In Shanghai

Yes I am in Shanghai on the first leg of a month long visit to China. I first visited this city 30 years ago and not surprisingly things have changed.  The city skyline is unrecognizable, so many high rise buildings and motorways and even a Maglev train to the airport that travels at 431 km per hour, what an experience!
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This is the view from our room. I don’t have a scanner so the photos are a bit dodgy!
This is part of a wall in the 500 year old Yu Gardens.
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There may not be many posts as the wifi isn’t all that cooperative. We will see.

Arthur Boyd, Agony and Ecstasy

A major retrospective of Arthur Boyd’s work is currently on show at the National Gallery of Australia. Drawing largely on the donations of work that the artist made to the gallery in 1975, the show includes works in a range of media, from pen and ink, oil, oil and tempera, pastel and tapestry.

With a show of such magnitude I can only touch on a few points I found of interest. Firstly I agree with the friend who commented on the wide range of styles that Boyd employed or reflected over the years. To my mind Boyd’s early works went from reflections of the Heidelberg School (Australian Impressionism), then to a strong influence of the artist Albert Tucker. At the same time his drawings in pen, ink and wash have a decided renaissance feel to them, possibly enhanced by their mythological and biblical themes. By the time he gets to England you can see strong influences of Turner, particularly in his landscapes.

I also felt that the hanging series of work, such as the Nebuchadnezzar paintings and the ‘caged painter’ series, reset my response to many of the individual paintings I had previously seen. The Nebuchadnezzar series, depicts episodes in the wanderings of Nebuchadnezzar and includes quite lyrical works which I was unfamiliar with.

Arthur BOYD | Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the tree

Arthur Boyd, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the tree 1969 oil on canvas 174.5 h x 183.0 w cm, National Gallery of Australia, 1975.3.95

My favourite work was an oil, painted in 1979-80, titled A Skate in a Merric Boyd Pot. In this work a skate, an image which Boyd has painted many times, is merged with and is emerging from the type of pot that characterised the work of his father, the studio potter, Merric Boyd.

Skate in a Merric boyd Pot, pencil and watercolour, 15 October 2014

Skate in a Merric boyd Pot, pencil and watercolour, 15 October 2014

I spent a lot of time looking at the many examples of drawing displayed throughout the exhibition. Boyd showed the same facility with drafting, as did the young Picasso,  then proceeded to refine and simplify his style as he grew more experienced.

Arthur BOYD | Figure in a fountain with watching figures

Arthur Boyd, Figure in a fountain with watching figures 1944-1949 ink; paper , drawing in pen, brush and black ink 38.0 h x 56.0 w cm, national Gallery of Australia, 1975.3.1381

In his later works, the figures emphasise hands and feet, and faces are represented by blots for eyes and nostrils and small lines for mouths. These are no less powerful works for their brief notations. I tried to capture this focus in the quick study of the hands in one of the works in the St Francis tapestry series.

A detail of St Francis Turning Brother Masseo, pencil, eraser and watercolour, 15 October 2014

A detail of St Francis Turning Brother Masseo, pencil, eraser and watercolour, 15 October 2014

This final room is a fitting conclusion to the exhibition, showing nine of the 17 St Francis tapestries, designed by Boyd and superbly woven in Portugal at the Tapapecarias de Portalegre. As you approach, the works appear, glowing, quite literally with the strong colours Boyd used in his pastels, translated into the very large woollen tapestries.

For locals there are still another few weeks to see the exhibition, which runs until 9 November. Don’t be put off by the introduction of paid parking at the National Gallery. Visitors can validate their parking ticket at the cloak desk and will get free parking for 3 hours.

A little bit of Nookie

Earlier this week, at the Nookie Expresso Bar in the Canberra City centre I had one of the best coffees I’ve had in recent times and also found some fun drawing opportunities.

Firstly this ‘retro’ vibe flouro dinosaur planter.

