The S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney recently posted this video with Director Jane Watters highlighting their holdings of artworks by Jessie Scarvell, which were gifted by her daughter. Scarvell (1862 – 1950) was an exponent of Australian Impressionism who exhibited over 60 of her plein air landscapes at the Art Society of NSW throughout the 1890s. Following her marriage in 1901, she moved to a cattle station in Queensland and focussed on her gardening rather than pursuing an artistic career. Scarvell was included in the Exhibition of Australian Art in London in 1898. Her paintings are characterised by a harmonious use of colour and painterly marks.
The subject matter of the larger paintings crosses a broad range: landscapes; interiors; figures; still lifes – all themes with a long tradition in the history of art. Dent takes inspiration from his own experiences, from the mundane of a Hills Hoist in the backyard of an inner city Melbourne suburb; to the more exotic, a studio in Mallorca; to the macabre, the soft colour palette of the seminal triptych, Natura Morta- Marta belies the rather uncompromising subject. Dent is able to raise elements from their everyday existence to the distinction of art, particularly highlighted in these paintings where familiar objects are lifted through their presentation on a grand scale. However the real subject matter is often the very act of painting itself, the placement of elements, of form and colour on the canvas.
To tak A Closer Look At… John Dent’s larger-scale paintings, please click here.
Exhibition showing until Friday 25 June. Visit our website to view images, watch a video of the opening, download the catalogue and read the Closer Look At… essay.
In our next A Closer Look At… we examine the paintings of Paris by John Dent which are redolent with atmosphere, indicative of his ability to absorb the sense of place he discovered there. Mostly, these are quiet introspective moments, a captured snapshot in time. The street scenes take the viewer on a promenade with the artist around Paris, as he explores the city. If the imagery is sometimes romantic, it is because this reflects the everyday reality of the city and these are scenes actually encountered – an arched bridge over the river; a flag hanging from a terraced building; lovers entwined in a park. Equally, Paris is a city of unexpected surprises and strange contrasts, casual witness to nuns in full habit kicking a soccer ball. At other times the subject is almost mundane, a woman with a striped apron in her window; or tinged with humour, the upright nanny on duty with her sensible umbrella shading her from the sun contrasted with the lounging figure enjoying a drink on the deckchair.
The significance of Paris and its art scene has been a major influence for many artists throughout history and has certainly shaped Dent’s oeuvre, evident in many aspects but essentially in the very real French atmosphere captured in these paintings. To take A Closer Look At… John Dent in Paris click here
To view images in the exhibition; watch the video of the opening and read our Closer Look At… essays please visit our website.
Listen to Zhou Xiaoping talking about his unique artistic practice on The Art Show as aired this morning on Radio National, explaining how he draws on his experience of Chinese inks and rice paper, combined with with western art concepts, including the use of oils and canvas, as well as drawing on the influence of his travels in the north of Australia, particularly Arnhem Land and his connection with Aboriginal people and culture, including the use of ochres. As Xiaoping states, his career demonstrates “cross-cultural artistic practice and brought together the influence of Chinese, Western and Aboriginal culture and art concepts. In this practical process, I realised how important cultural reconciliation and civilisational exchange are. … Looking back at my artistic creation process in Australia, I feel that I followed the path of “learning from nature” from the traditional Chinese culture that I accepted when I was young, then followed that path from China to the world of the Australian Aborigines.” The discussion starts about 1/2 hour into the program (30:36).
Glenalvon, Murrurundi depicts an area Jessie Scarvell painted on several occasions, the rural landscape around the picturesque mountains of the Liverpool Ranges in the Upper Hunter region of NSW. Scarvell painted en plein air and her harmonious use of colour is clear, with the muted soft purples, grey and green of the background contrasted against the brighter green, blue and touches of pink in the foreground.
The viewer’s eye is attracted by the detailed thistle foliage, echoed in the grasses across the stream, with the white sheep in-between. Textured brush marks and soft light colours give way to a stronger band of green which draws our eye back to the purple mountain range, birds wheeling in the sky amid an aura of calm in this celebration of pastoral beauty.
The painterly marks, particularly evident in the depiction of the stream and grassy bank, and the focus point of yellow flowered pasture weed are reminiscent of archetypical Australian Impressionist paintings such as Charles Conder’s Herrick’s Blossom c.1888 and Arthur Streeton’s Golden Summer, Eaglemont 1889.
