Paul Gauguin, Three Tahitians 1889, oil on canvas

  • unfortunate gallery lighting causing interference along the top edge;
  • the prominent black scar on the male’s back (“marked man”), highlighted with yellow ochre;
  • black outline of the figures (Renaissance);
  • one-colour treatment of each of the figures’ clothing (Renaissance);
  • contrast between Vice and Virtue: surrounding negative space;
  • curious anatomy in the face of Virtue, especially the eyes (compared to Vice’s);
  • the uncomfortably cramped flowers of Virtue (echoed though in the hair of Vice);
  • the contour of each of the women’s shoulders continues through the form of the male, providing a very strong sense of unity between the three;
  • the curious light on the male’s buttock below his belt;
  • the echoing of the knotting in each of the figures’ clothing;
  • all the colours of the palette – blue, mauve, red, orange, yellow, green – suggesting universality and completeness;
  • the awkward use of the hand holding the green mango – I can’t find a precedent in Western art for this pose beyond Raphael’s Three Graces;
  • echoing touches of pink under both the women’s ears;
  • lack of complicity – none of the figures is looking directly at each other;
  • close cropping in the Japanese style;
  • heavy, smearing application of paint;
  • both women are taller than the male;
  • problematic anatomy of Virtue: the position of the breasts suggesting she’s turning, though that turn is not reinforced elsewhere; both breasts appear to have been deliberately lowered, perhaps to disguise one behind the forearm to denote modesty;
  • curious use of the tricolore in the clothing of the figures – conscious/unconscious cultural fusing?
  • Virtue as mahu and a commentary on the impact of colonialism through a Western gender binary system, not just as the male turning from the mahu to female, but the Western iconography of Adam/Eve and the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge?

Some digital reproductions of the painting on the internet crop the expansive dark green landscape at far left and below the man’s loincloth. Digital reproductions of Vice’s red dress vary the colour from orange to warm red, cool red crimson, Indian Red and dark pink.

Regarding the troubling anatomy of Virtue, see the discussion of mahu at http://www.sea.edu/spice_atlas/tahiti_atlas/paul_gauguin_primitivist_art_and_the_invention_of_polynesian_sexuality


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Workshop led by photographer Ben Scott, organised by Christopher Getts and Pania Newport for the Sydney Photography Club.

Location: Studio 501 Photography Studio Hire.

Model: Charlotte.

Makeup: Rebecca Montgomery.

This is another exercise in Rembrandt lighting, only this time the background is dark and strongly figured. Key is getting the model in sync with the background pattern. Important was working the light with the dark eye makeup; at the time, I was monitoring the strong reds in the lower half. Had I the courage at the time, I would have exploited the diaphanous red veils in an action shot. In fact, I ought to have worked on some full-length shots.

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Workshop led by photographer, Ben Scott.

Event: Sydney Photography Club.

Lighting: Christopher Getts & Pania Newport. Makeup: Rebecca Montgomery.

Hair: Kabuki Mee.

Model: Hannah.

Location: Studio 501 Photographic Studio Hire, Surry Hills.

This was an exercise in “white-on-white”, a high single light with the model very close to a white wall/floor backdrop. This is harsh light territory! The obvious focus was the unusual shoes; important also was the creation of strong shadow – very sharp when the model was leaning up against the wall, and softer when standing free. At the time of shooting, I wasn’t paying sufficient attention to the silhouette of the shadows – some developed an unfortunate visual life of their own. Not show here are the dozen or so photos eliminated because of too much conflict in the stripes: I’ve learned a few lessons here about striped clothing and the need to ‘maintain’ them with a minimum of wrinkles. One key issue is the fall of the hair over the face and the obvious one in the first two photos is the label inside the jacket. Yes, one could airbrush it out later but the photographer has to be attentive to this level of detail and ideally eliminate it at the time of the shoot.

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Model: Celia.

Location: Studio 501 Photographic Studio Hire, Surry Hills.

Lighting: Christopher Getts & Pania Newport.

Makeup: Rebecca Montgomery.

Hair: Kabuki Mee.

