Posts Tagged ‘nude


Day 325: Dripping, by Kevin Chin, and Under the Sun by Thomas Gibbs

An amazing exhibition is currently taking place at Southbank – the 2012 Graduate Exhibition of Victorian College of the Arts’ students, which spans the entire Margaret Lawrence Gallery as well as the artists’ studios on the ground and upper levels and the outlying buildings of the college’s precinct. The exhibition visitor is well advised to set aside AT LEAST two hours to explore the exhibition spaces as well as literally hundreds upon hundreds of artworks by this year’s VCA graduate students in every conceivable media – painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, video, installation, and (recordings of) performance art. I am slightly deviating from my format of an artwork per day to bring a selection of images from the exhibition.

Kevin Chin Dripping

Day 325: Dripping, by Kevin Chin

Landscape backgrounds in paintings by Kevin Chin are executed in a range of soft green, yellow, red, and ochre colours. Applied against the visible grain of raw canvas, they imbue the works with an autumnal feel. The run-offs that result from the diluted pigments create an impression of lush foliage. Some of the works feature foreground mise-en-scènes, which are painted with thicker pigments and therefore appear in a sharper focus compared with the rest of the composition. Their incidental nature, at times unrelated to the landscape backgrounds, allows for multiple interpretations of the scenes. In the image illustrated above, the title of the work, Dripping (2012), is used as a clever double-entendre that can refer either to the bather emerging from the lake, or the very nature of Chin’s painting technique and pigment application.

Thomas Gibbs Under the Sun 5

Day 325 bis: Under the Sun #5, by Thomas Gibbs

The suite of paintings by Thomas Gibbs, Under the Sun (2012), features male nudes within landscape setting. However, their fractured and contorted bodies indicate that we are witnessing something more sinister than a classic interpretation of the genre or a romantic communion with nature. The light, dusky tones of the paintings involuntarily bring to mind works by Fiona Lowry, whose seemingly innocuous loosely painted pastel-coloured studies of figures and landscapes stem from stories of crimes and homicide. A similar mood seems to pervade Gibbs’s paintings as we are witnessing men undergoing – or in the aftermath of – an intense physical and emotional pain. This feeling is further underscored by the fragility and vulnerability of their bodies, which strongly contrasts with the prevalent masculine archetypes.

Works by Kevin Chin and Thomas Gibbs are on view at the Victorian College of the Arts until November 25.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries]


Day 323: Goldfish, by Charles Wheeler

Wheeler Mossgreen

Day 323: Goldfish, by Charles Wheeler

This elegant painting by Charles Wheeler from the turn of last century features in Mossgreen’s current Spring Auction Series (lot 397, est AUD $30,000-$40,000). It shows a studio model gazing with abandon into a spherical goldfish bowl. The composition, that appears to be so simple and elegant at first glance, is in fact quite complex. The whole action of the painting occurs within the left third of the canvas. The outline of the model’s head, her hand, the shape of the bowl, and even the movement of the goldfish in the bowl creates a constant elliptical movement, a vortex almost, from which the viewers are unable to extricate their gaze. It is also the vortex, from which all other elliptical shapes within the painting emanate, and we can see them echoed in the silhouette of the model’s body and the arrangement of her limbs.

Her body is, once again, confined to the upper third of the painting, leaving the central and lower-right-hand-side of the painting at the risk of appearing virtually empty and bland. And yet we do not have this sensation when looking at the picture. Wheeler is skilfully exercising the academic balance of the golden mean, where the action within the left and upper sides of the composition balance the calmness and inaction within the rest of the work, while the overall gamut – and especially the flashes of pinks and turquoises – further unite the disparate elements within the composition.

