Australian Fine Artist

Venue: MPRG

Date: 27 March 2013

Landscape of Longing covers the artworks of three generations of the same family as they recorded their holidays over a sixty year span at Shoreham on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. MPRG devoted a separate area to each artist so that visitors could appreciate the differences in the materials, style, influences and methods used.

I started with this exhibit first as I have a personal interest in landscape, especially the peninsula area as that is I live and practice my art. I also think that it is a beautiful part of our state and worth recording as an artist.

Hal Hattam (Harold Bickford – Professional name as a doctor?)

Hal Hattam was an important member of the Melbourne modern art scene and was also a successful obstetrician and gynecologist which provided him the income to collect major works by several contemporaries such as Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, John Perceval and Fred Williams with whom he quite often painted.

Hattam joined Fred Williams and John Perceval on painting excursions to regional Victoria including Lysterfield, the Dandenongs and Wheelers Hill. He also forged close friendships with Dale Hickey and Robert Jacks and leading figurative painter John Brack. Hal found inspiration in broad seascapes and painted extensively around Shoreham, Victoria and Fraser Island, Queensland.  He worked to integrate key principals of colour-field abstraction (abstract painting in which color is emphasized and form and surface are correspondingly de-emphasized) into his landscape painting further defining his style.

The Hattam family is acknowledged as being the first private collectors to embrace the art of Fred Williams, collecting a large group of paintings beginning in 1958. Williams significant influence in Hattam’s work can be seen in the paintings on display in this exhibition at MPRG.

Comment: As soon as I saw his paintings I thought of Fred Williams works. I must say at this point that Williams’ style of painting is not my favourite, so Hal’s was not really either. They fall into the appreciation of another style and liking for large sweeping areas of colour and texture in paint but no real deep or emotional connection. It is not a style I would consider incorporating into my own in the near future. One more thing… after reading up on Hal’s biography further I had one big question answered. “How did he afford to have a holiday home on the Peninsula, a home in the leafy suburb of Canterbury, holidays painting in Queensland etc?” He was a specialist doctor and that income supported his lifestyle.

Katherine Hattam

Katherine completed a Master of Fine Art in Painting at the Victorian College of the Arts and later completed a PhD at Deakin University. Prior to these Katherine undertook a degree in Literature and Sociology/Political Science at the University of Melbourne.

Katherine’s style is very different. She incorporates digital processes and geometric design into her works at this exhibition. The inscribing over wood surfaces giving a soft and almost velvety quality to some. The subjects are different to Hal’s with interior themes overtaking those of the outside and every day objects displayed with a decorative rather than realistic view.

I also found her work interesting and some very attractive, but as with Hal’s paintings, not a style which I would use in my own application.

Will McKinnon

William was born in Melbourne 1978 and lives and works in Melbourne. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Melbourne University , a Master of Visual Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts and a Post Graduate Diploma from Chelsea School of Art and Design in London. He has also worked as a field officer for Papunya Tula Artists, was artist in residence at Mankaja Arts at Fitzroy Crossing, studio assistant for Tim Maguire, print-making assistant for Kim Westcott and has catalogued the Roger Kemp Estate.

This section of the exhibition space held drama, mostly because of the sheer size of Will’s works. He uses darks to dramatic effect either with silhouettes of trees against light backgrounds of the foreshore or night views from vehicles across the street lights and house lights along the bay shoreline. Items are sometimes kept out of focus to create movement and the sense of capturing a moment.

I found these paintings of interest because of the clever use of darks and perspective. Again, not a style I could see myself using, but still interesting enough to make me look for a while to see how they may have been done, and to enjoy the finished effects.

Comment: The inclusion of the artist’s sketchbooks was great to see in this exhibition. We don’t often see the processes that artists go through when planning a painting. There was not only the sketches in these books, there was working notes about colours, scraps of images and photos pasted in and instructions covering how items were to be placed in the finished piece.

“Look” the Art of Australian Picture Books

This was the second exhibit that I looked at. Taking up the other half of the gallery space, there was a lot to see and it was all done in a variety of mediums and methods. Materials were anything from gauche to digital to acrylics, paper folding, paper sculptures to pastels.

What is good about this exhibit is that any age could enjoy it. You didn’t have to be an adult or artist to enjoy the very beautiful works in this area. Whilst we were there a group of school kids were completing their visit and looked very involved and enjoying the experience.

The style of art varied from very realistic, to what we may see framed as a “traditional” painting to characatures and very imagined images. I loved seeing a few 150 year old illustrations of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party by Lewis Carroll. Over all some very beautiful artworks which brought back memories for me of the books I read as a child, and gave indication of the direction of story books being published today. Some were funny, some sentimental, some had a message.

Comment: Even as an artist who is not looking at a future illustrating books I found this very interesting. I appreciate the skills needed to put together books from a graphic designer’s point of view and have worked with illustrators in the past for publishers, so it held my interest from that perspective. I also liked the video of artists talking about their process of creating their artworks. It is always good to get it “from the horse’s mouth”.

49 Sheds

This exhibit is in the back of the foyer at MPRG. The photos which are part of a much larger collection, show the recording of sheds of all types around the country. They seem to tell their own story as you look at them in all their various stages of decay by use by the builders or weathering from nature’s forces. I couldn’t help wondering where they were and if I had passed some of them in my travels in the past. I actually enjoy drawing and painting old sheds and farm buildings to create a story or prompt the imagination of people who may view them.

I made a list of reactions in one word (if possible) to cover my thoughts about this exhibit.

  • Unique
  • Strange
  • Lonely
  • Neglected
  • Picturesque
  • Textural
  • Australian (materials and colours)
  • Similar but different
  • Reflections of rural life in Australia and how it has changed over the years.

Comment: Sometimes I cringe a little before entering exhibitions that we are sent to explore. A few have been to a few very confronting ones and one had me very upset. Whilst some think that it is the job of artists to be on the bleeding edge and to bring controversy and hard to deal with subjects to the fore for display and conversation I am not one of them. After dealing with a lot of hurt and pain in my life I really am over it, and I think there may be a lot of others who feel the same way.

We watch movies to escape from reality for a while, we read a good book for the same reason. I think we put art on our walls for the same thing – to bring out the memories of joy, of peace, harmony, pleasure – positive emotions. I can say that at these three exhibits there was a lot of the above, outweighing any “significant messages” hidden in or included in the images. I really enjoyed it.

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