Newcastle art seen


I’m in the market for a new piece of art. Shh don’t tell the family. My house is cluttered with art though mainly my own. So it doesn’t count really. Anyway I like the idea of having a collection of works by local artists. So on Saturday when I read in the Newcastle Herald that there was an exhibition for a charity at Newcastle Grammar School it gave me the inspiration to trek into the big smoke and take a peek. Nexus Art Show is an annual event attracting many local artists and raising money for the Nexus Paediatric and Adolescent Mental Health Unit at the John Hunter Hospital. So it’s a good cause. One that I would not hesitate to support. Unfortunately though I am still in the market for my next piece to add to my collection. But that doesn’t mean that there was not great art to be had. I particularly liked the sculptures of Braddon Snape who I have spoken about in a previous review. The $2000 odd price tag though was a little out of my reach. I could also do with a piece by the artist Linda Greedy. Her paintings are superb. One day hopefully but this weekend wasn’t my time. Lisa Pollard’s ink and gouache paintings were serene and cosy. And Jo O’Toole’s abstracts always show a self-assured technique.


One of Linda Greedy’s oil on timber paintings. I just love her way with paint and one day I’d like to add one to my collection. Just not a doggy.


The abstract painting by Jo O’Toole. 

While I was out and about I took the chance to pop in to a few more galleries. I had another look at Magic Mike: Michael Zavros. Still not convinced but I could be missing some irony in there somewhere. Then on to cstudios where there was a very busy opening happening for the artists’ Peter Ermon Smith and Kay McFarlane Smith. I had a quick look but it was a tad too crowded for a decent squiz. I always enjoy looking about the smaller gallery and the shop so I spent some time in there and found some treasures.


This work by Gillie and Marc is at cstudios for $2800. Rather “funky” I think.

Then a quick stop at ASW  where Shelagh Lummis has new work in her exhibition titled Wet. If you get a chance this is worth making the effort to see. Her work is beautiful and timeless. Certainly a name to remember about the Newcastle art seen. This exhibition concludes on the 14th May.


New work by Shelagh Lummis. 

Helene Leane’s exhibition at Gallery 139  is a comprehensive look at the Australian Red Cedar Tree. Although I only had a quick glimpse before the gallery closed for the day it struck me as a cohesive and well executed show flowing smoothly from one work to the next. It’s funny how some exhibitions just work seamlessly. And for me this is one of them. Red Gold: The Cedar Story closes the 14th May also.


Remember to pop in to The Emporium whenever you get a chance. It’s still a haven for creatives in the Newcastle CBD.

That’s if for this weeks tour of the Newcastle art seen. 

Fitzroy street art

Well I won’t deny when it comes to art I appreciate many forms and genres. Street art has always been a favourite. Probably being out of the confines of 4 walls is part of it. I like that it gives young artists a venue that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg. Cos let’s face it, art is a career that takes more than it gives when it comes to money. Anyway take a look at some of the walls I happened by when I visited the streets of Fitzroy Melbourne recently. Cheers

Magic Mike: Mike Zavros

Straight up I’ll say that while I can absolutely acknowledge the skill and technical expertise that goes into creating these wonderfully perfect pieces of art, it’s a style that I don’t generally regard as a favourite. Mike Zavros is precise and perfect in his work and I would imagine this is an extension of his interest in beauty and vanity. The beauty he projects onto the canvas is the manufactured variety. The type you purchase at the big brand store, that’s painstakingly produced at the gym, that lacks any style and originality. All that is required is the large wallet with loads of cash and lots of time. But while I am not inspired by works of art such as these I know his message is all the more pertinent because of his flawless execution. What’s disturbing though is the video that is on constant rotation in the gallery of himself and his daughter. I would think that having acknowledged the ridiculousness (but perhaps he hasn’t and is an advertising bill board for the capitalist mantra “economy, economy, economy”) of devoting time to the empty pursuit of fashion and contrived beauty it would be discouraged as a creative outlet. But there is his daughter maybe 4 or 5 years old totally cute and totally ensconced in all that will encourage a lifetime of feeding an appetite for expensive stuff that will not be sated. All while Dad walks about the studio wonderfully buff and I doubt that is because he’s putting time in at the local community garden. Hmm…

The message I went away with was “shun consumerism:embrace imperfection, because perfection looks just so uptight”.