The penultimate and last photos highlight the difference between focussing on the garment (penultimate) and focussing on the light (last). The first has been edited to show up the texture of the textile (the skin tones are consequently lighter) while the last has a greater overall continuity of dark tones, across the range of white to black. Viewing the model from behind the camera hones in on unexpected details; I didn’t really appreciate the silvery jewellery as part of the ensemble till I took the half-length shots – suddenly the delightful reflections of the necklace came to the fore and created meaning. Fashion photography is all about attention to detail at the time of shooting: noting the loose thread at the waist in the third photo and subtly altering the fingers and hands in the fourth would have improved the shots. The theme of this shoot was simplicity: Rembrandt lighting with an unlit background and similarly straightforward makeup.

“Monkey King”, 6×6″, plaster cast from linocut, evoking Della Robbia majolica and Meissen’s monkey orchestra, as well as the iconization of animals in contemporary social media.

Photo 1. Linocut and cartoon. Inspiration came from sketching chimpanzees and gorillas from life at Taronga Park Zoo, research into ape behaviour and aspects which are replicated in human behaviour (e.g. hierarchy, violence, gender-based behaviour, etc.), Meissen porcelain figurines of monkeys dressed as court musicians from the 18th century and the tradition in European art of bridging humans and primates, e.g. putting monkeys in human clothes such as ruffs and of painting monkeys, such as the Barbary macaques of Gibraltar.



Photo 2. Plaster cast from linocut. A section of round PVA 6″ tube was used to contain the liquid plaster (Blue Circle (R) Casting Plaster from Boral, http://www.boral.com.au), kept in place on a timber board with terracotta clay. The biggest surprise from the plaster cast was the shift from a square composition to a round one. The tondo form immediately recalled the tin glaze ‘majolica’ pottery tradition in Italy and later on in England. The replacement of a Madonna and Child, typical of Della Robbia, as an object of adoration, with an animal, adored these days in social media, seemed obvious. Because the lino was used to produce prints, a residue of oil-based relief ink and terracotta clay required some radical carving. It’s possible to leave the ink and clay and overpainting creating a less smooth surface. The raised surfaces in my linocut could have been more pronounced (something to keep in mind while carving the lino a lot deeper next time) and no amount of ‘cleaning up’ would remove the pitting caused by the residue of relief ink. Better to create a plaster cast from the plate with no prior printing (or at least printing using water-soluble ink)!

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Photo 3. Carving, gesso and acrylic painting. I carved into the plaster with both metal and wooden pottery tools – the metal for defining edges and the wooden for removing surplus plaster. The moisture in the gesso undercoat and the acrylic paint is sucked up by the plaster. I used a very pale Yellow Ochre and a Cerulean Blue close to Della Robbia blue. Despite being photographed with a single light source, the ‘stepped’ nature of the carving means the blue changes from left to right.

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Photo 4. Final acrylic painting. The two colours looked too “flat” so I added a third colour in the crown and coat, giving the outer contour added definition. I knocked back the Yellow Ochre to a lighter tone, getting a bit closer to the Della Robbia look. I carved my initials and date in the reverse and gave the back and sides two coats of white acrylic.

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Hard Man is an exploration of masculinity, in particular behaviours passed on from fathers to sons. Unlike Australian painter Ben Quilty’s focus on the vulnerability of young Australian males leading to risk-taking, I’m interested in male conditioning and parenting, ideals about masculinity passed from working class men to their sons over many generations, originating in the perception that males need to ‘harden’ in order to fight for survival and that a “soft man” rates not at all.

I began with working ‘Victory’ Brown, a microcrystalline wax, easily manipulated when heated, and experimented also with polymer clay. The wax quickly became more important since I wanted an expressionistic surface treatment rather than a smooth surface texture. I was interested in the ‘additive’ sculptural techniques of Giacometti, the combination of naturalism and abstraction evident in Henry Moore and the combination of the realistic and the mechanistic in the work of Ipousteguy. Less important to me were the smoother surfaces in the work of Matteo Pugliese. The head and torso forms were drawn from Nuragic sculpture from Ancient Sardinia, a close look at all the European Ancient sculpture traditions, as well as Japanese yoroi armour. The exhibition of work from the Benaki Museum in Athens on show at the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne was very useful, as were the Rayner Hoff reliefs at the Sydney ANZAC Memorial.