Scarvell’s painting Glenalvon, Murrurundi was included in the Art Society of New South Wales annual exhibition in 1895 and illustrated in the catalogue. It appears to be in its original frame.
Scarvell exhibited regularly with the Art Society of New South Wales in the 1890s and was included in the Exhibition of Australian Art in London at the Grafton Galleries in 1898. Her career spans over a short period of perhaps six years in the 1890s, prior to her marriage.
Jessie Scarvell is represented in the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the S. H. Ervin Gallery, where an exhibition of work in 2012 brought new awareness to this female artist of the Australian Impressionist School.
Isobel Rae was known as “Iso”, her nickname a somewhat relevant and familiar word to us today, as was her likely experience of isolation. At the outbreak of World War I, Iso Rae remained in Etaples, France with her mother and sister, whilst most foreigners moved away from the former peaceful fishing village, which had been home to a thriving expatriate artistic community.
Iso and her sister Alison worked for the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) with the British Red Cross from 1915 – 1919. As an artist, Rae depicted the scenes around her, producing around 200 drawings, mostly pastels and gouache, depicting the daily life of the military camp at Etaples.
Her lively and sensitive drawings are now recognised as important historical and social documents, beyond their artistic merit. Although not officially appointed as a war artist, Iso Rae was one of two Australian women who documented the war for many years (the other being Jessie Traill who worked in a military hospital during World War I).
The camp at Etaples was a place where allied troops – French, British, Canadian, Scottish, New Zealand and Australian forces, gathered before being called up to fight; a training facility; supplies depot; a detention centre and home to thousands in tent cities and ordered hospitals. Iso Rae captured camp life in her drawings of soldiers; the barracks; the hospitals; the prisoners, both German and allied; their accommodation; the horses; their training and recreation (football, cinema, theatre).
Iso Rae was a skilled draughtsperson, her marks lively and capturing a spontaneity, yet balanced with thought-out and balanced compositions. This is a particularly fine drawing depicting a group of soldiers huddled around a brazier at night, embers blowing in the breeze and their individual uniforms bathed in an eerie glow. We have identified the figures as Scottish; the blue coat of the Hospital Blues worn by convalescents; Australian with the slouch hat and New Zelander with the ‘lemon squeezer’ hat. The peaked tents in the background provide an anchored backdrop giving a further intimacy to the group of figures.
There is an aura of quiet and calm, the relaxed poses and dangling cigarettes, but one laced with tension or perhaps boredom; the holding pattern of an unknown future the nature for many at Etaples. This is not a depiction of heroes of war, rather the gritty reality and the daily grind of behind the scenes. Rae’s use of coloured paper highlights the contrast between the army brown and the bright red and orange balanced against the blues and touch of green found in a hat band.
The drawing is accompanied by a letter of dedication from the matron at Etaples on behalf of the nurses and VAD to a Captain MacIlwaine.
“The energy and liveliness of outdoor crowds occupied Ethel Carrick Fox throughout her career, and she was particularly fascinated by markets, parks and beaches. Perfect subjects for her swiftly wrought impressions, these turn-of-the-century public spaces were being transformed by modernity.” Angela Goddard, ‘Modernity in Motion: Ethel Carrick’s crowds’ in Art, Love & Life: Ethel Carrick & E. Phillips Fox, Queensland Art Gallery, 2011, p.79
Ethel Carrick Fox has been described as ‘colourful’ and ‘daring’, both in her art and her life. An inevitable comparison with her husband Emanuel Phillips Fox certainly bears this out, as she moved beyond an impressionist sensibility to the more colourful and linear style of post-impressionism, as would have been the flavour in Paris. Her paintings of daily life; flower studies and works inspired by travels, are imbued with vibrant colour, strong composition and a concern to explore light. Her inclusion in the Salon d’Automne (created in 1903 as a move away from the academic and bringing movements such as fauvism and cubism to greater notice) from 1906, further highlights her lifelong trend of not conforming to social expectations of the time; particularly focussing on her career.
Ethel Carrick Fox is best known for her vibrant paintings created en plein air, capturing the leisure class of Paris – the markets; parks; gardens and beaches of France. The rich dabs of pure bright colour and a focus on decorative rather than narrative elements, allow the strength of her understanding of colour and her considered compositions to shine through.
