Sunday, January 30, 2011

800

This is the 800th post. To celebrate it, I've decided resuscitate one of Self Vs. Self's earliest innovations: the free, downloadable, 'unlimited edition' print.
I've always credited the late
Robert Graham, the Mexican-American sculptor and husband of actress Anjelica Huston, with this idea. He came up with it in the late '90s when he offered a few simple, black and white, nude study drawings as free downloads from an early iteration of his web site. I refined the idea, six years later, by creating works specifically as online 'unlimited editions', distributed under a limited Creative Commons license. I also offered to sign prints sent to my studio (provided they were accompanied by a self-addressed envelope).
To celebrate this latest milestone in my blog's ongoing four-and-a-half year adventure, I'm offering three downloadable 'unlimited edition' images (pictured above). Think of them as either a choice or a triptych. They are from a recent series of diaristic pen-and-ink drawings that describe, in pared-down but explicit line-work, intense sexual encounters wthin which 'normal' genderal roles are obscured or transgressed and a hunger for more sensation veers towards violence. I can't help but see the drawings as fragments of a horror story: sex as it might be for predatory, devouring zombies – sex as it has been for me.
I've called the series, which includes more than 20 drawings, The Flesh Eaters.
Each of the images can be downloaded separately, in high resolution, here. They can be printed, reproduced or re-distributed for non-commercial purposes in any medium, providing the limitations of my
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 license are respected.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Moment, Too Soon Passed

It is now more than five years since I packed up my belongings into a rented station wagon and left my father's home in Melbourne to drive more than 500 miles north to a fashionable beachside suburb on the Barrenjoey Peninisula, not far from Sydney. There, I rented a ramshackle weatherboard cottage with a view of the wide Pacific Ocean – it belonged to the actors Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward – and set up my first real studio in its leaky garage.
I've had half a dozen other studios since but I will always have the fondest memories of that tiny secluded cottage. When I wasn't painting, I immersed myself in books I'd been planning to read for years.
I photographed myself in the overgrown garden with a clunky 35mm panoramic camera given to me by Lomo. I swam naked in the palm-shaded, heated pool. And I learned to fuck, allowing myself to be open to everything two bodies could do – and came harder than I ever had before.
Maybe for the first time in my life, I felt utterly free.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Twisted Tits

As the late Hunter S. Thompson used to remind us, some days the going gets seriously weird.
I'm thinking weird like From Dusk 'Til Dawn, the film written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez. It starts out as a noir-ish, over-the-top and cliché-ridden store-heist-gone-bad-turned-kidnap-ordeal but about half-way through morphs into a gorey, Russ Meyer-like, vampire schlock-horror comedy, most of it played out in a roadhouse called the Titty Twister. The titties are first-class, too, belonging to a pneumatic but still youthful Selma Hayek (pictured above), with George Clooney as a testosterone-pumped retooling of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
My day got weird when I came across a lengthy post on a blog titled, somewhat unimaginatively, Artdomain Art Marketing Blog. The post, like my day, started out ordinarily enough: another somewhat didactic, run-of-the-mill assessment of my art and career, indistinguishable from scores of others littering the web. But it didn't take more than a couple of paragraphs before it turned... odd. The rather long, over-written entry outlined a hypothesis that my success was entirely due to it having been promoted by unidentified architects of a New World Order – whom the blogger refers to as the Globalists.
These shadowy puppetmasters "have identified the family as the source of strength for people,that must be destroyed. By destroying this universal power base for people, the Globalists know that they will have less resistance as their New World Order and tyranny are rolled out."
The writer admitted, "I admire Hazel Dooney in many ways... but I can’t help but wonder if she may be a pawn in the Globalists' game and that her art is promoted and supported, partly due to the fact that her lifestyle choices and art supports their agenda."
Of course, according to the blogs' readers, who commented at length beneath this ineptly cobbled-together tripe, these unlikely contentions didn't go far enough. My "lesbian art" was just the tip of an iceberg which threatened to sink the God-willed dominance of the male of our species: "I do not know if it’s possible to make any meaningful definition or even an attempt to explore women’s sexuality outside the men’s context," one commenter wailed, "it just becomes devoid of any meaning."
Another argued that "the advertising scene is driven predominately by young women. Many of them are the artists because they come cheaper than the men."
Which is funny, really, because the one thing everyone concedes about my art, even my harshest critics, is that it doesn't come cheap.
But that probably just adds more grist to the Globalist conspiracy mill.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Obvious Outsider

