Monday, December 31, 2007

What's New, Pussycat?

I was beginning to regret writing about my immodest collection of vibrators – too many weird proposals from geeky single men (and a couple of women) who mistook my candour for sexual availability – until the last post delivery of 2007 brought this cute gift from a close friend in Japan.
Ten years ago, San Rio, licensors of the Hello Kitty brand phenomenon, stopped producing a Hello Kitty clit' stimulator – oh, I'm sorry, they call it a compact personal massager – because they were taken aback by its widespread misuse among Japan's armies of hyper-sexualised, sailor-suited kogyaru (high school girls). Or so they said. Now girls, young and old, are lining up again at Kiddyland in Tokyo's Aoyama district to buy a new, updated version, available in a range of colours including the traditional Hello Kitty candy-floss pink – and black (which my friend thought would best match my wardrobe).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

'Tis The Night Before, Sort Of

I've just finished the first in my new series of large – 2 metres by 1.7 metres – oil-on-canvas paintings, Dangerous Career Babes. Commissioned by an up-and coming Australian gallerist, it's titled, The Art Dealer, and from the Damien Hirst dots in the background to the dollar notes wafting from the hands of the leggy, cheese-cake babe centre-frame, makes obvious fun of the whole ugly idea of art as commodity.
I am now going to take it easy over the next week or so. I owe myself a break. I will add an entry here only occasionally before the second week of the new year.
I want to thank everyone who has read this blog and taken the time to comment or be in contact with me via email about it. Writing has become an important part of my creative routine, a way to express myself that is discrete from my art – and, at times, personally indiscreet – as well as encourage and sustain a dialogue with those who are genuinely interested not just in my work but art in general. I can't wait to develop this further, next year.
Until then, I wish everyone a happy, peaceful holiday!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holy Fuck

I've had unusual gifts from strangers before but those I received today in the mail certainly take the, um, cherry. Apparently inspired by the brief piece I wrote recently about my collection of sex toys, an anonymous somebody sent me two unusual dildoes and a butt plug. One of the dildoes was in the shape of a plump golden Buddha, the other of Jesus on a luminescent white cross. The butt plug was a swaddled infant Jesus. All were moulded in a soft, pliable, flesh-like silicon that was seductive to touch.
I loved them. Still, despite being an atheist, there's no way I'd use even faux-religious artifacts for self-stimulation – let alone slide the centrepiece of the Nativity scene up my ass, especially over Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Return Of The Idiot Box

I've spent the past couple of evening curled up in front of my new television set. This is the first time I've had TV in my house for over a year. In a fit of misplaced frustration and anger, I disconnected the last one I owned and carried it outside to the curb, where I left it with a sign saying 'Works well. Please take.'
I was raised with the idea that television was a waste of time. If I watched it at all as a kid, I had this gnawing guilt that I should be doing something better, something more productive. TV made me lazy, I'd been taught.
Now, I not only have a TV, I've got digital satellite and real-time interactivity.
I've been gorging myself on it, channel-surfing and recording to an integrated hard-drive so I can fast forward through the ad segments later. I watch Sex And The City using the scene-skip function – I don't give a toss about the plot, I just want to get to the next outfit. I flick back and forth between Kimora Lee Simmons, Tyra Banks, Nigella Lawson (whose eating noises gross me out) and whatever other E! Entertainment junk is on. I've never seen these programs before and I want to watch everything – for a few seconds, at least.
I record hours of art programs, documentaries, travel shows and biographies and later, allow myself to become absorbed in them. My favourite subject is modern history, a fetish sparked by a documentary on the evolution of the machine gun. I've recorded a few movies but my attention is too restless to sit through any of them.
Frankly, what I love most is TV itself. Its like scanning constantly changing images captured from a camera monitoring all of Western society: its flaws, fetishes, and fads reduced to an easy-to-review, point-and-click program grid. So many random sequences, or so they appear to me, and all of them good, bad, smart, stupid, humiliating, sexy, degrading, extravagant and grotesque (often, all at once).
I can't bring myself to look away.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In Stability

