Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quilt by Sue Benner

from w
Tomorrow I plan to go up to Melbourne to visit the Quilt Convention and Expo at the Exhibition Buildings Carlton. In today's Age there's an article about Sue Benner, a scientist who uses molecular inspired designs in her quilting. Great idea. Look here for more about Sue Benner.

Art and science squared ANDREW STEPHENS
April 30, 2010
WHEN she trained as a molecular biologist and later as a medical illustrator, Sue Benner had no idea that one day she would become a self-supporting artist on the strength of it. With a love of art and especially textiles, Benner, from Dallas, Texas, is visiting Melbourne for the Australasian Quilt Convention and Expo to give a tutorial and show her work. Known to some on the art-quilting circuit as ''the sewing scientist'', Benner produces a lot of imagery on her fabrics that relates to the natural world.

Cellular structures are a prominent feature. Her master's thesis in medical illustration included a series of quilts rich with the imagery of the microscopic cellular and tissue structure of the human testes. ''They let me do it because - well, they were pretty used to me by then,'' says Benner. ''I was always a sewer and when I was a little kid I wanted to be an artist. But I loved math and science, so I pursued it and settled on molecular biology.''

She didn't, however, care for scientific work: the equipment, the killing of test animals or being in a laboratory. She intended to get a job in medical illustration but someone told her she could sell her quilts because they were so good, so she started doing commissions and soon found herself a self-employed artist with big demand for her beautiful work.

''Now I see myself as an artist who has a great appreciation of how the world works,'' she says. ''I use that as my base. I started out doing cellular-type illustrations in textiles, using the patterning as direct inspiration, now I have a more abstract notion of structure and order. In my mind I am thinking about how biological forms are structured, yet I am working with textiles and the quilt.''

The work she is displaying at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens deals with ice-age geology and is called Walking Through Time.

- The Australasian Quilt Convention & Expo opens today and runs until May 2;

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gum leaves and flowers

from w,
Here are more digital image variations from the pen sketches of gum leaves and flowers - from reality to abstraction.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Frankly my dear...

from w
There's this splendid digital image in today's Age newspaper (no by-line of graphic designer) that I just had to post - the passion, the promise, and the uncontrollable Scarlett. Kevin Rudd had seemed articulate, committed, said some good words, but the complexity of the world these days just seems to be too much for him, and hence the disappointments. I don't think he would actually say those famous words, I just think, 'Frankly my dear... what else can I do!'

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Riding along in a campervan

When we realize that everyone has a unique life and many stories to tell, we can be attentive to friends, strangers, and those we know a little. On Saturday I went 40 minutes drive out of Geelong down the Great Ocean Road to a beautiful home set in garden and tall trees for a birthday. Peceli couldn't go so I needed a ride and asked a senior lady who I don't know well, a lady who dressed in bright colours, was animated, but I had never had much of a conversation with. Her name is Glad. I will be the navigator I decided, and will help direct this elderly lady as she timidly negotiated the way to near Anglesea. 'I'll pick you up in the van,' she had said.

Well, it certainly was a van - a campervan so I was tucked in the front near a two-way radio, and in the back was a kitchen a bed and everything needed for months away from home. Well, Glad took off in the van as if she'd been driving since she was a ten-year old! We headed for the Anglesea Road past dreadful road works and the end of the unfinished ring road. I would just have to look out for a number on the roadside. When the traffic was too heavy we drove past it so at the next turn-off she decided we could get back by driving down a rough fire authority track. Yes, we got there.

Her stories on the way going and back were marvellous, four times and more around Australia, being part of a network of people who camp in Winnebagos and home made campervans. She and her husband had totally renovated one van as the sprightly ones just won't negotiate some bush tracks. He died seven years ago but that did not stop her going off in the campervan, named Small Bees Knees. She just loved Australian outback. Going off the beaten track and finding an extraordinary canyon and river, she said, was like God telling me what a beautiful world we have. Oh, and I did ask her how old she was. Her reply was 'Eighty-seven!'
from w

Labels: , , ,

Gum leaves, gum flowers, wattle

from wYesterday I picked up some gum leaves, nuts, flowers to draw with an ordinary blue biro, then scanned the pictures in plus a scan of actual leaves etc. When a group of Fiji people were drinking kava and others were watching the football match in a home in Wyndam Vale I made the sketches, feeling a bit unsociable at the time. I really can't watch football too long. Then today I made a few variations mainly by overlapping two pictures at a time. The Australian trees may look ordinary from a distance but there are interesting shapes in the small details. Saturday I was at a property out of town and noticed the wattle was already blooming so that's quite early this year.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

