Thursday, November 23, 2017

Moving to Another Platform

After eleven years, it's time for Self Vs. Self to become an archive of my essays and diary entries from 2006 to 2017. In future I'll use Instagram as a micro-blogging platform from which to share my writing and art.
The reason for my move is simple: Instagram is a better space to connect and converse with people who are interested in my work.

You can follow me at I will remain on Twitter under the same username, @hazeldooney. You don't need an account at either site to view my work. However if you'd like to leave a comment or interact with me there, you do.

I dislike that Facebook owns
Instagram. I hate Facebook. But we've reached a point where every social media platform is ethically compromised (and potentially compromising to users). And I still want to connect directly with the audience for my work.

As a way around Instagram's censorship of photographs, I will post uncensored photos on Twitter. I plan on using a combination of Insta' and Twitter to give a fuller experience than either site can offer alone.

Moving forward, t
he best option is to figure out how to utilise online platforms without compromising our ideas or our selves. They are only structures that are dependent on content from willing participants. Ultimately, we each decide how to use them – and why.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Matthew 11:28

In memory of Adam Dunbar, 26 February 1974 6 November 2017.

Above: Adam's military medals resting on a white pillow at St Charbel's Maronite Church, Sydney.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Vale Adam Dunbar

My beloved friend, companion, unlikely muse, soulmate. You were the best. You will remain forever in our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dunbar and Abi-Hanna families, Adam’s battle buddy Danny and their military brothers and sisters. With deepest condolences, the Dooney and Heriot family.

You can't see it in this photo but Adam's eyes were the same colour as the brightest blue on his shirt. His gaze was penetrating and soulful. I spent time with him recently. We talked and comforted each other. I didn't know the end was coming. Regardless, I have nothing but love, trust and respect for this man.

I will take some time out to grieve and then return to my work, as previously planned. Please know that I have the support of my family and close friends and am taking care of myself.

Above: Facebook post from Modern Soldier. If you knew Adam or would like to make a tribute to his service and give condolences to his family, please go here.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Grey Matter

After years of shaving my head I wanted long hair again. I didn't know what to expect – I hadn't seen my natural colour or texture since I was seventeen. It turns out my hair falls in thick, loose curls and is rapidly turning grey. The baby hair above my right temple (where I had Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in 2012) is a patch of platinum silver. The same colour-devoid strands are scattered unevenly over the rest of my head.

When my hair was still only a few inches long I asked Belinda Jeffrey to dye it blonde. I consulted Belinda because I admire her precise use of colour. As an artist, I know it's not easy to custom-mix beautiful shades of cream, honey, caramel, burnt toffee, mocha and so on using paint. Belinda creates subtle shades of these colours on hair – which, unlike paper, is an unpredictable base medium. But she told me she preferred my natural colour, including the grey. I insisted, so she added tones that complemented instead of covered my original colour. Although they were beautiful, I realised she was right and have let it grow out naturally since.

Yesterday I returned to Belinda's salon, La Boutique, with longer and greyer hair. Kim Edwards trimmed the ends and reminded me how to take care of my unruly mane. Let it be.

Above: Self-portrait, reflected in a mirror at La Boutique.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fourteen Days in Sixteen Photos

As with other works in this series, I painted Study for Refined Face, Cowgirl as a private commission. Every few days I emailed photographs of my working process to the commissioning collectors. As I've mentioned previously, I think of it as a private virtual studio visit.

Below are a small selection of these photographs. When I email collectors I use colour photo's because they give more visual information. But I prefer to use black and white in this instance because I want to tell the story of execution. The colours I custom-mixed can be seen in the final artwork.

(Over) Refined Faces

My series of gouache on paper study paintings, titled Refined Faces, continues a long exploration of idealised, homogenised beauty. The kind of beauty that used to be an openly constructed, aspirational fantasy. But is now endlessly emulated by women on social media, often as a way of inserting themselves into advertising. It is a cartoon beauty – to which we are becoming increasingly accustomed thanks to airbrushing, filters and selfies taken at angles that 'improve' the curves and symmetry of bodies and faces. The aesthetic that spills into everyday life. These days, foundations are marketed using the terminology of airbrushing and Photoshop, promising to 'blur' the appearance of pores, blemishes and fine lines to create 'flaw-less, photo-perfect' skin. Even the bone structure of our faces can be temporarily altered using contouring make-up (once used only in film and professional photoshoots, in part to counter bright lighting which flattened facial features).

