Drawing the exhibition – Bodies of Art

Bodies of Art: Human form from the national collection, is currently on display in the downstairs sculpture rooms of the National Gallery of Australia. I spent the morning there quietly sketching away. The exhibition is a stimulating mix of sculpture, paintings, photography and video works which provided me with lots of interesting compositions to work on.

My first sketch was a grouping of stone sculptures, Torso, 1948 by Rosemary Madigan and Number 24, Harry Boyd by Robert Klippel and a third piece, an Anthropomorphic monument [gowe nio niha], (19th century or earlier) from the island of Nias in Indonesia. I was instantly drawn to the sandstone used in the two Australian works. The deep gougemarks on the Klippel sculpture acted like lines drawn across the surface. In contrast the smoother texture of Madigan’s work supported the subtlety of her torso’s carved planes.

Left to Right, Torso; Anthropomorphic Figure; Number 24, Harry Boyd, graphite with added watercolour

Behind me was an interesting juxtaposition of a hanging work by Giulio Paolini, Aria (Air), 1983 and beyond that, Triptych, 1970, by Francis Bacon.

Paolini’s work consists of two photographs of a renaissance sculpture sandwiched between perspex and hang from a steel cable. The work slowly gyrates beneath the high gallery ceiling, while underneath lies a piece of shattered glass. Behind it hangs Bacon’s equally fractured figures, curiously feeling much more grounded and solid than Paolini’s figure does.

Giulio Paolini, Aria (Air), 1983 and Francis Bacon, Triptych, 1970, pencil with added watercolour

While I drawing the partial elements of the Bacon triptych into this sketch, I became quite intrigued by the figures in the work’s central panel. After a restorative cup of coffee and some biscuits in the Member’s Lounge I returned to my final sketch of the day, the detail of the central panel.

There is certainly scope for more drawing here, so I will plan to make it back there soon.

All the sketching was done in the gallery and the watercolour was added afterwards.

Brett Whiteley – Drawing is Everything

This week we had a two hour window to see one exhibition in Sydney, before we had to catch our bus back to Canberra. So Brett Whiteley ‘Drawing is Everything’ was the unanimous choice.

Arriving early, before the gallery opened, I took the opportunity to sketch Gilbert Bayes PBRS sculpture ‘The Offerings of Peace’ (1923), from across the road. In honour, no doubt of my artistic endeavours, I was duly shat upon by Pied Currawong sitting in the tree overhead.

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The Offerings of Peace, Gilbert Bays, PBRS, 1923

On entering the gallery we were immediately caught up in the vitality of Whiteley’s works, predominantly made with pen and ink and brush an ink. It was fascinating to see how Whiteley intensely studied the works of Van Gogh, Lloyd Rees and other artists as he developed his own style.

The gallery was encouraging visitors to draw while visiting the show, providing pencils and a small A4 folded piece of paper.

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Her‘, carvings in Mangrove wood, 1975 to c. 1980 (LHS); a quote by Whiteley “A good drawing (should be) loose, casual, abandoned, odd, wonky, immediate,swift, detached, +soaked in feeling, it should be brief, not just spare or simple, not just quick, It should be brief, beautifully brief, like the best Japanese art, like the soul’s shorthand.”

Luckily I also had my own paper as there were several other sketches I wanted to make.

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After Brett Whiteley, Wendy Drunk, 1983, original, brush and black and brown ink. My version, pencil on paper.

It was intriguing to see how Whitely playfully amalgamated and created images, such as the following sketch of Matisse, putatively sitting in the Luxembourg Gardens, reading a newspaper.

After Brett Whiteley, Henri Matisse reading a newspaper in the Luxembourg Gardens, 1989 ink and brush. My version pencil on paper with watercolour added later.

Much as I enjoyed sketching in the gallery, the relative stiffness of the pencil sketches, compared to the brush works in particular, was underlined by a quote by Whiteley “Have you ever seen a pencil drawing that isn’t safe?” (p9, Brett Whiteley Drawings, Lou Klepac, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2014)

Brett Whiteley: Drawing is Everything
Art Gallery of New South Wales, on until 31 March 2019

Rome is your friend!

The latest ‘blockbuster’ exhibition at the National Museum of Australia is ‘Rome’, something of a novelty for those of us who live far away from the marching legions. The exhibition is from the collection of the British Museum.

Head of Faustina

Luckily for us the British Museum has packed up plenty of booty and sent it down under. The sculptures are the most impressive elements of the show. I was particularly intrigued by the decorative detail on the armour of Hadrian.

A view of the central section of the exhibition.

I had lots of fun trying to capture those details with my pencil. The watercolour background was added in while we were having lunch in the cafe.

My sketch of the statue of Hadrian.

A more poignant statue was a commemorative work of a woman holding a bust of her, presumably dead husband. A nice touch was a small figure at her left shoulder, which is carved like the end of a sofa (see the photo below), which concealed a vase for placing flowers.

Funary monument of a woman holding a bust.

I was interested to see that many of the pieces in the exhibition were excavated in the British Isles, which was a bit different from what I had expected. Many visitors were particularly taken by the coin hoardes and the legionary’s helmet.

Carved end of a sofa.

The fun will continue until 3 February 2019. Until then signs on our local roadways are reminding us that ‘all roads lead to Rome’.

Drawing the Exhibition – Ruebens, Painter of Sketches

One of the current temporary exhibitions at the Museo del Prado is Reubens, Painter of Sketches, by which they mean oil sketches, works on canvas or panel made in preparation for other finished works.

Reubens did, of course, use other drawing media for preparatory works. I struggle with the high finish of his completed canvasses, so the lively brushstrokes he employs in these compositional studies proved much more to my taste.

