Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Snapshot From His Album

In the yellow-walled living room, he put on a Linton Kwesi Johnson album. I could hear the clink of scissors against china as he chopped marijuana over small bowl.
I was in the bathroom, standing over a small sink, splashing water onto my face. In the mirror, I studied the crystalline rivulets as they trailed down my tired skin. On a long thin shelf below the mirror were tooth brushes, toothpaste, incense, an obelisk-shaped ARIA Award, and a syringe half-full of water, blood and heroin. After I dried my face, I put away the bottle of bubble bath and some candles from our night of sex after his gig.
I could hear him singing. He had moved to the kitchen and now he was chopping vegetables to pulverise into fresh juice. I tip-toed in to stand behind him, naked, and hold his cock and kiss him while he shifted his weight from one foot to the other with the beat. He smiled absently, relaxed by the combination of music and dope.
There was always an energy between us but I couldn't figure out whether it was sexual frisson or plain discomfort. I never got dressed until I was about to leave but I never went back to bed with him once I was up. This morning, like every morning, we sat drinking juice – him clothed, me naked – but I was jittery to leave, to get home, to paint.
Often, I left in the middle of the night. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, alone, then get up at dawn and start painting. So I'd creep from his bed without waking him. I knew it hurt his feelings but I didn't care. He did his thing. I just wanted to do mine. Besides, he'd said he wanted a girl who did something.
I just wanted someone to understand me, even a little.
I was happy that his music was going well back then. When he wasn’t on tour, he could do whatever he felt like – hit on bikini-clad schoolgirls at the beach, skate, get stoned, masturbate. I figured that, if he wanted to spend time with me, he could come and hang out at my studio while I painted. It never really worked out that way.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What Am I Doing Now?

I finally succumbed to the simple-minded, gossipy allure of Twitter. I now upload snippets of information there, as DooneyStudio, a few times a day.
Yes, this is yet another distraction in an already utterly distracted, over-mediated life. However, the intention is to keep everyone with an interest in my work better informed about what I'm up to – including planning for upcoming events, auctions, stockroom sales, press coverage, new merchandise, and so on – wherever in the world I happen to be, as well as enable my collectors to keep track of progress on specific commissioned works.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Skinned, Nothing Like Fur

Some readers have suggested that finding models should be easy for me. Actually, it's almost impossible. The pay is negligible, the hours are long, and my demands are several. And that's even before we get to the knotty question of nudity, which, in the resultant work, is sometimes translated into graphic depictions of sexual acts. Not exactly the stuff of art school life classes.
In the past, I've tried to work with friends. A good idea in theory but in practice, the discomfort they feel as I subject them – almost without being aware of it – to what I've described before as a rigorously forensic study not only of their bodies but also their psyches can be discomforting.
Part of the problem is, when I'm working, I'm ruthless, selfish and probably exploitative (although I do try to maintain a semblance of empathy and care). In these respects, I'm rather like the predatory Diane Arbus, as she was described by Australian über-feminist and author, Germaine Greer, who regretted her decision to pose for the late photographer in a room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, in 1971:
"... she asked me to lie on the bed, flat on my back on the shabby counterpane.
"I did as I was told. Clutching the camera she climbed on to the bed and straddled me, moving up until she was kneeling with a knee on both sides of my chest. She held the Rolleiflex at waist height with the lens right in my face. She bent her head to look through the viewfinder on top of the camera, and waited. In her viewfinder I must have looked like a guppy or like one of the unfortunate babies into whose faces Arbus used to poke her lens so that their snotty tear-stained features filled her picture frame. I knew that at that distance anybody's face would have more pores than features. I was wearing no make-up and hadn't even had time to wash my face or comb my hair.
"Pinned on the bed by her small body with the big camera in my face, I felt my claustrophobia kick in; my heart-rate accelerated and I began to wheeze. I understood that as soon as I exhibited any signs of distress, she would have her picture. She would have got behind the public persona of
Life cover-girl Germaine Greer, the 'sexy feminist that men like'.
"I concentrated on breathing deeply and slowly, and keeping my face blank. If it was humanly possible I would stop my very pupils from dilating. Immobilised between her knees I denied her, for hour after hour. Arbus waited me out. Nothing would happen for minutes on end, until I sighed, or frowned, and then the flash would pop. After an eternity she climbed off me, put the camera back in her bag and buggered off."
– from Wrestling With Diane Arbus by Germaine Greer, published in The Guardian newspaper, 8th October, 2005.
If that doesn't put someone off, then yes, they're probably an ideal subject. If they're between 19 and 35 years of age, female, reasonably fit, uninhibited, creative and/or smart, they should email me a photo and tell me about themselves. But they can't say they haven't been warned.
(Oh, a couple of plusses: I serve wonderful lunches and the view from my studio is amazing.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Show, Don't Tell

