Having crossed the bustling Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the visitor soon encounters a small piazza with a shaded entrance to the church of Santa Felicita and gladly enters the cool grey stone interior. On the right, behind an iron gate, a painting of Christ’s Deposition 1526–28 illuminates a side chapel, beaming colours of ...
What to do with Whiteley? Forget the gutsy audacity and visual energy; in Bernard Smith’s estimation he was ‘egocentric, pseudo-profound and self-pitying’ (Australian Painting 1788–2000). Smith could not abide Whiteley’s ‘incapacity for detachment’; his cult of personality, poured into every last crevice of his work. With the hegemony of the social and theoretical construction of art, the actual person of the artist has been an increasing problem for art critics. Whiteley’s work, driven by personality and fuelled by sensation, is easily viewed as a romantic indulgence.
Roy Porter wrote that ‘the portrait (above all the self-portrait), the diary and the biography (especially the autobiography) – reveal heightened perceptions of individuality, the proud ego vaunting and flaunting his own being’. This may be so, but self-portraiture is a genre that crosses many secret thresholds ...
Marry an artist? Never! So I always thought, and reading these autobiographies does nothing to change my prejudice. Married to artists, both Judith Pugh and Irena Sibley spend a good deal of their time cooking and, even more, socialising. Not that they mind. Judith declares that ‘cooking was my deep pleasure’, essential to the story of her life with Clifton (‘Clif’) Pugh. Irena concedes facetiously, ‘it’s too hard painting pictures. It is easier to bake cakes.’ The importance of food is apparent in the chapter titles. Eleven of Sibley’s chapters refer to food, while all of Pugh’s have subheadings that, typically, jumble up evocative ingredients.
Like the theatre backstage, the artist’s studio has the look, sound and smell of the creative moment. For romantics, this is the place where genius ignites invention, where the down-to-earth mess of paints, brushes and canvas is transformed by an inspiring atmosphere. For historians such as Alex Taylor, however, the myth masks a different kind of reality: the social manoeuvring, economic strategies and self-conscious publicity of artists in search of a living. His scholarly book is a welcome alternative to recent photographic publications that attest to the continuing glamour of artists in their studios.
This impressive volume surpasses most assumptions about the scope, depth and eloquence of an exhibition catalogue. Curator and editor Terence Lane has gathered together thirteen of Australia’s leading art historians, historians and curators, all recognised experts in their fields.
Jan Senbergs’ art is not easy to like. Sombre, brutal, austere in colour, it nevertheless represents one of the most sustained meditations on the industrial landscape in Australian art. Patrick McCaughey, well-known gallery director, academic and critic, has written about the artist and his work in a way that deliberately blurs biography, autobiography and visual critique. The result is an engaging and unusually meticulous account of the evolution of an artistic career, documenting the emergence of ‘Senbergs country’ as a force in the Australian aesthetic imagination.