Chasing the light

Chasing the light is what we do. Light reveals what is and what isn’t. Light tells the story. Quite literal interpretations have become, to me, a hallmark of Katrin Koenning’s story-telling and none is more evident – indeed literal – than Lacuna 13:20, a photo-essay about the express train of life as it passes through a sliver of light that only appears at 1:20pm each day at a certain time of year.

My own experience of Katrin was at Melbourne’s highly-regarded photographic gallery Edmund Pearce at the opening of her new show Dear Chris. I realised at once the power of collections of work as the narrative and with Katrin’s work grouped in (let’s call them) tales – smaller parts of a larger story – a plainly bigger picture is clear, and scary.

We’re all casual visitors to the artist’s mind. We (well I then) look at work which may or may not be the expression of an idea by the artist and I try to understand the message, or I just admire the technique, or sometimes I just go for another glass of Gallery wine. The story doesn’t often get told – perhaps there wasn’t one. But in this case, with Dear Chris, there is.

Dear Chris is reconciliation of effects, of events, times and thoughts, assembled using photography as a way to visualise the very many (often conflicted) emotional states when a friend takes their own life. Knowing the story I find the work painful and in that, it is immensely compelling.

Acquiring a work from this show is like smuggling home a piece of stone from the Colosseum. Sitting in my home on a wall, I can look at it and remember not what it is, but what it represents. It’s a powerful reminder about things we shouldn’t forget so easily. Is all art like that? Perhaps not, but good art is.

Katrin Koenning is a German born, Melbourne, Australia-based photographer now represented by the Edmund Pearce photographic gallery in Swanston Street Melbourne.

Jeffrey Smart – Master of Stillness

Jeffrey Smart is one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists of the 21st century.

Jeffrey Smart once wrote “Most artists today don’t paint the cars we travel in, factories people work in, roads, road-signs, and airports we all use. I like living in the 21st century – to me the world has never been more beautiful. I am trying to paint the real world I live in, as beautifully as I can, with my own eye” (Extract “Jeffrey Smart” by Barry Pearce, published The Beagle Press, 2005)

The Stock Rooms, in conjunction with Digital Art Directory and The Jeffrey Smart Archive, take great pleasure in announcing the release for sale of 94 Limited Edition and 24 Open Edition Jeffrey Smart fine art reproductions (also known as giclée prints). Brett Lichtenstein and his partner Melissa Lock of Digital Art Directory have worked with Stephen Rogers of The Jeffrey Smart Archive for over 17 years.

Every Jeffrey Smart fine art reproduction is made under the guidance and approval of the Artist and The Jeffrey Smart Archive. All of these high quality Jeffrey Smart fine art reproductions have The Jeffrey Smart Archive and a Digital Art Directory blind embossment, validating them as a legitimate fine art reproduction (or giclée print) from The Jeffrey Smart Digital Archive.

Corrugated Gioconda 1975-76

Printed using Japanese pigment inks on 100% cotton fibre mould-made English watercolour paper. This paper and ink combination makes these fine art reproductions archival for up-to 120 to 130 years before any noticeable fading occurs, under normal viewing conditions. More information about our process can be found on the uniquely numbered Certificate of Authenticity that accompanies every fine art reproduction.

New small Open Edition fine art reproductions start from $195. We also offer a range of Limited Editions for a special Stock Rooms launch price of $795 + freight (2013 RRP $895 + freight). Shipping 3-5 days except WA & NT 10 days. Our Jeffrey Smart Limited Edition fine art reproductions now come in one exclusive edition size of 499. Prevously some edition sizes were much larger.

These fine art reproductions are a great opportunity for you to purchase your very own Jeffrey Smart.

Other Jeffrey Smart works may be available upon request. Please email us if you can’t find what you want!

The Birds …

Winner of the 2009 Mosman Art Prize, Alex Lavroff is a prodigious and skilled painter. From Moroccan streets to the Bondi Baths, Alex’s work reflects a lifetime of experience in every stroke. Working high above the Sydney skyline with views across the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, Alex’s studio is filled with canvases of his own, as well as those of many other highly acclaimed Australian contemporary artists. Works by Whiteley and Storrier keep watch over Alex’s lifetime collection as we talk about the humid Summer breeze and … birds.

What’s not to love about urban decay?