When I'm out buying art materials, various people have told me how calm, easy-going, and friendly I seem. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am, by nature, misanthropic, thin-skinned, highly strung, and anxious. I'm quick to anger. Often, my hands tremble visibly. It's hard even for me to tell whether it's because of nervousness or some percolating rage. My inner tensions are so great that at night I wear a clear silicon mouth guard. Moulded by a dentist to fit over my top teeth, it minimises damage to the dental enamel and eliminates muscular ache caused by the constant, uncontrollable grinding of my jaw as I sleep. When I am not making art – when I am trying to avoid it, when I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do next – my skin breaks into a rash-like blush and my skin odor becomes acrid, sour.
All this stops when I am actually making art – or putting the materials together for it. I am calm and pleasant to be around. Everything is right with the world. Even me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Toys For Xmas

I'm fascinated by sex aids. Sleek, stylised, sometimes grotesque re-configurings of female anatomy, they're at once alien and seductively intimate, intended for nothing else but sexual stimulation. My collection is modest, so to speak, but over the years I've acquired all sorts of arcane and complexly engineered pieces. I'm surprised they haven't turned up in my work. Many are sculptural – silicon maquettes of shapes that have stimulated my subconscious since I was a teenager.
Do I actually use them? That's something a girl likes to keep to – or is it in? – herself.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Manual Pleasure

I am not a great photographer. I know only how to point and shoot an auto-everything camera. My photographs are plain, prosaic. I'm often frustrated that I don't know how use a camera the way I use a brush or a pencil (although, recently, inspired by Peter Beard, I've taken to using both on my photos). I have neither control over nor insight into how my camera functions, other than pushing its shutter button. Sadly, more and more cameras are operated by pushing just one button.
As my interest in real photography develops, the availability of traditional photographic materials is diminishing. Manual SLR and range-finder cameras are becoming fetish items while quality films and fibre-based papers are disappearing. Some are no longer manufactured. In Australia, it's difficult to find my favorite black-and-white 35mm film from Ilford
and there's only one Sydney-based photo-finisher who will process it and custom print the negatives 'by hand' rather than with digital media.
Digital cameras are easy to use but their images always seem flat to me, as if each shape has been cut-and-pasted into the frame. I'm so not a fan of computer-based photography. Using computers for photography is like using them for painting and drawing. It can be done, but the results are remote, artificial, and even the best works lack richness, let alone humanity and heart. They never make me feel anything.
In the traditional photographic works that interest me most – by people such as Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Brassai, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Robert Frank, Larry Clark, Penny Smith, and others – the camera becomes eye, mind, subconscious, and heart all at once. Ironically, as it's such an old, mechanical technology, it allows the viewer to experience the result more fully and realistically because there is something more than the image itself. And isn't that what real art is about?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Take Me Higher

I sat up late last night, nervously awaiting the results from the Christie's auction, in London. As I noted in the previous entry here, this was the first time my work went under the hammer overseas. It was also the first time my work was seen at all in Europe, other than by a handful of canny private collectors.
By nine p.m., Sydney time, when the auction started, I was a mess – shakey, irritable, even a little teary. I'm not good at rejection and I knew that if my work was passed in or, worse, sold for less than my Australian auction high of $12,000 (for an earlier and lesser work), then I would take it badly. So, I suspected, would my collectors.
I needn't have worried. There was plenty of support for both works and the hammer fell on bids of 10,000 pounds or $23,185 for each, a new high – and only $5,000 less than my much larger, new oil works sell for right now.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

My First London Auction!

My work turned up at major auctions in Australia for the first time this year. Six early paintings, none of them my best, fell under the hammer for bids between $4,000 and $12,000 (Australian).
This Wednesday, 12th December, at 10:30am, my work will make its first appearance at a foreign auction house when two of my early enamel paintings – Sports Babe: Tennis, 2000, high gloss enamel on board, 100.3cms x 149.8cms (Lot 0092) and Sports Babe: Cricket, 2005, acrylic with high gloss enamel and reflective vinyl on board, 100.3cms x 149.8cms (Lot 0093) – will be auctioned by Christie's, 8 King Street, St. James's, London, as part of Modern + Contemporary Australian Art With Works by New Zealand & South African Artists.
I'm the youngest artist to have works included in this prestigious sale and one of only a few women (Tracey Moffat is another). Among the other artists are Jeffrey Smart, Sir Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, Norman Lindsay, John Perceval, Sir Sidney Nolan, Ray Crooke, Charles Blackman, Albert Namatjira, and Brett Whiteley.
Estimates for both my works are broad – between 8,000 and 12,000 UK pounds! – but if you're interested in bidding for them, register your interest with Nicholas Lambourn at Christies, tel: +44 (0)20 7389 2040 or nlambourn@christies.com

