Thursday, February 7, 2013

Storm warning, Goat Island

I haven't been back to my studio at Moore's Wharf for over a year now.
Last year was a bit of a nightmare, as my mum became very ill and
was in and out of hospital throughout most of 2012.
I was only able to go out painting occasionally, and when I was able to, I painted at Rozelle, Eveleigh or Pyrmont, rather than at Barangaroo.
I posted some of these on my Industrial Revelation blog.
It's difficult enough to keep posting on one blog, almost impossible to cope with two.
I finally returned last Friday, and started a large panorama of Goat Island from the knuckle of the wharf.
oil painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf, Millers Point by artist Jane Bennett
Work in progress -
This was how the painting looked at 10.30am
'Goat Island from Moore's Wharf' 2013 
oil on canvas 45 x 92cm

I probably hadn't picked the best day to do so.
The sky looked like a purple bruise.
But I tried to do as much painting as I could before the inevitable storm.
oil painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf, Millers Point by artist Jane Bennett
Work in progress -
This was how the painting looked at 11.58am
'Goat Island from Moore's Wharf' 2013 
oil on canvas 45 x 92cm

The yellow buoys and boom contrasted well with the sullen sky and choppy slate grey sea.
The boom is there to prevent pollution by debris from the excavation of sandstone blocks for the Barangaroo Headland Park next door to Moore's Wharf.
oil painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf, Millers Point by artist Jane Bennett
Work in progress -
This was how the painting looked at 11.58am
'Goat Island from Moore's Wharf' 2013 
oil on canvas 45 x 92cm

Fortunately the blokes soon moved their car so I could see the little hut at the far left hand edge of Goat Island. I didn't want to move from my sheltered nook behind the pallets as there was obviously very little time left before the storm.
Just after 3pm a bolt of lightning struck in the distance.
The thunder was so loud that it sounded like a cannon had been fired.
By the time I had packed up all my paints and brushes I was soaked.
oil painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf, Millers Point by artist Jane Bennett
'Goat Island from Moore's Wharf' 2013 
oil on canvas 45 x 92cm

My next solo exhibition "From the Hungry Mile to Barangaroo" will be held from 1st - 24th March 2013 at the Frances Keevil Gallery, Bay Village, 28-34 Cross Street Double Bay, NSW 2028, as their signature event for Art Month.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


'Transmogrify'  is a combination of 'transmigrate,' (to pass from one body into another) and 'modify,(to change the properties, form, or function of )

To transform into some other person or thing, as by magic; convert or transform in general.
To completely alter the form of.

Starting painting "Panorama of Moore's Wharf and ships" oil on canvas 25 x 152cm
This canvas was started on 2 August 2011, but has been through quite a number of permutations and still isn't finished. I wanted a record of the hidden side, the working side of this lovely heritage sandstone building, and I kept changing my mind about what to include or leave out. So buildings, boats and trucks got painted in and out dozens of times.
It's been a wrestling match between me, the surroundings, the workers and the canvas!

This is the original idea for the composition.
The perspective was complex and challenging, even before people started to move things around.

Then 'Fast Eddy' parked his truck in front of the blue container...
The bottom right hand corner of the canvas looked a little empty anyway, so I started to paint the truck.

Then the truck left before I had a chance to finish painting it.
'Fast Eddy' didn't know exactly when he'd be back, or whether he'd be with or without his truck or where he'd park it. So I scraped the truck off with a razor blade, to remove the lumps and bumps and give a good surface for the next application of paint. A frustrating day spent scraping off paint and re-applying it without making the painting any better.
The lone fisherman on the end of Wharf 8/9, Walsh Bay Wharves opposite called out to me as he left "Skunked?"
"What?!" I called back. There were a few little fish in the water, but no skunks. I wondered if he was referring to me and what he meant by it. I was unsure if I should resent it or take it as a compliment.
Apparently to be "skunked" is to go home without catching at least one fish!
No, I didn't "catch any fish" that day. However by pulling this painting apart and putting it back together again I've learnt a lot about perspective problems, plein air painting, the wharf and how it works.

The truck has been excised and I can now turn my attention to painting the 'Shirley Smith'.

The brilliant red and yellow of the 'Shirley Smith' is a delight to paint against the cobalt blue sky.
However, the format of this canvas is an extreme horizontal panorama, and now the brilliance of 'Shirley' threatens to overpower everything else in the painting.

I increase the size of the Moore's Wharf building to balance the composition.

It still needs some tweaking. I've added a little orange pilot boat, the "Port Jackson" between the crane and Moore's Wharf.

This is a small oil study from another angle of the "Port Jackson" being lifted back into the water after the blokes had finished cleaning her. I was made to move my position, as I would have been in the way.

However, the bottom right hand corner still looks too empty to balance the composition...

Fortunately 'Fast Eddy' brought another truck back, and someone obligingly left the little yellow forklift in front of the north end of Moore's Wharf. Now there might be enough red and yellow on the right hand side of the painting to balance the 'Shirley Smith'.
This painting has turned into a monster, eating my paint and my precious time.
I've no idea whether I'll ever be able to finish it, but it's been an ever changing record of everything that has happened on the wharf over the last couple of months.

Related posts

Power Base - Artist in Residence at the White Bay Power Station

Monday, October 17, 2011


  1. A stalemate
  2. Warfare marked by a lack of aggression or progress.
  3. inaction, doing little or nothing
  4. phoney war
Coined on the model of blitzkrieg : German Sitz, act of sitting; see sitz bath + German Krieg, war.
For almost a year there has been an eerie paralysis at Barangaroo. After the last wharf was demolished, the excavators went home.
Nothing much has been happening. Just waiting.
Waiting for court challenges to be resolved, waiting for a change of government, waiting for a "short, sharp" review of the project.
Now the phoney war is over.
The calm before the storm has ended.
The demolition has finished. Barangaroo has begun.
LendLease has started deep excavation at the southern end.The excavators have reawakened from their hibernation, and the first crane has arrived.
At the northern end, a ziggurat of sandstone blocks has appeared. Sheets of black plastic cover the holes in the ground from where they have been extracted. The quantity of high quality yellowblock here could refurbish every heritage sandstone building from Macquarie Street to Sydney University, but that won't be its fate. It is doomed to become the Barangaroo Headland Park.
Quarrying beautiful yellowblock sandstone, only to cover it with grass or throw it in the water - it's a crying shame.

North Barangaroo Headland Park from my studio in the loft at Moore's Wharf

Painting of "North Barangaroo Headland Park from my studio in the loft at Moore's Wharf "31 x 61cm oil on canvas 2011

"The North Barangaroo Headland Park painted from my studio in the loft at Moore's Wharf "31 x 61cm oil on canvas 2011
And the sinister blue border line wiggles ever closer to Moore's Wharf, home of Sydney Ports Corporation's Emergency Response Tugs.

Related posts

"May close without warning" My Solo Exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cut off

  1. To remove via cutting.
  2. To isolate or remove from contact
  3. To end abruptly.
  4. A designated limit beyond which something cannot function or must be terminated
  5.  Break a small piece off from

At 4pm last Friday afternoon, I arrived back at Moore's Wharf after a day spent putting the finishing touches on my enormous painting of White Bay Power Station.
I saw a crane through the trees of Clyne Reserve, the pocket hankerchief size park next to the Sydney Harbour Control Tower.
The men in the workbox were from Telstra. They were removing Telstra's communications equipment from the strange little "belt" around the waistline of the Tower.
There is something symbolic about the phones being cut off in a building devoted to communications. 
"Sydney Harbour Control Tower and Clyne reserve" 2007 oil painting on canvas 46 x 36 cm SOLD
This is the Tower in earlier days when East Darling Harbour Wharves were still operational.
I have been told that everything has to be stripped out of there by the end of September.

The Barangaroo Development Corporation want to buy it, if they haven't already done so.
The prospect of its demolition inches ever closer.
Won't be long now.
I wonder if it will last until the opening of my exhibition?
I'll be showing other Barangaroo paintings from the 11th -30th October 2011 in my solo exhibition "May close without warning" at the Frances Keevil Gallery,Bay Village, 28-34 Cross St, Double Bay 2028.

Enquiries :
"Sydney Harbour Control Tower is looking at a fall"
Henry Budd: The Daily Telegraph August 05, 2011
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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
Exhibited and sold "May close without warning..." Frances Keevil Gallery
Enquiries about this and similar paintings

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 cholesterol 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 imperceptibly, 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.

Related posts

Bacon and eggs in Miller's Point Part 2