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.

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 Musée 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, Rodel Tapaya

Earlier this year we went to a talk at the National Gallery of Australia by Philippine artist Rodel Tapaya.  His work is an exuberant mix of the contemporary, political and the mythic. 

Modern Manananggals, 2013, wood, brass, silver, fibreglass, epoxy and oil paint

The sculptural work I sketched, above, of suspended figures holding suitcases comments on the impact on the children of parents forced to work overseas. He uses the image of the manananggal, the Philippines equivalent of the vampire. These creatures leave the lower half of their body behind, as they fly off nightly to drink the blood of pregnant women. The contention of this work is that Philippino parents earn an income by leaving their own children behind to work as carers for other people’s children.

Drawing the exhibitions, Singapore

I only had limited opportunity to sketch while I was in Singapore  in May. Travelling with non-drawers meant that sketching was more of a challenge.

We did make it to the National Gallery of Singapore which is interesting not only for the art it contains, but also for its new architectural structure that joins and transforms two historic buildings, the former Supreme Court and City Hall.

The joy for me is finding artists whose work I haven’t seen before. I’m a bit of a modernist so it’s no big surprise that Dora Gordine’s sculptures caught my eye. Because the gallery had quite a number of Gordine’s sculptures I assumed there must be a strong link to Singapore. However I haven’t been able to find a link other than that she was commissioned to make sculptures for the Singapore City Hall in 1935. Gordine worked mainly in London. The work below was made in 1949.

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Serene Jade, Dora Gordine, 1949, Bronze

I can’t leave the NGS without mentioning the paintings of Georgette Chen. This striking self portrait was but one of her works in the collection.

Self Portrait, Georgette Chen

Not all the artwork in the city is in the galleries. I saw several statues by the sculptor Fernando Botero, whose work often exaggerates it’s subject, in this case a bird.

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Fernando Botero’s The Bird, (view from the rear)

At the Museum of Asian Civilizations I saw the exhibition  Joseon Korea, which was full of engaging and colourful works. This wooden sculpture was in the section on religious practice.

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Boy Attendant, 19th or 20th century, painted wood, National Museum of Korea

The Empress Place building  (1867), which houses the main part of the museum,  was originally government offices. Now it houses a range of historic  exhibitions which I only managed to fly around quickly in the time I had. However I did manage a sketch of this contemporary work by Eng Tow inspired by grains of rice. The grains are several metres in length and were hung suspended in the gallery space.

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‘Grains of Thought, Eng Tow, 2015, acrylic paint on carbon fibre forms

One last sketch from the waterfront with a storm passing in the background.

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Singapore skyline, ArtScience Museum (left) and Marina Bay Sands hotel (right)

 

 

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

Sunday in Sichuan Province

What could be more appropriate activity for a Sunday than to take a drive in the country. Our group drove out of Chengdu at about 9 in the morning, while most of the local population was still asleep. Our destination was Leshan, the 12th largest city in the province (3 million people), which is home to a famous sculpture of the Buddha. The sculpture sits above the confluence of three rivers and was built with the purpose of seeking the Buddha’s influence to stop the capsizing of small boats (well this was in 713 AD). The best views are from the water so we took to a boat and cruised downstream to see the statue.
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Given that the sculpture is 71 metres tall the view, even from the water is quite foreshortened.
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After a great lunch of local noodles we drove to Huang Long Shi village (Yellow Dragon River), a popular tourist destination for Chengdu residents. The largely reconstructed main street runs either side of a small stream. Shops selling food and totally pointless souvenirs abound. We sat down in one of the tea houses for a spot of people watching. To one side we could also see some of the carved stone frogs that decorated the stream bed.
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Soon it was time to head back to town and in that time honoured tradition we joined the rest of the locals in a massive traffic jam. Ah there is nothing like a drive in the country!

PS apologies for the picture quality, I had to do these late in the evening.

Drawn while waiting

Two e-drawings from the past few weeks.
The first drawn waiting for our friend to arrive at Canberra airport. Part of the drawing includes the sculpture ‘Feather’ by New Zealand artist Virginia King.
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King says she was inspired by a lyrebird’s feather.
Some what less inspirational was my wait at the physiotherapist’s. The outlook was out to the rather dour police station and the commercial buildings nearby. My eye was captured by the graphic sign for one of the building’s other occupants.
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