My assistant took my place on the studio floor to fold glassine envelopes and insert signed, numbered prints of my photographic self-portrait, Study For Modern Strategies For Survival : Resized For Mass Consumption. They'll be sent next week to all those who supplied their snail mail address (and yes, if you've been dithering, there are still a dozen or so left from the edition of 500).
This week has been lost to 'house-keeping' and catching up with preliminary work on some new commissions. Meanwhile, the repainting of the last half a dozen enamel on board works affected by technical problems in my studio, last year, continues across town. My input isn't required until some large blocks of colour are rubbed back and re-coated. With my allergy to enamel now very acute, I have to manage carefully the amount of time I'm exposed to its toxic fumes.
So, for the first time in several weeks, I've been able to spend more than two days in a row at home, drawing. I'm also planning some ideas in other media, including video.
Years ago, when I was at art school for a brief period, I experimented a lot with digital video, creating a handful of short, somewhat obscure pieces. For a time, it almost supplanted painting as my primary medium of expression. Now I want to use it to delve further into some of the themes underlying my paintings and maybe, for the first time, work with models or actors other than myself.
Then again, given the prurient controversy that swirls around my work – and me – from time to time, I might have a problem finding anyone with enough nerve to work with me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Price Is Right

Well my work didn't break any records at auction tonight – no works by artists under 40 did – but at least none were passed in.
Quite the opposite. Two were sold within the narrow range of the auctioneer's estimate: Bird Of Prey for $A10,800 (estimate $10,000 to $14,000) and Sports Babe:The Boxer (Resized For Easy Consumption) for $4,320 (estimate $4,000 to $5,000). Sports Babe: The Basketballer (Resized For Easy Consumption) exceeded its upper estimate of $5,000 by $280.
Am I pleased? Well, I'm not disappointed. I would have loved my prices to reflect more than just resilience – although given the awful and still declining economic environment, resilience is good. Besides, the prices achieved were hardly peanuts.
Now I am going to put them out of my mind completely. Tomorrow, I'll get up early and have a coffee on my verandah overlooking the sea. Then I'll begin drawing and painting new work, reminding myself that the wild crap shoot of a major art auction can be a lot of fun (even if you're just breaking even) but it has fuck-all relevance to what art is really about.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not Just Sitting On My Art

It's nearly midnight and I'm sitting on the floor of my studio folding 150 glassine paper envelopes for 150 signed, numbered copies of my limited edition photographic print, Study For Modern Strategies For Survival : Resized For Mass Consumption.
The glassine is almost transparent so the image will be just visible within, along with a printed sheet that explains the relationship between the photographic study and the large enamel paintings inspired by a 2001 expedition to Lake Eyre, particularly Bird Of Prey, from the Lake Eyre On Acid series, which is being auctioned by Deutscher-Menzies in Sydney, tomorrow evening.
Tomorrow morning, I'll pack the small packets into a box and deliver them to Menzies Art Brands, where I'll meet with the National Operations Manager, John Keats, and supervise the ushers as they place a packet on every seat in the auction room so that they might be taken home by those who come to bid – hopefully for one or all of the three works of mine included in the evening's sales.
The give-away is an extension of what I'm doing here on the blog. As well as being an unusual way of saying thank you for what's been a wild – and wildly successful – two or three years, it's an unprecedented opportunity for self-promotion in an unexpected context. It also happens to mesh with my committed independence of the traditional gallery system as well as some residue of youthful socialist ideals.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What's In A Name?