Anyway take a peek. I’ve selected the most vain pieces but there is so much more on display that is worthy of a visit. His compositions are unique and besides his painting prowess it was this I found intriguing.

Magic Mike: Mike Zavros . It’s on exhibit at Newcastle Art Gallery until May 28th.

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Just thought I’d add that I have tried over the past 5-10 years to hold the consumer instinct at bay and it’s hard. A fashion fast for a year (not buying any item of clothing for a year and at the same time gradually discarding) helped me but I’m unashamed to say I regularly have relapses. As the song goes “I’m a weapon of massive consumption, it’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function

Elisabeth Cummings- Interior Landscapes

While I was in Canberra a couple of weekends ago I took a ride over to the ANU and found Drill Hall Gallery, a peaceful and serene contrast to the Australian National Gallery where the Versailles exhibition was in full swing. Those who follow this blog would have already seen my post regarding the etchings of Versailles and I thoroughly recommend the block buster if you’re lurking about Canberra. But back to Drill Hall where I found I was the only art enthusiast there on that Saturday afternoon. Alas all was not perfect as the non arty husband of mine was left outside minding the bikes eager to whip around Lake Burley Griffin at a roaring pace. Hmmm…

Inside this rather expansive gallery were the powerful and liberating works of Elisabeth Cummings. Her abstract works explore layering and oblique image though the sense of place is apparent. I like many others have fallen in love with this acclaimed Aussie painters work. Take a peek. And for those in the Newcastle area I am positive I read that it is coming to our gallery in 2018.

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Currumbin interior with mango 2002

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The Shearer’s kitchen Mt Murchison 2011


Studio 2000


Breakfast still life 2006

I am astounded at their beauty. This is the perfect combination of application, line and composition. What an artist. On exhibit at Drill Hall Gallery until 9th April.

Let’s see what’s happening about our local art galleries. Well a few anyway…

Just because I happened to be driving past. That was the explanation for the sore tooth I stumbled across today. And hence is now sitting in my backroom proudly on display. Of course it’s not a real tooth but one hand sculpted out of ceramic by the artist James McFarland. His pop up exhibition at ACRUX Gallery in Hamilton, titled Bite the Bullet, mimics the desire of that rare species of human that enjoys displaying the mementos of a hunt. His collection however is a slightly macabre array of huge human teeth some complete with fillings. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether there is a weird serial killer on the loose or a morbid dentist with an assortment of strange curios. The tooth I purchased happens to belong to a receptionist with a sweet but rotten tooth. I know this because each tooth comes with a code to decipher (it’s quite an easy puzzle) that is stamped onto it. His exhibition, the work from his Honours thesis, concludes next Sunday 2nd April.


James McFarland’s large teeth specimen collection

Yesterday I quickly caught the tail end of the opening of “The art of collecting” at The University Gallery until 8th April. It’s a small selection from a local collector. However there were 169 pieces there. Wow now that means there has been a lot of buying happening. I left the gallery thinking if it wasn’t for this one collector perhaps the Newcastle art scene would be a shadow of what it currently is. Perhaps not but with a few people telling me this was only 20% of the collection it is worth considering. It must be like an archaeological dig venturing into the home of this collector and like most avid art collectors I imagine there are a few gems amongst the many. If you get a chance it’s astounding to see the diversity.


From “The art of collecting” Artist: Anthony Buseli, Untitled, 1997

Also on the Newcastle art trail is the work of another local artist Stephen McDonald. His affinity with nature is apparent in his exhibition “illume” at cstudios until 1st April. They are perfectly captured snapshots of crashing waves, billowing clouds and beautiful horizons. I particularly liked the adventurous colours in some of the more luminous images. I appreciate the level of skill and expertise in this exhibition built up over the artist’s lifetime. It’s a traditional and conservative collection but one that has classic longevity.


Billowing Clouds by Stephen McDonald.

