Australian Art Presentation
 
Picture 1

Joseph Lycett: 1774-1829. Australia: 1814-1822

 
 
“Distant View of Hobart”          1825
 
Hand-coloured aquatint and Etching: 27 x 37 cm. NGV (Joseph Brown Collection)
 
The Artist
Joseph Lycett: Convict forger who returned to England upon completion of his two sentences (one for local offences in Australia). Lycett converted his Australian pictures to sets of etchings and/or aquatints for local sale in the UK. The pictures provided potential emigrants with some idea of the geography, animal and human life in the colony.
 
The Picture
Heroic, awe inspiring scenery builds the achievements of the émigrés as tamers and cultivation of the land. Two rustics survey the handiwork of the settlers. The artist has taken considerable artistic licence with the vegetation to make it more “comfortable” viewing for potential travellers. Pictures of this era usually “Europeanised” the vegetation to make it more accessible to the viewer. Pictures such as Lycetts were used to promote emigration to Australia and investment in it.
 
Does the picture elevate "achievement", "victory", "mastery" to the exclusion of more sensitive aspects of human existance?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Picture 2

Edouard Manet: 1832-1883

 
 
“The House at Rueil”    1882
 
Oil on Canvas: 93 x 74 cm. NGV
 
The Artist
Manet was a French artist who was part of the Impressionists group but did not exhibit with them. He painted in a style reminiscent of Old Master pictures which he saw at the Louvre. Manet painted modern, everyday subjects in this style, though using brighter, more modern, colours. His paintings were without the emotional involvement of his Impressionist colleagues and he tried to paint in a realistic, objective and scientific way. He was interested in showing tone as a pattern of light and shade and he often painted out-of-doors as did the others.
 
The Picture
Manet was ill and near the end of his life when he painted this picture in the garden of the house which he and his wife rented. In it he gives us a traditional representation but with complementary colours, e.g. magenta, yellow, blue, green, juxtaposed to highlight each. His use of pale green against the yellow walls highlights the play of light on the wall. Also the tree (a work of nature) and the house (a work of man) complement one another philosophically. The absence of sky increases the intimacy of the picture and the door obscured by the tree may be a metaphor for Manet pondering his own death. Manet was well off financially and could experiment with painting style without being too concerned about making a living.
 
 
We might consider this picture by Manet to illustate uncertainty.  Is uncertainty about death a major human pre-occupation? 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Picture 3
 
John Longstaff: 1861- 1941
 

 
“Farm Belle Isle”          c1889
 
Oil on canvas    12 x 25 cm       NGV (Joseph Brown collection)
 
The Artist
Longstaff was a gentleman of the old school. He was a popular portraitist painting portraits of John Monash, royalty and many First World War identities. He also painted the gigantic Burke and Wills picture in the NGV. He was a friend of the Impressionist John Peter Russell and knew Russell’s Impressionist friends. Despite knowing Russell he continued to paint in an essentially “Salon” manner throughout his life.
 
The Painting
Longstaff and his wife travelled to Belle Isle to stay with the Russells (c1888) and he painted this strongly tonal picture of the property. Here shapes and form are defined by changing tones as much as changing colour. 
 
Apparently whilst staying with the Russells the wives fell out but Longstaff himself continued to have a healthy friendship with Russell.
 
Does friendship transcend loyalty?
 





Picture 4
Lina Bryans      1909-2001

 
 
 
“The Babe is Wise”: 1940
 
Oil on Cardboard         94 x 73cm        NGV
 
Lina Bryans
 Bryans lived a long life (92). She painted in an expressionist manner but rarely in purely abstract manner. She painted many portraits and was a prominent member of the Melbourne Modernist group. She did not exhibit publically after the 1960s.
 
The Picture
The subject is Joan Campbell a writer considered a sophisticate and well versed in fashion and art. The portrait reflects this and suggests that Ms Campbell took a slightly sardonic view of her herself and her social set. The tilted pose and raunchy angle of the hat and slightly pursed lips suggests someone who knew rather more than the “average” 1940s woman, though what about is left to us to conjecture.        

Having spent most of my working life working with men, I now find myself involved with voluntary organisations composed mostly of women.  This has produced some surprising experiences. 

I wonder what it is that Ms Cameron might be wise about?
 
 
 
 
  
 
Picture 5

Fred Williams: 1927-1982

 
 
 
“Lysterfield”     1974
 
Gouache (Watercolour thickened with white pigment)    76 x 57            NGV
 
The Artist
Williams is Australia’s most distinctive European painter of landscape. His style is not derivative from any other painter. His early death in his mid fifties was a great loss to Australian art and art generally. His works are held in many overseas galleries including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Williams often painted landscape as though it were being viewed from passing overhead- from the “straight down” or plan view-to the “farther off” view where the viewer would be looking into the landscape not down on it and the landscape would be silhouetted against the sky; all in the one picture. The smaller scale parts of the pictures often contained many of the colours Williams had observed in the total landscape. Thus the dots and splodges in Lysterfield contain colours of the landscape not just of whatever they are representing. Williams was an expressionistic painter but rarely fully abstract.   Most of his pictures were “of something”.
 