North sculptures at the Waterfront

from w
When we first came to Geelong, the waterfront area and Eastern Beach were rather ordinary though we didn't mind at the time. Since then the Geelong Council have spent millions upgrading the place and it's neat and family friendly so well used by local and tourists. One area has these fine statues called 'North' that replicate sails perhaps. It's great to live in a city by the sea of course. Here are some digital images I made starting from a coloured pencil sketch which was mainly pink in colour.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 19, 2010


from w
From a photo of four white balls I played about with the shapes using different colours, overlapping, etc. to create a few variations. There are no titles but I like curved lines in a picture so got a bit carried away. The mood of a picture shifts with the different colours or tones so I guess an artist could just make up some title to suit! Meanwhile there's a party being organised in our back yard today as Peceli and friends are making an underground oven - taro, sweet potato, pork, chicken. There's enough food to feed a hundred people, so we had better start inviting the folk in the streets and lanes to eat it all later in the evening! The reason for the party - a visitor from Sydney who we didn't know a week ago! A guy from Gau Island in Fiji.


Sunday, April 18, 2010


from w
At the second venue for the Festival of Music in Geelong's Historical Churches we were at All Saints Anglican Church in Newtown, again a solid building like a rock of protection against the world. Somehow the idea of church design used to be tough solid walls, small windows, isolation from the outside world. And hard wooden seats. Thank goodness for some of the newer designs with comfortable seats, brighter sunlight, large windows, even views of the sky and trees outside. We were listening to a lovely choir - the Geelong Welsh Ladies's Choir as they prepared for a tour of New Zealand starting on Friday. No ash cloud down under.

Anyway I was thinking of the symmetry in ceiling design and order in the lining up of pews and repetitive shapes in walls and ceilings. (I wondered how different the front of the church would look if the colour was different, more jewel-like so made some alternations to post here. Also I played around a bit with a photo of one of the windows as I really don't go for such orderliness.) Perhaps religion is partly order from disorder, symmetry in a world of assymetry, safety as against danger, justice as opposed to injustice. We have a longing for some kind of order when there are accidents, bad things happening to good people, occasional chaos, sudden shifts in the earth such as volcanoes, earthquakes, cyclones. Rock of ages, cleft for me, the song goes. Safety from the storm. The stability of God as against the often foolishness of people.

And of course I was also listening to the lovely songs such as Cohen's Alleluia, The Rhythm of Life, You Raise me up, and a lovely song from New Zealand Go Now in Peace.

The third concert was in the Church of Christ which was a less colourful venue and lighter than the first two places. It was more of a chapel but again there was order and symmetry. The concert was really quirky using songs about Mary Magdalena, the good and the bad bits, with an actor (Sue Tweg, Director pf Drama at Monash University) reading poems and stories in between ancient Latin and French chants and songs, some accompanied by a kind of hand-held organ and a bowl shaped stringed instrument. The legends about Mary Magdalen here equated her with the sinner Mary, though I think they were two different women. There were also stories of Mary Magdalen going to France as a missionary. Some of the readings were perhaps controversial as from gnostic sources and risque French songs as well. It was a strange contradiction to me to have this group, called Acord, performed in a plain no-nonsense Protestant building but of course the intimacy was suited to four performers without microphones.After that recital we were provided with a lovely Devonshire tea spread to gird our loins for the next gig. There were two more concerts to go - but I decided to do my 20 minute daily walk - back to the bus-stand to go home as three out of five concerts were enough for one day!

Labels: ,

While I was listening

from w
On Saturday I attended three out of five concerts in the local festival of music in churches - fabulous music but hard wooden seats at two venues. Two art exhibitions were concurrent in St Mary's Basilica also - colourful joyful paintings by Veronika Dimac and floral arrangements by Ron Eichler. (photos above of artists with a sample of their work.)

During the first concert (as I can't keep still and attentive) I did small sketches in an A5 notebook at the same time immersed in the strong passionate music on the pipe organ by Rhys Boag with a trumpet player, Bruno Siketa. Many items were from this century and earlier - mainly Baroque, though I liked the modern ones best. Though I have some hesitations about the pipe organ as an accompaniment to congregational singing when there is only a small group of singers, in a concert situation the music is stunning. Rhys Boag is the organist/music leader at St Michael's Melbourne (but I don't hold that against him just because the preacher-man, Rev Francis McNab, there has become new-age.).

Labels: ,

Friday, April 16, 2010

At an art show

click on picture to see enlarged.
from w
The Grovedale Rotary Art Show was on this evening and as usual I did my share of taking food and Peceli had spent time helping cart display boards and so on. It was a crowded venue which is good because the club was fundraising for the daily free breakfasts and some dinners given to poor and needy people at Christ Church (Anglican) in the city. Here are a few photos we took, put together quickly.