It feels good to look at my Refined Face paintings because the colours, lines, symmetry and seamless application of paint are harmonious. But they are an illusion. To paraphrase René Magritte, they are treacherous images: this is not a woman, it is a representation of a woman. The facial features are an impossible ideal. However we have become so well trained by advertising and pop culture that instead of recognising and taking pleasure in (or intellectually considering) these representations, we women often compare ourselves – or others compare us – to them. And then we attempt to re-create ourselves to match.

Study for Refined Face, Cowgirl, 2017. Gouache on 300gsm 100% cotton watercolour paper in medium texture. Image size 17cm x 28cm, paper size 29.7cm x 42cm.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Woman Artist as Subject, not Object

I don't smile on command. I don't smile just because it's expected. I don't smile if I don't feel like it. I very rarely smile in photographs with my art because it's not part of my job – you don't see photos of Picasso standing in front of his work and smiling like he's selling Coca-Cola.

Even when artists Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol posed for advertisements (for Old Angus Scotch, Pioneer and Sony) they didn't smile. They were there because of their accomplishments, not to be decorative. I rarely smile when standing next to a man in a professional environment because I'm there as an artist – not to be mistaken (or worse, falsely claimed) as someone's date or sexual conquest.

My smile is a gift. I don't hand it out carelessly. But that doesn't mean I never smile or I'm unhappy. I understand that because of my troubled past some comments about the rarity of my smile are made out of concern. To ease your mind, this is my smile in a private moment with friends earlier this week (celebrating a bachelorette party with a little pisco, followed by dancing to Latin music at a Salsa club).

Above: From left, Kate, bride-to-be Pía, Midori, me.
Below: Salvadore Dali for
Old Angus Scotch, Andy Warhol for Pioneer and Sony (click image for larger version).

Friday, August 11, 2017

Natural High, Babe

Career Babe: High Court Judge was sold at auction by Menzies last night for $A17,182 in total ($A14k hammer price + buyer's premium). The result exceeded their estimate of $A12,000 - $A16,000. You can view details at Menzies' August 2017 Prices Realised (see Lot 117).

I'm delighted. The buyer now owns a classic, beautifully executed example of my work for a reasonable price. The vendor made a profit – I'm happy for collectors of my work see a return on their investment. The result is beneficial to other collectors who have invested in my work as it increases overall value. Although I was not directly involved in the sale, the result is beneficial to my primary market pricing.

I view a strong result on the secondary market as a "win-win" situation for everyone. As long as the market develops naturally, over time, without interference. And I've always made an effort to ensure this is the case with my work

Monday, August 07, 2017

© Hazel Dooney

At the back of Menzies' printed catalogue for their forthcoming Australian & International Fine Art & Sculpture auction, on 10 August, is a page noting the copyright of artworks. I am the only artist credited by my name alone – one of my conditions for granting copyright permission.

I have always preferred to handle my own copyright and licensing. I don't want someone else making these decisions for me, especially without my knowledge. I want to know when and where my work is reproduced and assess each copyright permission individually. When it comes to auction catalogues, this approach allows me to ensure details such as the title and media are correct and, if necessary, address any issues regarding provenance long before a work is publicly offered for sale. It is also a protective measure against art fraud. It's important that information in auction catalogues is correct because they create a public record of the title, media and provenance of an artwork. To me, handling my own copyright is logical because I have the most information about my artwork. It is also logical that I am credited using my name alone.

I'm intrigued that I seem to be the only artist who takes this approach. Though I notice some of the artists' estates (entities which, among other things, manage an artist's copyright after they're dead) do the same.

Above: Page 216 of Menzies' print catalogue for their auction titled Australian & International Fine Art & Sculpture 10 August 2017. Highlight added. Please click image to view larger version. 

Career Babe at Auction

As mentioned previously, my high gloss enamel paintings are now only available on the secondary market. Career Babe: High Court Judge is a classic and particularly well executed example of my work in the medium.

The painting will be offered by Menzies at their forthcoming Australian & International Fine Art & Sculpture auction this Thursday, 10 August at Menzies Gallery, 1 Darling Street, South Yarra, Melbourne. The auction begins at 6:30pm.

Please note that the estimate is very reasonable – these days, works of this size and quality sell privately for $A20,000 or more.

Above: Career Babe: High Court Judge (Lot 117) in Menzies' print catalogue. You can also view the work in their online catalogue.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Studio Notes Ed. 2017.07

It seems like forever since I emailed regular updates via my newsletter, Studio Notes, which debuted a decade ago. I'm aware that my most recent edition didn't reach everyone who wanted to receive it, in part due to changes of email address and new filters. You can subscribe, or re-subscribe with a new email address, at my website (please add my new address, to your address book). In the meantime I thought I'd share the most recent edition here:

Back From The Precipice

There is a rich tradition of insanity among artists. Although it may heighten creativity, the less welcome symptoms can have a severe impact on one's day-to-day ability to function.

