Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No. 1 Daughter

I stopped worked early yesterday to vist my father at the hospice. Despite his frailty and pain – and a veil of Clonazepam to quell his anxiety – we had a wonderful few hours together. I fed him then stretched out alongside him on the bed. We chatted as I massaged his hands. His cancer-ridden body is deteriorating quickly and very visibly now but his spirit refuses to be constricted by it. He is alert and gripping onto the last, fraying strands of life.
Before I left, he gave me a small gift: a military-style dog-tag, engraved with the words No. 1 Daughter (an in-joke between us – I am his only daughter). I started to cry. He told me he was proud of me for living on my own terms, for not letting anyone fuck me over. As a young, tomboy-ish girl, raised by a hard-working but attentive single father, I learned to value my independence – and, later, my art – above all.
As an adult, I finally recognise that if I have become anything at all, it is my father's daughter.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Life Last Week

Setting up adjustable trestles on which to prepare Cowpoke, one of my Cowboy Babes, for shipping to collectors in Adelaide.
While the rest of my studio is litter-free and scrupulously clean, the area around my desk, where I draw, is... not.
I wear conservators' gloves and lean on a clean white cloth as I apply a precise, black enamel outline to Miss May, the latest Big Pin-Up, for a Melbourne art dealer.
In a small space suffused with toxic enamel and other chemical fumes, a filtered face-mask is the minimum protection required as I finish a work bound for collectors in Hong Kong.
On the floor of my studio: heavy canvas drop-sheet, pencil sharpener, mallet for closing paint tins, brushes in various shapes and sizes, pantyhose for straining paint, scissors, and paint stirrers.
Adding words, excerpts from a good friend's poetry, to a small sketch in watercolour I am giving to a couple of loyal (and patient) collectors in Hong Kong.
Titling and signing 300 un-numbered but limited edition photographic prints to be sent to friends, fans, collectors, art dealers and press as my New Year's card.
Applying the first layer of wrapping to protect a small enamel on canvas being consigned to Hong Kong with a specialist art shipper.
Working late, I steal a moment for myself in the corner of the studio.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Intoxicated

It's a sad irony that after I visit my father each day at a local hospice, where I can do nothing but comfort him as cancer wreaks its last, dreadful effects in his frail body, I return to my studio and immerse myself in a miasma of carcinogenic chemicals with no more protection than a filtered face mask and a pair of rubber gloves.
The effects of this daily exposure are luridly apparent everywhere on my upper body. My hair is dry and brittle and my scalp flakey. My skin is mottled with angry rashes and acne-like blisters. The outline of the face mask is not only impressed into my nose and cheek-bones but reinforced by a raw tinge of inflammation. My nose bleeds a couple of times a day and my mouth is always dry.
Friends (and correspondents to this blog) offer advice about how I should reduce – or, even better, avoid – the effects of the enamel paint that is elemental to my larger art-works. But after 12 years of working with the medium there is little with which I haven't experimented. For a brief time, I even took to wearing an all-enclosing 'hazmat' suit but it hampered my ability to paint with precision and delicacy so I abandoned it. Now I rely on the face mask, regular showers and the intake of several litres of water, little else.
For a couple of years, I was hyper-sensitive to enamel. One whiff was enough to make me so nauseous that I'd throw up several times a day. I relied on assistants to apply the large areas of colour under my direction before I steeled myself to paint the fine details and outlines alone. Eventually, I became so ill, I stopped painting in enamel completely for several months and took to watercolours and ink.
Still, I have a toxic love affair with the medium. Like a good drug, I can't leave it alone. I savor its luxuriant, glistening ooze as it coats the brush and its seamless, shimmering glaze as it dries on a canvas.
In the second half of this year, I resolved to overcome my allergic reaction to it and produce a large number of large enamel paintings over the next 18 months. Then, I figured, I'd be ready to find another medium through which to express myself. I might be reckless but I'm not stupid: if I persist in working with this stuff it will kill me.
Oddly, it appears that my nausea might have been psychosomatic. I have been in the studio painting only with enamel or acrylic every day for eight weeks now and I was sick only a day or two during the first week. Now I hardly notice the acrid, sinus-frying odor, although the burning and itching patches on my skin are only just tolerable.
Eventually, I will find a bigger, better ventilated and drier studio – I am planning on tackling a large three metre wide work under an open-sided outdoor structure, once the monsoonal rains stop – but until then, I will steel myself to the risks and discomforts and focus on the work.
For better or worse, it's only ever the work that matters to me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kiss Or Kill

Long-distance relationships of any kind are hard to sustain. When the people involved hardly know each other, they can be impossible.
Amanda Palmer and I have never met in person. We exchanged a few messages of 140 characters or less via Twitter, earlier this year, and read enough about each other online to get a sense that we might be kindred spirits. When I had half an idea about how we might collaborate, she felt comfortable enough to say, "Why not? Let's give it a try" – or words to that effect. Amanda is more informal and funnier than I am.
I think of myself as moody, serious and remote. Others call me difficult and self-absorbed –
'particular' is how Amanda's assistant put it.
Maybe Amanda and I were both too distracted by other projects to figure out properly – let alone articulate – what it was we really wanted to do together. Our ideas were, at best, fuzzy even in the initial flurry of emails between us. It only got worse when Amanda went on the road with the Dresden Dolls and had to leave it to others to relay her thoughts.
What started as a narrow fissure caused by lapses in communication and misunderstandings soon became a chasm. Our best intentions almost slipped into it and lost. Frustrated and depressed, I took my phone off the hook, instructed my assistant to run interference on the outside world and locked myself in my studio to finish a handful of large works that had to be delivered before Christmas.
It says something about Amanda's character and professionalism that she wouldn't let me walk away. In the past couple of days we have exchanged emails outside the loop of our respective 'people', trying to bridge the fractured divide. Whatever comes of this effort – whether my art makes it to the stage with her at the Sydney Opera House on January 26th – Amanda Fucking Palmer still has my respect.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Waving, Not Drowning (Not At All)