To me the most important moments were not looking at the art, listening to a speaker, eating fine finger food but the one-to-one conversations when meeting with friends I don't see often, or with strangers. Strong stories can be shared in a few minutes. I'm not comfortable in cocktail kind of gatherings with the noise, the standing around trying to hold a drink, snack food, a bag and camera all at once! Out on the cool of the verandah I enjoyed speaking with one or two people at a time. Of course an opener in a conversation at times was 'What do you think of the winner of the Wynne?'

The photo I think is the best is this one of one of the clients of the breakfasts at Christ Church who had come along to see the paintings.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Anything you can do I can do better

from w
Now when we are thinking of Australian landscape - the occasional chaos, randomness, scribbly lines, the claustrophia of forests, the openess of deserts, I think my little efforts fulfill the requirements of the art prize more than Mr Leach eh! That's if I bother to turn digital images into 'real' paintings. Though there's an element of plagiarism, pinching a pic and pasting from Picasa perhaps?


Play it again Sam

from w
Sometimes artists copy, nick, steal,appropriate, forge, mimic, pay homage to, make a caricature of, other artists' works. But now we have a winner of the Wynne that is a definite copy - well 95% of it. As often the case there are squabbles about art prizes but this one takes the cake when you compare the winner with a very old Dutch painting. It should not have won the prize mainly because it is not 'an Australian landscape' though I guess the artist rationalizes that the European influence on Australia tidies up the landscape and idealizes it. It's like one of those early paintings by the new settlers where they couldn't 'see' that the Australian light is different.

Anyway here's what the papers have said (and there's much more of course!)

Nothing Australian about this cut-and-paste copy
• Bill Leak From: The Australian April 15, 2010 12:00AM

IN music, what used to be called plagiarism is now known as sampling. Everyone does it and nobody cares. Sampling, or reinterpreting, the works of other artists has been common practice in the visual arts right down the ages and nobody cares about that either. So why the fuss when an artist samples a picture painted by a 17th century Dutch master, passes it off as his own work and trousers a prize worth $25,000 for his pains?

The answer lies in the official terms and conditions of entry for the prize in question which, in this case, is the Wynne Prize for landscape painting or figurative sculpture They state, rather quaintly but unequivocally, that the prize will be awarded annually for "the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours". When it comes to the recent travesty involving the awarding of the Wynne Prize, the relevant part of this particular requirement is that the painting must be "of Australian scenery".

It proves beyond doubt that the cut-and-paste job done by this year's winner, Sam Leach, is a tawdry case of someone managing to slip one past the judges while being fully aware that his work was in direct contravention of the rules. If Leach had included Homage to Adam Pynacker in the long-winded title he bestowed on his painting (Proposal for landscaped cosmos) he might have earned himself some points…..etc

Also from The Australian newspaper

FELLOW Wynne finalists have turned on winning painter Sam Leach, demanding Art Galley of NSW trustees adhere to the $25,000 prize's rules that it be awarded to an Australian landscape. Gallery director Edmund Capon yesterday also backtracked from his original dismissal of concerns about the Melbourne artist passing off an appropriation of a 17th century Dutch painting of an Italian landscape as a futuristic Australian landscape. Mr Capon yesterday listed the topic for discussion at the gallery's next board meeting after Sydney gallery owner Martin Browne sent letters to the AGNSW's 11 trustees calling for Leach's copycat landscape to be disqualified from the prize because it is not an Australian landscape.

Leach said his Proposal for a landscaped cosmos depicted an idealised world but the painting he now acknowledges he referenced, Adam Pynacker's 1660 Boatmen moored on the shore of an Italian lake, clearly depicts an Italian landing… Leach said he had seen Pynacker's original painting in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, but when painting landscaped cosmos, he worked from a copy of Boatmen moored published on the museum's website. He didn't trace the outline but worked from eye… (So, what difference does that make – it is still a 90% copy!)
Of course I pinch pics off the internet, play around with photos at times that are not my own, but I do try to acknowledge this fact. Sam Leach didn't even move the shapes, colours, textures along at all and I just don't see the point he's making except that he is perhaps trying to take the Mickey...
and from the Age
Sydney Morning Herald art critic, John McDonald, said Leech's painting was 'basically a copy' of Pynacker's canvas with minor changes - most noticeably the removal of the boat and figures - and that there was unwritten assumption in the prize that it was for an original, Australian landscape. But Leach was a serious artist who liked to play visual games and use past images, he said. 'I don't think Sam is really the villain here. I think it's the judges who are culpable for making a rather silly decision … It is an embarrassment for the art gallery. It shows up how little judgment they showed.'
Click on picture to see enlarged.

Labels: , ,