Friday, August 26, 2011

View from the ivory tower

Millers Point from top of Harbour Tower ink acrylic gouache on paper 120 x 131cm
HIGHLY COMMENDED : 2011 Royal Easter Show


A moody charcoal and ink drawing of a bird's eye view of Miller's Point in the early morning from the Harbour Control Tower. This panorama is a study for an even larger oil painting on canvas, which could be my farewell to the Tower. Every time I go up there may be my last, so I treasure every moment.
If I arrive early enough at Moore's Wharf, I've been allowed to tag along when people from Sydney Ports Corporation have to pack up and remove various bits of flotsam and jetsam from the Tower. On my last visit, the first aid and cardiac equipment was removed, so that gives everyone extra incentive to watch their cholestrol and not to hoe into the chocolate cornettos kept temptingly in the fridge at Moore's Wharf.
Now the entrance is from the bottom level via the Barangaroo gatehouse on Hickson Road, as the entrance from the Merriman Street level has been shut and locked. Merriman Street has a charming cluster of heritage terraces perched on top of the sandstone escarpment and is bordered by the now empty Palisade Hotel at one end and Clyne Reserve at the other.
At least 2 people have to be present on a Harbour Tower visit, just in case the lift packs up, although exactly what the second person could do if anything happened except sympathize is anyone's guess. It's a frightening thought, as mobile phone reception is not too good in there at the best of times.
The lifts always seemed to be out of order whenever I had an especially large canvas. 4 separate trips up the interminable flights of stairs to the amenities floor (canvases, table and chair, easel, trolley luggage with my painting medium and brushes and lunch) then 2 extra flights to the top floor to sign the register book, then back down to the amenities block to get some painting done. And then at the end of the day, the journey in reverse - but with an extra trip, as a large wet painting has to be kept away from anything else.
The tower sways in the wind, sometimes almost imperceptively, and sometimes with a rolling motion that can induce seasickness. It can be distracting when trying to paint fine details.
The perspective is made more complex by the landbridges over the twisting streets winding their way from the angled rows of Walsh Bay Wharves up the hills. The entire suburb of Millers Point lies at my feet.
There was such an overwhelming mass of tiny details that I needed to tackle this subject in tone and line before risking getting bogged down in an oil painting. I wanted to understand the rhythm of the landscape. Previously I had painted many sections of this scene, but this was an ambitious attempt to unify the views from 4 windows in 3 separate rooms into a single cohesive work.
Unfortunately this drawing's frame was badly scratched at the Royal Easter Show, so I'm getting my gallery to re-frame it. It's expensive to frame large works on paper and I try to avoid it when possible, but I think that this will be one of the key works in my solo exhibition. The title of the exhibition is  "May close without Warning" and will be held from the 13th - 30th October 2011 at the Frances Keevil Gallery, Bay Village, 28- 34 Cross Street, Double Bay 2028. 
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