It’s day 9 of a long run of hot days and Tony is telling me he lives in the dark ages and has no air-conditioning. While he leads a modern life in a lovely home in Melbourne’s highly sought-after rag-trade district of Richmond, I get a strong sense that Tony reveres the old, the decaying and otherwise crumbling remains of human endeavours. We talk about how he lived behind a country property in Warrandyte, making a living doing drawings for advertising clients. When he was finished he’d go down to a little row-boat on the Yarra River and paddle himself upstream to the Post Office to mail them off. For a man who illustrated trucks when illustrators were cheaper than photographers, Tony still has the glint-in-the-eye and quick wit of that much younger man.

He tells a story of a friend who was sifting through dusty books at an old second hand shop in Tasmania while on holidays. He discovers two large bound volumes from yesteryear that explain to men how to become popular and how to behave. Straight out of an episode of Mad Men, the books feature  full-page sketch illustrations of scenarios (in which men might aspire to associate themselves with) and low and behold, they are attributed to Tony Irving.

I feel a bit like I’m in the presence of a living legend and it’s kind of spooky seeing these old volumes and hearing stories about the beginnings of post-war Australian contemporary art. Tony Irving creates vivid and objective representations of the urban landscape. While his paintings are filled with life, they also display the slow decay through neglect or just simply old age. They pose questions to the viewer; what on earth are those people doing with all that string? What went on in the rooms of that Twin Peaks style motel just a stone’s throw from the famous ‘Open Country’ home that spawned greats like Arthur Boyd and John Perceval.

There is an exactness about Irving’s work; he speaks of developing a science of colour arrangement on the pallet, the way his brushes are lined up like the Queens Guard and this sense of order is apparent in his work. Things don’t appear without a reason and while they often represent urban decay, there is no chaos in his work. Just an almost eerie a sense of calm – Perhaps a nod to the inevitability of time.

Tony Irving is represented by Eva Breuer and has works listed on The Stock Rooms.

Anthony Breslin

Tony’s Trybe …

If Anthony Breslin could bottle some of his seemingly boundless enthusiasm it might give energy drink Mother a run for it’s money. Watching an artist cross the line to become an impresario is as seductive as it is compelling. Convergence seems to touch every part of life and culture and “The Yarts”, in the immortal words of the great Sir Les Patterson, is certainly not spared. When Dance, Music and Painting is brought together in a framework of theatre, that convergence brings unexpected accessibility to each. While one discipline might not appeal, perhaps another does. Their natural synergies make them even more relevant together than apart.

The smoke machine was working overtime to add effect to what was already a weirdly exciting show where musicians Matthew Hunt and Brett Omara led by Greg Long, dancers Benjamin Cure, Hayley Uberti, Benjamin Hancock, Lucy Doherty, Megan Sayce and Robert McLean, as well as Breslin himself were smeared in tribal body paint and clad in PVC leotards. The three piece guitar-plus-computer music (reminded me of Ministry of the Blind) supported the action which played out on a large canvas on the floor in the centre of the stage.

Dancers arrived with pails of paint and quite literally became part of the art, with Breslin strategically preening, placing and painting their limbs to become, contribute to and participate in this strange and somewhat organic portrait. To say it was mud-wrestling but with paint understates the very real presence of well-thought out and refined performance art.

The 60 minute (or more) show is well worth the price of admission. Trybe works as a performance, the cause is a worthy one and we left with a very satisfied feeling we’d consumed all three arts-oriented food groups at one sitting. A handy by-product was a very, very large painting to be auctioned for charity. A nice touch to end a nice evening.

Trybe @ Chapel off Chapel. 14th to 24th March 2013.

iPad Competition Winner

The StockRooms iPad competition has been decided. And the winner, by one vote, is Trees at Edlington by Fraser Scarfe. Trees at Edlington was in fact the first entrant and came from the UK where Fraser lives.

Second prize goers to Laura Grimes for Lugamo. Laura lives in the USA. Just to prove it is the WorldWideWeb.  Laura wins a stylus and an iTunes Voucher for $150.

Third prize went to Ron Mather for his Calder-esque, Simple Thought. Ron is Melbourne-based and he wins a stylus.

The People’s Choice Award went to Georgia Lamont also from Melbourne with Radiant Male. Laura wins a framed printed edition of her entry.

So thank you to all our entrants for joining in. The iPad is a great new tool and we hope it has inspired more of you to try the iPad for more than just checking the web or your email.

Thanks also to our Judges, Lewis Miller, and Rona Green and Menzies art expert Tim Abdallah.

The winners will all be receiving their prizes by mail in the coming days. So congratulations and thanks again for being a part of our first competition.

