blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The artists of New South Wales

What do you do if you want to understand a nation better? Sitting in a café and watching people interact is one way, or walking round the residential areas to make further observations, or riding on the slow, suburban trains, ditto, but the most direct way to the heart of things is to read their novels and stories (I bought a copy of Tim Winton's The Turning when I was in Australia, for that very purpose) or to see what they have painted and drawn.

On Sunday 17th November we had a walk before breakfast through the Lane Cove park and on our way back up the hill saw two wallabies in the wild, a mother and a young one. They were either swamp wallabies or rock wallabies, I'm not sure, but when they sat still they were well camouflaged against the sandstone outcrops. Then it started to rain heavily again, so we decided to go into town by train from Macquarie University in order to visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The picture above shows it in sunnier weather a few days beforehand.

We have visited this place before. It hasn't changed; it's still marvellous ... and free, and very popular. Other countries can take a lesson from that.

The Golden Fleece
Once inside Chris and I made arrangements to meet at a central point in an hour's time, and went off to explore in separate directions because we are interested in different things. I made a leisurely tour of the Victorians before homing in on the art that really grabs me, the mid-20th century canvasses. It's not surprising that the early Australian art is really homesick British art or documentary in style. There were paintings of settlers receiving letters from "home" in a "distant land," one portrait by Gordon Coutts of a decorously posed girl in a pink dress sitting in an outback railway station (the model actually posed in a studio and the background was added later)––this was entitled "Waiting"––and several large canvases depicting the NSW scenery, the creeks and beaches, the sheep shearers (Tom Roberts' "The Golden Fleece", 1891) and the gold prospectors. "Bailed Up" (1895) was another big painting by Roberts depicting an encounter with highwaymen in the outback. All somehow noble and grand. The artists who came fresh off the boat to this country were full of enthusiasm for it: "Sydney is an artist's city," said Arthur Streeton, "––glorious!"

The bridge in curve,
G. Cossington Smith (1926)
The next generation of Australian artists are the ones who impress me, their styles changing as they developed, Roy de Maistre in particular (he was the mentor/ close friend / platonic lover of the novelist Patrick White, whose books have a powerful effect on me, too); on this visit I was also struck by the versatility and forcefulness of a woman artist, Grace Cossington Smith––The sock knitter (1915), Bonfire in the bush (1937), etc.

The Aunt
Roy de Maistre works that I want to remember:
The boat sheds in violet red key (1919), an example of "colour music"
Rhythmic composition in yellow green minor (1919) (ditto)
Botanical Gardens, Sydney (1918)
The red boat (1934)
Deposition (1952)––crucifixion picture, a masterpiece!
Figure in a garden (The Aunt) (1945)–– this faceless figure inspired Patrick White's novel "The Aunt's Story."

Then came the idiosyncratic school the 1930s to '50s painters: Arthur Murch, William Dobell, Margaret Olley, Russell Drysdale, Arthur Boyd, visionaries all. The famous Sydney Nolan is in a class by himself!

(I'll add more to this blogpost when I have time.)

No comments: