Fine print

‘I am working with this idea of journeying, moving into the unknown, letting go and then the reinventing in that process.’

Audrey Harnett has come to value isolation. She knows that she can take it – she has put herself through that tough test – but she also knows that it’s her choice to be isolated or not.

Read more of my post on Audrey Harnett and her art for the Island to Inland project.

It’s personal

For Kenita Williamson her art has always been integral to her life. From making animals in her room as a young girl, to being an art teacher, to pouring her heart and soul into her free-ranging pieces for Island to Inland, art is healing and strengthening.

Read more of my piece on Kenita and other Island to Inland artists.

Robert Hannaford retrospective

Robert Hannaford watches me as I walk down the stairs towards his retrospective at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The artist is in larger-than-life video – at first I think it’s a photograph, he is so still. He is remarkably unselfconscious in meeting my gaze. But Hannaford, South Australia’s pre-eminent living painter and three-times people’s choice winner of the Archibald Prize, has had a lifetime of painting himself to get over himself.

How do we come to get a picture of ourselves?

Hannaford’s way is to draw himself. Many paintings in the retrospective are himself, revealed.

He seems to think he’s a bit of all right. He’s a posturing country boy full of bravado and irresistible charms but he’s also vulnerable, all too human.

These are no selfies – not the ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘with whom’ spawned by the smartphone camera. They are the ‘who’.

The retrospective is of his figurative art only (when will we see the landscapes and still lifes?) – paintings, drawings, sketches and (not enough) sculptures. The banners at the front of the gallery, the video greeting and the publicity stills would lead us to belive that the entire exhibition is self-portrait gone mad.

But it is far more than Hannaford by Hannaford. Most of the paintings are of others: his wives, his children, his grandchildren, his father one hour after death, the famous, and an old man in a shabby coat with dog.

“I never set out to be a portrait painter. I just want to understand what’s around me through form and light.” (Robert Hannaford quote on the gallery wall)

The sketchbook drawings reveal that intent: hands, legs, arms, mouths, hands clasped in different arrangements, feet, whole bodies, facial expressions. Who would have thought that pencil could be such a versatile instrument: sharp, blurry; hard, soft; feathered, precise.

Early sketches take, and deserve, as much prominence as later paintings. At age 18 he had mastered the sophistication of a limited palette: he uses charcoal with white chalk highlights to arresting effect.

And, on a central plinth, a bronze sculpture of ‘Jack’ bowling with the vitality and movement of the real boy.

Painter Scott Hartshorne, who has had the “athletic experience” of drawing with Hannaford, admires Hannaford’s obsession with actualising what is in front of him. “I realised this when I saw [in a previous exhibition] a sketch of a transistor radio by a teenage Hannaford,” Hartshorne said.

“I drew a lot at that age but would never have drawn anything so mundane. I doodled and imagined.

“Hannaford drew to draw and practise drawing. From a very early age he observed and drew the everyday with an objective eye.”

Hartshorne said that Hannaford knows how to draw a likeness, how to map a face.

“He is rigorous about making the first marks – mapping where the hairline is, where the eyes are, where the opening of the mouth is. Lesser artists like me spend time on ‘getting’ the interesting bits of the hair, the eye, the mouth themselves.”

Videos in the exhibition show how Hannaford places the easel next to his subject and goes back to his exact marked point, looks at the face and painting side-by-side, then runs back to the easel to make the next mark.

No wonder his 71-year-old body remains taut and lithe, still good enough to paint.

The retrospective at the Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace Adelaide, continues until 9 October 2016.

Faith restored; well, boosted a little

I’m back to the blog I have ignored for so long. It’s so easy to be distracted from getting down my precious thoughts by trivialities like earning money and meeting the expectations of clients. But enough of that for now – back to me.

Negativity is a necessary part of life. Not everything is rosy or ethical or right or fair, and we bloody-well should get cross and rail against cruelty and injustice. I spent most of July as part of the editing team on the South Australian Child Protection Systems Royal Commission and I read many things that I could say I would rather not have read but actually I should have and so should everyone else.

I did that job in the midst of revelations about (and the ongoing fact of) detainees on Nauru and Manus Island, reporting on the treatment of young people in the Northern Territory and Queensland, and evidence through the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (I was born, grew up and went to Catholic school in Newcastle, but mercifully escaped that appalling fate). And the old body is breaking down slowly. And trees are being bulldozed at an ever-increasing rate. And the biodiversity of Kangaroo Island keeps being whittled away. And … what else can I whinge about?

Then I went to the Kangaroo Island Marathon. Our Friends of Dudley Peninsula Parks group hosted the drinks station near the half-way point of both marathon and half-marathon.

Nic, First Aid, and Friends of Dudley Peninsula Parks, Janine, Kathy, Nick and Kathie (yes it was very cold!) at the Weirs Cove drinks station

Race Director Nathan Godfrey was a joy to work with, very organised and friendly – and he gave us prime location with view near Cape du Couedic.


Sherilee Binsted with Cape du Couedic lighthouse and cottages (roofs anyway) in background

Of the 100 or so runners, just about every one thanked us for our help and support. And we were just standing there – they were the ones doing all the work. Even marathon winner Tim Green, who had his own liquids and was totally focused on his run, gave us a wave and a smile as he powered towards the finish line.

Some wanted the chance to have a breather and a chat. Many carefully put the cups back in our hands or in the garbage bags. A few dressed up for the occasion.

Being patriotic islanders, we took extra pleasure in cheering, and quenching the thirst of, our local faves such as Yale Norris and Sue Pearson in the marathon, and Tara Clark and Sherilee Binsted in the half. Local Maren Norris was second woman home in the half-marathon.

Islander marathoners Sue Pearson and Yale Norris

The back markers seemed to enjoy the company the most – what’s a few minutes in 5 hours? Christiaan Cotteleer from Belgium (one of my favourite countries) stayed for a short chat while he girded himself for the home stretch. Ying Cui from China took full, grateful advantage of our special salted chips offer before she took off up the hill towards the finish line.

On days like that, and with people like that, the world looks pretty good even 10 days later, and there’s a lot to be cheerful about.