I wanted to call her The Surf Punk because that was how I thought of her as she first began to take shape in my sketchbook.
Later, I took a liking to the word 'fierce'. She became The Fierce Surfer for a while but the adjective has become so bloody trendy and self-congratulatory among a generation of young American female celebrities – look at poor Beyoncé sashaying around inside her corporately constructed alter ego, Sasha Fierce – I couldn't live with it for long.
When the acrylic on paper study was finished, she looked more savage, less pretty, a really dangerous-looking Career Babe, despite the deliberately ironic palette of girly pinks and caramel creams. I fell in love with her toughness and care-less sexual tension. I took to calling her The Hardcore Surfer – and yes, the double entendre was deliberate.
By the time I scanned the image to email to the Sydney collectors who'd commissioned it, the title had been pared down again. It was now just The Surfer.
In the end, simplicity said it all best.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Painter's Block

Sometimes, no matter how well-conceived a painting is, it fails to come to life on the canvas (or, in my case, board). It can be a matter of composition, choice of colours or a combination of several elements that don't quite coalesce the way I'd expected. It can take a while to figure out what the problem is.
In the past, I used to get frustrated and abandon the work. I'd just throw it away. Now I'm smarter. And more patient. I wait. Eventually, the painting itself begins to tell me what's wrong and in most cases, I can fix it.
For the past ten days, I've been working on a study for a new painting. I was pretty happy with it right up until I finished applying the largest areas of colour. Then I wasn't. I wasted several hours tinkering with it until around midnight, last night, I realised what the problem was.
This morning, I'll strip away everything I've done over the past few days – not to start again exactly but to finish differently.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Distraction

Gaze, touch, hold, inhale, embrace, kiss, savour, nip, suck, squeeze, caress, sigh, exhale, lick, linger, tease, tremble, graze, fumble, unzip, grasp, finger, circle, swell, rub, stiffen, tongue, seep, taste, moisten, stroke, twist, throb, urge, press, want, arch, probe, pull, thrust, enter, pant, bite, delve, rim, spit, penetrate, hurt, flinch, oil, smear, clench, relent, ease, open, sweat, cup, throb, turn, climb, straddle, ride, part, widen, grip, gape, leak, quicken, push, slide, lap, grind, pinch, jerk, whisper, cry, clutch, glisten, ram, surrender, flood, slam, fist, abandon, loll, engorge, fuck, vibrate, flush, near, spasm, jolt, scream, spurt, heat, gasp, ooze, scratch, slacken, pour, fall, sate, shiver, withdraw, spill, catch, share, sip, swallow, drip, adhere, entangle, ache, pulse, need, eye, dilate, murmur, reach, wet, harden, giggle, tug, slip, fill, moan, spill, soak, grunt, smile, relax, glow, fade.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Peace Work

Once again, I'm living somewhat schizophrenically between the industrial tasks associated with completing a handful of large enamel paintings and the imaginative process of developing preliminary drawings for several unexpected new commissions. There are also some low-key promotional projects to undertake ahead of the Menzies Art Brands auction of three of my works on Wednesday, next week.
As usual, the regularity of my blog entries has suffered.
I like the rhythm of busy days, even if several hours can be wasted driving from one end of the city to another. The fragile edges of my psyche begin to fray if I have too much time on my hands. I get to thinking too much. It's always better for me to be doing, making, producing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

To The Next 500

My studio has been overwhelmed by the unexpectedly large number of requests for the free limited edition photographic print – and yes, everyone who has provided a snail mail address is guaranteed to get one. The prints will be packed and sent out during the first week or two of April.
I have also been emotionally overwhelmed by the many, personal comments that have accompanied the requests as well as the geographical spread of the correspondents: from Mumbai and Singapore to Auckland, Tokyo, Los Angeles, London (a special 'hello' to the girls at Christie's!) and Berlin. Many have been from women of my age, many from other artists, but there have also been a few from teenage school kids and grandmothers – one of the latter wrote, "I am a pensioner (old person) and could never afford an original piece, but I plan to pass it on, eventually, to my Grandson who is also a fan. I love your clarity and honesty, you are a breath of fresh air - wish I had half your guts or talent! I always look forward to your blogs."
To everyone, just know that I am very deeply moved and grateful for all your words. My offer of this small print is unequal to the enthusiasm, care and support you have shown me.