If not for closely analysing art as I do via this blog it’s often I would dismiss a huge selection of work because of my propensity to love the looseness of movement and line through the painterly flow of a brushstroke. But I enjoy taking a closer look. Hopefully it expands my knowledge of art along with my appreciation. Anyway until next time. Yours in art watching…

Etchings of Versailles.

Etchings from Versailles.

Saturday morning I was up and out of my room early, taking a leisurely stroll around Lake Burley Griffin, killing time waiting for the National Gallery to open. I thought I might upload an image, like we all do these days, documenting our lives on social media. So with phone in hand I tried looking for that photo of Canberra that was more than just a selfie ( a small foible of mine) but wasn’t hackneyed. I’ve seen Telstra Tower, Parliament House old and new and the War Memorial too many times to add to the vast collection of tourist photos hash-tagged out there. I wanted something “arty”. Something clever. Maybe it was too early for such creativity. Because inspiration was not happening. But what I did observe is Canberra’s obsession with the active wear craze that’s sweeping the globe ( and putting a wad of cash into the greedy hands of those American Koch brothers)*.  Where was the obesity epidemic? It certainly wasn’t about Lake Burley Griffin.  Perhaps moved to chubbier pastures. (Or Raymond Terrace 2324 where I read in The Newcastle Herald this week 70% of the population is overweight or obese. Oh dear). But good on Canberra, well the inner city anyway. It’s probably a different story out in the burbs.

So I wandered around Lake Burley Griffin with all those fit joggers and cyclists (a photo was uploaded but completely uncanberran) and meandered up to the gallery where already people were beginning to accumulate outside the entrance at 9:50am. The queue was fine though. Within 15 minutes I was in the exhibition SURROUNDED by teems of people. Where did they come from? Somewhere between purchasing my ticket and visiting the ladies (where my phone rather loudly announced that I had reached my destination) a herd of people had been dropped right in the exhibition.

And although this was not ideal I was still able to read to my hearts content and feast my eyes on all the beautiful opulent objects on display such as extensive tapestries, parquetry flooring and highly ornate, well, everything. I couldn’t help but wonder while observing such decadence how such a minute portion of the population (less than 2%) can assume the right to live such indulged lifestyles.  And all while the masses starved and endured extreme poverty. And paid the taxes to keep these highly coiffed in luxury.What were those three Louis’s thinking? It was bound to end in disaster. But regardless of this little thought I endured (and enjoyed) the extravagance.

The paintings are perfection. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun an artist for Marie Antoinette brought back fond memories of my art school days where I had to memorise her paintings for exams (well one anyway). So much in this exhibition is impressive however the etchings, intricately exquisite, were a standout for me. Used to document special events such as births or marriages or victory in military operations the feasts, masked balls, fireworks etc were a means of witnessing the King’s “divertissements”.

17361851_10210281685857726_5673381008195378908_nIsrael Silvestre, France 1621-1691

Jean Lepautre, France 1618-1682

Second day: La Princesse d’Elide

from Pleasures of the Enchanted isle, May 1664



Jean Lepautre, France 1618-1682

Fifth day: fireworks on the canal at Versailles

from Divertissments of 1674 1676


17361678_10210281687537768_6092136651106102933_nCharles-Nicolas Cochin or Cochin the younger 

France 1715-1790

The formal ball, 24 February 1745

from The marriage of the dauphin Louis of France with Marie-Therese, Infants of Spain, 1749.


Below are 2 photographs of the detail in the etchings.



I could use some flowery language to describe these works of art but I think they speak for themselves. I spent a considerable amount of time peering into the detail. It’s a fairy tale really and not surprising the luxurious monarchy came to a rather violent end. But wow we are fortunate that we can delve into this history and wonder at the bold neglect these characters inflicted on the third estate.

Versailles: Treasures from the Palace
until 17 April 2017.


For those interested here is the photograph I shared on Instagram the morning I was looking for inspiration. Not quite the calibre of the engravings but oh well. 

This is a link to who the Koch brothers are and how they amassed their fortunes. There are also links to my social media sites and the NGA. Cheers!