The model is so absorbed in the interplay of the goldfish that she is completely unaware of the viewer. As the result, the viewer becomes the voyeur. The subdued, dusty, pastel-like gamut of Charles Wheeler’s palette and the tight cropping of the composition further imbue the painting with the sense of intimacy and closeness.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries]


Day 314: Hélène Glorifiée, by Gustave Moreau


Day 314: Hélène Glorifiée, by Gustave Moreau

The image of the femme fatale, who brought death and destruction to mankind, is central to the oeuvre of Gustave Moreau (1826-1898). Helen of Troy, in whose name the famous war was fought, features in a number of his works.

The iconographic source for this watercolour is more obscure, and comes from Goethe’s Faust: “Faust, commanded by Mephisto to bring him the archetype of beauty, summons the spirit of Helen from Hades. Falling himself in love with Helen, Faust fathers her winged child Euphorion, who charms all with his beauty and gift for music before dying young and calling his mother back with him to Hades. She is represented in the present work surrounded and glorified by her eternal admirers, the warrior on the left, the poet and king on the right, and her son at her feet.” [Source:].

This work is distinguished by the high degree of finish as well as the use of mixed media (watercolour pigments with gouache and gold). The resulting effect is one of a rich and textured surface usually reserved for Moreau’s oil paintings that resemble pavé-set gem stones rather than an ordinary painted canvas. The richness of its colours (considering the age of this work) is a testament of an extreme care taken to preserve the original beauty of the fragile watercolour and gouache pigments by its various owners throughout the illustrious and dramatic history of this piece.

The exquisite watercolour by Gustave Moreau is among the highlights of Christie’s forthcoming 19th Century European Art sale in London, on 21 November 2012 (lot 14, est £300,000 – £500,000).

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Day 313: Falling Towards the Sky, by Becc Orszag

Becc Orszag Falling Towards the Sky 2012

Day 313: Falling Towards the Sky, by Becc Orszag

Becc Orszag’s large-scale charcoal drawing, Falling Towards the Sky (2012) was a stand-out work at the recent NotFair, a satellite exhibition of the Melbourne Art Fair 2012. It was a pleasure seeing it again at Dianne Tanzer Gallery, accompanied by a small display of other drawings by this undoubtedly gifted and highly imaginative artist.

Orszag’s athletic figure twirls in an ambiguous space, and involuntarily calls to mind Ring Gymnast I (1911) by the Swedish artist Eugene Jansson (1862-1915) in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria [], who is similarly engaged in a seemingly impossible acrobatic mid-air feat.

Nude but for small pair of briefs, his rippling musculature, flailing arms, and inward-pointing toes relate the acrobat’s total concentration on the correct execution of his perilous routine. The strategic placement of his figure almost three quarters up from the lower margin of the drawing imparts the feeling of weightlessness and of the speed of his breathtaking ascent. The ghost-like rocky outcrops in the background of the drawing simultaneously remind the viewer of the increasingly perilous distance from the ground of this gravity-defying latter-day wingless Icarus.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Day 309: Adventure, by Norman Lindsay

Norman Lindsay Adventure

Day 309: Adventure, by Norman Lindsay

Adventure (1944) by Norman Lindsay (1879-1969) is remarkable inasmuch as it is one of the very few works to feature a male nude. Leaning over from a rearing horse towards a naked female with golden tresses, he is a phallic vortex around which the movement within the picture is created. Lindsay balanced our hero’s nudity against the prominent female nudes, for which the artist is better known. They display his aesthetic preference for ‘well-endowed’ and thick-thigh maidens that are at odds with the prevalent waif-like ideal of his era. When a model complained about her appearance in one of his sketches that was clearly at odds with her own bodily proportions, the artist is believed to have quipped: “You’ll grow into them, my dear.”

Lindsay first and foremost was a graphic and watercolour artist, and perhaps among the best practitioners of the medium to come out of Australia. Painting in oils only came to him much later in life, and by his own admission he did not believe he was as proficient in oils as he was in his preferred mediums on watercolour or ink. He expressed his own insecurities by releasing only a small portion of his oil paintings onto the market, bequeathing the remainder to family and friends, and leaving a number of large-scale canvasses to the University of Melbourne.