Last night, in Melbourne, at Menzies Art Brands final auction of Australian fine art for 2010, Career Babe: The Surf Life Saver (Resized for Easy Consumption), above, one of my smallest works, sold for $A7,320, including the buyer's premium. Painted in high gloss enamel on board measuring just 40cm x 50cm, the pre-sale estimate for the work was $A3,800 to $A4,500. However, bidding started at $5,000.
This is a record high for a small work of mine. And given that I will no longer paint works on canvas or timber board at this size – the Resized For Easy Consumption series was a one-off and studies for my new work are undertaken only in acrylic on cold-pressed paper – this price is likely to be improved upon in the coming years.
A larger, older enamel on canvas work, Pearl: Soul Eternally Lost, Soul Eternally Saved, from 1998, measuring,100cm x 150cm, did less well. The work was in noticeably poor condition, with several serious scuffs to the paint, according to an art dealer who was potentially interested in bidding for it. Nevertheless, it sold for $A8,540, just below its pre-sale estimate of $A9,000 to $A12,000.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ostinato Rigore

The 'art' of my hard-edged, Pop-inflected enamel paintings is all in the initial study image. I draw and collage it from a series of reference photographs even before I order the canvas. I use it not only to work out the overall composition but also to plot the 'tracing' of a black outline that defines different areas of colour.
The painting itself is a technical exercise: large areas of colour are applied in a rigorous, carefully calculated schedule of coats and drying times to create a seamless, lustrous surface, then outlines are painted with painstaking but fluid precision. It's intense, focussed and tedious – and almost entirely devoid of passion. Given the size of my recent canvases, many of which measure two to three metres across – "Nothing in the photos you see of them prepares you for just how big and imposing they are," someone commented just yesterday – it's also physically demanding.
Not least because I'm inhaling a carcinogenic miasma of enamel fumes that hangs like a shroud over the studio.
I can't wait to finish the half a dozen works in progress right now. Once they're delivered, I'm going to spend a couple of weeks working on a dozen small watercolours to 'illustrate' tracks from Amanda Palmer's latest CD, Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under. Amanda has encouraged a lot of leeway in how I interpret her songs and while the more lurid sex, violence and syncretic religious references of my non-enamel work might have to be toned down a bit for her fans (the Voodoo-inspired watercolour above is an early idea I rejected), the medium will encourage me to be more intimate, expressive, and unrestrained as the ideas flow directly from my hand to the paper.
The indiscipline will do my work – and my head – good. I miss the inadvertent, the unforeseen; I miss the surprise and havoc they can wreak.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Deep Low, With Rain

I have half a dozen large paintings under way in the large, well-ventilated, semi-rural space that has been my studio for the past couple of months. My progress on them has slowed to snail's pace. After several days of humid heat and heavy rain, expanses of fragile enamel – the total surface of some of my paintings measure six square metres – have not dried and hardened as they should. Each colour requires several coats and each coat is sanded and cleaned before another's added. In dry weather, I can do two or three a day on each painitng. In the persistent 'wet', I manage – barely – one.
I'm three days behind on an already tight schedule.
With pre-Christmas delivery deadlines looming, I've been forced to move production to a couple of small but better insulated rooms in Brisbane's inner suburbs. There, drying can be accelerated. But the lack of space will limit the amount of canvasses that can be worked on at the same time and amplify enamel's ill effects. Even in a larger, well ventilated studio, the paints' toxic fumes raise blisters on my skin, redden my eyes, and scour my nose and throat (despite the protection of a filtered mask).
This morning, I lost another couple of hours carefully wrapping the works-in-progress so that a specialist art transporter could truck them across Brisbane. With luck, I will be able to make up the time by working late into the night and early morning. With luck, the finished works will have dried in time for the same art transporter to collect them for delivery to Melbourne and Adelaide on Wednesday. With luck, I won't be laid out on the floor, too exhausted and nauseous to do everything else I've planned for this week.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Surface Pressures

In the past, I've resisted letting anyone see my works-in-progress. I've never welcomed studio visitors and I seldom allow photography of unfinished paintings. Since my bankruptcy, when scores of my working drawings and reference photographs had to be surrendered to an auction house for sale, under the direction of a State-appointed trustee, I've taken to destroying sketches and failed drafts of every work I complete.
However, age and an increasing confidence in my skills has made me less uptight about protecting the opacity of my studio.
I spent yesterday morning mixing various skin tones for two of my larger-than-life-sized Big Pin-Ups. I dabbed samples on each canvas and let them sit for a few minutes until they darkened. After I had studied and compared the colours, first in daylight, then under warm tungsten lamps, the assistant wiped them off with turps. The process was repeated a few times until I got the colour just right.
I also adjusted the background colours. Each is built up with three to five layers of enamel. Usually, each coat is the same colour and the colour is refined from one coat to the next. Some colours need base coats – for example, I'll often lay down grey before a coat of orange – to make the final coat more lustrous. The base coats are invisible, unless the surface of the painting is scratched.
My favorite – a hot, creamy pink I refer to as 'Dooney pink' – is the one color that can never be used as a base coat. It bleeds so persistently through several layers of colour, even black, that its manufacturer discontinued it ten years ago. I bought the last 50 litres from the factory; now I'm down to the last four.
Painting has been hard graft this week. Monsoonal rains, which flooded nearby rural areas, have imposed a humidity so warm and heavy, it coats every surface of the studio with clammy moisture. Paint dries slowly, so slowly I've had to wait up to sixty hours between coats. My assistant has had several restless nights, waking at odd hours to adjust the temperature and air-flow through the studio and to check paint was hardening without smears or cracks.
The humidity also curls and flutes the expensive cold-pressed paper I use for my acrylic studies. A low-adhesive tape that secures the paper when I paint became too sticky. It lifted the coarse surface of a couple of sheets and tore another when it was removed. I've decided to stop until the weather improves.
It hasn't, yet.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Chop Wood, Carry Water

"Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."
– a Zen Buddhist adage
Several weeks ago, I found a studio space and a very good assistant. I secured a loan from a friend to buy the materials needed. And I drew up a schedule focussed on reducing the backlog of commissions that had accumulated even before my my breakdown at the beginning of the year. It was the start of the most productive period of my life to date.
Over a dozen enamel paintings, ranging in size from 60cm x 40cm to nearly 300cm x 200cm, have now been completed and delivered to collectors, along with a score of acrylics and watercolours on paper. I have devised and produced new works in various media. I have even repaired, refreshed or cleaned half a dozen works of mine on behalf of collectors so that they might be sold in the secondary market.
In between, new opportunites have presented themselves. I have had discussions with three publishers, two in Australia and one in North America, on four different book projects. And, of course, there's Amanda Palmer and the unusual notion of a set of small artworks to illustrate her upcoming album of songs inspired by Australia and New Zealand.
With two weeks left before Christmas and an extended national holiday that combines the usual pseudo-religious/ consumer-driven celebrations with a four-week southern summer hiatus for many businesses – for example, commercial art galleries are shuttered from Christmas Eve until the end of January – I am working 18 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure another half a dozen enamel paintings can be collected by art transporters in time for their last interstate deliveries of this year.
Predictably, it has rained nearly every day, increasing the sub-tropical humidity, both outside and in, and doubling drying times between enamel coats. The air is so thick, you can see the enamel's carcinogenic tint within every particle of moisture. By nightfall, I am wracked with nausea and my eyes are demon-yellow. I shower and scrub my irritated, itchy skin then go to bed early to recover a little so I can work even harder the next day.
I think of it as penance for the time (and works) lost over the past couple of years. But the backlog is shrinking slowly and as it does, my capacity to develop new ideas and new work expands. That alone is worth the price my body is paying.
Above: Big Pin-Up: Miss May, 2010, high gloss enamel on canvas, 210cm x 140cm.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Dreaming Hazel Dooney

There are two Hazel Dooneys.
There is Hazel Dooney the 30-something female artist that lives a hermitic, rigidly routine existence in one of Australia's dullest cities and paints large works depicting sexy action-figure-like über-women inspired by advertising and entertainment media.
Then there is the Hazel Dooney who exists as a character in an ongoing online narrative, and whose words and images limn, in discomfortingly intimate detail, another, more intricate and less easily summarised life in which art, art business, memoir, sexuality (and just plain sex), pscyhological trauma, social mobility, family, money and a measure of fame are always in stress and threaten to fracture the glossy but brittle surface of her signature enamel paintings.
In truth, my image of myself has always been, well, indefinite. In some ways, part of the enjoyment I derive from social media is that others are more certain. Some evolve strong relationships with my work because of what they perceive. Others loathe it. On a very personal level, I've opened myself to forensic examination. I've been surprised, not always happily, by some of the resulting analyses of me.
Maybe there's a third Hazel Dooney. The one that exists in others' imaginations. I don't always recognise where it coincides with my reality.
Steph Shields, director of La Trobe Contemporary Gallery, in Morwell, Victoria, has decided to explore this idea. She is inviting submissions for a group exhibition of works inspired – directly or indirectly – by my persona as it's perceived in my art, my blog and my various other online presences.
Provisionally titled Dreaming Hazel Dooney, the exhibiton will open on Friday, 6th May, and run until Thursday, 19th May, 2011 at the LaTrobe Contemporary Gallery, 209 Commercial Road, Morwell, Vic. 3840.
Works can be in any medium, including sculpture, photography, video (of any length) and even performance art and fashion. The content has, simply, to reflect, amplify, interpret or deconstruct any aspect of my ideas, my art, my public persona, my personal narrative or my self that the artist has encountered online. And yes, it can be critical. Or graphically sexy. Or both. Or none of these.
In the first instance, a digital image/video of the work – or works, as more than one will be considered – must be emailed to both Steph (stephshields@live.com) and me before 31st January. The artists whose works are accepted will be advised within two weeks. They will then have to undertake to ship their works to the gallery in time for the works to be laid out and hung/displayed on 1st May.
The logistics and cost of shipping works to and from the gallery is the responsibilty of each invited artist. The gallery will assume no liability for loss or damage. Unless the gallery is otherwise advised, the works will be offered for sale under the gallery's usual terms, the details of which will be emailed in the form of an agreement as soon as the work is accepted for the exhibition.
I have also agreed that the gallery might display works that were given to me as gifts from online acquaintances as part of the exhibition – I've written of several in previous posts – but these will not be offered for sale. Also among the works exhibited will be a few sketches and photography I have made in collaboration with artists and models I've met via social media.
Above: Me,
aged four, daydreaming (and posing, as always), in Newcastle, New South Wales.

Friday, December 03, 2010

In My Room

I have a small room of my own in my father's house. I work there on the days I'm not at the studio. There are a desk, a chair, and a futon laid out on a bare timber floor. There's a crude timber bookshelf with too many books on it. Strewn in between are storage boxes, files, a half-packed overnight bag, more books and my computer. It has the careless messiness of a teenager's bedroom. And it's where I do some of my best work.
I spend nearly every day in a large, open, concrete-floored shed, at the edge of a semi-rural town an hour outside Brisbane. W
ith an assistant, I work on up to four paintings at a time and struggle to suppress the nauseating effects of long exposure to enamel fumes.
When I return to my room and shut the door, there's a sense of solitude, of everything slowing. I sit at my desk to draw, write or surf the web. I sprawl across the futon for business calls or (too infrequently, these days) to read a book. It's a private space. Noone, not even my boyfriend, visits me here.
It's not somewhere I fuck.
If I work late, I sleep on the futon. I always wake early in the morning, when the light is still an aqueous grey with no heat in it. Sometimes, I surrender to a sleepy but insistent rush of longing and make myself come. The tension pent-up from a day hunched over a sketch pad or computer keyboard recedes with the first breathless press of pleasure. And afterwards, I sleep again for a short while, dreamless.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Over Exposed