A recent interview with me can be found in the current issue of the U.S. magazine, Obvious. I'm also featured on the magazine's cover, a first for me. I'm never entirely comfortable with how I come across in print but I enjoyed the Q'n'A conducted by LA-based writer, Nancy Southwick:
"When I first sat down with Australian painter Hazel Dooney, I was intrigued by her sublime understated confidence that is both extremely attractive and strong. It is this quality of her character that she is able to get across in her work. Hazel personifies an alluring, punk rock, mischievous, genius artist. Since coming onto the art scene less than ten years ago she has emerged as one of the most controversial female artists of our generation. She is the outsider that everyone wants to be connected with. Some describe her art as Shock Pop.
"Her provocative work has captured the attention of many of the trendsetters of our time. The subject matter is intensely sexual yet it evokes a kind of girlie openness that is refreshing. Nothing about her work or her nature is compromised. The work is pivotal and it strikes a chord within the viewer and makes them succumb to an inner dialogue with themselves."
You can read the the rest of the piece
here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pennies For The Boatman

My father's funeral takes place this afternoon.
I am not a religious woman. I have no 'faith'. But death has a way of tweaking atavistic superstitions in all of us. I wanted to leave something with my father's remains before they were cremated.
The notion of the dead passing from one realm to another is expressed in different ways in different cultures but the need to furnish them with goods for the journey – money, weapons, food, treasured possessions – is common to most ancient traditions. In some, a boatman is said to ferry souls across dark water to the after-life: the most famous is Charon, of Greek mythology, who navigates the rivers Styx and Acheron to Hades.
The tradition of placing coins on the eyes of the dead stems from an obligation to 'pay the boatman'.
For various reasons, I didn't want to place coins on my father's eyes but I didn't want to take the chance of his soul being stranded if the myths turned out to be true. So I spent yesterday morning crafting a small, black felt pouch, hand-stitched with waxed upholstery thread to a pale leather thong, to contain a few coins. I will place the pouch on his chest, beneath his hands, and the thong around his neck, before his coffin is closed.
The tradition calls for the coins to be pennies and I have stuck with this, providing him two pre-decimal ones minted in the years of his conception and birth. However, I have also allowed for centuries of inflation and added around five dollars in additional funds. My father was a generous man and would probably want to tip the boatman at the end of the passage – or offer to pay for a fellow-traveller who hadn't coins for the toll.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Under The Hammer, Again

Another of my small paintings from 2002, Sports Career Babe: The Boxer (Resized for Easy Consumption), in high gloss enamel on board, 40cm x 50cm, is to be sold at Lawson-Menzies Quarterly Fine Art Auction in Sydney on Wednesday, 23rd February. The pre-sale estimate is $A5,000 to $A7,000. Last month, at Menzies Art Brands' final auction of Australian fine art for 2010, in Melbourne, a small 2002 painting, Career Babe: The Surf Life Saver (Resized for Easy Consumption), in high gloss enamel on board and measuring just 40cm x 50cm, sold for $A7,200, including commissions. This exceeded pre-sale estimates of $A3,800 to $A4,500 and set a new Australian high for my smallest works.
Also in next month's Lawson-Menzies sale is Death Angel (above) in high gloss enamel on canvas, 147.5 x 105.5cm. Unsold at my first-ever exhibition at a commercial art space – Ultra Violet One, at Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane, in 1998 – the pre-sale estimate now is $A11,000 to $14,000, more than ten times the price the gallery put on it twelve years ago.

Friday, January 14, 2011

In Memoriam: Thomas Dooney

My father, Thomas Dooney, died today, just five days before his 66th birthday.
This is my favorite photograph of him, taken in 2009. Indomitable and defiant, he rode his customised Harley Davidson even while enduring chemotherapy and radiation.
Without his early encouragement, I might still have become an artist but without his love and commitment to me as a single parent, I would never have become as independent, determined, and dismissive of convention.
I love him deeply. I miss him more than words can express.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Before The Deluge

