Australian Fine Artist

Radiance: The Neo-Impressionists at the NGV

A nice thing about a second visit to this exhibition is the opportunity to select your favourites for a study, both close up and from across the room. For example Maximilien Luce’s San Tropez paintings, in particular the one with a path and man walking towards you. there is no doubt about the sunlight and shadows in it. As you step back the colours merge to a scene that you feel you could walk into. The feeling of the warm sun and cool shadows is so evident in this painting.

Revisiting also gives an opportunity to try to examine how the paintings were done. How important the composition is to each work and what happens if you cover a feature in a painting. It is interesting that one item links to another, holds the composition together and leads the eye around the scene. If you take out one of them, the painting doesn’t “work” as well. This shows the amount of thought and planning that goes into a successful painting. Even a little object in the background can be very important in holding the composition together.

As we have our upcoming camp and production of 9×5 paintings looming, I was very interested in the smaller works in the exhibition. How can I keep the application of paint simple, direct and clean and still make it understandable and interesting, as well as having a clear subject? For this I studied Georges Lemmen. Side by side was two paintings with one having bold larger strokes of paint to indicate things like the foam on the tops of waves, with the painting to it’s right having loads of small dabs of paint that blended together as you stepped back a little. The alternating warm and cool colours blended together to create form as the warms came forward in the eye and the cools receded.

As on my last visit I was drawn to Lucés evening and night paintings with their strong contrasts, crisp edges and beautiful use of pinks, cool vivid greens, mauves and deepest blues. These were city scenes which usually are not my favourite subjects, but these were stunning. Not that I was so star struck that I didn’t take the time to try to pull apart how they were done. I spent quite a bit of time during this visit to examine paintings that I particularly like. My best estimate is that some blocking in was done to cover large areas and then the work was done, possibly in several session to layer in the huge amount of dabs, dashes and dots to build up the layers of alternating colours and temperatures. He again caught my attention with his piece “Coffee 1892”. The form of the pots and jars plus the attention to detail and interesting perspective as well as the story being told, the movement in the figures, all made the painting interesting both from a technical and mere observer’s point of view.

In some of Seurat’s work such as “The Bec du Hoc” you can see the painted in lines marking the edges of objects such as cliff edges. He seems to have then gone in later with the familiar dots and dabs of paint.

Probably my favourite painting of the exhibition was the lady in the blue dress. “Portrait of Lice Sethe” by Theo van Rysselberghe. From a distance you can’t tell the quantity of dots of paint that go into making the folds of the dress, the textures and the lovely skin tones. This painting is also BIG, it hangs through the doorway  in a space that allows you to observe it from a fair distance – and for me, it dominates the room. In contrast to Seurat’s sometimes stiff looking women, this young lady is “soft” with gentle curves and flowing lines and a real “far away” look in her very pale blue eyes.

I am very glad to have had the opportunity to revisit these paintings. I have had a chance to discuss them with tutors, as well as other students and learn more from many of them.

As an add on to this report:

We called in to see the Bea Maddock exhibit (printmaker). Which even though I have decided not to follow up with print making this year, had some lovely techniques and interesting applications. Just because it’s print making it doesn’t mean you can’t apply some ideas to other mediums.

We also went through the Contemporary Indonesian Art exhibition and in one room was a brilliantly done video using traditional Chinese style drawing with loads of layers of video of traffic, waterfalls, boats, the sea, tiny video screens, cranes etc. They were stitched together so seamlessly and had me going around for quite a while looking at all the little bits that were moving around. That for me was a really stand out piece.

In Flinders Lane we visited numbers 185 and 45 galleries. The preliminary drawings for jewellery making were very interesting, but to be honest I often find modern contemporary art leaves me a bit cold and the prices hard to believe. I actually enjoyed some work in a gallery that was not on our list, done by Josh Robbins. He leaves out parts of his subjects (in this case beautiful colourful birds) leaving you as the viewer to fill in the gap. He also used the natural patterns and knots in the wood panels he painted on as an important part of his designs.

Last call of the day was the Old Treasury Building. Not only is it enjoyable for me to wander through this building appreciating the architecture and feel of this place with it’s very high ceilings, ornate paint work and wood panelling but it was interesting to see the exhibit about the painted trams we had during the 1980s and 1990s. Nice work Philip, what a great gig to get! It reminded me that my dad was a tram conductor in the 1940s. I have a picture of my mum posing in his uniform for fun, so the personal connection is there.

Overall a great day out, in good company, an enjoyable lunch and more broadening of the horizons and clarifying what really attracts my attention, what doesn’t so much and how it was done – hopefully.

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