Until this year, there was very little of my work in the secondary market. My large enamel paintings were closely held by collectors – they still are – and only a few of the many smaller studies in enamel on canvas or acrylic on paper I did when I was younger had found their way into the hands of dealers or auction houses. Between 1998 and the end of 2008, fewer than a dozen of my works went under the hammer at auction.
Then, at the end of 2008, Dangerous Career Babes: The Aviator, a large enamel on board painting, sold for $A32,701 at Christie's sale of Modern And Contemporary Australian And South African Art in London, a then unheard-of price for my work. Over the next several months, a number of older – and, frankly, much lesser – paintings turned up in the catalogues of local auction houses, with reserves that exposed greedy expectations of 1,000 per cent profits and more over the original purchase prices.
I was thrilled, at first. Then I had a nagging guilt that only a few of these works were of a quality that matched the more recent output of my studio. It was as if my work had been so tightly held for so long – and then as now, I exhibited new work rarely – that collectors were willing to buy anything.
In some cases, they were. Paintings with cracked or scuffed paint, warped stretchers, torn canvases and splintered boards managed to find buyers. As much to discourage the value being put on these damaged works as to insulate myself from the pain of seeing just how badly they'd been treated, I ignored requests to assess works or to quote for their repair.
Earlier this year, following a long hospitalisation, I was forced to petition for bankruptcy. My assets, including all my artwork, were placed in the hands of the Insolvency and Trustee Service (or ITSA) , a government agency responsible for the administration and regulation of the personal insolvency system in Australia. Wisely, ITSA brought in the Sydney auction house, Lawson's, to assess the value of several dozen drawings (mostly sketches for larger works), reference photographs, and unfinished small paintings in various media and to handle their disposal at auction.
Over the past several months, these pieces have trickled into low-profile monthly sales, to be snapped up by bargain-hunters.
I fret about the value of my work. I feel the weight of responsibility for the many collectors who have invested in it. But my large enamels dating after 2004 (other than the ubiquitous Cowboy Babes) are still hard to come by and increasingly expensive. When earlier works turn up in major sales, their estimates are cautious but not ungenerous, given the temporary 'Dooney glut'.
Last month, one of my paintings was passed in for the first time – i.e. unsold – at Menzies Art Brands' end of year auction of major Australian contemporary art in Sydney. However another in the same sale achieved its estimate.
On December 15th, Menzies will hold a similar sale in Melbourne, with two more of my works included in the catalogue. Pearl: Soul Eternally Lost, Soul Eternally Saved, dates from 1998. Measuring 105cm x 147.5cm, in high gloss enamel on canvas , was first bought by a former boyfriend, the musician (and Regurgitator singer and bassist), Ben Ely, and its pre-sale estimate is $A9,000 to $A12,000. A smaller work, Career Babe: The Surf Life Saver (Resized for Easy Consumption), from 2002, also in high gloss enamel but on board, 40cm x 50cm, has an estimate of $A3,800 to $A4,500.
The works can be viewed in Sydney from today until Sunday, 5th December, 11am to 6pm, at Menzies Gallery, 12 Todman Ave., Kensington (Tel. 02 8344 5404). They will then be shipped to Melbourne, where they can be viewed from Thursday, 9th December to Tuesday, 14th December, 11am to 6pm, at Menzies Gallery, 1 Darling St., South Yarra (Tel. 03 9832 870).
Above: Holy Flash, high gloss enamel on canvas, 76cm x 101cm, recently sold by Art Nomad.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Doing Amanda Palmer Down Under

The secret's out: I've been invited by Amanda Palmer to illustrate each of the songs on her soon-to-be-released album, Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under. She will reproduce them as a series of signed, small prints that she will offer for sale from her web site and they will be featured as projections at the album's launch and during an unusual Australia Day event, on 26th January, 2011, to be 'curated' by Amanda at the Sydney Opera House.
Known for her years of punk cabaret with The Dresden Dolls, Amanda calls the album a "sonic gift to her antipodean family". A collection of piano and ukulele songs written in, inspired by and recorded in Australia and New Zealand, the twelve tracks include songs such as Map of Tasmania (her first collaboration with a dance DJ, Hal Ritson of The Young Punx), a sorrowful lounge tune about her hatred of Australia's favorite breakfast spread, titled (you guessed it) Vegemite, and duets with Aussie locals The Jane Austen Argument and Mikelangelo.
The collaboration with Amanda is unusual for me, despite her description of us both as "fellow DIY indie-punk provocateurs". It's the first time I've considered illustrating anything, let alone an album of songs – and it will take only one listening of Map Of Tasmania to understand the fine line I've had to tread between art and excess to come up with my visual interpretations.
Amanda has given me permission to reproduce here one of my earliest sketches for Map Of Tasmania. The idea was originally discarded out of concern for her fiancé, the best-selling author, Neil Gaiman, whose hair inspired the impressionistic map of Australia hovering atop Amanda's own 'map of Tasmania'. Thankfully, Neil has encouraged us both to publish and be damned.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In A Word

I received a gift from an American artist, David Buckingham, in this morning's mail.
Secured within a custom-made wooden box were six large, colourful letters – cut from scrap metal David had come across in the southern California desert – forming a word derived from one of my blog posts. Late last year, I'd written of a well-known Sydney art dealer who, soon after I refused his offer of sole representation, sent me a puerile, petulant SMS that read, simply, "You're such a wanker".
In the hand-written note that accompanied this imaginative gift, David mentioned that 'wanker' was his favourite Australian insult. Wanking is pretty much Australia's favourite past-time, too. Cleverly, David had co-opted the humour (and irony) of the word and turned it into art, a much-needed reminder that art doesn't have to be a humourless wank.
Thank you, David.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Welcome (Back) To The Grindhouse