However, to us his handling of pigments and management of the complex yet balanced colour palette appear superb; and the total irreverence with which he mixes styles and fashions of various eras is rather admirable. In this painting alone, the classical nudity of the chivalrous hero and the maidens in the foreground sits at ease with Baroque, Victorian, and Edwardian dresses worn by the surrounding fully-clothed ladies.

Norman Lindsay’s Adventure features at Bonham’s forthcoming 53-lot auction of Important Australian Art, which takes place in Sydney on 19 November 2012, and also includes works by Donald Friend, John Perceval, Frederick McCubbin, Rupert Bunny, John Peter Russell, and numerous others.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Day 299: and he taught you the wrestling which leads the way to love, by Sangeeta Sandrasegar.


Day 299: and he taught you the wrestling which leads the way to love, by Sangeeta Sandrasegar.

Apropos the previous post, the Basil Sellers Art Prize unites its generous benefactor’s twin passions of art and sport. To my mind, it is also an exhilarating biannual exercise in bridging the gap between the two.

It is truly fascinating to observe some of our top art practitioners tackling the theme of sport through the unique prism of their visual idiom, and as some of the artists in this exhibition point out, the sports and eroticism, the athletic body and the physical allure, often go hand in hand.

The subject is tackled most directly in Sangeeta Sandrasegar’s and he taught you the wrestling which leads the way to love (2012). The paper silhouettes take their inspiration from the Greek red and black antique vases, which often depict sport scenes of the ancient Olympiads. But look closer, and you will soon notice that the only physical exercise that writhing, contorting bodies are engaged in is that of love-making.

The Basil Sellers Art Prize 2012 on view at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne, until November 4.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Stewart MacFarlane @ Australian Galleries

Stewart MacFarlaneFriday, 21 October 2011

Last night I went to the Collingwood Arts Precinct Open Night, when most galleries within Smith / Peel / Wellington / Derby streets’ perimeter remained open till 9pm. I was rather disappointed with the modest attendance, perhaps due to Melbourne’s unpredictable weather, or perhaps to the fact that most galleries (with the exception of Catherine Asquith) had existing shows on view, the official openings for which had already taken place a few days or weeks prior.

Six venues participated in the event, and I was most interested to see an exhibition or recent works by Stewart MacFarlane at the Australian Galleries. I assume this heralds Stewart’s parting of the ways with his former dealer, Charles Nodrum, with whom he has been for a better part of two decades.

Stewart MacFarlaneThe exhibition contains finished works as well as smaller studies, wherein the artist’s modus operandi is revealed. MacFarlane produces a large body of preparatory studies of nude models, reclining in a variety of poses, their erogenous zones exaggerated and emphasized. His studies also include interior scenes and landscapes, drawn from his immediate environment. Judging from these studies, this peripatetic artist is presently domiciled in Adelaide.

Like a skilful movie director, MacFarlane collates his preparatory sketches into complex psycho-enigmatic mise-en-scenes: nudes by open windows; menacing strangers on rooftops; peaceful-looking suburban street scenes with a violent action taking place almost as an afterthought in the background of the picture.

Stewart MacFarlaneThe whole is executed in bright, lurid colours, a palette which requires a lot of mastery, and in which MacFarlane excels. Luscious reds, succulent greens, sparkling yellows, deep blues and velvety purples are boldly placed side by side, contrasting and bringing out each other’s brilliance. Their vibrant energy is contained, stained-glass like, within thick outlines of black pigment.

