Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Something old-Something New- Some paintings at Barangaroo

An Architectural Adventure
The 'Sydney Open' -presented by the Historic Houses Trust

My paintings will be on exhibition at several venues during the Sydney Open, a biennial event presented by Historic Houses Trust that showcases Sydney’s architectural icons.
On display for one day only on Sunday 7th November 2010

The Name is 'Bond' - 'Jane at the Bond' 

I will be exhibiting my paintings of both the 'Hungry Mile' and my recent paintings of demolition works at Barangaroo in spacious foyer of the LendLease headquarters at the '30 The Bond' 30 Hickson Road.

 I was "Artist in Residence" at the "Hungry Mile", East Darling Harbour Wharves during its last years as a working port, and have continued painting on this site during its exciting transformation into the new precinct of Barangaroo.
 I am delighted to have the opportunity to display some of these paintings 'in situ'.They are especially relevant now, with the entire area on the cusp of one of the most important architectural transformations in the entire history of Sydney.
 I have been the only person to actually witness the transition process on the spot. The people on the wharf have moved to the periphery of Sydney : Port Botany and Port Kembla; and the current construction workers have not experienced Barangaroo as a working port. This area had been a wharf virtually since settlement and the general public was never permitted access. I was given unprecedented access to all aspects of the port operations and painted on the wharves, from the top of Harbour Control Tower and even from the bridge of the ships. Later I painted the demolition of the wharves and the preparations for World Youth Day 2008 and now I am starting a new series of paintings about the construction of Barangaroo.

 Barangaroo from the Harbour Control Tower- 'The Hungry Mile' from the Harbour Control Tower 1 2007 gouache painting on paper 44 x 34cm
In this gouache painting you can see a rare aerial view of the '30 The Bond' building, as I painted this from the vantage point of the Control Room of the Sydney Harbour Control Tower. It is the sleekly elegant silver building south of the roller-coaster escarpment of High Street, in the historic Miller's Point precinct. On its roof is a curly thatch of greenery which is its roof garden. My paintings will be displayed on easels in the foyer, just in front of an escarpment wall of original sandstone.
I will also be exhibiting my early paintings of Pyrmont at Workplace6 on Darling Island as part of the Sydney Open, on the same day Sunday 7th November. For more information see my post My Exhibition at Sydney Open at my other blog 'Industrial Revelation'
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The End of the Wharf as we know it

The Empty Wharf
Starting a new large canvas- 8am on a cloudy windy day on the site of recently demolished Wharf 8 at South Barangaroo 

I have prepared a canvas suitable for the threatening clouds by priming it  with several coats of black acrylic paint. Canvases intended for either landscapes or seascapes I prime with either black or cerulean blue. This preparatory coat of coloured paint is known as the 'imprimatura', and I like to use it especially when painting outdoors rather than face the glare of a white canvas reflecting the sunlight back into my face
A black primed canvas is useful for storm clouds or interiors, while the blue canvases have the basic sky colour already laid in, so it is easier to add clouds, haze or mist at the horizon.


Note the scar of dark, new laid asphalt delineating the space where Wharf 8 used to be.

Gone with the Wind

This canvas is fairly large for a plein air painting- 91 x 122cm. I intended it to be a continuation of the series of canvases from similar vantage points on this wharf of the same size which you can see on the right hand side of this blog, one painted when the 'Hungry Mile' was still a working port and the other a year later when the ships, trucks, containers, forklifts and wharfies had left. There are also other paintings of this size and format showing the demolition of the previous wharf buildings. I must say that the earlier paintings might have been more complex to paint, but this one is more physically difficult to manage, because now that most of the buildings have been demolished, there is no shelter from the wind on this wharf. 
That sounds like a minor gripe, but I have almost as much canvas up to catch the breeze as though I were windsurfing. The Philip's head screws on the struts of my french box easel, never a strong point of its design, are fighting a losing battle. I tighten them, but their little notches are almost worn smooth. The top of the easel with its canvas snaps back and forward unless I hold it steady with my left hand. It's tiring to paint like this and I dare not leave it long enough to eat my lunch, never mind about leaving it for a much needed toilet break. I'd be chasing my stuff all over the wharf. I try a useful trick with big canvases in a brisk wind - I change the angle so the canvas is side on to the wind, not catching it head on, and lower the angle so that the canvas is almost horizontal like a table top. A little like sailing, I should imagine, although I am by no means a sailor.
Last year I lost a much loved Akubra hat which blew off my head as I was packing up my things on my very last visit to paint the ferries the Balmain shipyard. I was so upset that I seriously thought about jumping into the Harbour and swimming after it, but I didn't want to be scuttled by the 'Lady Hopetoun'. I suppose some lucky New Zealander is wearing my lost Akubra  now. A good Akubra with a wide brim, not one of those silly pork pie jobs that don't keep the sun or rain off, is hard to find now. It will set you back about $150, and that doesn't include the toggles, which are almost impossible to buy. The shops only sell  Akubras for tourists these days and were amazed to hear of someone who actually needed to wear one for work. 'Did I also ride a horse at work' the assistants asked, wide-eyed with wonder. I had to disappoint them there. 
The wind is getting much worse. A good rule of thumb is that over 25 knots and the canvas starts to beat like a drum; the brushstrokes are timed to coincide. Annoying, but not insurmountable. Over 35 knots and a fully loaded french box easel starts to skitter around. Over 40 knots, and it will lift up and whack you on the nose if you don't tie it down. I have to move my car and cower behind it, using it as a wind break.
Painting clouds- 11am
Beware- Artist at work- 11.30am