I returned to blogging a week ago when I realised that the freedoms in other social media were not quite as I perceived them. Not that I've had a lot of time for it. I've been dividing my time between two new studios, one in which I am working on a number of large enamel paintings, the other littered with new works in acrylic or watercolour on paper.
I am currently consigning a dozen works in various media a week to collectors. In addition, I am taking delivery of works from collectors who have asked me to inspect, clean or touch-up works ahead of them being sold. I've had to take a day out a week just to manage the logistics of inbound and outbound freight, a role far from any idea I had of what being a successful artist might be like.
At least I have a couple of intriguing new commissions. One involves a dozen or more watercolours to illustrate an album by a well-known indie singer/songwriter – to be delivered before the end of next month. Every couple of nights, usually after a 12-hour shift in the studio, I stay up late to exchange emails or phone calls with her (or, if she's performing, her assistant) about the notes or sketches I've sent.
It makes a discomforting change from my usual slow, solitary, self-centred way of working but it does press me to be even more productive.
Above: My Dooney-pink notebook with colour swatches, painting schedule, and product colour chart laid out on a counter at a local paint store.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bids From Attention

Since my video interview with Michael Short appeared online in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper’s, The Zone, last month, followed by a ‘hard copy’ profile of me in the same newspaper (and several others around Australia), an unusually large number of my works have turned up in the Australian secondary market.
Art Nomad
, an Australian online art gallery "specialising in notable works by selected prominent, collectable, contemporary Australian artists", is offering seven high gloss enamel on canvas paintings of various ages for sale, including one of my favorites, Big Pin-Up: Miss July, 200cms x 101cms. Miss July is the most recent in a series conceived in late 2009 and begun only this year.
Two more works, Cowpoke: Resized For Commercial Consumption, from 2008, in high gloss enamel on canvas, 61cms x 46cms, and Career Babe: The Scout Leader, from 2001, also in high gloss enamel but on custom-made board, 100cms x 151cms, are to be auctioned at Lawson–Menzies in Sydney on Tuesday, 16th November at 6.30pm. The works can be viewed at Menzies Art Brands' gallery at 12 Todman Avenue, Kensington, NSW, from Wednesday, 10th to Tuesday, 16th November, from 10am to 5pm. The pre-sale estimate for Cowpoke is $A6,000 to $A8,000; for The Scout Leader, $A12,000 to $A15,000.
Finally, Pearl: Soul Eternally Lost, Soul Eternally Saved, from 1998, in high gloss enamel on canvas, 105cm x 147.5cm, s going under the hammer, this time at Menzies Art Brands in Melbourne, on 15th December. First bought by a former boyfriend, the musician (and Regurgitator singer and bassist), Ben Ely, the pre-sale estimate is $A9,000 to $A12,000.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Banned

It was only a matter of time before Facebook suspended my account. The sexual content of many of my paintings and photographs is proscribed by the social network's middle-America-friendly 'Terms of Use' and I have been careless about reproducing it in my recent posts.
This afternoon, a photograph of a female model and I embracing, naked, on a motel bed, proved too provocative to the site's administrators. Both my personal page and a fan page were 'suspended' – Facebook-speak for censored – without warning. Neither are likely to be restored.
To mark this ban, I've decided to offer the emphatically NSFW photograph (
above, intended as a reference for a watercolour I am painting) as a limited edition. Titled Banned, with an image size of 4" x 2.66" on 6" x 4" matt paper, just 750 of the signed, individually numbered prints will be available and will be priced at $US/$A 20.00 each, including postage. Payment will be accepted only by PayPal.
For further information or to order, please email my studio, noting your name and address.
Incidentally, a new Facebook page created to promote my studio's activities has been activated and is already reconnecting with many of the 3,000-plus friends of my previous, now inaccessible Facebook presence.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The End