One of the Victories, part of a sketch on the unity of England and Scotland intended for the Guild Hall, London

His figures, particularly those suspended in mid air, such as the Victory above, or other contorted poses, provide a demonstration of his mastery of human anatomy and are excellent models for copying. I doubt even the most skilled life model could pull this pose off.

It was also a lovely touch for me to see Reubens quoted talking about drawing antique statues. “Artists should use Ancient statues as models, but the figures based on them should be painted to look like flesh not stone.” Included in the exhibition is a study for Prometheus, based on pen and ink studies he made of the Farnese Hercules.

The works on display show a range of ‘finish’. A series of very small studies for decorations of a house (a pretty palatial one) at the end of the exhibition particularly caught my eye. In the Triumph of Bacchus, 1636, the rather corpulent god is supported by a faun while he gropes a nearby young lady.

The Triumph of Bacchus, 1636, oil on panel. My sketch graphite on paper.

I was genuinely engaged by this exhibition and would recommend it to anyone who will be in Madrid before it closes on the 5th of August 2018. NB temporary exhibitions are not accessible during the free access hours at the museum.

Sketching with Rodin

I had the pleasure of meeting up with members of Urban Sketchers Paris last weekend, both days actually (but that’s another post). On Sunday we went sketching at the MusĂ©e Rodin in Varenne.

There was so much to see and sketch at the Musée Rodin, that I stayed for the whole day.

Sketching in Room 14 at the Musee Rodin, that’s a partially made model, not just my wonky drawing.

I was particularly inspired by the various studies and preparatory works for Rodin’s sculptures. I also enjoyed seeing Rodin’s collection of classical sculpture fragments. The wall of toes and feet was my favourite.

Room 17 with the collection of classical toes

I then moved to the next room along to draw these two torsos. One a ‘Muse’ and the other a model for ‘Polyphemos’. The pose for Polyphemus was extraordinary, the right knee lifted almost up to the face. Although, having since looked at more finished versions of this sculpture online, I can see that the figure is kneeling and leaning over, so the pose is less strange than it appears with they way this model is mounted.

Muse, 1907, Room 18 of the Musee Rodin

Large torso and various studies for Polyphemus, Musee Rodin

Mid-afternoon there was a special performance by Cambodian dancers, in the museum gardens, which was designed to allow sketchers to draw the dancers in tradtional dance poses. Unfortunately for the dancers the beautiful weather of the previous week had been supplanted by a gloomy day of 14 ° C. Wearing only their stunning traditional costumes designed for hot and humid Cambodia, the dancers were literally turning blue from the cold. I can only say that we truly appreciated their efforts to perform under such trying circumstances.

Drawing the exhibition: Porosity Kabari

Porosity Kabari (Nishi Gallery, New Acton, Canberra) is a collaboration between Trent Jansen, Richard Goodwin and Ishan Khosla. The trio “investigates the cycle of use, re-use (and further re-use) – and how we can, simply, use one thing to make another thing.” Using only materials and skills sourced from the ‘Chor Bazaar’ (Thieves Market) and the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, the outcome is a series of objects that fascinated me with their detail and juxtapositions, and showed an enjoyable lack of concern for ‘perfect’ functionality.

My first sketch was of Trent Jansen’s ‘Dropping a Kumbhar Wala Matka Vessel’, 2016. This work is composed of three photographs of the potter Abbas Galwani dropping ones of his pots on the ground, along with a number dropped pots that have subsequently been fired with all their distortions and cracks. Jansen’s work is a riff on Ai Wei Wei’s 1995 work ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’. (Ai Wei Wei’s work gives me the same squirmy sensation as fingernails scraping on a blackboard). But Jansen is drawing a different observation on ‘value’. These pots are in widespread use but their makers gets little respect for their skills and only minimal financial returns for their labour.

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Dropped Jugs, from Dropping a Kumbhar Wala Matka Vessel’, 2016. by Trent Jansen. My sketch, pen and ink, coloured pencil and watercolour

The second sketch is of one of Ishan Khosla’s ‘Constructed-Deconstructed-Constructed’ series, 2016. These works are made from scavenged wood and odd bits of old furniture. Either a stool or a table, take your pick, these pieces have their own aesthetic which Khosla calls “do first think later”‘

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‘Constructed-Deconstructed-Constructed’ , 2016, by Ishan Khosla. My sketch pen and ink

Two sketches was as much as I could manage while standing up to draw, (no stools were available). So I will finish off with photos of two pieces that I really responded to by Richard Goodwin.Twin Charpai Exoskeleton for Mumbai, 2016, Richard Goodwin

This final piece really spoke to my own explorations of stitch, and I always enjoy a good wrapped object!

Klein Chair, 2016, Richard Goodwin

The exhibition finishes on 9 July, at the Nishi Gallery, New Acton, Canberra.

 

Drawing the exhibition -Robert Hannaford 

On a visit to  Adelaide a week ago we saw the retrospective of the work of Robert Hannaford, a South Australian portraitist, at the Art Gallery of South Australia. It was fascinating to see what 50 years of work looked like, particularly the many self portraits Hannaford has made over that time. I also enjoyed seeing that he made the type of quick sketches in coffee shops and bars that many of us make, which are worthwhile in themselves.  

What did surprise me were two sculptures that were included in the show. His understanding of the figure in space I found to be even more compelling than his painted portraits. As I was with other people opportunities for sketching were limited.  I  sketched two versions of his bronze sculpture ‘Handstand’.

Rather wonky, but I couldn’t resist the dramatic shadow being cast by the left leg over the torso of the sculpture

You can find more of his work at his website