MacFarlane belongs to that set of Australian painters who rarely change their subject matter, dominant palette, or style of painting. At the same time, one can hardly decry this ‘sameness’ when the production is consistently good. And if in the past one could detect a certain rush to finish the paintings, which often resulted in poor drawing and slapdash execution of background details, few of such shortcomings (if any) can be detected in this exhibition.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. Where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Lewis Miller @ Australian Galleries


Lewis Miller Nude

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Lewis Miller @ Australian Galleries

Lewis Miller is undoubtedly among this country’s most outstanding portrait painters. His gifts in this genre are self-evident, and one hardly needs to list his Archibald and Moran accolades to appreciate his talents in this difficult metier. Therefore, I rushed over to see his current exhibition at the Australian Galleries, and like many of his previous shows, it features a cross-section of genres, in which Lewis excels – portraiture, nudes, and still lives.

Lewis’s favourite model is – has been, and by the looks of it will be in the foreseeable future – Hazel. They must have established a symbiotic relationship, for she has been appearing in his paintings for at least a decade. He must have painted her by now in every conceivable position and from every conceivable angle; he is probably so familiar with every curve of her body, every crevice and every cranny, that perhaps the actual act of modelling is no longer necessary, as he is probably able to recreate her form purely from his memory.

Lewis Miller Still LifeBut one cannot blame Lewis’s attachment to Hazel: she is generously endowed with a model’s body, with perfect curves of her hips, sinuous lines of her limbs, generous mounds of her breasts. Not having had the privilege to see the model in such intimate state of deshabille, it is also highly possible that by the time she makes it onto Miller’s finished canvas, her features have been regularised and idealised by the artist. She is superbly executed in every picture. Her limbs and torso are masterfully foreshortened in the ‘upside-down’ paintings; and delineated in assured and confident charcoal outlines that flow and undulate around the landscape of her body. Her skin tones are accented with broad brush strokes of skin-coloured pigments, from deep ochres to most delicately effervescent pinks. Large expanses of linen, left exposed by the artist, superbly recreate the textures of her skin as well as of the sheets on which she poses.

Lewis Miller Fish Sea SnailLewis’s still lives could not be faulted either. Lemons, peaches, quinces, pomegranates, and apricots; pilchard, oysters, molluscs and all kinds of fruits de mer, chops and steaks and other cuts of meat are arranged in groups, combinations or by themselves, on canvasses and copper plates of various shapes and sizes, many a painting reminiscent of a Grecian thin and elongated decorative frieze. Lewis’s nature mortes still show a significant influence of Lucian Freud, of whom he is perhaps the most devoted disciple in this country. Freud’s style is perceptible in the thickly layered paint and richly textured surfaces, which, until a decade or so ago Miller also applied to the depiction of his models, though since then he developed his own pared down and raw style which shows off most advantageously his drawing skills and technical abilities.

Lewis Miller Self PortraitThere’s also a smattering of portraits by the entrance – an obligatory self-portrait or two, a couple of studies of Tom Alberts, and a portrait of a child, all predominantly painted en face, their gaze communicating directly with the viewer. Looking at these portraits, I was struck by the realisation that for at least a decade or so Miller retained the same format for every exhibition. It is always a smattering of nude, still life, and portrait studies. His portraits are frequently worked into larger finished compositions, which wow audiences when shown in Australia’s premier portraiture prizes. However, his nudes and still lives have never breeched that prime essence of being a study. One does begin to wonder whether the works of these genres – like his portraits – would ever lead to a crescendo, a seminal work, or a large scale masterpiece. His superb facility with the brush, colour, drawing, composition, foreshortening notwithstanding, it would be a pity for an artist of such obvious talents to spend the rest of his career on studies, sketches, and preparatory drawings.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but full or partial use is welcome with proper acknowledgement. Where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Portraits @ Leonard Joel May 2011 Sunday Art Auction

LJ 132 Archibald ColquhounWednesday, 11 May 2011

Portraits @ Leonard Joel May 2011 Sunday Art Auction

As always, a quick overview of portraits that were offered at recent art sales. Because of the all-inclusive nature of Leonard Joel’s auctions (as discussed in the previous post), their sales are perhaps the best places to view and find a wide variety of portraits by local and international artists offered on the Australian art market.