The Painting
Many of William’s pictures are concerned with water or the after effects of water. The region in the foreground of Lysterfield may have possibly been affected by water. This is a sparse landscape which gives us a feel for what the artist saw and felt when he painted it. It shows us the structure of the landscape and what vegetation there is and how it is distributed. His colour scheme shows us how the space would look at various times of the day. 
 
 

Williams pictures could be said to look from the general to the particular (induction) and from the particular to the general (deduction). Do some people view life as analytically as this? 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dale Hickey: born 1937

 
“Untitled”
 
Oil and enamel on canvas 168 x 198     Collection of the artist
 
Dale Hickey
Hickey painted everyday objects very realistically and arranged in unexpected ways. Mostly he painted indoor compositions and the elements of the compositions were usually everyday objects but often brilliantly coloured to give some psychological interpretation as to what they were and why they were there. His later pictures, particularly, are strongly geometrical. He is a very accomplished technician and his pictures are worth seeing if only for the painting technique.
 
 
The Picture
“Untitled” is brilliantly coloured and confidently resolved. There is no doubt that Hickey is very clear on what he is doing. The composition changes from flatness to depth depending where you look, but are we seeing reflections or objects themselves? The picture approaches symmetry but is this symmetry a function of the colours used or the objects. Even though we recognise all of the items in the picture the colouring, placement and composing of them together is vaguely unsettlingly. Is this real space or a figment of the imagination or perhaps a dream? The artist invests ordinary objects with mystery and we are entitled to ask would a different arrangement of the same objects be as successful. Why do these ordinary things assume exaggerated importance just because Hickey has chosen to paint them the way he has? Does Hickey bring objects to life?
 
      How "concrete" are posessions? 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Larrtjanga Ganambarr               1934-2000 (Male)       Yirrkula: Arnhem Land

 
“Balilira and the Maccassins”
 
Ochre on canvas: Collected 1960 (For sale in a Sotheby’s catalogue for $25000)
 
 (Balilira is a Spirit man. The Maccassins were Indonesian fishermen who fished off the coast of Arnhem Land up until about 1900 they were fishing for Trepang or Sea Cucumbers, said to be aphrodisiacs)
 
The Artist
The artist lived and painted in north-eastern Arnhem Land. His works follow the established hatching patterns of Eastern Arnhem Land where the cross-hatching covers the whole picture space.
 
The Painting
The Maccassins arrive in the top left of the picture Balilira sees them and meets a Maccassin woman whom he takes with him Balilira, pictured in yellow ochre, is now pictured in the centre of the picture holding a spear thrower. In the centre left of the picture Balilira is now shown surrounded by four Yolgnu people and four Maccassins. Balilira dons ceremonial paint. Balilira then goes to a Yolgnu camp but the inhabitants become afraid and throw away their belongings which turn into birds and butterflies. The Yellow roundels with red strips are camps from which the people call out to the birds and butterflies as they fly over. The composition is organised as a whole but splits into parts when the story behind it is known. The picture is typical of aboriginal art preserving stories and characters in pictures. Much of the symbolism in the picture is probably inaccessible to any but the tribal initiated who are permitted to know about it. Overall though to western eyes the composition is pleasing and has artistic merit before any interpretation of the picture is needed.
 
    What might the people have called out to the birds and butterflies flying overhead?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alma Webou:   born c1920     North West Australia

 
Pinkalakara      2003
 
Acrylic on canvas         NGV
 
The Artist
Alma was born in the Great Sandy Desert but spent most of her painting life on the North West coast of Australia. She is a respected Law Woman and Medicine Woman. 
 
The Picture
The painting shows bush food in the artist’s mother’s country, Pinkalakara.
As with all aboriginal abstract art the painting may be seen on at least two levels: an abstract arrangement of shape and colour or a coded piece of information whose meaning is available to only a few and whose meaning may become lost. Because there is little written aboriginal language aboriginal people communicate information graphically. This is often achieved with body paint or sand painting. Whatever the medium the information is often sacred and is to be kept secure. This means much of the information will eventually be lost as the older people die out and the younger choose not to follow in their ways. This dichotomy is often illustrated-perhaps by accident- in Aboriginal abstract art. Aboriginal painting is Australia’s only truly original painting style. Because the artists have largely not seen other painting styles-both national and international- they have not been influenced by them. What you see is original subject matter portrayed in the way Aboriginal people have communicated with each other for thousands of years. As there is little written language, graphics is usually the only way information can be transmitted.
 
 
 
       Is the losing of a culture simply part of evolution and survival of the fittest?