Yesterday, I woke to another day of heavy rain. Worried about possible leaks, my assistant drove to the new enamel studio. She stacked the aluminium trestles at the back of the space and piled folded canvas drop sheets high on top of them.
The last thing we expected was a phone call, around noon, telling us that the city was being evacuated. I turned on the TV news to see footage of a swollen Brisbane River beginning to break its banks. The anchorwoman reported, with exaggerated calm, that "workers in the city had been asked to leave". Bus routes were closed and freeways were thick with cars and taxis. I told my assistant to go home.
A few weeks ago, I'd already moved my stretchers and art materials from a semi-rural studio which, according to news reports, was now already inundated, to a smaller, drier space in my father's home. Now I moved them higher up in the house. I drove to the local supermarket to stock up on food and toiletries for the next few days. The shelves were almost bare and staff handed out sweets to placate the crowds. I filled my truck with petrol. I still wasn't taking it seriously but I thought I may as well be prepared.
Back at my studio, I was at something of a loose end. The paintings I wanted to work on weren't dry enough to re-coat, despite a constant stream of hot air from a heater. I caught up on emails and a backlog of admin' on my website. I left the TV on in the background, set to a 24-hour news channel. The death toll from the flash flood in Toowoomba, an hour west, was increasing. The footage showed a fast-building wave of water sweeping away cars and houses.
The report was interrupted by a a grim announcement from the state's Premier: the Wivenhoe Dam, built to protect Brisbane after the last flood disaster in 1974, was so full it could no longer protect the city. The river was predicted to rise rapidly within 48 hours.
I looked up the flood maps online to see if the areas where I am, and where my father is confined at a hospice,were likely affected. It's unlikely that either of us will be washed out but the roads between probably will be in about 12 hours time. I decided to visit him. I wanted to let him know I was alright.
On the drive back, the streets were deserted except for an occasional, empty bus with a 'No Service' sign illuminated on the front. The only indication that something was wrong was the sound as I drove over bridges: a dull roar of water rushing through creeks and gullies that would soon be too narrow to contain it. It felt like a scene from a movie, the kind shot to build anticipation and fear. My street looked the same as it always does. It was the sound that made it eery. Every TV in every house was tuned to news.
According to Brisbane's Mayor, "A volume of water equivalent to two Sydney Harbours is pouring over the vast dam's spillway into the river every 24 hours." Three quarters of the state, including Brisbane, have been declared disaster zones. Ironically, the only damage I expect to sustain is the loss of a large, unpainted stretcher being kept at a specialist art storage facility. According to flood projections, the building is due to be underwater tomorrow. But I can order another stretcher easily. It won't be as easy for the company, which has transported a lot of my work over the last months, to recover.
This morning, the rain has stopped. The city's power is soon to be be shut down in preparation for the worsening of the flood. Everything is strangely silent: no cars, no trains, no people's voices, not even barking dogs. Anyone who's not evacuating has been asked to stay inside.
I keep on working.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kiss And Tell

I flew to Sydney immediately after Christmas to meet a young professional couple who have commissioned me to paint their portrait.
It is to be one of the first of a handful I've agreed to undertake as something of an homage to the portraits Andy Warhol created from the 1960s until his death. His portraits weren't really paintings but photographs silk-screened then colored with paint.
I want to replicate their square, 106cms by 106cms dimensions and predominantly head-and-shoulders compositions but hand-draw and paint from (but not onto) photographic studies using mixed media, including oils.
I spoke with the couple by 'phone a few days before the shoot. They – and I – weren't interested in a 'traditional' portrait. I suggested that I photograph them as they kiss passionately. It would require privacy.
As it turned out, they were staying at my favourite Sydney hotel. I'd once photographed myself there having sex with a waif-like Korean girl for my 2008 photographic exhibition, PORNO.
I began photographing the couple almost as soon as I entered their room – small talk seemed inappropriate and hesitation awkward. At first, I arranged them on a large chair. It was uncomfortable so I asked them to sit on the bed. It was the proverbial elephant in the room but they were sweet, brave and trusting.
They kissed hard, unself-consciously, without pause, almost without breath. I moved around them, photographing from different angles. By the time I was done, a pink rash had formed around her mouth and his neck was stiff. But they were smiling and happy. I sat with them for a while, talking about the commission and its logistics. Then I left.
I didn't look at the photographs until today. I wanted some distance from the experience itself. It will be another few weeks before I select the image I'll use and begin the real work.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

In The Raw

The following are a series of images I made in 2005. Using watercolour, lead pencil, a little white acrylic and quotes from my lover's poetry, I completed them all in a day as one continuous work on 30 folding panels of an accordian-like span of paper within a small (9cm x 14cm), Japanese-style notebook produced by Moleskine.
It was one of my first experiments with watercolours but more, it was an attempt to tear away the seamless, glossy surface of the enamels on which I'd focussed for the previous ten years and express everything raw and out of control beneath my skin at the time. I didn't think. I didn't plan. I just let it bleed (sometimes literally) from brush to page.
I gave the finished book to my lover. It was, after all, the best and most meaningful account I could give of us. It was the also most real I had ever been in my art.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Dogged Days