Friday, March 13, 2009

For The First 500

I can't believe it! This is the 500th entry here – two and a half years after I wrote the first.
To celebrate, I've decided to offer everyone a chance to own a Dooney original: a small, limited edition, color photographic study from my
Lake Eyre series, titled Study for Modern Strategies For Survival : Resized For Mass Consumption (see the entry below). Each print is stamped, signed, dated and numbered on verso. The image size is around 2" x 3" on 4" x 6" paper.
Of course, only 500 are available.
To obtain one, all you have to do is email me your name, snail mail and email addresses and my Sydney studio will post it to you (at my expense) by surface mail.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In The Pink

Forgive me if I've told you this before but I have a fetish for panties.
When I was 15, I blew my first paycheck on a pair of hand-sewn black silk french knickers. At the time, I was practically living in a pair of recycled men's 501 Levis and I didn't yet date, let alone have a boyfriend. So buying the knickers was a purely selfish extravagance. I loved the slightly lurid sensation of soft silk against my skin, so unlike the coarse chafe of denim that I was used to.
In my late teens and early 20s, I discovered the provocative anticipation of putting on panties only to have someone else take them off again. I preferred the plain fabrics, in fine mesh – just sheer enough
to enable another to trace the undulating topography of the anatomy beneath. My favourite colour, even then, was pink. In many of my paintings, I 'd use hot pink combined with camel and the candy-like hue worked just a well against my own skin. Hot pink was as seductive – it could conjure up anything from reluctant, shy sensuality to crotch-rubbing randiness.
My bought my first pair of pink panties in a set with a pale, metallic pink Calvin Klein bra. I wore both the bra and panties a lot for my boyfriend at the time but they found their way into my art by chance when I photographed myself wearing them for a number of of Polaroid studies I did for a new series of paintings
My favourite pair of panties were hot pink mesh with orange trim. They were a forgettable brand. I don't even remember where I found them. I bought several pairs. When I went to Lake Eyre as the only female member of a highly publicised artists' expedition, I threw a few of them into my bag. I intended to wear them only under my dusty jeans but I ended up donning them for a bit of 'spot colour', first in the series of 35mm study photographs then in the large, high gloss enamel paintings inspired by the journey.
The same panties became somewhat notorious – and inextricable linked to my public image – when a photograph of me wearing them with only a dusty white wife-beater, Aviator shades, and a pair of high, leather boots (oh, and a 12-gauge shotgun and leather bandoliers) was chosen as the cover image for a national weekend newspaper lift-out. You could just make out the dark shadow of my pubic hair beneath the sheer mesh bunched slightly around my crotch.
Getting me out of my pink knickers isn't as easy as it might have been when I was in my twenties. Getting them out of my work is proving even harder. It's as if, somewhere beneath their flimsy fabric and thin, elasticised waist bands is the sweet, sticky secret of a girlhood fantasy I'm reluctant to leave behind.
The expression 'pink bits' still means a lot of different things to me – and not just as an artist.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fucked In The Art, Final Part