The Wendy Whiteley Interview

Wendy Whiteley now sits atop the Australian art scene as one of the great Grande Dames. A very talented painter herself she met Brett Whiteley as a teenager and lived through great times in post war art. Travelling with Brett as his star rose like a rocket ship, first in London where he was the youngest painter ever collected by the prestigious Tate to travelling bursaries to Italy and France and then to the USA where they lived in the penthouse at the legendary Chelsea Hotel.

Wendy, has had a view of art from the most privileged of positions. She has also had her share of tragedy. But Wendy is a survivor and she is now putting her stamp on the things that are important to her: most notably, her home for the past 40 years in Lavender Bay, the garden she has carved out of the scrub on the foreshore at Lavender Bay and the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills, now a part of the Art Gallery of NSW.

She speaks about all those things with The Stock Rooms on the introduction of the new Brett Whiteley limited edition fine art reproductions. The interview took place in the living room of her Lavender Bay home.

The Stock Rooms: Was this house the beginning of the love affair with Sydney Harbour?

Wendy Whiteley (WW): Who doesn’t love Sydney Harbour? I lived on the north shore at Lindfield. Brett lived at Longueville so we used to get ferries everywhere. We’d go to Luna Park as kids…so we were always aware of the Harbour.

We came here (Lavender Bay) to visit a friend who was living downstairs and this was a VERY rundown dark and gloomy Federation house built in 1907 which had been converted into flats and he (our friend) had the downstairs flat.
The upstairs flat had just become vacant. Which is where we are now!

The Stock Rooms: So it was three apartments?

WW: It was two! Because the basement level wasn’t there. It was a basement but it was just really crummy…under the house kind of stuff and we went up to the roof.

The Stock Rooms: Were the paintings all done upstairs?

WW: No downstairs. First off, that room was Brett’s sitting room/studio, this was our bedroom, so we just squashed into this thing and then Brett got the Gasworks studio. This was just too small. Then we bought the house and started converting it back into a house! We built the tower and did all that stuff.

The Stock Rooms: That must have really opened up the vista?

WW: Well, we fell in love with Lavender Bay. It was extraordinary. Hardly anyone knew about it. Luna Park was still functioning in the old fashioned way…the old dipper and the old river caves and all that kind of stuff. Really, no one came over here! There was no access to Luna Park from here before. So people just used to have to park and walk down the stairs.

The tree out the front was much smaller then so you could see over the top of it. There was a great view of Lavender Bay from here- from this balcony, which was also a closed-in cronky thing with a window you couldn’t open.

(Brett’s first Archibald Prize, Self Portrait in the Studio shows a view of his studio at Lavender Bay overlooking Sydney Harbour.)

We had a bit of chicken wire across that opening with birds in there – so you couldn’t really use it for anything else. We had a whole lot of pigeons, doves, rescued peewees (a small Magpie like bird). We had a cat and two dogs. The cat used to bring home a bird occasionally. We’d grab it and put bit in the cage with all the other birds. We ended up having some parrots but they started eating all the plants!

Brett made quite a lot of drawings around this time of white doves – fantails – like Picasso’s doves. They got out eventually! Then we decided to open up the balcony properly.

The Stock Rooms: So you really had an aviary right here?

WW: Oh Yes! We had a bit of an aviary when we lived in New York too. We had a couple of exotic birds that used to fly around the apartment (The penthouse in the Chelsea Hotel). And then they’d escape and Brett would be running around 23rd Street trying to catch them. Brett always loved birds.

The Stock Rooms: This view really is the Sydney view isn’t it. You’ve got Luna Park, Lavender Bay, The Bridge, The Harbour and they really became Brett’s iconic Sydney images didn’t they?

WW: This bay in particular because it doesn’t have any high rise in front of it. Ironically Harry Seidler (architect) and Leon Fink (developer) wanted to buy all the houses and build some huge Miami-type high-rise apartments all around the bay.

And that garden that I’ve made down there was just a rubbish dump with weeds all over it – impenetrable really- so basically that’s the change that I’ve made plus the renovations to the house.

The Stock Rooms: Was it all driven by you to get more space here?

WW: The scale of Brett’s paintings got much bigger – it was a bit like the old days when painters got commissions to paint churches and cathedrals.

The Stock Rooms: So where did Brett paint the really big canvasses like Alchemy?

When Brett painted Alchemy he got the Gasworks Studio and then he moved over to another studio and then on to Surry Hills- which is still there (managed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales) just to have enough space.

