Sunday, 14 October 2007

Image and response

Isle of the Dead - Arnold Bocklin - 1880

The 'Isle of the Dead' is a fascinating painting, which has an incredible atmosphere. One senses immediately through the dramatic composition and lighting, the tone of the work. A solitary figure on a boat, traveling to a dark and solitary island, about to pass through a gate into a dark abyss. Looming dark trees, a strange building , odd windows, high cliffs and ominous clouds lift this scene from mere landscape to a supernatural level.

Sometimes when you wander around a Gallery, you come across a painting that stands out from the crowd. One that works on many levels and has an emotional resonance that reaches out and grabs you, like Bocklins work. I suppose the challenge (against all the negatives in our heads) is to strive to produce excellent art. This is of course a lot harder than it seems, and takes many years of trial and error. So how can one pull it all together, and not lose heart, and take the best of what we have done and make it better? I'll let you know in another twenty years, but in the meantime here is another image from the mediocre catalogue, a hundred years after Bocklins work.

Cleaners Playing Cards - 1981

In the background are the red roofs of Brisbane, poking through the trees, at Seven Hills. In the foreground are a few of the Queensland College of Art cleaners, taking a break and playing a round of cards. I think the lady in the spotted dress has the upper hand.


  1. harder than it seems - seems hard enough to me!
    Sometimes I feel like I'm painting pretty well but there lurks in the background another feeling that my good painting is an eggshell thin floor and there's not a real lot under it.
    Maybe - like cycling and swimming, you paint/compete against yourself. Our past achievements become the floor/foundation/target.
    I p.b.'ed the jetty swim last weekend by 5 minutes, I want to take another 5 off that before febuary.
    I want to finish the 5 bars painting and start something new that will be all colour - I want it to be small and as intensely quiet as a Morandi still life. It will build on the colour experience of the 5 bars painting.
    I think I recognise a couple of those cleaners - the bloke with the black hair and the little sheila with her back to us.

  2. Roj, I have one of your Morandi like cardboard box drawings at home. It's very fine delicate work, with a certain concentration and focus.
    Painting is at times a difficult thing to do well, at times it feels like walking up a hill backwards. It feels good when you first turn around, then the work begins. I suppose the process has to be tempered with short and long goals.

    You must be getting fit, Roj. With all your mid life long distance activities. My other older brother in Vic (not antlion) has just joined up with rogaining, sort of a long distance, cross country, orienteering group.

    Yes, Roj the cleaners were based on real peole playing a real game, so you could be right.


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