Sunday, April 10, 2011

Emptying the Bucket List


1. My lunchtime ritual was firstly to sit on the steps of the Grand Palais and draw the golden gates of the Petit Palais across the street.

and then to promenade along the Champs Elysée with my crepe chocolate or crepe fromage.

2. The luxury of spending a whole undisturbed afternoon at the Musee Des Arts Decoratifs and marvelling at the 17th century marquetry and parquetry work. Seriously awe inspiring.

3. Discovering poetic claims of public space. This bridge was full of locks on which people had left messages.

4.  Every single French person confirming my own geographical anxiety and distress - “Wow. Australia – that’s so far... from everywhere!”

5.Having dinner with author Dinaw Mengutsa (plus other wonderfully interesting people) then going to a bookshop in Saint Germain to buy his latest book "How to read air" – If you haven’t read his first book, I’ll lend it to you. 

6.   Making a new friend C who I wanted to put in my pocket and take back to Australia.

7.Being recognised in a restaurant for my art work at the Art fair "Hey you made the dust work on the table! That was one of my favourite pieces" – I'm not sure who was more excited them or me! 

·     Lastly and most significantly - every day I experienced the remarkable support, respect, encouragement and care of K&G who have took a some what subversive risks to show an ephemeral artwork at an art fair. It is a wonderful and encouraging experience to be supported by such passionate and understanding people. 

    Life as an artists can at times be demoralising, uncertain, lonely and gruelling relentless hard work - but  occasionally you get an email saying "Hey did I mention your going to Paris in March"... 


Friday, April 8, 2011

Leaving the Louvre

The Louvre is just too much. Previously I've spent several days there but my strategy this time was 'Research and conquer'. I had selected 3 very specific collectiosn/works to see - Islamic calligraphy (research for some new ideas), the Tony Cragg exhibition (research for sculpture students) and Cy Twombley's newly painted ceiling (because I adore his work).

So I paid my ticket, got my map, had a quick lunch in the cafe to get sustenance for the journey ahead and...
The entire Islamic section was closed - till 2013.
The back-up plan of illuminated manuscripts failed also - none were on display today.

The Tony Cragg exhibition turned out not to be the installation work I was interested in considering - also there were only 6 pieces, so not the medium or volume I had hoped for.

The Cy Twombley ceiling was just straight out baffling - "why oh why Cy did you do that?"

I could of course gone and looked at many other significant works of art but without me waffling on to long about the cumbersome weight of art history prior to the 1900's and my relief and gratitude towards modernism the truth was I wanted to go shoe shopping. Oh such beauty, oh the colours, the style, the line, the form ....ahhh the joy of shoes.

So 40 mins later (20 spent in the cafe, 15 walking around looking for things) I left.

Or at least I tried to leave but it's such a labyrinth of rooms that its difficult to find the exit and of course you do stumble across some remarkable objects to look at along the way and then you ALWAYS end up being carried by the crowd in to so the Mona Lisa. Where, once again I got in trouble by a security guard - not for touching the art - but for photographing the people photographing the painting. Unfortunately this time he didn't try to evict me from the museum, which was a shame because I'm sure he would have known a quicker way to get to the exit.

You probably need to turn up the volume quite load to get a sense of just how horrible it is! 

Radical Impressions

For some years now I have been creeping closer and closer to the edge of secretly dismissing Impressionism. I don’t make epic pilgrimages to visit the paintings, or go wild at in one of my internal rock concert moments when I see a Renoir, and I gave up caring about Monet as soon as I walked out of high school. It’s really only out of respect for art history, that I let it benignly sit in the back of my mind and for the most part I don’t provoke it and it doesn’t provoke me. But, but in the spirit of honest blogging, let me confess those soft focus pastel paintings of ‘nice’ picnics, and mauve flowers, and orange hazey sunsets and boats, make me yaaaaaaawn. There are so sugary, it’s no wonder they get reproduced on chocolate boxes and Hallmark cards.

This position of course isn’t the fault of the artwork itself, but the result of…. the age of mechanical reproduction and dare i say it - the bourgeoisie. And by bourgeoisie I mean any Daza or Shaza thats owned either a calendar, poster, notebook, fridge magnet or some other paraphernalia that had a Monet water lily on it. Through mass reproduction and the misplaced art appreciation that could be described as ‘couch-colour-theory' Impressionism has been one of the significant victims of the democratisation of reproduction. Maybe, because I have experienced these mediocre reproductions more frequently than the actual paintings, my anti-impressionism sentiment has carried more weight than my art history knowledge about this particular movement.

Until yesterday.

My gallery choice du jour was between the vast halls of Impressionism at the Musee d’Orsay and Monet’s Les Nympheas at L’Orangerie. Having visited many of the world’s largest museum collections, I’m now more likely to visit smaller galleries for a more concentrated and contemplative exhibitions, so I opted for the L’Orangerie, which by contrast to D’Orsay's 100's + 100's of artworks, contains a single painting/installation by Monet in two oval rooms. And surprise surprise, what started as an obligationb (go look at famous french art) turned out to be hours and hours of breathtaking wonder. Yes, it was all those things that people say about ‘capturing the light’  etc etc. But mostly I found delight and surprise and a new respect for how radical Impressionism was. Even more radical than Punk's in the 70's. The colours, the gestures, the daring, the abandonment - totally radical.