This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again
Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free...
The End by Jim Morrison, 1967
I first met Michael Short in 2006. He was then editor of the finance section of Melbourne's most respected daily newspaper, The Age. He knew of my art but was most curious about my decision, a year earlier, to quit the prominent Melbourne gallery that represented me then to manage my own marketing, sales and collector relationships using the web.
He introduced himself to me in a phone call. He didn't bother with small talk. He just fired an intimidating volley of critically framed questions at me and insisted on evidence to back up my answers. I sent him copies of my tax returns for the previous two years and gave him the 'phone number of my accountant. Whatever he learned must have reassured him because he called again a couple of days later to tell me he had assigned a reporter and a photographer to produce a story.
It appeared on the front page of his section on Wednesday, 5th July, the day before the opening of my first exhibition of watercolours, Venus In Hell, at MARS Gallery, in Port Melbourne. The headline read State-of-the-art selling rivals traditional play to the gallery. There was a photo of me looking a little like Neo from The Matrix, clutching a lap-top computer.
It didn't take long for the traditional gallery system to react. On Saturday, the managing director of one of Australia's most successful commercial galleries, a senior member of the Australian Commercial Galleries Association, turned up at MARS Gallery in high dudgeon. I'd met him a few years before, when my most fervent ambition was to be invited to join his respected stable of artists. Now here he was, up in my face because I'd dared to suggest, in the very pages of a prominent newspaper that were most frequently read by his big-money clients, that his business was doomed. We argued tersely for ten minutes in front of several people and when I raised the notion that what I was doing was making art more accessible to more people, he declared, angrily, "I get to decide who sees art."
The remark stunned us both into silence: in just seven small words, the gallery's basic tenet of rigorous control of the artist and their work and the individual collector was laid bare. Exposed with it were the few ragged fissures that over the next few years would widen to become a deep, treacherous crevasse isolating the art world's greying old guard from a new generation of artists and collectors.
Now everything has changed. Old, staid commercial galleries are trying to figure out how to re-vitalise creaky business models as their bricks-and-mortar rents increase, their sales – and relevance – decline, and their artists become restive over commission rates, poor collector relationships and inept marketing. Meanwhile, younger, more technologically adept artists are using a variety of different online environments, including social media, to by-pass not only galleries but critics, art journals, art fairs and competitions to connect directly with collectors – who no longer need galleries to access information about new artists or to provide data on values – and fans, who are happy to act as nodal points for viral communications and exchanges of ideas.
This doesn't spell the death of the 'real world' exhibition or the smart, imaginative and flexible interemediary. A younger generation produces its own shows, either at established spaces willing to negotiate one-off deals or in temporary, 'pop-up' galleries realised with the cooperation of shrewd landlords of unleased commercial real estate. It is also encouraging auction houses to redefine their role as partners not only of institutional, commercial and private collectors but also of the artists, the best-known of whom cut deals to sell large inventories of their work in highly publicised sales that can resemble meticulously staged performance art.
My own work turns up regularly on the secondary market in Australia and S.E. Asia. I've developed close personal contacts within a handful of major auction houses, including Christie's, in London, where, despite the fact that my work has yet to be exhibited anywhere in Europe, three of my paintings have achieved record prices in recent sales. My base of collectors has broadened markedly – six years ago, it was restricted to Australia but now it's international, with a large number of my works in private collections in the USA, the UK, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, China, South-East Asia, the United Arab Emirates and even Jamaica – prices paid for early work has risen over 1000 per cent in ten years.
Despite a global economic crisis – and a year in which I have been confined to a psychiatric clinic, declared bankrupt and forced to curtail my output to care for a gravely ill parent, my prices have remained steady because of my constant, highly communicative online presence and direct contact with collectors of my work.
The ubiquity of access to my work (and me) online as well as the ubiquity of the work itself – literally thousands of images of my paintings, drawings, and photographs scattered across other people's web sites, blogs and social media galleries – has delivered benefits that reflect a radical transformation of the way value is being determined.
In the wider market, objects of singular rarity are matched in value and appreciation by serially produced pieces which are more readily recognised and which resonate within popular culture. Simultaneously, the real locus of value (and power) is shifting from the individual product – the artwork, the song, the novel – to the producer, the artist, whose reputation (or, regrettably maybe, brand) is increasingly determined not by the common assent of a collective of mainly white, late middle-aged, male critics, gallerists, and curators but by an inter-connected tangle of awareness and associations within the tech-enhanced neural networks of popular culture. In the process, the role of the intermediary is also being redefined.
Since its inception – just a few weeks after the first article commissioned by Michael Short was published in The Age, just a week or so after Venus In Hell closed at MARS Gallery – this blog has documented in often too intimate detail the confounding and not untroubled adventure that is my 'career'. Successively archived since 2008, along with my heavily trafficked web site, by the National Library of Australia's Pandora project, it preserves a 'permanent' record of my career and an intensely personal observation of the evolution of the web as the most powerful medium of information, collaboration, transaction and transformation in the history of art.
Exactly four years after Michael Short's first article on me, he and I were in contact again. Michael proposed that I'd be a worthwhile subject for a video interview and text-based feature on what he described as a new multi-media package, produced for The Age, called The Zone , that dealt with "the free-market of ideas". I would be its first-ever from the art world: among previous subjects were the new CSIRO Chairman and former director of World Vision Australia, Simon McKeon, magazine editor and environmentalist Tamsin O'Neill, economist Martin Fell, and Austhink co-founder and director Paul Monk.
In the video conversation with Michael, I spoke of my decision to step outside the traditional, commercial and institutional gallery system – a turning point in both my life and career – and its consequences, good and bad. I explained my use of the web and social media as a means of connecting directly with the audience and collectors of my work, and why that connection mattered to me. I argued that it wasn't just about marketing my work but an intense need to articulate ideas within that work as well as to retain a large measure of freedom and financial self-reliance.
The course of our conversation wasn't easy: Michael probed me about my bi-polar affective disorder and my having been committed, earlier this year, to a psychiatric clinic. He was also aware that the extended lay-off had forced me into bankruptcy: mercifully, I was not questioned about that.
The video interview and accompanying 'hard copy' profile, titled The Art of Living, were distributed widely by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers, as well as The National Times, Media Drive, Brisbane Times, and WA Today. The number of viewers for the video set a new high for The Zone, second only to a clip of the Australian prime minister's tattooed step-daughter posing for a men's magazine in a bikini.
After The Zone published its profile, last Monday, I drove across town to Fairfax Digital's Brisbane offices to participate in a live-chat session hosted by The Zone. Just having to go to an office other than my own was telling: old media's grasp on the freedoms of technology lags far behind the high concepts that are The Zone's chosen turf.
The online audience's reactions to my interview were pretty much as I'd expected: support from some artists and most collectors; defence of the traditional gallery by one lost soul; snide, dismissive attacks from less well-known artists (whose real names and email addresses were unhidden by online 'nics' within Fairfax Digital's system); criticism from old-school gallerists who refused to 'get' the paradigm shift and argued vehemently for the status quo; requests for advice on how to emulate my career; the usual excuses about how 'this' worked only for me because I'm an 'attractive' woman; schadenfreude-laden references to my breakdown; demands that I recant my position given that I still self-produce one-off exhibitions with commercial galleries; and so on.
You can still view the questions. I couldn't answer them all, although I spent three hours – rather than the scheduled one – addressing as many as I could in detail.
The interview and live-chat experience underscored how much had changed during the past half decade. But I couldn't help but notice how much I had changed, too. Once, I would have been crushed by criticism – and worse – from others within the art world. Nowadays, my raw nerves serve me well and I relish a fight. I'm all for passionate responses but I have no mercy when a detractor loses an argument – and their cool – and resorts to insults. I remind myself, as I've reminded others here, that it's not my job to reassure. Quite the opposite. It's part of an artist's job to question, confound, agitate, disturb and surprise. Too many have forgotten that.
There was one thing I didn't expect: many artists suggested that I should lead some kind of fight to reduce gallery commission rates. I thought my position on this would have been obvious: I see no point in lobbying for changes in a structure I believe to be irrelevant and doomed. But there I was arguing for complete autonomy and all they wanted was for me to become a union leader. Talk about missing the bigger picture, the bigger opportunity.
In many ways, it's fitting that Michael Short, the editor who first recognised the possible wider impact of a young artist choosing to step outside the traditional gallery system to manage her own career online, was the one who arranged and conducted the interview which now stands as a summary of the results of that somewhat reckless choice. It also marks the end of another chapter in the narrative of my life and art.
The ideas I've been expounding and defending for four years are now so widely accepted, they're almost commonplace. A younger generation of artists doesn't need to be convinced of the web or the benefits of independence and self-management – if anything, they take it for granted. So, soon, will a new generation of gallerists, who will find different ways of collaborating or partnering with artists to achieve their not-always-convergent goals and who will abandon the old-school impulse to corral and control the intricate, mutable relationships between artwork, artist and collector.
My personal militancy was always just a means to an end, not an end itself. I wanted to create a structure that supported my artistic ambitions, that enabled me to pursue the ideas that I found most compelling, to share them with everyone who might be interested in them, and eventually, to present the work derived from them how, when and where I wanted – oh yes, and to be well rewarded for the risks I took. I'm no longer interested in arguing anymore about whether this 'works' for everyone: it's plain to see that it does.
Now I have bigger things to get on with – in my art and my life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Last Slice Of Cheesecake

