Self Portrait 1, 2014

This is the latest of my self portraits.
I don’t want to offend friends and family by trying to paint them. I’d rather offend myself as I experiment with “portraiture”.

This one started out as something purely abstract. I started it after looking at some of De Kooning’s work and his use of colour.
I had it propped against a cupboard for a few weeks until I could decide what to do with it.
Then I turned it around and saw a vague head shape…


Blokes Only

Five of my paintings are included in a “Blokes Only” exhibition held by the local Society of Artists.  The exhibition will run for about 6 weeks, the longest that any of my work has been displayed publicly.

Four of the paintings can be seen in my 2013 gallery page.

They are:

Self PoorTraits

Ebal or Gerazim

Unholy Hybrid (retitled “Rise Up AUS” for the exhibition)

John 3 (retitled “In the same way, Jn 3:16)

The fifth painting is Metamorphose.


The following brief “biography” was provided for the exhibition…

I started painting two years ago.

So far I’ve learned by trial and error (mostly the latter), through regular visits to galleries to see the work of others and by reading a lot about art and artists.

I was initially inspired by New Zealand artists Colin McCahon and Chris Strom who use painted text in their work. (McCahon’s Victory Over Death 2, in the National Gallery in Canberra is one of my favourite paintings.)

My early attempts to paint words were disappointing so I adapted another aspect of McCahon and Strom’s work: portraying local scenic landmarks in a more abstract form.

I have also been inspired by Australian painters Fred Williams, Ian Fairweather and Imants Tillers. Tillers in particular helped me find my way back to incorporating text in my paintings, using stencils instead of freehand lettering.

With a lot of my work I try to address aspects of spirituality and politics, especially where the lines between the two become confused. In this I’ve found inspiration from Jewish artists such as Samuel Bak and Marc Chagall. Their example is leading me to develop a broader vocabulary of symbols to be incorporated into my paintings.

2013: First Paintings

A landcape and a self-portrait

1 2013

2 2013

The landscape was mostly created with heavy sprays of water onto the paint, causing it to run across the tipped canvas (A slight Frankenthaler influence). I then added a few touches with a brush. I’m quite happy with the result which reminds me of some of Fred Williams work (if only!)

The portrait was done on a canvas that I’d been using for months but always with disappointing results. Colours from the failed paintings show through the swirls and smears of paint that I quickly applied on top.
After I covered the canvas I turned it this way and that until I saw a potential face.

Other angles had shown different possibilities but I was hesitant to add to Albert Tucker’s Images of Modern Evil series. Some of those potential images I saw in the swirls bordered on the creepy.

If Only I Could Paint Like Ben Quilty!

Painting has been difficult over the last couple of weeks. I’ve not been happy with anything I’ve done since I finished the paintings illustrated here:

Most of my time was taken up painting the one below, to which I’ve given the title “Prophet”. But I’m not happy with it. I quite like the colour and texture of the face, but not the features. Around the face I’ve included stencilled phrases from scripture, but I’m not happy with those I chose to include. They give the impression that the face represents Jesus Himself – but that was never the intention.

(this was photographed at an angle to catch the light on the stencilled words – the shape of the face therefore appears a little distorted.)

Until I decide what to do next, I’ll put this one aside and start to try something different.

I think the attempt at a portrait came about because I’ve recently seen a couple of documentaries about Ben Quilty, a young Australian artist who recently had a short stint as a war artist in Afghanistan. I’d seen him previously in some tributes to the late Margaret Olley whose portrait he had painted, winning him the Archibald Prize.

Quilty isn’t known for delicate and detailed work. He makes a lot of use of pallet knives to apply thick layers of paint squeezed not from tubes but from large cartridges more like a building product than an artist’s material. Even though he applies paint like a bricklayer applies mortar, the results have a detail capturing much more than the physical appearance of his subject. He somehow manages to capture their heart, their thoughts and their emotions.

My own attempts at portraiture have a long way to go – but I’ll keep returning and giving it another go. One day I’ll get it right (I hope).
See this excellent article about Quilty