Autumnal – What the Artist Saw

Studley Park looking across the Abbotsford Children's Farm to Mt Macedon
Studley Park looking across the Abbotsford Children’s Farm to Mt Macedon

The skies are overcast in palest purple with a lemon horizon as I drive down Studley Park Rd towards Abbotsford.

It’s after lunch and the light is in the western half of the sky, but low on the horizon shooting a warm yellow haze over the suburbs.  There’s a long low shape of a warehouse painted in orange which sets off perfectly the blue distance of the city beyond. It’s May and the air is brisk, crisp, making you move more quickly but not yet to the sudden-intake-of-breath cold we will get to in July. 

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Where Did All The Realist Art Go?

Contemporary realism is rarely exhibited on these shores.

The perfect storm of the amateur embracing realism and the contemporary art establishment shunning it has resulted in a dearth of serious figurative painting exhibitions. But it’s big news in Spain with the Madrid Realists exhibition at the Thyssen Bornemisza museum. And these are real paintings, not that nonsense that passes for paintings, those made by projecting digital images on to a canvas and colouring in with paint. Not sure of the difference? You wouldn’t be alone in that.

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Should Art Shock?

‘Sunset’ Caspar David Friedrich. 1830-35 Hermitage Museum

 

When were you last shocked?

It’s much more likely it was a real life event not an art gallery visit that did it. Real life is far more shocking than any art I have ever seen. A ‘twin towers’ moment, a sudden bereavement, a crime close to home, these are shocking. People hold their cheeks, cover their mouths, are silent or scream. I have never seen that happen in an art gallery.

In an art gallery what emotions are you likely to experience? Perhaps you have been disgusted, or provoked, delighted or absorbed. 

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Why the social impact of your art is irrelevant

Have you ever wondered about those curatorial briefs that nominate ‘social impact’ in their selection criteria?

It’s a handle applied to artworks to make them easier to deal with, a simple shortcut to appraising a work : good – has social impact, bad – no social impact. But social impact and social comment are not the same, and they are both independent of quality. While it may be reasonable to say that one of the roles of art is that it has a social impact, (as all artworks reflect and comment on the culture from which they arise) to judge a work by social impact is a nonsense, as it is most likely neither evident nor quantifiable. Yet this a key curatorial practice in contemporary art and a measuring stick of many a selection committee who are bullied by funding bodies into making exhorbitant claims about the utility of their exhibitions.

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A Quiet Day in Northcote

Alexandra Sasse painting Northcote
Painting the canvas 'A Quiet Day in Northcote' 2016 Alexandra Sasse
Painting the canvas ‘A Quiet Day in Northcote’ 2016 Alexandra Sasse

Painting in others’ footsteps

I am in the final stages of a landscape painting which will be called A Quiet Day in Northcote. Perhaps Arthur Boyd was right when he said …all Australian paintings are in some way a homage to Tom Roberts … as Roberts’ own work A QUIET DAY ON DAREBIN CREEK, has been much in my mind as I worked on this picture.

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Compositional Challenges and Simple Solutions

Constructing a strong composition or design is key to a successful painting. One element of design is depth, but how does an artist depict a volume of space? Traditionally it is taught that recession can be achieved through tone – that is lighter areas at the background of a work and darker areas towards the foreground. You can see this in landscapes such as Caspar Freidrich’s Evening Landscape with Two Men

But what if a motif has very little tonal recession?

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