I'm not done ranting yet.
I've always wanted to tell those who leave nasty, mean-spirited or just plain dumb anonymous comments on this blog to eat shit and die.
It's easy to spit bile at me from the shadows. You don't have to show yourself the way I do every day when I write, draw or paint. You don't have to show your work either – especially the work, because then you'd be faced not just with my judgement but others' as well.
But remember this: anonymity is relative on the web. Here, an IP address is logged with every comment. And although I choose to ignore the worst of what's written to or about me, you can be damn sure I can know exactly who – and where – you are, if I want to. Go too far and yeah, I will come looking for you.
The worst nearly always comes from people from my past, people who think I owe them something. Which means most of them are from men: men who resent that I didn't do what they told me to, men who are pissed that I didn't fuck them or pander to their egos, men who failed to turn me into their cash cow, men whom I just didn't like (or, in a couple of cases, love) anymore. Most are too pathetic for me to spare them a second thought.
I respect those of you who use your real names on your comments. It shows you're willing to stand behind what you say, whatever it is, and take whatever comes back at you (usually from the malevolent anonymous dweebs).
I live what I write and paint. I'm candid to a fault. I don't care how anyone takes it. Which gives me the moral high ground when it comes to gossip: I have nothing to hide and nothing I'm ashamed of. I suffer from a serious mental illness. I fuck both boys and girls and sometimes find it hard to tell the difference. I spend more money than I earn. I'm hard to deal with when things aren't going my way. I work long hours – long fucking weeks – without a break and when I do, I don't answer the door, the phone or my mail. I lose months to angry, self-destructive depressive epsiodes during which I can barely drag my ass out of bed.
I handle my business just as openly. I don't bid for my own work at auction. I don't do deals under the table. I respect the contracts that I make. Also, I don't back down when someone does wrong by me.
All of which leaves little that's true as fodder for gossip or trash talk. Most of what circulates about me that hasn't actually come from me is bullshit. How can you know for sure? Ask yourself how much of it turns up in public, where it risks being embarrassed by proof of its untruth or worse, aggressive legal action.
I don't owe anyone anything (except, of course, money, lots of money). I sure as hell don't owe other artists. I try to support or encourage some I care about. I try not to hurt the feelings of others. But I feel no obligation to like everybody's work – nor to like them – let alone nurse them in their careers. If you can't glean the 'secrets' of my success, such as they are, from reading this blog then maybe you're just stupid. If you're too lazy to read it all, don't write and ask me for a summary. My limited free time is precious to me: I'd prefer to waste it on reading, watching TV or sticky sex.
I don't give a toss if you feel abject because I didn't respond to something you've written to me. If you've got the urgent need to express your resentment, be a grown-up and keep it to yourself.
In the last few years, I've made more money than many gallerists and certainly, most artists in Australia. I've spent almost all of it on my work. If, one day, the income evaporates completely, it won't bother me. I'll live in my van or in some squat in the middle of nowhere. It's not like I've never done it before. And I'll keep painting. Fame, money, social status, popularity and the easy life are fine but in the end, they're only really fun if you haven't got anything better to care about.
All I care about is my work, about doing it well. If I have one piece of advice to offer about being an artist, that's it: care about your work and nothing else. It's harder than you think.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Fucked In The Art, Part Two