Over the last years I took an extended, self-imposed hiatus to learn how to manage a complex form of bipolar disorder which onset in my mid teens. Thankfully, the intensive treatment I received at a progressive private psychiatric hospital was successful.

Recently I moved back to Sydney. My focus is on making new art and reconnecting in person with collectors and supporters of my work. Earlier this year I travelled to Melbourne. As I re-establish myself financially I will travel more often, nationally and internationally, to reconnect – or meet for the first time – in person after many years of communicating remotely.

As you may know, my high gloss enamel paintings are now only available on the secondary market. Due to sensitivity to enamel paint fumes I no longer use the medium. In future I will continue a stream of major hard-edged works using traditional oil paints. Rather than attempt to replicate the finish of my enamels, I intend to further develop the ideas (and aesthetic) I explored in them – alongside looser, more experimental works. I'm currently painting gouache on paper and watercolour on paper artworks, which I will use as studies for these larger pieces.

I'm also launching a major conceptual artwork with two components: a text-based series titled Dooney Lives; and a companion series of one-off photographs, titled Dooney Lives (In Pictures). The artwork is an ongoing, autobiographical narrative told (and sold) in bite-sized pieces, inspired by a long engagement with social media and the idea of photographs as evidence. The series will develop in parallel with my life, with no end date:

"The expected life story of a woman like me is simple: burn bright and go down in flames, consumed by insanity. The End. I refuse to accept this as the story of my life. Dooney Lives and Dooney Lives (In Pictures) are a defiant declaration of intent and a voyeuristic invitation to watch me."

New works from Dooney Lives and Dooney Lives (In Pictures) will be posted regularly on my Instagram account, @hazeldooney, and archived on my website. If you are interested in one (or more!) of these pieces – or other works – please email me at Please note that my email addresses have been closed.

You can also find me on Twitter under the same username, @hazeldooney. I am gradually returning to writing longer pieces on my blog, Self Vs. Self. If you would like to receive my new blog entries via email please enter your address in the section marked "Follow by email" (at the top right of the page).

Hazel Dooney

Above: Making works on paper in my new space. Sydney, late June, 2017.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Return To Self

I set up the tripod at the edge of my neighbour's pool, flipped the timer on my digital camera and walked to the deep end. I dove in as the shutter sounded and swam the length underwater. Surfaced, stepped out of the pool, checked the shot. Repeated the process. Over and over. Some photographs are of me mid air, others are of the splash as my body entered the water.

Dripping wet, I carried the tripod (with camera still attached) to the backyard of my mother's house. There, I stripped off my bikini, flipped the timer on my camera and lay on a plastic banana lounge in front of overgrown trees, a raised vegetable garden bed and oversized pots of herbs. I let myself linger in the midday sun, got up to re-set the timer again, lay down slowly – repeating the succession of movements until they formed a rhythm.

I wasn't thinking of composition or light or what might make a good photograph. I thought about using my body as a life model for painting again; of movements I want to draw; of capturing the moments when I am relaxed and unselfconscious, in motion or sunbathing naked alone in the afternoons; of David Hockney's photo collages and swimming pool paintings and the way time is captured differently in photographs and paintings. Then I turned the camera off and lay down again, focussing only on the sensation of warmth and water evaporating from my bare skin.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Girl Friend

On a visit to my childhood friend, Olivia, she gave me a small stack of letters. They were my sporadic correspondence to her from when I was around eleven years old to fifteen or sixteen. I stopped writing when life became too tumultuous for me to explain. Here are two of them – a glimpse into who I was (in private, girlish conversation) and a friendship that has remained. Click each letter for a larger version.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Remembering I Can Swim

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, "What the hell is water?"...The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about." David Foster Wallace, Kenyon Commencement Address, 21 May, 2005.

For the last few days I've been laid low with an inflammation in my abdomen. The pain was so acute it made me faint. My GP prescribed a course of antibiotics and told me to come back if the pain didn't go away. I asked what would happen if it didn't and he said, "Surgery."

I panicked at the thought of losing more time to illness. But the antibiotics are working and the pain is gradually subsiding. Mostly, I slept. When awake I ran small errands, hung out with my family, told myself it would be ok. And it is ok.

Normalcy is still foreign to me. I am re-learning that most problems are small and easily resolved; most illnesses are minor and fleeting. I guess this is what life feels like after surviving a perfect storm and learning to manage a complex psychological condition: it takes a while to trust that that the next wave won't be a violent wipeout after all. And in the unlikely event that it is, I've proven I can make it through anyway.