If it weren't for the hard hat perched on top of it, the little black hat would look quite glam. It's no Akubra, though.
The smear of black paint on the cheek  really completes the look. 
Behind the canvas
I had to scavenge for this big concrete block to weight down my easel so I wouldn't have to chase it all over the wharf. The bricks are preventing the easel struts from being blown out of position and giving me a faceful of wet canvas. It only partly worked. I found out later the wind that day was over 45 knots. But despite the threatening clouds it didn't actually rain and I got a lot of painting done.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Work Easy

Hand in Glove
'Work Easy'

I found this glove lying on the wharf. I noticed its reassuring gesture, but decided it was a subject worthy of being painted when I read its slogan "Work Easy". The combination of the battered trampled glove with the 'OK' gesture and the laid back 'Work Easy' slogan was too hard for me to resist.
Do the people who take the maxim "Work Easy" literally, make up for it by also "Playing Hard", I wonder? Or are they laid back in all aspects of their life?

One of my favourite quotes used to be "train hard, fight easy", which sounds as if it were a failed attempt at a Nike slogan or some of Muhammed Ali's pre-bout pugilistic poetry  , but I believe actually derives from von Clausewitz and probably sounds more formal in the original 19th century Prussian German dialect. This grim little aphorism is a reminder of the importance of early preparation for an important event, but "Work Easy" is its polar opposite. "Work Easy" sounds so humane, so relaxed, so cheerful and so reminiscent of how Australia used to be. An antidote to the barked commands of "Just do it" I can imagine the hapless owner of the lost glove failing to find it, saying "No worries"  and sloping off to the pub early.

'Work Easy'2010 oil on canvas 20 x 20 cm

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Walking with Industrial Dinosaurs at Barangaroo

The "Pulverizer" in action.
'The Pulverizer and the Watertank' 2010 oil on canvas 15 x 30cm
This painting shows the aptly named "Pulverizer" doing just that. Its target is the base of one of the recently demolished power and light poles; another of these is in the foreground.

The Hungry Excavators

The excavators lumber around the site like a pack of marauding dinosaurs. The largest excavator of the site, the Sumitomo 800, resembles the top predator  T. rex, as usually it wears a heavy jawed attachment that seems too top heavy for its body. The  excavators seem to lie in wait, either hibernating for the winter or digesting their meal. Then they stir from their slumber, shake themselves and stretch and circle around, looking for a weak spot to target. They seem to wander around aimlessly, but you know they are just biding their time, choosing a suitable victim. When they strike it is sudden and merciless. There is a struggle as the heavy jaws clamp and pull. They tear and twist scraps from the target. Sometimes they take a breather to chew their cud. Other lesser beasts hang around the edges scavenging the leftovers, as they wait for the noble beast to finish its kill.
I think I've been watching too many Attenborough documentaries.

The Archaeologists at Barangaroo

A new trench
'Digger (The Trench)'  2010 oil on canvas 30 x 15 cm
The site archaeologists of South Barangaroo are Casey & Lowe. Here they have briefly stopped work to consult as the excavators have unearthed a pipe. Possibly Barangaroo isn't one of the most fascinating archaeological sites as it is mostly fill, and fill dating probably no earlier than the 1960's. But breaking the surface to dig a new hole is always exciting, even if there is no prospect of buried treasure or even broken bottles or blue and white pottery fragments at the end of it!

Dig it!
'Dig it' 2010 oil on canvas 20 x 20 cm

The archaeologists have discovered some timber, possibly from a 19th century Fingerwharf, and some paving stones. Some paving stones can be seen in the right foreground; fragments of timber are in the centre foreground, in the midground in front of the shovels, and to the far left.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dig it, Pump it, Grab it, Munch it !

Dig it !
'Excavator with Macquarie Bank' 2010  2010 oil on canvas 31 x 41 cm

The excavator is the Sumitomo 800, the biggest on site. This heavy duty warhorse was bought specially for the first round of demolition, back in early 2008, when the wharves at the northern end were demolished prior to the World Youth Day celebrations.
This excavator has been sitting idle for a week or so, waiting for the next round of demolition, which will be the Sydney Ports Maintenance Depot and the Amenities blocks lining Hickson Road. It is wearing the attachment called the 'Ripper". Next to it is a reverse view of one of the "Munchers".

Pump it! (The Watertank)
'Pump it '( the Watertank) 2010 oil on canvas 15 x 30cm 

The Veronese green of the Cardinal watertank is a welcome sight on a windy day. It hoses down the demolition dust. Here it is draining the little lake in the middle of the site so that it can later twirl around the compound in ever decreasing circles spraying the water onto the site of the recently demolished wharf. However much water it sprays is never enough. When the wind is from the south/ south -west I make sure that I wear a dust mask & keep as far to the west as I can so that I don't end up with a mouthful of dirt.

Grab it!

'Grabber' 2010 oil on canvas 20 x 20 cm
Munch it!

'Muncher' 2010 oil on canvas 20 x 20 cm 

This attachment, called poetically a "Muncher" used to have a fluoro pink painted patch that looked like a mad pink eye that made it look both startled and hungry.