Yesterday was a very bad day.
For one thing, it was if every other conversation I had was with someone whose agenda did not include doing the right thing by me. I got told nasty tidbits of gossip about myself, by people who've only ever pretended to be friends. One of them implied I had a sugar-daddy paying my way – a tired male chauvinist dig reserved for any woman who makes her own way, on her own terms, except this time it was delivered by a middle-aged woman. I got threatened with unrealistic, un-doable and entirely arbitrary deadlines. I was told at least a dozen obvious lies.
Then
I snapped. I decided I'd tell the very next person who pissed me off exactly how things really stood.
I know I'm not always easy to deal with. I don't clock into and out of work at regular times and I don't set, let alone respect, deadlines. The only thing I guarantee is good work. The collectors and curators who commit to the expensive, drawn-out, sometimes difficult process of working with me on a commission are rewarded with getting exactly what they'd been hoping for. In that, I don't disappoint.
As far as I'm concerned, my only job as an artist is to do my art well. I'm not a decorator or a tradesman. I'm not in a service business. I don't do house calls, estimates, plans for approvals or timelines. I don't match the colour of my work to the drapes. I sure as hell don't sell it to people I don't like.
And you know something? It works. I'm independent entirely of a tired, creaky system run by socially aspirational middlemen with no real care for art or the artist. I was one of the first Australian artists to opt of this system, thanks to the web, broadband and a bunch of smart advisors (many of them women) whose strategies I was foolhardy enough to implement.
These strategies weren't some 'last resort' because I couldn't find the right gallery to represent me. Quite the opposite: I chose to cut ties with two of the very best Australian galleries in order to have my freedom. The old ways of selling art and artists – some of which are so archaic they were established even before the Renaissance – are dying. A new generation of artists – and musicians, writers, film-makers, and performers – are showing themselves to be smarter, more media-savvy and better organised than the smug, self-promoting 10-percenters (or rather, in the art world, 50-percenters) who used to 'represent' or 'manage' us and 'deal' on our behalf.
I make the best art that I can. I make it with as much thought, emotion, and sheer bloody craft as I can. It takes time. So if I don't want to deliver a work until it is ready –
I might be the harshest judge of my own work but I've rarely been proven to be wrong – then that's the way it has to be. Even if it takes a lot longer than was expected.
Most fashion designers, art directors and interior decorators are forgotten in the month or so between one issue of Vogue Living and the next, but artists' reputations are affected by their worst work for generations.
I
've lost patience with the occasional collector who infers from a delayed delivery that the work is flawed or, worse, not going to get to them at all – as if it's controlled by some mysterious, mystical force rather than my own blood, sweat, tears and intellect.
My most recent works are now valued in the tens of thousands of dollars but I've had to pour in a lot more money, time, effort, and emotion than I've earned back yet in order to make this so. When I fall behind on a commission, it's not because I'm tired or lazy but because I'm just trying to get it right.
I understand collectors' fears, frustration and frugality when it comes art and money, especially in these bad times. But I've proven my commitment to the value of my work, over and over again. I've never let anyone down over the long haul, never promised anything I couldn't or wouldn't deliver, never delivered a disappointing work, never not delivered.
There are those who get it – who get all this – then there are those who don't. I won't deal with the latter at all, no matter how much money or fame is on of
fer.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Fucked In The Art, Part One

This morning, I found out that a Queensland gallery had used an image of mine, Under And Over, from my Lake Eyre series, to promote a fund-raising exhibition. The invitation had been sent to a list of recipients that included several of my collectors. The image was also used, badly cropped, on a web site associated with the event. I'm usually pretty relaxed about how, where and why my work is reproduced, online and off. As is highlighted at the bottom of the right hand column of this blog, I'm a supporter of the ideals of Creative Commons – the words and images on this blog are all licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License – but that doesn't mean that I'm up for a free-for-all when it comes to my rights.
The way the Queensland gallery appropriated my image without permission and without any respect for the terms of the published Creative Commons license stuck in my craw. Firstly, the work was being used to promote a fund-raising event – the objective of which was to buy guns for a private girls' school's shooting club. This is not 'non-commercial' under the terms of the Creative Commons license and thus subject to my permission. Secondly, the image, which was downloaded from my web site, was low res', slightly blurred and placed within an unflattering design promoting not only the gallery but also the use of guns for sport (not exactly an issue to which I'm sympathetic – for the record, my image was intended to be ironic). I was given no opportunity to object to this. Finally, the image itself was altered by the addition of a strip of mismatched colour at the top. Even if one put this down to clumsy graphic design, it altered the image and was yet another breach of the conditions of my Creative Commons license.
I don't know the gallery's director well. I dealt with her briefly once, a few years ago, when she was learning the ropes at a gallery I was in the process of leaving. Today, when I called her to express my objections to the use of my image, she was dismissive and unapologetic. When I emailed her afterwards, specifying the ways in which she had breached my copyright, she offered an insincere apology and tried to assure me the invitation had not yet been sent out. Of course, it had – that's how it'd found its way to me via not one but several of my collectors. She then tried to 'stroke' me by telling me, "I'm a big fan of your work, and consequently, your fan base has grown as everyone loves the image."
I am not exactly an unknown artist who should be bloody grateful for any exposure I get. Quite the opposite. The series of works of which the image featured on the invitation was a part had been the subject of a nationally televised TV documentary and had toured several regional and national galleries. As far as I was concerned, she had callously and clumsily appropriated a widely recognised name (mine!) and image and exploited the existing, widespread interest in both for commercial gain.
And for the record, I don't give a toss if a gallerist or anyone else is a 'fan' of my work. I'm an artist, not a pop star or TV personality. I don't need to cultivate a 'fan base'. The interest of my collectors – and those of you who read this blog regularly – is a lot more complex and committed than that.
In the end, I sent the gallery director a much stronger, more insistent email, instructing her to 'cease and desist'. I copied it to the pit-bull-like, big city law partnership I use to escalate these sorts of battles for me. Less than ten minutes later, the gallery director offered a formal, public apology, albeit without being specific about how she would do this.
In the art world, as elsewhere, words are cheap.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Banking On It