LJ 010 Ernst BuckmasterWhile the cross-section of portraits was more exciting in some of their previous offers, the May 2011 Sunday Art Auction also unearthed some interesting, unusual and unexpected items, perhaps none more so than Ernst Buckmaster’s self-portrait from 1926, painted when the artist was in his late 20s. Buckmaster shows himself in a flattering three-quarter turn against an abstracted background; his face boldly lit from the left-hand side, emphasising the shock of bushy black hair, deep-set eyes, prominent nose and chin, and a slightly haughty expression about his mouth and brow. There is something indelibly Edwardian about this self-representation, clearly emulating the bravura style of John Singer Sargent. One has to love the artifice of the portrait, where the artist chose to represent himself standing in a simple painter’s smock, which covers a formal black-tie dress complete with a bowtie and starched collar, as if the artist presages the popular success he would achieve later in life as a fashionable landscape and still-life painter. Estimated at $2,000-$4,000, the portrait sold for $6,600 (IBP).

LJ 347 Jean SutherlandIt is interesting to compare this work to a portrait of the same sitter by Jean Sutherland, obviously painted much later, but displaying the same slightly arrogant and self-assured arching of the brow (sold here en suite with Sutherland’s self-portrait, est. $800-$1,200); or indeed against another self-portrait in the auction, that of Douglas Watson of 1945, who also dashingly portrayed himself with a cigarette in his hand and sporting Hollywood mustachios (est $1,000-$1,500; unsold).

LJ 092 Rupert BunnyPerhaps my favourite portrait in the auction has to be a charming and lively study by Rupert Bunny of his wife and muse, Jeanne Morel. Painted c. 1895, the portrait predates some of Bunny’s better known, lavish full-length representations of his wife, many of which appeared at the last year’s retrospective of the artist (and discussed within these pages in a number of earlier posts). The portrait depicts Jeanne boldly in clear and sharp profile, lost in an intent conversation with an invisible interlocutor. The liveliness and immediacy of the image has something of an amazing snap-shot quality to it one would normally associate with a photograph rather than a drawing. Her face is executed in beautiful detail, while her dress is but a hint, a suggestion of folds and outlines of puffed sleeves and a late-Victorian bodice. There are echoes of Sargent’s celebrated portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, painted a few years previously in 1892-93, especially in the way Jeanne Morel holds on to the side of the chair with her hand. It is undoubtedly one of the loveliest and surprisingly fresh watercolour portraits I’ve seen by the artist in a long time, and the public must have thought as highly of it as I did: estimated at $3,000-$4,000, the portrait drawing sold for $13,200 IBP, more than four times its lower estimate.

LJ 038 Tony TucksonOther portraits on offer included Tony Tuckson’s Matisse-esque interpretation of his wife, Margaret, from the early to mid 1950s (est. $16,000-$20,000, sold $28,800 IBP); David Rankin’s ghostly evocation of his wife, writer Lily Brett, of 1986 (est $1,000-$2,000, sold $2,400 IBP); a rather dashing representation of Violet Teague’s husband (?), Roger Teague, in full riding habit (est $3,000-$5,000, unsold); and a fresh and vibrantly painted portrait of an unknown lady by Archibald Douglas Colquhoun (est. $700-$900, unsold).

LJ 286 Peter ChurcherNorman Lindsay’s oil Rita of c. 1940s made yet another appearance on the auction block (est. $20,000-$30,000; sold $24,000 IBP); and there was also a lively profile portrait drawing of the same model (est. $1,000-$2,000, sold $3,360 IBP). And since we’re admitting identifiable models into the sphere of portraiture, we can’t go past Peter Churcher’s generously proportioned male nude, Simon Seated, which is unfortunately not the most felicitous creation by this otherwise talented artist (est. $7,000-$9,000, unsold).