You know how I like dinosaurs, flouro planter at Nookie, pen and ink, watercolour, 13 October 2014

You know how I like dinosaurs, flouro planter at Nookie, pen and ink, watercolour, 13 October 2014

Next up was an arrangement of water glasses and caraffes, against the pole supporting the roof awning. I used both my waterproof Copic liner and non-waterproof Lamy Safari pento make this drawing.

water glasses and caraffes, at Nookie, pen and ink and wash, 13 october 2014

water glasses and caraffes, at Nookie, pen and ink and wash, 13 october 2014

A day later and another cafe (our regular in Mawson) I drew this stack of chairs, pulled up out of the pouring rain.

Stacks of chairs, pen and ink, 14 October 2014

Stacks of chairs, pen and ink, 14 October 2014

Rear View

It is said that small things amuse small minds, but I’d like to change the saying to ‘small things engage inquiring minds’. I hope my latest drawing ‘tic’ falls into this latter category. Sitting, waiting in the car is something that most of us experience quite often, so I decided I should take advantage of this situation to indulge in a little drawing. I do want to emphasise that I only draw while the car is parked. I realised that there was often too much happening in all directions to quickly decide what to draw. So I decided I would draw what appeared in my car’s rear vision or wing mirror, or the mirrors themselves.

Rearview mirror and parking meters, ball point pen, 9 September 2014

Rearview mirror and parking meters, ball point pen, 9 September 2014

The more time I have, the more elaborate the drawings can get.

Wing mirror with open garage door, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 16 September 2014

Wing mirror with open garage door, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 16 September 2014

Of course I don’t always have my sketchbook to hand so when needs must, I grab one of the many car park tickets that seem to live in our car. This 5.5 x 8.5 cm (roughly 2 x3 “) format focuses the mind wonderfully!

'No parking' rear view mirror, ballpoint pen on car park ticket, 12 October 2014

‘No parking’ rear view mirror, ballpoint pen on car park ticket, 12 October 2014

One thing I noticed when I did this drawing was that if I use blind drawing technique to reproduce the writing I don’t make mistakes when I draw the reversed letters. Quite interesting.

Lunar Eclipse

Last night we enjoyed the spectacle of a total lunar eclipse in the most excellent viewing conditions. The sky was clear, at least in Canberra, so there was no need to do anything other than look. My partners’ photo on his  digital SLR (on a tripod) even captured ‘nearby’ stars.

Lunar eclipse at 847 pm Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDST), 8 October 2014

Lunar eclipse at 9.47 pm Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDST), 8 October 2014

With my handheld ‘point and shoot’ camera

Moveable moon, or shaky hands, 8 October 2014

Moveable moon, or shaky hands, 8 October 2014

you could only describe the results as having a certain ‘something’ about them.

My handheld shot, the moon dragging a 'tail', 8 October2014

My handheld shot, the moon dragging a ‘tail’, 8 October 2014

The artist in me did regret the absence of at least a few clouds as I suspect the colouring on them might have been quite something. In the end I made do with a watercolour to commemorate the event.

the 'blood' moon, watercolour, 8 October 2014

the ‘blood’ moon, watercolour, 8 October 2014

Of course the local comentariat, who had clearly watch too many episodes of The Vikings, insisted on calling this a ‘blood’ moon. To add to the astronomical frenzy it was also pointed out that there were two other ‘red’ objects in the western sky, Mars setting apparently close to Antares, (Alpha Scorpii) in the constellation of Scorpius, that could be seen at the same time. And a nice juxtaposition they formed too.

My description of the colour reflected on the moon was definitely closer to Burnt Sienna, than any of the true reds, but then … when I was checking the photos prior to posting today I noticed one thing. On the right hand side of the last picture I took (even with the dodgy handheld camera) you can just see a much darker red disk starting to occlude the lunar surface. Dang! I think we probably missed the deepest part of the eclipse.

On the upper right hand side of the photo you can just make out a darker red shadow starting to move across the face of the moon. 8.53pm EDST, 8 October 2014

On the upper right hand side of the photo you can just make out a darker red shadow starting to move across the face of the moon. 9.53pm EDST, 8 October 2014

OK, don’t panic, don’t panic! According to Aunty ABC, This last photo of mine was taken just 2 minutes before the peak of the eclipse. You can see more photos from the ABC website here.