David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

18 May 2012

Pencil power can never be erased (Age Editorial)

Who would have guessed that people demanding the right to write and draw in their State gallery would rate as one of The Age's topics of the week, even achieving a front page article.

Here's another Letter to the Editor, from yesterday's Age.

Pencil us in

OVER 40 years, I've been lucky enough to draw in some of the biggest and smallest museums all over the world. A sketchbook is my constant travel companion. Images once sketched are never forgotten. There is camaraderie between artists drawing in art galleries. At the Lahore Museum in Pakistan, cups of tea were offered and a curator talked about objects as I sketched them. An attendant brought me a chair - very civilised! I have been hounded out of only two galleries - Toronto's Royal Ontario and the NGV in my native Melbourne. At an NGV exhibition, three attendants heavied me when I began to draw a Joseph Hoffman gilt brass bowl. I knew that I had seen it before. At home, I trawled through old sketchbooks and found the bowl, drawn on 31/7/1997 at the good old V&A in London. Keep drawing alive. Let artists draw, please.
Alexandra Copeland, Malvern East
Opposite that newspaper letter an article by painter and critic Ronald Millar :
Critical vision cloudy 
IT'S a pity that Age critic Robert Nelson came away from the Fred Williams retrospective feeling sad. A critic's job is hard enough without being dragged along to shows that make you downright miserable. Yet I suspect he would have been vastly outnumbered by those who found the exhibition exhilarating.
read full article here
Millar's article is in response to The Age art critic Robert Nelson's  review (below) of the Fred Williams retrospective :
Dogged dabs of a blobby dazzler
... The works lack atmospheric credibility and seem instead to be a dogged rehearsal of a style or manner. No feature in a Williams landscape has any anchorage: the trees have no shadow and nothing is rooted into its home. We find incongruous lines turning up on horizons or delineating the edge of trees. Spatially, they are incoherent, and little respect is paid to any botanical or geological formation.

In producing these dull spotty things, Williams was in a no-lose situation. If the works lack space, they could be lauded as abstract. If they show no sensitivity for foliage or shadow or air or water or rock, they could be credited with marvellous gestural independence and commitment to paint. And because the abstract tendency had no conceptual basis, the works could still be honoured as belonging to the great tradition of Australian landscape.
More problematically...
read full article here
To accompany the Millar critique, John Spooner divines some sage advice from Saint Fred.

click image to enlarge

Three (Re)Views of Emptiness 
from a bLOGOS/HA HA staffer
Despite being pestered by NGV staff throughout my sketching visit to Fred Williams: Infinite Horizons, this was one of my most enjoyable experiences ever of another artist's endeavour.
When he was alive, it was often said of Fred that he had "a great eye". This was an acknowledgement of his visual (sic) erudition and discernment. And it was this, applied to his own artistic lineage practice, that now appeared to this NGV visitor as winnowed, masterly achievement. Though long an admirer of Fred's contribution, it had never before appeared as fresh and innovative as it did on this occasion.
The previous evening I had participated in a forum directed to young artists. As I buzzed anew, I wished they might also consider this exhibition.

click image to enlarge
A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
someone looks at something ...


A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/

someone looks at something ...


With the above prepared and ready to post, we paused to check today's Age.  There are another three ART letters published ...

we particularly enjoyed this one
IF I was running the NGV, I would also ban the wearing of bifocal glasses. How dare those people get two views of the same works.
Brad Hooper, Drummond

If we were dictator, we would make mindview-bifocals the minimum permissible aids of regard, and would encourage the use of mindview-polyfocals

... and, to seal the week, an Age Editorial :

Pencil power can never be erased

THROUGHOUT the history of art, practically ever since cavemen began daubing animals on their walls, there has been no shortage of those who seek to copy or criticise. Art, in all its forms, has always been ripe for imitation or discussion, which is surely why it exists in the first place: to enlighten and educate, but also to provoke discussion and debate.

In Melbourne this month, two talking points have arisen concerning the National Gallery of Victoria and, in particular, its Fred Williams retrospective, Infinite Horizons. The first has to do with the policy of visitors not being allowed to sketch or take notes of works in the show. Happily, after complaints by members of the public, including several letters to this newspaper, this rule has been eased and pencils and paper are allowed, but, as gallery director Gerard Vaughan says in a note on the institution's website, with the proviso, ''crowds permitting''. At the same time, Dr Vaughan has clarified the hitherto confusing policy of sketching or note-taking in the permanent-collection galleries - basically, yes, but kindly let us know if you intend to bring an easel or paints.

All this is welcome. Art imitating art is, far from being plagiarism, an honourable practice that has long given permanence to something caught in the mind's eye, and perhaps enhances an artist or student's own knowledge and skills. Indeed, the welcoming mood of any gallery is expanded by such activity, especially groups of children sitting on the floor with their sketch-pads. Long may pencil power be encouraged!

The other debate, vigorously conducted in the pages of The Age, concerns the Williams exhibition itself, whose critical horizons have certainly proved infinite as far as reactions are concerned. It may be 30 years since the artist's untimely death, but opinions spring eternal. Earlier this month, this newspaper's art critic, Robert Nelson, wrote of Williams' ''little affinity for landscape'', ''dull spotty things'' and compared his seascapes to wine labels. Again, the letters page has bristled with responses. Yesterday, on our opinion page, painter and critic Ronald Millar wrote that Dr Nelson ''missed the sheer visual beauty of Williams' paint, discounted the poetry [and] hasn't seen the grand melancholy that Williams made of the bush''. It is, to be clear, not The Age's job to judge whose view is correct, but it is our function to be a forum for debate on the issues of the day. The habit of art, as Alan Bennett might say, is never short of a point of view.

Editorial, The Age
18 May 2012
online here