The Legacy of European Aspirations.

Castlemaine in central Victoria was part of the great gold rush in the 1880’s. The legacy of that wealth and aspiration, is a bounty of surviving period buildings. The Castlemaine  Art Gallery stands apart from the Victorian architecture, it is an amazing Neo Classical building built in 1933, and although small in scale has a stateliness that would not feel out of place in Gotham city. It’s small collection of early Australian art has some real gems of great importance, that in their own right are beautiful depictions of early Melbourne, but also important lamp posts in in the desire to bring cultural modernity to the developing colony.

McCubbin’s View of a Paddock in Hawthorn in 1883 is reminiscent of a great Constable study. Broody and full of atmosphere, the work has a profound optimism in face of the isolation of the new and daunting land. Seen in context to his masterpiece Lost (1886), this small work is powerful and rewarding and a precursor to his more famous work three years later.

Golden Sunlight  painted by McCubbin 30 years later in 1914 was a gift of Dame Nellie Melba. It is a view across the Yarra River from South Yarra and strikes an air of greater confidence  and maturity in the newly federated country of Australia. It is a stately and powerful work, and has a dialogue with Streetons paintings of Sydney.

An impression of Collins Street painted by Shearsby in 1910 is a wonderful painting and reminiscent of Pissaro’s Boulevard Montmartre which was acaquired by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1905.  It is technically a beautifully executed work,  bouncing  with the vitality and vibrancy of the burgeoning city. It pulses with energy, and unlike Pisarros work which evokes the timeless grandeur of Paris, speaks to Melbourne’s place as capital of Australia. This painting alone is worth the trip to Castlemaine 

My favourite painting is Winter Calm by Penleigh Boyd in 1920. It is a view of Frankston; undeveloped, rural, calm and  majestic. The blue of the still waters of Port Phillip shimmer and float on the deep, grey and steely waters that lie below its surface. It is a calm that sits nonchalantly above the power and the potential of the winter waters. It is perhaps the landscape metaphor that McCubbin was chasing but never quite resolved with the quiet power of this work.

A view on Princess Bridge was painted by Wilson in 1935, and like Boyd’s work provides the viewer with a rather romantic historical perspective on the development of Melbourne. The painting could be a view of London or Paris;  it aggrandizes Melbourne’s provincial character but it’s foremost character is its depiction of an early winter morning.  Make the trip to Castlemaines Art Gallery, it is a worthwhile exercise for a winter weekend.

Rome without the Crowds: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

A little known Museum in Rome, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is an imposing neo-cinquecentesco style Palazzo constructed between 1883 and 1887 by the architect Camillo Pistrucci. It houses an amazing collection; objects from the republican, empire and late empire periods of Rome. Sculptures, objects, frescoes, stucci and mosaics, including those from the remarkable  villa of Livia, wife of Augustus, at Prima Porta on the Via Flaminia. I was particularly impressed by the the collection of Mosaics which are perhaps the best to be found in Rome. Picasso knew his source material!

Located at Largo di Villa Peretti, 1, Roma, it is worth a visit as there will be no crowds to negotiate, and you feel the intimacy and beauty of Rome first hand.

Studio visit to New York Artist - Thornton Willis

Thornton Willis is a living link with the great New York art scene of the 40’s, 50’ and 60’s. Thornton lives in his New York loft in Soho just a stones throw from the Mercer Hotel and all things gentrified. Thornton and his wife Valied still live the bohemian lifestyle in a region devoid of any of its original authenticity. Thornton studied in the sixties, and gained strong recognition with his series of organic triangles with bold painterly surfaces. Thornton was kind enough to show me a number of these works. Seismic, ominous and powerful you can see why MOMA and many other institutions collected his works in the 1970’s. 

Thornton ever curious and cynical of the typical arts industry, moved styles and began using a language of greater geometry, tighter, more restricted and reflective of the mood when he painted them. These works, or more importantly the shift to a new style confounded the arts industry, and Thornton never reached the peaks attributed to many of his peers.

Thornton clearly channeling Rothko, understands the higher ambition of breaking ground, leading and not giving in. When a young Sean Sculley knocked on his door, I am sure that Thornton passed on the lesson, but his counsel would have been; the world has changed this is my fight, relight the flame under abstraction its time for promotion..

Re reading Clement Greenberg

It is a century since Picasso and Braque postured on who had first rights to collage, arguable the major turning point in the evolution of cubism and pivotal to the whole modernist art movement.  Clement Greenberg, Americas most influential art critic of the 20th century, wrote his pivotal and most famous essay, on Collage in 1959. It is a remarkable essay that contexturalises how Braque and Picasso changed painting, through a unique dilemma; they had to choose between illusion and representation as subject matter. For these great masters, it was a  fight born of the struggle to realise how  two- dimensional flatness of representation could substitute for the the illusion of space and three-dimension; while shaping the illusion of the viewer and maintaining the pictures internal frame of reference.  Click on the link ( )  to read the essay.

At the end of long day, walking Rome.

At the end of long day, walking Rome.

source to final image - stencil cutting for my exhibition