Two years ago, none of my work ever turned up at auction. I liked to think that it was because, as gallerists put it, my work was '"closely held". The truth was, my paintings just weren't sought after enough to make it worthwhile for potential sellers to submit them to the better auction houses.
When one of my earliest works did, finally, make it into a a low-key Lawson-Menzies sale in Sydney, in 2006, you might have been hard-pressed to find it. There was no illustration in the catalogue and its lot number was so high that it might have been mistaken for a footnote. Nevertheless, it sold well above the pre-sale estimate.
Since the new highs set for my work at Christies' sales of Australian art in London, in December, 2007 and 2008, interest in my work has hockey-sticked upwards. I'm now seen as 'bankable', something of an up-and-comer, maybe even a minor marquee name. An illustrated description of the main work of mine being offered at the upcoming
Menzies Art Brands auction is featured in the front pages of their glossy, printed catalogue.
Bird Of Prey
, shown above, from my Lake Eyre On Acid series, is lot no. 2 in the Deutscher-Menzies auction in Sydney on the 25th March. Executed in high gloss enamel and reflective vinyl on a 100cm x 150cm custom-made board, the estimate for the 2003 work is from $A10,000 to $A14,000 – a generous range given the current economic climate but still just half what two less interesting works of mine sold for in London, 15 months ago.
Bird Of Prey
can be viewed in Melbourne from the 12th to the 15th March at Menzies Art Brands Gallery, 1140 Malvern Road, Malvern, Vic. 3144, and in Sydney from the 19th to the 24th March, at 12 Todman Ave., Kensington, NSW 2033.
Two smaller (40cm x 50cm) works of mine,
The Boxer and The Basketball Player, from the 2002 series, Sports Babes, Resized For Easy Consumption, are included in the Lawson-Menzies on the same evening. Estimates for each are from $A4,000 to $A5,000.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How It Is, Lately

the first sign of mania
is the aluminium-tinged
odour of my sweat, bad
chemistry in ferment,
a smoking circuit in the
fragile motherboard
of my brain.
depression has no
smell.
which is maybe
why i
imagine that its grim

episodes of jittery unease
are
just a symptom of a
commoner life, encircled
by dull routine.
Some time ago, I copied this brief poem (by an Australian writer) into a sketchbook. I'd wanted to use fragments of it in one of my watercolours. Then I forgot all about it. Last night, I came across it again, scribbled in frantic pencil along the inner margin of a page. Its stark truth disturbed me, more than a little.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Re-Surfacing

Large frames are stacked against the walls of my living room. They're all custom-made for me by Graham Reynolds , a master frame-maker based in Brisbane, Australia. Their edges are cambered to mimic the first frames and canvases I made myself in 1997 and they're sprayed with gesso. The fronts have been sanded to a satin-like smoothness.
Over the years, I've asked Graham to undertake more of the preparatory work on my surfaces. I used to roll on the base paint in an equal number of coats on the back and front so that the timber was sealed evenly. Last year, Graham began to spray these layers in his workshop. The finish is far better than anything I could manage, even after a dozen years of practice. They're so seamless I hate to sand them even very lightly to adhere the first coat of enamel.
The fronts of several of the boards I have are raw gesso. I'd planned to use them for large watercolour works. Water-based paint seeps into the porous gesso, which wicks and blots it a little like expensive cold-pressed paper. But now I need to use all of the frames for new enamel commissions. With the help of a local student, I've been wrapping them to courier back to Graham to be sprayed.
It's expensive and time-consuming. However, when I discover a new way to improve the craftsmanship and surface quality of my work, I embrace it. These days, I hardly ever look back to how I used to do things.