Tuesday 20 March 2012

a step in the journey

Pearls studio window
 It has been cool and windy the last few days and I had to shut my studio window....uhhh-ohh! look at all those vines clambering in. With my ankle broken I haven't been able to mow, whipper snip, weed and tidy the garden as I normally do. Rodney has taken over the mowing these last few months but he tends to do just the middle bit and the outer edges are getting a bit rampant!

In the middle of the window sill is a clay face I sculpted for "Petrouchka" a doll made in 1998. That was the year of the exhibition of the costumes collected by the National Gallery of Canberra from the Ballet Russes. I was only vaguely aware of the Ballet Russes then, mainly because I have always been a huge fan of the Cirque de Soliel, and the exhibition that year introduced me to the marvellous heritage of this group of early 20th C artists. I did a whole body of work based one of their principal male dancers,Vaslav Nijinsky. One of those paintings from 1999 is presently displayed in my gallery. It is based on a black and white photograph of him in the ballet "The Blue God". Another work was this doll "Petrouchka" from another ballet Nijinsky danced in.

The Blue God, 1999

Petrouchka, 1999

I just relate this story because 1999 was when I went to University to start my Visual Art degree and the Ballet Russes inspired work was part of what I submitted as my portfolio to gain entry as a "mature age" student. All of the the other artworks I made as part of the Ballet Russes inspired phase has been sold or given away except the doll and the painting. I'm quite sentimentally attached to them not so much because they are particularly "good" art but because they represent a sort of transition stage in my journey as an artist. That was the year I segued from regarding myself as a talented hobbyist to believing I could be a "real artist"...

To me these works represent 2 transitions that were being made at the time - the psychic striving from perceiving myself as a hobbyist to serious practitioner and the other transition was ending of the period of making sculptural forms and going back to 2 dimensional representations. In 2012, some 13 years+ after these works were made all my work is now 2 dimensional, I haven't made an art doll for about 6 years.

However! there is one constant in my "art journey" that always amazes me as it goes right back to the very first painting I did as a 17 year old when the thought first came into my mind that maybe I could be a professional artist. I don't have that painting any more but I remember it well and it's a memory I turn over with some sentimental awe because how could I know in 1976 that I would still be obsessed with exactly the same themes in my art in 2012!!! Sometimes I think I should try to reproduce that picture...!

That picture I painted was of the historical Indian Queen Mumtaz Mahal (wife of Shah Jehan and she who is famously entombed in the Taj Mahal. (I visited the Red Fort, which was built by Shah Jehan and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India when I went there to collect textiles in 2001) I think I must have must copied it from some original source material but I don't remember exactly where the concept came from. What I recall painting was this exotic Queen of India depicted kneeling on a lavishly patterned turkish rug wearing her regalia of crown, earrings, necklace, heavily embroidered sari. A very decorative woman clothed in and surrounded by glorious embellished textiles and jewellery!

Astounding to realise that 36 years later I am still depicting the feminine figurative, and that textiles, design, colour, jewellery and the decorative are still major fascinations.

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