Above: Walking before sunset at Collaroy Beach, Sydney, 2017.

Friday, April 07, 2017

The Evolution of Dooney Pink

When I first used pink in my art I hated the colour. I chose it for over-the-top girlishness, seduction and as a lewd reference to 'pink bits' (slang for female genitalia). I preferred the hottest, brightest, most intense shades – for paint and panties. Back then, my favourite was Elsa Schiaparelli's Shocking Pink. I liked the idea of the colour more than the colour itself.

Over the years, pink became a signature colour in my work. I refined it in 2008, adding white and a little yellow. I had grown tired of the purely conceptual. I wanted to look at the colour and feel pleasure. To me, at least, the current version of Dooney Pink is sensual and gentle:

Last time I saw my framer, she asked if I knew about Baker-Miller Pink (below). She said it reminded her of mine. I looked it up when I got home. I was amused to discover it's close to the pink I mixed for myself and was made with a similar intention – to create a pleasant feeling. Baker-Miller Pink was named by Alexander Schauss in the late 60s. He claimed the colour reduced hostile, violent or aggressive behavior. In the early 70s it was used to paint several prison and psychiatric facilities with the hope that it might soothe inmates' behaviour. Early results were positive but later results indicated an increase in violence. A report in 1998, titled The Effects of Baker-Miller Pink on Biological, Physical and Cognitive Behaviour, revealed conflicting results. Personally, it reminds me of musk sticks; a sickly sweet confection made of sugar, gelatine and musk oil flavour.
The idea of being imprisoned in a room painted in either pink makes me feel nauseous. I don't have much interest or faith in colour psychology these days. And yet I still find the very particular shade I mixed for Dooney Pink pleasing – and pleasurable.

Top: Self-portrait in pink panties, video study for my Lake Eyre series.
Dooney Pink, since around 2008.
Baker-Miller Pink.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

In Memory of Sighthounds

My whippet passed away last year. So did his brother – my father's dog. They were each seventeen, two more years than the breed is supposed to live.

They died several months apart but in the same way. Each came to me, weak and seeking affection. After watching my father die I can recognise the signs of a body shutting down. I let them sleep in my room and hand-fed them little balls of mince. Removed their collars, petted them for hours at a time. Carried them outside to pee. When they became too weak to eat anymore I called our vet, Gillian. She came to my mother's house to euthanise them. Each died peacefully in my lap while I stroked their sleek fur and held back my tears until they were gone.

Whippets were my father's choice of dog, long before either of us knew that artists favoured them. He trained these two. They still remembered the odd ways he spoiled them, like letting them eat the last piece of banana. After they died another trace of my father was gone. But I am thankful for the time I had with them and the comfort they gave me.

When Gillian retired recently I drew our whippets for her. I sketched from a photo, fast, so I could finish before I started to cry. Then I delivered it by hand to her surgery. Gillian knew the link between the whippets and my father – and I know they lived so long because of her care. Drawing them as a gift seemed like the most meaningful way I could thank her.

Cairo and Jim, 1999 - 2016. Lead pencil on watercolour paper.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Round Trip

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to go back into the world – specifically, my world. I booked a one-way train ticket to Sydney for $66, made three cotton jersey dresses to wear, packed a backpack, arranged to stay with an old friend of my mother's, J., and left a couple of days later. I haven't travelled on such a tight budget since I was a student.

In Sydney I had coffee with Patrick Gallagher, chairman of Allen & Unwin. I hung out with J. for the next day before catching a night train to Melbourne. There, I stayed with another friend of my mothers, N., for around a week. I had lunch (and, on another day, coffee) with Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle – together, we created my first public artwork, Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists. I also met two collectors of my work in person for the first time; had lunch with my old friend, gallerist Andy Dinan (and saw her purpose-built space MARS – which I think of as a new model for the bricks-and-mortar commercial gallery); visited Cameron Menzies at the South Yarra office of Menzies Art Brands; briefly met Menzies' Head of Art, Tim Abdullah, in person for the first time; had coffee with journalist Chris Johnston (who has previously written major features on my work – and me – for The Age); went to the opening of a new gallery space for emerging artists; had tea with a print-maker; and so on. In between appointments I wandered through The National Gallery of Victoria's Ian Potter Centre and Australian Centre for Moving Image.

I was surprised by how easily I fit back into the life I had before. It feels good. I'm also thankful to be welcomed back with such warmth and interest. I didn't want to leave – there are many more people in both cities with whom I want to reconnect. But I had art to make and new plans for the future to figure out.

: The only graffiti on
Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists, 2013 – a love heart scratched around the word 'woman'.

