Australian Fine Artist

Visual Art Arts Excursion July 18 2012

I have left it a day before writing this posting as we had four exhibitions to attend of which the Fred Williams was the main feature. In a way I wish we had left it at that as a couple of the exhibitions I could have given a miss. However I will presevere with writing about all four.

Fred Williams

Fred Williams was born in 1927 in Melbourne. He received art training from the National Gallery School in Melbourne where students were taught to draw and paint in an academic or traditional manner. He also received training from the artist George Bell and was very influenced by him during his student years.

Fred Williams’ work showed us the bush in a manner that had not been done before his time. As I wandered around the works I noticed his use of strong horizon lines that were shifted up and down to the traditional thirds rule and kept very bold to create a dramatic effect. Some of the pieces were using lots of browns and blacks which I found a little depressing even though I know that especially after a fire, these colours dominate the landscape. In other areas William’s paintings had splashes of brilliant colour and his multiple panels showing the sea done in gouache were serene and full of light.

The landscapes of very minimal detail or information were not my favourites even though I could intellectualise what he may have been on about. I found I didn’t connect with them as much as where there was a bit more information and use of brighter colour. The painting of Sturts Desert Peas with it’s strong use of reds was probably my favourite of the exhibition. It was really bold and attracted my attention from quite a distance away. Following these were the full figure portraits. A couple were so three dimensional that you imagined them stepping out of the frame. Not done in what I think of as a realist manner, they still appeared real and full of character. The colour and application of the paint was beautiful.

The Lady and the Unicorn – Arthur Boyd
Art Play at Birarrung Marr

What I liked more than the artworks here was the organising of the event for inclusion of kids and students. I had a look at the book for the teachers with the poetry in it and the handouts for the kids.

I found it hard to reconcile the prints with the poetry, and a few others had the same thoughts. Some of the prints were either confusing or a bit “in your face” to me. So in this case the organising of the event and the planning as a teaching event was more interesting to me than the actual things on display.

We Are All Flesh – Berlinde de Bruyckere
ACCA – Southbank

This exhibition is the main reason why I have delayed writing this for a day. I have never had a reaction to anything like I did with this. Admittedly I was warned by a couple of other students on the way in that I wouldn’t like it. I didn’t know why until I walked through the doorway to the first displays.

I have been told since that it is planned to expose us to some things that may have a shock value. This is a risky idea when you have a mix of students in not only age but cultural and social backgrounds. You just don’t know how they will react.

My reaction was something that took me by surprise as well as probably the tutors. I could not believe what I was looking at, I thought that it could not be real or what I thought I was seeing was misunderstood. I then realised as I looked closer that it was real and then I started having the reaction.

I can only put it down to this. I have loved horses and riding since I was two years of age. I have had the misfortune of having my first horse die in my arms about twelve years ago and have had my favourite dog and cow put down due to illness in the past few years. They are still open wounds it seems. I also have a real and strong opinion about how we treat all the animals in our care or even in the wild.

I could only relate this to hanging up the skin or carcase of any pet I had in my life and having to look at it, distorted and contrived into something offensive to me – and making money from the display. The stitching of two bits of horses together so they even lost their individuality was the most upsetting. If you can create other pieces with different artificial materials (such as other ones I looked up on the web by this artist), why not these?

If we are to go to other exhibitions with similar “shock” value I think I would like to be warned in advance, as I don’t need the sneak attack on my nerves. To me this is not art it is sensationalism.

Brent Harris at the NGV

Brent Harris’s works were mostly prints. I liked his clever use of colours in his woodcuts and I now appreciate the skill in registration when doing hand printing with several plates even more. Colours and shapes flowed around the prints. I liked all the series’ of prints that he did and he had a few very nice paintings there as well. Brent had bold colour and shapes in everything!

Not necessarily a style I would choose all the time, but I would be tempted to try it out. His little oils were full of colour and life which I liked a lot and some of the prints were even a bit of fun (but that may have been my weird interpretation).

Finishing off the Day

As a little treat to myself and to detox after the ACCA, I went around to the 16thC portrait rooms. I immersed myself in the gorgeous oils of many faces and fabrics, with light and shadow filling the frames. The more I take time to look at the techniques of these paintings the more I realise that with clever use of the brush and paint, rich texture can be achieved with not as much fiddly work as you would think. The eyes were looking back at me, then there was the moist fullness of  lips and little strands of hair around the faces, lots of little details to wonder at… and I felt a bit better.

Another day of learning and experiencing. My thanks to all my colleagues and tutors for their company and friendship during the day.

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