I have always painted sexy-looking women but when I was younger, I was indifferent to concerns that my work objectified them without irony or deeper meaning. I had a weakness for cheesecake poses (often using myself as a model), complete with prurient peeks at old-fashioned panties. I enjoyed painting the fluid, sensual lines that described a modern yet vampish female body.
Later, I thought a lot deeper about what I was doing. My work began delving into how increasingly insidious entertainment and advertising media had defined the self-image of women of my generation. The women of my imagination were still sexy but the works that contained them put increasingly uncomfortable questions to the viewer and suggested that the answers were laden with irresolvable contradictions.
Yesterday, I came across a study for Stacked Hottie (above), an enamel painting included in my 2001 solo exhibition in Perth, Western Australia, titled Too Much Never Enough. This was my last stab at a pure 'pin-up' and already there's a hint in it of something unsettled, something at odds with the languid pose.
The work is being offered for sale by a US collector. With an image size of 40cm x 60cm, in acrylic on oversized, heavy-weight, cold-pressed paper, the price is $A2,500, plus delivery. Payment can be accepted via PayPal or electronic transfer. For further information – or to order – please contact my studio.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

There has been a measure of catharsis in all my activities this week. I have been ridding my studio (and my psyche) of old works to make room for what is developing as an especially fertile period of new thinking and new work.
The forced disposal of so much of my past work as a result of my bankruptcy has been a blessing rather than a burden, compelling me not just to start again but to rethink what I want to accomplish in both my art and my life.
With new work in gestation, encouraged by unexpected opportunities to collaborate with artists and others outside Australia, and a new studio in Brisbane gearing up to produce existing commissions more efficiently, I'm ready to re-conceive everything I do, even online, so that it becomes a more coherent – and original – whole.
In the meantime, I still have a number of works of paper to clear from my stockroom, although the price on them all has risen since they were first offered a few months ago.
The most expensive are acrylic on paper studies for three of my earliest works: Coloured Girls, my first commission in 1998, The Red Shoes from my 1999 series, Accoutrements Of Desire, and The Moment Before Having, from 1996, my first attempt at the hard-edged, neo-Pop style for which I became well-known. These are all priced at $A3,500 each, including delivery.
There are also more economical, more recent acrylic on cold-pressed paper studies, each with an image size of approx. 60cm x 40cm.
From Big Pin-Ups: Miss January, Miss March, Miss April and Miss July.
From Sports Career Babes: The Climber, The Cricketer and The Judge.
From Dangerous Career Babes: The Stylist, The Demolitionist and The Wrestler.
All the above, except the Dangerous Career Babes, are priced at $A2,500 each, plus delivery. The Dangerous Career Babes are now priced at $A3,000, plus delivery.
Lastly, there are two small paintings from my Asylum Notebook, created just before I was committed to a psychiatric clinic in Sydney at the beginning of this year: The Spectre Of You Hangs, 21cm x 29cm, in watercolour, gouache and lead pencil on cold-pressed paper and Blood Does Not Lie, which is the same size and in the same media. Both are priced at $A975, plus delivery.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taking Aim In The Outback

As I've noted before, Bird Of Prey, a 100cm x 150cm, high gloss enamel on timber board painting inspired by a 2001 artist's expedition to Lake Eyre, in the arid heart of central Australia, is to be auctioned by Menzies Art Brands in Melbourne on Thursday, 23rd September at 6.30pm. If you can't afford the pre-sale estimate of $A9,000 to $A12,000, the painting can be viewed in at Menzies' gallery at 1 Darling Street, South Yarra, from this Thursday, 16th September to Wednesday, 22nd September, 11am to 6pm daily.
A little more affordable are a set of color photographs, hand-printed from 35mm negatives, that were the initial reference sources for several of my well-known Lake Eyre-inspired works from 2002. Each has an image size of 13.5cm x 20.5cm positioned on larger glossy, resin-coated paper, and is signed, dated, and matted individually with white, archival-quality, eight-ply rag. The set of five is priced at $2,500 but a single photograph is $550. Payment by electronic bank transfer or Paypal is accepted. For further information – or to order – please email my studio.
Incidentally, excerpts from a documentary film, The View from Here, about the privately sponsored, expedition – on which I was
the only artist under 30, as well as the only female, among ten artists that included five of Australia's most eminent living painters – John Olsen, Tim Storrier, David Larwill, Jeff Makin and Robert Jacks – can be found on YouTube.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Last Pass, The Poster