: Self in (home-made) blue dress, reflected in artwork by Jason Sims.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Long ago I wrote a blog entry, Solitude, about becoming anti-social and hermitic. Back then I often quoted Jean-Paul Sartre: Hell is other people. It's a line from his existentialist play, No Exit, which I revisited recently. The characters are damned souls locked in a room together in hell. There are no instruments of torture. Their hell is each other – their grating personalities and complicated histories.

Life can be like that. The hell of other people's company. We're not locked in a room together for eternity. But we are alive at the same time as each other, which is almost the same thing. A life-sentence of sorts.

I like connecting remotely by making art and writing. When I die, I hope others find some connection with what I leave behind. It's less complicated than dealing with other people. In the end, though, it's a lesser experience of life. Now that managing my mind doesn't take up most of my tolerance, I want to reconnect in person again.

It has been strange to return to the world while having a public archive of my complicated past. For a long time I wanted to start over with a clean slate. I thought about erasing all my writing – words are more specifically revealing than art. But I couldn't bring myself to destroy any more of my work. Besides, it wouldn't change my temperament or history. Eventually I thought, fuck it, this is who I am. We all have varying degrees of temperamental flaws and complicated pasts. And if we didn't start out that way we earn both through the experience of living.

The only solution I could find is the same conclusion as Sartre's characters in No Exit. To accept the complications of the human condition and get on with it. The final line of the play is
Eh bien, continuons – eh well, let's continue.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Constant Gardener

I sit across from my psychiatrist in his office, staring at the painting of the Indian garden. It hangs behind him, above his head. Long ago I asked if he placed it there for patients to look at and he said yes. I often wonder if it is special to him, or of importance in South India. But I don't question him further.

We have been talking like old friends but only about me: about my career; new art; my recent trip to Sydney and Melbourne to begin re-connecting with the world (my world) again. I am not here because anything is wrong. I am checking that my approach is sound and sustainable. Telling him about my plans. Asking for his opinion. We talk about my personal life and being open to connecting with others. About letting it happen instead of always blocking. I tell him I am quietly confident and a little scared. He says some anxiety is natural, he would be concerned by its absence. But he expects my confidence and happiness to grow. 

My attention returns to the garden. The painting has been a sanctuary for my mind over the last five years. It feels real to me. As if I have walked underneath the delicate golden arches, inhaled the scent of roses and jasmine, studied unfamiliar orchids. This is where I have been all that time I was away – in this exquisitely beautiful garden where it is always early summer. It is the place where my psychiatrist and I delved into and then reconstructed my damaged psyche. We walked through it together, confronting my troubled past. I sobbed into the grass as my broken heart healed. While I was lost in the painting, my mind was tended diligently by psychiatric nurses and staff at the private psychiatric hospital. Now, I know how to care for it myself.

I try to explain to my psychiatrist what the world is like to me now. Without the constant, exhausting struggle of inner turmoil and intense suicidal longing that came in my mid teens and stayed until a year or two ago. Everything is better than I thought. I keep staring at the painting and it occurs to me that the way I feel when I am in the world now is the same way I used to feel when I was inside the painting. Like I belong. Like everything is going to be ok.

He tells me we don't need to have these appointments anymore. If I ever want to rest for a couple of days I can return to the hospital. He doesn't expect it to happen, but it's always there for me. He does not have to say that he is there for me if I need him. I know.

I look at my psychiatrist's face and into his dark brown eyes. I realise he must have worked to a vision, with an understanding of how it would all come together: making a space for me to heal; re-planting the garden of my mind without destroying its wilderness, showing me how to tend it, how to both live inside my mind and in the world again. I think I finally get the companionable bond between us that is unrelated to our roles of doctor and patient. What we have done together – under his guidance – is similar to creating a major artwork. The process was a complex combination of experience, intuition, experiment, re-arranging, crafting and constantly refining. Except the result is not a garden or an artwork or an objet de art. It is me. Put back together again so I can live happily – and enjoy using the instrument I care about most: my mind.

Thank you, Dr. Chinna Samy. And thank you to all the staff (past and present) at Pine Rivers Private Hospital.

This is my last entry about my mental health. From now on I will maintain it in private – the public chapter is closed.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fine Motor Skills Test, Done!

The recovery of my fine motor skills has been measured in thin lines – black gouache stroked delicately onto paper using an exra fine brush.

My linework is faster and more precise than when I started this piece six months ago. I resumed work on it this month. To my surprise, it took less than a week to finish.

I was terrified that I may never be able to use my hands in the same way again. But it seems everything will be ok.

You can see earlier progress photographs at Fine Motor Skills, Test One and Fine Motor Skills, Test Two
(click images to see a larger version).