You can check out a virtual tour of the musee by clicking on this link - and yes I'm well aware of the hypocrisy of my reproductions in this blog. I guess I'm just wanting to explain that the experience of looking at art can never be fathomed through reproductions. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A list of french food I have eaten

Periwinkles (mini snails)
The neck of a lamb that includes the glands, crumbed in cheese with creamed potato
Wild boar (killed by a hunter on the property of a friend)
A salad of beetroot, salmon prawns apple and dill, pine nuts and cress
Caramelised endives
Raw beef mixed with with mayonnaise and gherkins
A Dallyou chocolate gateaux
Apple and chocolate crumble
Roasted goat
Veal kidneys in cream and mustard
Venison with mustard
Crepe Chocolate x3
Crepe fromage x2
7 types of bread
Infinite cheeses
Daily croissants
Tomates roasted stuffed with goats cheese
Pate on toast
Pate on toast
Pate just by the forkful
Lemon yogurts
Other types of salads
1 Bananna
1 Apple
Tarte Citron
Tarte fromage with aubergine
Blood sausage
Crab meat wrapped in beetroot
Risotto with a side of 8 different root vegtables
A punnet of raspberries (2e how cheap!!)
Apricot chicken with almonds and couscous

Im sure there are things I've forgotten...... ah yes - the wine.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

OK now you can touch


I don't blame people for wanting to touch artworks. I understand that there are just some provocative  pieces that you believe you are allowed to touch. For instance there's a collective of artists who work between art/architecture/design and challenge the conventions of each of these mediums and they had a piece at the fair which looked a bit like a small orange shipping container with 2 windows. Inside it was a bed with white sheets, a doona and pillows and on a couple of occasions I saw people asleep in there. In the context of the art fair I thought this was fabulous, when you are completely fatigued by looking at art what you desperately need is a quite lie down. After less than 40 winks however, I found out the embarrassing way, that you're not really supposed to sleep in there, when a security guard came banging on the door and tried to evict me from the art fair. This was followed by him yelling at me "its's art, you can't touch it, it's art it's art". Followed by some heated arguing about the collectives works (which he knew nothing about, and I knew a lot so really I won the argument even though he didn't speak English). I actually then made the fiasco even worse when i told him if he was so worried about people not touching the art work maybe he could come and stand in our booth all day, cause he'd do a better job there, then disrupting peoples sleep.

Peacocks and Swarovski's in the draw

Hello Rothko, my old friend

On Friday the gallery organized a brunch with a group of journalists and etcetera’s and K&G gave a presentation about their 17 years experience living in HK and working with Asian artists. A tall confident looking man from ‘Art Price’ also spoke about the Asian art market (by this I mean he talked about money and statistics and collecting based on recent auction house results). Of course he spoke in French so it was only a little less comprehensible than if it had it been in English. I should also add that that all of the people presenting are experts in their specific field. But, where I’m heading with this, is that prior to K and ‘Art price guy’ making their presentations they both mentioned to me their concerns about what they were going to say – maybe it would be too long, too boring, not intelligent enough, maybe they’d forget something, what would people think, my notes are so bad I can’t read them etc etc. And I joined the dots back to my first day of installation and the doubts I had, and I remembered something I already knew but which I often forget – when you put your work and by association yourself into the public realm you are at the mercy of forces you can’t control and it’s normal to be anxious about how you will be received and perceived. In a mixed tape that a friend put together for me for the trip, there is a quote by Mark Rothko that I have repeating like a mantra during the art fair.

“ A picture lives by companionship expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer, it dies by the same token. It is therefore a risky act to send it out into the world.”

Its been an intense time standing at the knife edge risk every day. So today, I departed from the maddening crowded of the art fair and went to the Pompidou to seek out some stillness, contemplation and companionship in front of a Rothko painting, and I sang him a little Simon and Garfunkle...

“Hello, Rothko, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted
In my brain still remains
Within the sound of silence

Monday, April 4, 2011

A homage to HB by an emerging French artist

The bit that might get lost in translation with this video, is that at the end of the salt and pepper art work on the dinning table, is a piece of cheese. In french cheese is 'fromage'.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It's not every day you get to have dinner here.

Well actually the restaurant 'La Mini Palais' (not to be confused with the Petit Palais - more on that later) is where we have had many dinners and some breakfasts and occasionally lunch. 

'We' being any number of delightful friends and family. And, OH my, the food, the food, the food. 

What's it like at the art fair?

Despite my claims that I understand more French, standing in a booth for 12 hours a day frequently feels like I am in a lengthy foreign movie without subtitles. I periodically flat line _____________ , then – BAM! a journalist/collector/artist/friend of the gallery etc will be introduced to me and I transform myself from a person resembling furniture into a person resembling me. A few minutes later I return to being statuesque and mute. These periods of silence are followed by erratic attempts to engage the public using my 3 French sentences but they are disappointingly inadequate to commence meaningful conversation about art. I need more words!!!!