Carrick Fox established her successful career in Paris and London and in her regular visits to Australia, where she held exhibitions of her work and undertook painting excursions. A painting of a French flower market by Carrick Fox sold at auction in 1996 becoming the highest price achieved by an Australian woman artist; with more recent sales over one million dollars (in 2008 and 2019) overtaking this earlier precedent.
Charles Blackman is one of Australia’s most celebrated and significant figurative artists and was an exceptional draughtsperson. His use of pen and ink, charcoal and pencil – from quick sketches to large sized works on paper – was a constant throughout his life. His drawings bear evidence of the personal nature of his art, used to record ideas, capture daily life, and explore composition in an expressive manner. There is, of course, an immediacy to drawings, particularly black and white images with no distractions other than the dark line across a page.
The 1960s saw Blackman complete a number of strong graphic works, many depicting his family, particularly with the arrival of his son Auguste in 1957 and daughter, Christabel, in 1959. In 1960 Blackman was awarded the Helena Rubenstein prize and selected to exhibit in the Whitechapel Gallery in London, where the Blackman family moved before returning to Australia in 1967, when this drawing was completed.
Portrait of a Young Girl with a Bow in her Hair is a direct and sweet work, full of love and the innocence of childhood, with the child directly engaging the viewer. There is a calm and gentleness to the drawing, perhaps emphasized through the use of charcoal with its richness of texture and softer edge than pen or pencil. As McCulloch noted when the work was exhibited in 1994, “Interesting to contrast is 1967’s Young Girl with a Bow with 1984’s Beatrice Drawing on Herself – both drawings of his two daughters at the same age. The latter has a saccharine sweetness absent in the earlier, more direct but equally delicious work.” (Susan McCulloch, ‘The bush characters’, Herald Sun, Melbourne, 20 April 1994, p. 7)
Blackman is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and in all state galleries, as well as numerous regional and university galleries, in addition to private and corporate collections throughout Australia and internationally. He was awarded an OBE in 1997 and honoured with a survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Schoolgirls and Angels, in 1993.
We are really excited that indigenous artist Genevieve Kemarr Loy has been selected as a finalist in this year’s Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize, an annual prize that was launched in 2017 to advance art and opportunity for emerging and established female artists in Australia. It is the highest value professional artist prize for women in Australia.
The current global situation has meant a delay in the exhibition which is now scheduled to open 27 November, showing until 12 December at the Ravenswood School for Girls, Gordon, NSW. As their website mentions, although up to 70% of art school graduates are female, women artists make up less than half of represented artists in exhibitions and prizes around Australia, with State museums showing 34% of female artists amongst their collections. This is something many galleries are continuing to address. The Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize provides a platform to promote female visual artists, assisting in career development, providing opportunities for greater connections and inspiring current students.
Genevieve follows the tradition of her grandmother, Nancy Kunoth Petyarr and was taught to paint by her father, Cowboy Loy Pwerl, an indigenous elder in Utopia and custodian of the Bush Turkey Dreaming. On a superficial level Genevieve’s paintings often depict the tracks the Bush Turkey makes as it searches for seeds and other ‘tucker’ and makes its way to the waterhole. Genevieve’s complex and detailed paintings are characterised by a beautiful and careful handling of paint; a harmonious sense of colour; and great control of the delicate spidery marks that make their way across her canvas. Her meticulous lines can be difficult to read in a digital reproduction and are best understood and appreciated in person.
Congratulations to all involved in making the D’art movie, a rollicking ride resulting in a vintage Goggomobil Dart car painted in artist Robert Clinch’s signature paper darts. Filmmaker Karl von Möller is deservedly recognised with the work’s inclusion in the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival for 2020, opening 30 June. Enjoy watching from the comfort of your own home, as the Festival will be online this year, with possible screenings scheduled for December.
Things are already off to a great start with US site Documentary Drive exclaiming:
“From its opening sequence, “D’art” commands your attention with its zappy swing music and montage of fine artist Robert Clinch launching paper darts into the air as collector Jeff Brown puts on a fire retardant suit and whooshes down a racetrack.
You know their two worlds are about to meet. You don’t know how or why but you know it’s going to be a sensational adventure and you want to come along for the ride.
Directed by Karl von Möller, “D’art” raises the bar on what a film about art can be.”
The Gallery is currently open by appointment and we look forward to showing you Robert’s work.