LJ 212 Francois FerriereAs always, there was also a selection of what one of the former auctioneers of this house inspiringly termed ‘instant ancestors’ – portraits of unknown, soberly dressed ladies and gentlemen gazing at the viewer from the 18th and 19th Century canvasses, such as an unknown gentleman by an early 19th-C. British school (est. $1,000-$2,000, unsold); or a copy after George Romney’s portrait of John Askew of Whitehaven, c. 1800 (est. $2,000-$3,000, unsold). Perhaps the most attractive and romantic of the lot is an 18th-C. Portrait of a Lady by the Swiss François Ferriere, dating from 1786, in full powdered wig and beautifully executed gauze wrap around her shoulders; the lightness of the face, hair, and bodice effectively silhouetted against the overall darkness of the background (est $800-$1,200; sold $1,140 IBP).

This selection shows that portraiture, both as a genre and an area of collecting, continues to fare alive and well in Australia; and it is thanks to the auctions like these that we see gems, rarities, and surprises like those by Bunny, Buckmaster, or Ferriere emerging from the confines of private Australian collections to find new homes, sometimes with surprising (and profitable!) results for their former owners.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]


Julian Meagher @ Lindberg Galleries

JM 6_strong-men-also-cry2011julian-meagher150-x-215-cmoil-on-linen
Thursday, 21 April 2011 

Julian Meagher @ Lindberg Galleries

In his current exhibition at Lindberg Galleries, Julian Meagher continues themes and subjects of his previous bodies of work, notably the exploration of masculinity in the context of contemporary culture. The exhibition consists of portraits, still lives, and figure studies, and it is apparently accompanied by a performance (as an installation of a bottle and a bucket and several performance stills would suggest).

JM Julian Meagher Spin the Bottle 2011Central to the exhibition is one ofAustralia’s icons of masculinity, a slab of VB, a monumental painting of which dominates the show. Majority of the paintings feature most delicately executed Chinese blue and white porcelain vases with traditional decorations. However, at a closer look one begins to notice the presence of a slab or a bottle of VB in each scene as an object of veneration, diplomatic or courtly exchange, or an essential part of a traditional banquet or ceremony. While initially this appears extremely clever, by the time you encounter it for the sixth time in a row, the idea becomes rather laboured and looses its initial strength and cleverness.

JM 6_only-real-men-wear-pink2011120x120-cmoil-on-linenjulian-meagher

Most of the vases are painted with either orchids or quintessentially Australian flowers known as kangaroo paws, which are likewise most delicately and beautifully executed against a predominantly blank background. As such they are somewhat reminiscent of works by Dane Lovett (see an earlier post on this artist’s works). However, if the self-referentiality (still-lives as self-portraits) soon becomes apparent in Lovett’s work, I personally do not believe that Meagher’s still-lives carry the same semantic connotation.

Julian Meagher Boys Don't Cry 2011On the other hand, in such works as Only Real Men Wear Pink and Boys Don’t Cry, psychological overtones of Meagher’s paintings and the overall narrative of the exhibition become more apparent, as the artist juxtaposes such staples of contemporary masculinity as tattoo-covered bodies, muscular torsos, and clenched fists with softer, emotional, feminine sides of the human psyche.

JM 6_self-portrait-at-15000-feet2011oil-on-linen70-x-60-cmjulian-meagherforweb

The exhibition also features two most excellent portrait heads, one of which is a self-portrait, showing the artist as a most gifted and talented practitioner of the genre. I believe these were painted from life, which is a sad and fast-disappearing rarity in the contemporary portrait practice (where so many artists prefer the quick fix of a digital camera!). The faces are well-constructed, showing the artist’s intimate knowledge of physiognomy. Each portrait is a product of a complex layering, and skin tones are rendered in a multitude of most delicate glazes. The resulting three-dimensionality of the portraits is quite astonishing, and faces seem to leap out from the two-dimensional constraints of the canvas.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

July 2014
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