The stark, black and white poster advertising PORNO, was seen on walls and in cafés, boutiques and bookshop windows all over Melbourne in the weeks prior to this exhibition's 2008 opening at MARS Gallery. Surprisingly only six were ever signed, of which three are being offered for sale here for the first (and last) time. Printed in semi-gloss black ink on paper, 29cm x 42cm, each is in pristine, 'as new' condition, signed in silver Posca paint pen, and priced at $A99 ($US92 approx.), plus delivery. As usual, Paypal and bank transfers accepted. For further information or to order, please email my studio.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wear Me Out One Last Time

A number of collectors and friends have rallied to help me to set up a new enamel studio in Brisbane, donating small artworks and rare gallery merchandise to cover the costs of rent and materials. Former assistants from my Palm Beach studio have volunteered to join me for a month to ready the space while I construct essential timber frames at Graham Reynolds factory, nearby.
Over the next few days, the new studio will be offering available pieces here.
The first are simple t-shirts I designed to promote my 2008 exhibition of photography, PORNO, at MARS Gallery, in Melbourne. They have since been spotted as far afield as Los Angeles, Tucson, Tokyo, and Chiangmai, Thailand, but the seven offered here – one extra large, four large, and two medium – are the last of the 100 originally produced.
Manufactured in Mexico using US-grown 100% heavyweight cotton, the t-shirts were custom-printed by Super Special Screen Printing. Each is in the original, unopened, opaque black cling film packaging by Dooney Studio, which also contains an unsigned postcard from the exhibition. The package is signed by Hazel Dooney herself – in either silver posca paint pen on Dooney pink adhesive vinyl or black marker on reflective silver adhesive vinyl – and stamped 'DOONEY'.
The price each, regardless of size, is $A75 ($US70 approx.), plus delivery. Payments accepted by bank transfer or Paypal. For further information or to order, please email my studio.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

More Instantaneousness

Further to yesterday's post, I am posting more of the Polaroid 'instant pictures' I made as references for my large enamel paintings. They are being offered for sale in a group of about two dozen by an Australian collector who, over the past decade, has put together one of the two or three most extensive surveys of my work. Each print, which is a 'one-off', is being sold mounted in white, double-ply, archival rag and signed and dated. For further information, please contact my studio.
Pictured above: Pola' Auto-Erotica Monochrome, 2000, a set of four Polaroid 600 self-processing prints, each approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, individually mounted in white archival rag. $A2,400 for the set, plus delivery ($A3,200 individually framed in perspex, plus delivery).
Venus In Hell, 2001, Polaroid 600 self-processing print, approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, mounted in white archival rag. Price $550, plus delivery.
Turn The Other Cheek, 2001, Polaroid 600 self-processing print, approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, mounted in white archival rag. Price $400, plus delivery.
First Bound, 2001, Polaroid 600 self-processing print, approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, mounted in white archival rag. Price $350, plus delivery.
Zombie No.1, 2001, Polaroid 600 self-processing print, approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, mounted in white archival rag. Price $350, plus delivery.
Candy Snake No. 1, 2001, Polaroid 600 self-processing print, approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, mounted in white archival rag. Price $350, plus delivery.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Instant Gratification

I have always used photography to work out the gestures and expressions of figures in the rigorously composed spaces of my enamel paintings. I used to prefer the instantaneity of small, amateur Polaroid SX-70 and 600 prints, which allowed me to review numerous 'hard copy' images as I refined a pose without having to resort to a computer or worse, a photo lab. Over the years, I amassed hundreds, in monochrome and colour. I discarded them carelessly in a large plastic plastic garbage bag in a cupboard along with paints, solvents and brushes.
I thought nothing of these prints until four years ago, when a friend of mine, a photographer, came across the stash. Under my bemused (and slightly embarrassed) gaze, he dumped the filled-to-bursting bag onto the timber floor of my beachside studio, squatted amid a spill of small, 8cm x 8cm images and began to 'curate' a series of the more interesting pictures. I exhibited a handful of them at my first-ever exhibition of watercolours, Venus In Hell, at MARS Gallery in Melbourne, in 2006. Over the next year, several groupings were sold to collectors.
Two dozen Polaroid 600 prints, each signed and dated, are now being re-sold by one of those collectors. All are mounted in double-ply, archival quality white rag and some are also framed within a custom-designed perspex box (29cm x 26cm x 3cm).
Unusual and 'one-off', unlike other forms of photographic print, some of these images are more than ten years old. A testament to the stability of Polaroid's instant emulsions, they are virtually unchanged in colour since the day they were ejected from the front of the cheap plastic camera I bought in a local thrift store.They represent an unusual glimpse of the process through which I conceived and refined some of my better known early paintings – as well as of the woman I was then.
Better yet, they are available at about three per cent of the price for which the paintings derived from them are now sold at auction.
The following is an abbreviated catalogue of the images offered. The colors might be slightly different from those displayed here and dimensions of the mattes and/or frames are not noted. However, if you're interested, please contact my studio and I'll put you in touch with the seller.
Pola' Auto-Erotica Color, 2000, a set of four Polaroid 600 self-processing prints, each approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, individually mounted in white archival rag. $A2,400 for the set, plus delivery ($A3,200 individually framed in perspex, plus delivery).
Too Much, Never Enough, 2001, a set of four Polaroid 600 self-processing prints, each approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, individually mounted in white archival rag. $A2,000 for the set, plus delivery ($A2,800 individually framed in perspex, plus delivery).
Pink Bits, 2001, a set of two Polaroid 600 self-processing prints, each approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, individually mounted in white archival rag. $A750 for the pair, plus delivery.
Cunning Stunts, 2001, a set of two Polaroid 600 self-processing prints, each approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, individually mounted in white archival rag. $750 for the pair, plus delivery.
Dexedrine Nights, 2001, a set of two Polaroid 600 self-processing prints, each approx. 7.8cm x 7.7cm, individually mounted in white archival rag. $A900 for the pair, plus delivery.