were disrupting and displacing. It has only been in more recent years that areas of cultural importance to original inhabitants have been protected by legislation and heritage management councils.

Artists are not often offered an opportunity to publicly work in a dedicated place of creativity and reflection. In the studio, we are bombarded with emails, phone calls, domestic duties and other distractions. The broken concentration, and inability to dedicate time to a single project can prove overwhelming at times, and can certainly detract from quality time in front of the easel.

Contrary to the myth of the solitary genius creating masterpieces by inspiration, most artists work diligently on not only refining their methods and styles, but also on research into the history of a topic they want to work on, how other artists work and what they are doing currently, and furthering their education. It isn’t unusual to spend 80% of your time as a professional artist on office paperwork (research, study, accounts, grants, exhibitions, supplies, studio management etc) with only 20% actually enjoying what you do best – creating art.

To create good or great art requires dedicated hard work and practice, it is a profession, a calling, and a passion. With that said, the opportunity provided by a residency to spend time away from the office, and outside pressures, to commit to creating art is one with an importance that should not be underestimated. 

Authorities and organisations that provide artist’s residencies and exhibition space understand the need for artists to have the time to work on creative projects, and it is appreciated by artists when we are approved to complete them whilst collaborating with the public arts sector.

On a personal note my Artist’s Showcase, the result of my research project at Heritage Hill, is in the Benga Homestead and will run until April 2019. All the paintings are for sale and the venue provides EFT facilities.

Why Reading the Labels on your Tubes of Oils is Important

You may have noticed that oils come in averiety of  ‘series’. The number of the series reflects the quality and intensity of the pigment, and the amount of them used in each colour. A good quality oil paint will have a nice buttery thickness as it comes out of the tube, and only a small amount will reveal a strong intense colour when mixed with white.

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Pigments and Binders

As you have been painting, you may have noticed that some paints dry faster than others, and some appear leaner or more transparent. This has to do with the original pigments that are used to create a colour.

Oil colours were originally made up from natural materials taken from the ground or plants, which in many cases have now been replaced by artificially manufactured alternatives. That made some colours very expensive, and in some cases very toxic, as things like arsenic and lead were used. These have since been banned in many countries for OH&S reasons. Artists who mixed their own oil paints prior to the creation of tubes durng the Impressionist period of the early 19th century, have used a variety of binders for mixing with the pigments, some modern artists still prefer to work this way, and access the raw materials for creating their own bespoke oils. Common binders over the years have been linseed oil, safflower oil, and lavender oil.

Each pigment in its raw state is made up of larger or smaller particles. These particles can be either smooth or rough. These differences will determine the amount of area that the binder needs to cover each particle, IE: how fat or lean the colour is. The amount required will change the way the paint reacts when applied to a surface, such as drying time, and how transparent the paint is. Many colours, especially in the less expensive brands, are now made up of manufactured pigments however it appears that the principle of how these man-made pigments react with binders is still relevant.

For example, cadmium red has a large area to cover as it has large smooth particles, but alizarin crimson has more area to cover because of the amount of small irriegular particles. Test these for yourself to see which is the fattest or more opaque by thinning the paints out with more medium like artist’s linseed oil. You may also ask at your art supplier if they have paints that have natural pigments and manufactured ones, so that you can sample each to determine which you can afford, and prefer to use by testing them.

For more info, and a video go to the link below. Thanks to Winsor & Newton for another informative mini masterclass.

Reference:

http://www.winsornewton.com/au/masterclass-video-oil-absorption-rates?dm_i=4QA7,GS1,FFRLV,1AGR,1.

Painting Nudes 2017

The Third Workshop Semester 2 with David Chen

The topic for this workshop was controlling tone. In a tonal painting you decide if you want to complete a dark, medium or light toned painting, you also decide on the temperature of your colours, which can be either overall warm or cool. The overall colour of the painting is decided as well.

So what you may decide on, depending on your preferences and taste as a painter could be an overall tonal painting that is in the cool reds and a middle to dark tone, to create some richness and drama.

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What is Colour Bias or Base Colour?

You may have noticed that when colour comes straight from the tube in oils, or other paints, that they may have a ‘look’ that may tell you what colour they have as a base. By this I mean that some blues for example may have a red base, others may have a green base, so they will naturally complement other colours with a similar base colour. A green based blue will sit nicely next to another green based colour if you want your painting to have colours that all work together and ‘relate’ to each other.

When mixing colours it is important to remember what colour base each one has so that you have a better idea of how the resultant colour will look. If you want to avoid a dull greyed off result, this is especially important. Also if you mix more than two colours together, then add white to lighten the tone, mixing the wrong colours will end up with a ‘muddy’ result.

Some effective experiments are to try mixing red based colours like Cadmium Red with Ultramarine Blue (remember that there are different Ultramarines available), you will get a brownish mix when white is added. Then try mixing Lemon Yellow with Prussian Blue as they have a green base, then a little white to lighten the tone.

As you experiment with your colours you will gradually learn that each colour fromthe tube, especially in oils, has a base colour that can be exploited. If you are a tonal painter, learning to control your colour mixes will help in creating beautiful tonal effects, and a huge variety of ‘greys’.

For more information about colour bias or base, look at the short video from Winsor & Newton at the following link, and happy painting.

http://www.winsornewton.com/au/masterclass-video-secondary-colour-bias