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.]


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.]

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

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