I sand the edges of a large enamel painting, removing lumps and puckered surfaces caused by high humidity. I hold the frame with my other hand, making sure my fingers don't press against the canvas and cause a dent. It's taken two weeks in a heated room for the paint to dry enough to be abrased back.
The combination of rain and subtropical summer heat has raised ambient moisture levels to over 80 per cent. When water isn't bucketing from the sky it's evaporating from the saturated ground in a steamy vapour. Usually a coat of enamel dries within 24 hours, although I usually wait twice as long because I'm cautious. Now each coat is taking a week and all I can do is sand, smooth and re-paint those areas that are affected by moisture.
Of course, I can't start working on any new enamels yet and I've paused all works on paper, which is prone to excessive moisture absorption, causing blotting and fluting.
I work for several hours on the enamel-coated canvas, using increasingly fine grades of sandpaper. Afterwards I remove the dust with a tack cloth, a square of folded, sticky gauze. It leaves no residue or fibre particles and seems to last forever. I close all the windows and switch on two heaters so that they blow hot air into the centre of the room. I leave the painting horizontal on two aluminium trestles so the sides can harden equally. The warm air hits the back of the canvas as well, drying the paint from both sides.
I want the recently exposed layers to cure properly before I re-apply the final coat of enamel.
The room is small so I can control the temperature. Fine mesh screens cover the windows prevent insects flying in and getting stuck in the wet paint: mosquitoes and flies are as attracted to enamel as they are to blood.
I mix a new tin full of custom-made colour then strain it through pantyhose to remove particles of dust, fibres or minute lumps of dried paint. I label it by the area to which it'll be applied – 'crawling girl shoe sole', 'red dress', 'sitting girl background' – and note the colours and ratios I've mixed. The process is disciplined and rigorous. There is very little thinking involved. Every step on every enamel painting is performed in the exact same way.
My studio work is purely technical and mechanical – and not creative at all: days pass sanding, straining, and painting.
I find it hard to get back into it after even just a few days off. I lose the rhythm of dogged routine as well as the impetus to continue. The work is exacting, tedious, and uncomfortable. A rubber air-filter mask vaccuum-sucks over my face and mouth and seals in a film of grimey perspiration. The enamel fumes dessicate my nasal cavities and eyes and make me nauseous. My back aches.
Worst of all, it's boring. I have been through this process so many times, I could do it in my sleep.
But I still care that it's done flawlessly, beautifully. My energy increases the more I work. And as long I'm working, I know that, at some point, each painting will be finished.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A Post-Christmas Present

A parcel is delivered to my Brisbane studio from The Impossible Project in Austria: it's a kit for lifting and transferring the fragile images from Polaroid instant pictures to create translucent, gossamer-light prints. It occurs to me that the contents are a concept, a technique, rather than materials of any value. They're packaged in an attractive, plain wooden box padded with shredded paper. It reminds me of the late Dash Snow and his drug-addled 'hamster nest' installations.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Season's Grating

Despite taking a couple of weeks off from social media, I didn't have much time to myself over the 'holiday'. In between precious hours spent by my father's bedside at a hospice in Brisbane, I tried to make up time lost – to rain, humidity and having to abandon my large, semi-rural studio – on three large enamel works.
I also had to prepare for a number of new works. I flew to Sydney for half a day to photograph a couple for a portrait commission, just before they boarded a plane to return to high-powered jobs in Austria. Thrusting the phallic, 14-45mm zoom lens of my new Panasonic Lumix GF-1 into their faces as they kissed, I sounded like Bill Murray's hapless translator in Lost In Translation as I urged, "More... intensity" and ran rough-shod over their natural disinclination to let me intrude on their intimacy. Afterwards, I braved the cheap lube' stench of a couple of sex shops in Kings Cross, looking for unusual props for a video project, before retreating from the rain to my beach-side hotel.
My relentless schedule, lack of sleep, poor diet and a measure of depression exerted its toll when I returned to Brisbane. I spent New Year's Eve in bed, alone, ordered there by my doctor, who also prescribed a course of antibiotics. No fireworks and champagne for me at midnight – not even a desultory fuck. I was fast asleep.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Case Studied

A previous entry from this blog – about the development of my direct relationship with auction houses – has been reproduced as a case study in Strategy: Theory And Practice, by Clegg, Carter, Kornberger and Schweitzer, published by SAGE. It's included in a section on International And Collaborative Strategy.
According to the press blurb, the book, "written by a team of leading academics", is "an invaluable guide to the core elements of strategy courses, that will challenge conventional thinking about the field... It provides a coherent and engaging overview of the established 'classics' of strategy, while taking an innovative approach to contemporary issues such as power and politics, ethics, branding, globalisation, collaboration, and the global financial crisis."
Whatever. I just wish the publisher had paid a little more attention to the way the image, above –
Sex, Drugs Whatever, 2001, in high gloss enamel on custom-made board, 100cm x 150cm – was reproduced.