It’s always a problem for painters and their families. It’s about space for work and kids and then starting to own things!

(This is a segment of the interview recorded with Wendy Whiteley for the introduction of the Brett Whiteley limited edition fine art reproductions. The second half of the interview will be included in our next edition.)

Book Review: David Hockney’s self portrait

A Bigger Message. Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford. With 161 illustrations.  Published by Thames and Hudson.

David Hockney is living proof that a great draughtsman can draw on anything. Of course, Hockney is much more than a good draughtsman. But his drawing has always been beautiful. And now in his 70’s Hockney’s skills are – if possible- better than ever.

His work now spans the gargantuan- hence the title- to the smallest in the form of iPhone and iPad screens.

I remember seeing Hockney’s drawings in an exhibition at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly in the mid 1990s. I was stunned by his drawing ability. It was as good as anything from Picasso and in fact anything from the great hands of artists over the centuries.

Hockney has also always been ready to try something new. His Polaroids in the 1980’s were beautiful. He began a whole new trend in collage using Polaroids which spread quickly to other artists and then inevitably to advertising.

Now his friends get to collect new Hockneys daily as he wakes to see the sun streaming through his bedroom window.

In the latest Hockney book, his close friend, Martin Gayford talk together on art over a period of ten years discussing everything from seeing more clearly to scale- and a huge scale it is- to photography and drawing to theatre and lighting.

It is a very easy read with its light conversational style but the content is riveting. Here is a man who is still at his peak trying new things every day. His experiments with scale have yielded some extraordinary results. A bigger Grand Canyon at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra measures 6’9”x 24’6” and consists of 60 canvasses. His latest, Bigger Trees Near Warter is much larger at 15 feet x 40ft hig

h and consists of 50 canvasses.

Hockney loves painting around his home in Yorkshire having moved back to England after years in the bright sunshine and swimming pools of Los Angeles.

It’s a great relaxing read as it’s really just a series of interesting conversations between friends. And in the process it is a wonderful insight into the life of one of the great painters of the modern era.

Highly recommended.

Michel Lawrence

Read The Guardian’s review…


The Art of the Artist’s Book

Artists’ books bring together visual artists and writers in a unique and intriguing way. And in the digital age it is like some strange but beautiful anachronism. Incredibly it is a growing field covering a broad range of output, from expensive small print editions of highly crafted books through to the multiples of lo-res productions.

Artist and print maker, David Frazer says he loves making artists books: “ It’s a lot of work but its hugely enjoyable doing something so incredibly old fashioned- nothing much has changed in 200 years” he says.

“ They are very intimate. And they they are beautiful objects,” says David.

David Frazer’s handmade book, Passing Through the Old World.

The State Library of Victoria houses one of the finest collections of artist’s books in Australia with around 700 books made by Australian artists.The Library also selectively acquires artists’ books by international artists including a number of the world’s best known artists: Dieter Roth, Ed Ruscha, Sol Lewitt, Tom Phillips, Robert Motherwell, David Hockney, and Jim Dine.

Fine Impresssions, a major exhibition of artist’s books has just concluded at the Sate Library of Victoria.

Curator Sarah Bodman, Senior Research Fellow for Artists’ Books at the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England says: “You never really know what you are going to find when you open a book, and sometimes the exterior can be very different to the interior. “

“There is a huge interest in the book arts and plentiful activity.” Sarah says.

The Stock Rooms has four of David Frazer’s books and each one is expertly crafted containing its own suite of artworks. More books by artists Dean Bowen and John Ryrie are coming online in the coming weeks.

Pictured at top is Dean Bowen’s handmade book, Small Portraits, which will be available for sale shortly.

Brett Whiteley and Lavender Bay

Michel Lawrence and Peter Lamont visited Wendy Whiteley at her Lavender Bay home for a discussion about Brett Whiteley, painting, life as the wife of a famous artist and the release of the new fine art reproductions of three of Brett’s iconic works: two from his Lavender Bay series, Grey Harbour and Lavender Bay in the Rain along with The 15 Great Dog Pisses of Paris.

In the first video interview Wendy has granted since her appearance in the very last Andrew Denton interview she was frank, forthright and very matter of fact about a great range of things. The first segment edited from the session is now on The Stock Rooms website in support of the release of the new works. It’s really worth watching.

You can also watch Wendy Whiteley on the Stock Rooms TV channel on YouTube.

A sip of Brett Whiteley philosophy:

Life is Brief. But my God, Thursday afternoon seems incredibly long!