Scale is significant. I wanted the final product to be small, representing my individual, personal power over the ‘syndrome’ of male conditioning, thus limiting the size of the final work at around 100x100x50mm.

The following photos shows the sequence from wax and polymer clay studies to silicon bronze casting from wax, to patina through the application of base metal paint overlaid with a violet solvent mixed with beeswax.

Photo 1. Polymer clay, exploring smooth surface texture.



Photos 2 and 3. Wax studies. The issue of a plinth arose at this time. I was careful to create a hole potentially suitable for a rod for a standing position, echoing the work of Giacometti, but I was also happy with a lying-down position with no support or plinth, echoing the fallen warrior series of Henry Moore.





Photo 4. Untreated silicon bronze casting, in a matt ashen grey colour, fresh from the foundry, Shaw Process Casting (Mortdale, NSW, Australia). I was forewarned that I might lose the ‘tail’ at the bottom of the torso because the wax was too thin; one of the arms was also perilously loose. The resulting cast had two interesting features: a bend in the head and a very sharp bend in the ‘cod piece’. Serendipitously, the sculpture became self-supporting, resting on one hand, the codpiece and one of the arms, thus resolving issues about a plinth.



Photo 5. Bronze casting patina: two layers of Bronze B Metal Coating (Barnes, http://www.barnes.com.au), producing a bronze/copper look. Despite having an overall “painted” appearance, the layers didn’t obliterate my fingerprints in the wax original.



Photo 6. Bronze casting patina: Solvent Dye Color – Violet from SculptNouveau (www.SculptNouveau.com, distributed by Barnes Products, http://www.barnesproducts.com.au) mixed with liquid beeswax. I adopted a ‘warm’ colour for the patina, wanting to ‘domesticate’ the work rather than elevate it to the position of “High Art” with a traditional green or black patina.



Last night, I had the good fortune to attend a lecture, entitled “Art as a Business”, given by the Arts Law Centre of Australia. St George School of Fine Art graciously provided the venue and the event was supported by Kogarah Council. It was well attended both by student colleagues and by members of the St George Art Society.

Here is the ‘Top 10’ advice I took away from the event.

1. Re-read Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way or any other of her books). And put her ideas into sustained practice.

2. Decide whether you’re an Anonymous-Attic-Artist or an Artist-who-Operates-in-the-Public-Domain. Consult http://www.artslaw.com.au and http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au for more information.

3. If you an artist operating under your own legal name, there’s no need to formally register a Business Name. Operate as a Sole Trader using your legal name (see business.gov.au).

4. Get an ABN (even if you don’t make the minimum threshold tax level of $AU18,300). Keep in mind that formal arts funding, e.g. grants from local Councils, usually requires one since they most often fund auspiced entities and not Sole Trader individuals, given their stringent                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    reporting responsibilities and transparency to LGA ratepayers.

5. GST only comes into play if you’re making $A75,000 or more.

6. Check ASIC Connect and ATMOSS to see if another artist somewhere else is already using a name identical to yours. Be clear in your own mind about the differences between a Business Name, a Trademark and a Company Name.

7. Registering a Company is expensive and onerous in terms of reporting and compliance; too difficult for a Sole Trader.

8. If working collaboratively (especially over a long period of time) with another artist, consider a written/signed/witnessed Partnership Agreement to minimise misunderstandings.

9. If receiving income from several revenue streams (e.g. day job, part-time jobs) including working as an artist Sole Trader, you’ll be taxed by the ATO as a single tax-paying entity. Write off art production expenses against the whole-of-income. Don’t worry about whether your art is a loss-making enterprise year on year, the ATO is only interested if you don’t declare income, not if it makes a profit or not.

9. Check your insurance: not just personal injury but things like home studio, theft of expensive cameras, external visitors visiting your home as part of your business activity.

10. If insurance is difficult/expensive, actively consider mitigating or limiting the risks. Keep in mind that galleries will often insure your work during an exhibition, but you will have to insure work travelling to and from the gallery: check the gallery’s fine print.