Interestingly with semi-silence comes looking. Firstly looking at the people looking at the work. Or rather looking at the outfits of the people looking at the work. Which is hours of entertainment.

BTW-this is a man.

Then there is the looking at the people looking at my work. It’s a rare experience to watch your own audience. The third kind of looking which, I have had the luxury of doing is to consider the work of the other artists exhibiting with me in the 10 Chancery Lane gallery booth. They are the only Hong Kong gallery exhibiting at the Art Fair and they show some incredibly respected contemporary Asian artists such as :

Wang Keping (China/Paris)

Dinh Q. Li (Vietnam/Ny)

Gonkar Gyatso

As well as a Sopheap Pich, Hung Lui and Yinong and Muchen. Art fairs can sometimes be cynically regarded as art supermarkets, but for me it is a great honor to be exhibiting in Paris at the Grand Palais and also to be exhibiting side by side with these remarkable artists. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Vintage Man

Between a good artist
And a great one


The novice
Will often lay down his tool
Or brush

Then pick up an invisible club
On the mind's table

And helplessly smash the easels and

Whereas the vintage man
No longer hurts himself or anyone

And keeps on



I was thinking of this poem on the second day of installing. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Grand staircase

Short video of the opening night

Click here to have a look at the video of the Vernissage (the opening night) - at the end of the clip there is a section showing me creating the work.

In the image below I am making a small piece in the table during a press event.

The work was tensely guarded for the VIP events (a private view for press, the gala charity dinner and the opening night). Then.... it happened! Someone 'accidentally/curiously' touched it and I exhaled. 

I could relax and the letting go of perfection could begin. 

Also the playfulness could begin too. This is G doing a dance whilst pretending to dust the table.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Time time time. Just in time

What I'm doing in this picture is using small dry paint brushes to pick up the specs of dust which have strayed away from the design. I developed this little technique whereby I rub the brush on my skirt to create static and then I can hover over the particles which magnetically attach themselves to the brush. This meant I wouldn't smudge the dust, but instead vacuum it up one particle at a time.

It took hours.

and hours.....

and hours and hours and hours.

10 hours later, it had made a difference and just as I was putting the finishing touches to it, 'Paris Live' TV came to interview me. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Up. Down. Up. Up Down. Lying down.

Installing the work began with enthusiasm and confidence. The demands of getting the drawing right, and the monotony of extremely long days/weeks retracing then cutting stencils, the uncertainty of scale and air currents and local dust consistencies, were all behind me. In front of me was the possibility of perfection. From my 7 years of experience installing ephemeral works in situe, I have accumulated a repertoire of specific and obscure knowledge about how to produce these dust works on site. This certainty now, allows me the space to enjoy the creations processes.

At this point the story deviates into a choose-your-own-adventure. Please select one of the options below.

Option 1 - The truth from a distance.
I made excellent progress with the timing and after 12 hours solid work I managed to get the majority of the work done. There were no major disasters and it was looking much like I had planned, which means tomorrow I can take my time refining some of the detail of the work.

Option 2 - The truth from inside my head.
The beautiful perfect table, has a raw stained surface which I discovered was completly unforgiving. During other installations, if I make a serious mistake, like not lining up the stencils accurately I can sometimes sweep up a section and start again. Or if it’s a minor error where a little bit of dust has spilled, I can take a dry paint brush and remove it. But this surface is porous and the dust got into the grooves so if I make a mistake then I wouldn’t be able to erase or correct it because it will leave a trace in the surface. So I couldn’t make a mistake.

My internal monologue there for shifted from "I am a confident artists in control of my medium, I'm at an international art event and my work is worthy of being here, and I'm doing what i love - my life is a dream" to medium-leval panic "Don't make a mistake, don't make a mistake, don't make a mistake. Go slow, much slower, relax otherwise you'll make a mistake, d o n ' t   m  a  k  e    a    m   i   s   t    a    k   e. Oooooooh ****!!!! I MADE A MISTAKE. It's ok. It's ok. Its going to be ok. Just do a little more and worry about the mistake later. Focus again. Breath. Go slow. arghhhh another mistake. Damn damn damn. Keep going just keep working just go slow dont make a mistake don'tmakeamistkedon'tmakeamistake". This was on repeat for 12 hours.

I'm fairly certain 'bird head-butting a vine' is not an Art Nouveau motif.

So after 12 hours the majority of the work was done, but it was looking pretty messy. Whilst working, the dust in the atmosphere usually settles over the entire work creating a very subtle patina, but in this situation the oil in our finger-tips had marked the table top, which meant that rather than an even layer of almost invisible dust, the edges of the table, where we had carried it in and moved it around, looked like a crime scene with finger print scattered all up and down the side of the work. I tried cleaning the area, adding more dust, changing the lighting etc etc and still nothing could change this imperfection. And I don't think imperfection in my work is acceptable. I left at the end of the day disappointed and grimy. 

But then we went out for dinner, to a french bistro and i had snails and scallops and wine and good conversation and the anxiety subsided.