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Machine Work

I used a computer to finish the studies for my new series, Dangerous Career Babes.
I did most of the work in the same way I always have – using photography, pencil drawing, and collage – but I'm experimenting with processes to reduce the time it takes to complete each image. I ink and pencil a clean, simplified version of the initial drawing onto tracing paper, which I scan. This allows me to see the line work without being distracted by my under-working. Later, I use Photoshop to experiment with different colour combinations.
Inevitably, there are always elements of the drawing I want to improve. I print out several copies of the image and make changes by hand using ink and correction fluid. Sometimes I cut and paste sections of line work on-screen although I find this a pain in the ass. I much prefer using my hands, brushes, pencils – hell, anything! – to squinting at computer pixels. Besides, the process takes away the joy of unexpected discoveries I make when I work only by hand.
In the end, it's all about speed. These works are so labour intensive, repetitive and detailed that I just want them done.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thanks For Nothin', Charlie

Several of my earliest works have resurfaced in the secondary market, this year. Very few are being sold by serious art collectors. Mostly, they're just people trying to make an unrealistic, windfall profit on a minor work bought ten years ago for a few hundred dollars. Looking to make the $12,000 to $18,000 paid for the best of my early works, they're upset when dealers and auction houses suggest a price closer to $5,000 – which is still, in every case, an appreciation of over 1,000 percent. Such sellers often email me to complain.
A lot of my early work was not particularly good. I started exhibiting very early in my career, before my work was fully developed. I also painted a small number of decorative pieces, such as the one pictured above, for shops, restaurants and small businesses that were never intended as serious pieces. I did them to pay rent, eat and buy more art supplies. I don't even consider them to be part of my oeuvre, such as it is.
When such works turn up in the market, nowadays, I'm not concerned about them affecting my reputation or the prices paid for newer, better paintings. It can be unpleasant simply because some of the people selling the works are former acquaintances who contact me after being absent from my life for a decade only to ask – no, insist upon! – my help to sell the works. "After all," one of them told me, "It's in your best interests too, you know!".
Actually, it isn't. What's in my best interests is to be undistracted from making new and better work.
I told one woman that a work she bought for a few hundred dollars would probably fetch $3,000. "But that's pathetic!" she snarled. I pointed out that a thousand percent profit on any investment was a huge rise. The price she originally paid me for the painting didn't even cover my costs, let alone time. Still, it was almost as if she felt personally entitled to a percentage of everything I had ever accomplished. I appreciate the support of people who bought – who continue to buy –
my work but whether they bought ten years or ten days ago, they all got a bargain.
Nearly every consumer product, from cars to furniture, depreciates sharply as soon as it's purchased. Even in Sydney's hyper-inflated property market, 1000% is more than most people make on their house values, especially after maintenance, utilities, rates and taxes are taken into account. Most artwork increases in value by about 10% a year and not every piece is high value, even when it's from a high value artist. The trouble is, mass media has focussed on the money – rather than the emotional and spiritual fulfillment – to be gained from collecting art. Now every second-rank stock broker and mergers-and-acquisitions specialist sees himself as the next Charles Saatchi, with neither his taste nor his shrewdness.
A former advertising tycoon, Saatchi has a lot to answer for. He doesn't just buy art low and sell it high. He works the media to increase the value of both the art and the artist., often financing shows at carefully selected venues in New York, London or Tokyo that, I'm sure, he regards as 'consumer-driven'. An example was an exhibition of works by young British artists he called Sensation. He published a hard cover coffee table book, Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection and used it as a catalogue. He created controversy around the show. Images of key works were printed again and again in mainstream media, building popular awareness and recognition – in other words, brand value. Then he cashed in.
Saatchi doesn't always get it right. He's rumoured to have damaged the careers of a number of artists by cashing in too fast or too soon, flooding the market with their work. Others, like Sandro Chia, he simply dumped, as if in a tantrum. Endless numbers of philistine, self-promoting hacks, media manipulators and con artists have followed Saatchi's example: they see it as a formula for making a lot of money with little effort but more respectability than, say, scalping sports tickets or hustling pyramid scams. Over the past couple of decades, the perception of art collecting has become somewhat akin to investing in state lotteries. Art's value is only about who wins on what and for how much. The art itself is, by and large, neglected, even by the artists: Never mind the quality, feel the width (buyers of paintings are a bit like Benny Hill: they like 'em big!)