Thursday, August 25, 2016

Libraries and Liberation

...it isn't just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.

― Isaac Asimov


Recently I was invited to send a postcard to the Embry Hills Library in Atlanta, USA. The branch manager, Deborah Stone, asked people of different professions around the world to write about where we’re from, what we do and what libraries mean to us. It's a smart, engaging way to encourage children's curiosity about the world and to broaden their ideas about the possibilities they can pursue in life. Of course, it's also a fun way to encourage travel – another kind of education. 


When I was young and didn’t have the money to access great education I dropped out of uni’ (several times). Instead of receiving a formal tertiary education I went to the state library five days a week for around eight months. I arrived when it opened and stayed until it closed. I read about art, semiotics, sex, history, critical theory, strategy and so on. After that I held my first exhibition. I returned to libraries often over the years. I don’t know what I would have done without a way to further educate myself for free.

Above: Mrs. Stone holding my postcard after it arrived (photograph courtesy of her daughter – thank you both for inviting me to participate).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fine Motor Skills, Test One

My fine motor skills are slowly returning after medication induced dystonia that began in October 2015. It was so severe I couldn't walk for months, hold cutlery or speak without stuttering. I often retreated into involuntary silence as my brain misfired: thoughts blanked and limbs either froze or spasmed violently, uncontrollably. These days I can move and speak almost fluidly. I can perform everyday tasks. However my ability to control very fine movements is still recovering. I let it be for a while, in part so I didn't focus on what I couldn't do – a coping mechanism to prevent despair. But it’s time to test the range of movement in my hands. If you click on each photograph you can see a larger, higher quality image.




Preparing to paint a hard-edged gouache study. I drew the first, small version last year, before the dystonic reaction.
Custom mixing gouache paint to match the colours of my digital study.
Speeding up the drying process between coats by gentle blow-drying. Years ago I saw Howard Arkley do it in a documentary. It works on goauche and acrylics, not so well on other types of paint.
The only time I use masking tape for hard-edged paintings is on the border of gouache studies.
After several coats of each colour, the work is ready for a fine black outline. I'm pleased with the result but more tired than I expected. I'll take a break before the next stage, to rest my eyes as well as my body.

Rebuilding my psyche and physical self over the last few years has been exhausting. But with persistence – and reluctant periods of rest – my stamina has increased in each area.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Direct Delivery

Wrapping a mounted work from my Dooney Lives series in archival tissue paper. I wear cotton gloves to protect it from the natural oils, dirt, salt and moisture of my skin.
Dooney Lives No. 5 mounted and wrapped in archival tissue, with corners secured using folded paper so the artwork doesn't move in transit. Then it's flat-packed between sheets of corrugated plastic with the grain in opposing directions for strength. I include cotton gloves for handling the artwork when it arrives, a personal note and a label with the title, date, media, size and my signature (for the back, when the work has been framed). The label was suggested to me by collectors of my work, several years ago. It is for provenance and an attempt to ensure the details of the artwork are correctly documented when it eventually reaches the secondary market. This is how I wrap and pack all of my works on paper – before sealing the package in plastic.
A pair of artworks from a different series, packed together. I also wrap my note and the artwork label/s in archival tissue and secure them with paper corners. When it comes to my career I'm into big-picture planning. But I also care about details.
After packages are picked up by the courier I email collectors with an estimated arrival date and tracking details. The FRAGILE tape is probably unnecessary – but I am partial to excess. Besides, I like the way it looks. These artworks are going to Sydney, Canada and the USA.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Slash and Burn

The petite, heavily inked young woman greets me at the counter. She says something but I can't hear it above the music and buzz of tattoo guns. I take
the form and sit down to fill it out.

Tattoo parlours are familiar to me. In my early 20s, I used to visit a friend when he did his apprenticeship at a biker's tattoo shop. When he opened a place of
his own I painted a mural on the front wall and he bought one of my first
enamel paintings to hang inside. He has a successful business in Europe now – people travel to him to add one of his works to the collection on their skin. I don't remember the last time we spoke.

The young woman leads me through a long corridor to a small room at the back of the shop. She hands me tinted glasses to protect my eyes from the light of the laser. I lay on a medical table, shifting position as she moves from one
tattoo to another. Each time I feel a blast of cool air then the pain of the laser, accompanied by a loud clicking sound like a sped up metronome. My body shakes involuntarily and I can smell my skin burning. When she does my lower back I cry out. She hands me a chuppa chup. I suck on it, then bite down until the candy splinters in my mouth.

It is over quickly. The lasered ink has bubbled into white patches. In a few seconds it becomes red – swollen and raw,  bleeding underneath the surface of my skin. Tiny pinpricks of blood escape. She smoothes the area with aloe vera, wraps it in cling film and then a pressure bandage to reduce the swelling.

My friends with tattoos like to have reminders of people, places, experiences, ideals and stages of life etched into their skin. But the marks on my skin have long felt foreign to me. When I look at them now, all I see are words and drawings I have outgrown. I am only interested in watching them fade as the
ink disintegrates and is removed by my body as it heals.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dooney Lives, In Depth

“I went mad. I went bankrupt. My father died. I spent years in a private psychiatric hospital. I came back.”Dooney Lives No. 1, 2016.



Dooney Lives is an ongoing autobiographical series told in bite-sized pieces, inspired by a long engagement with social media. My first major text-based work (and first public artwork), Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists, is a set of polemical interventions. In contrast, Dooney Lives is intimate, diaristic, raw and revelatory.



Together, the works in Dooney Lives form a fragmented narrative that begins after a long period as an inpatient at a private psychiatric hospital, where I received intensive treatment for bipolar disorder.


The expected life story of a woman like me is simple. Burn bright and go down in flames, consumed by insanity. The End. I refuse to accept this as the story of my life. Too often, I’ve been compared to women with talent and intelligence who succumb to tragedy. But I will not be anyone’s Camille Claudel or Sylvia Plath. Living on one’s own terms is an act of defiance. Dooney Lives is both a declaration of intent and a voyeuristic invitation to watch me.

New works will be added to the Dooney Lives series each week – perhaps until the end of my life. The series is available to view at my website www.hazeldooney.com (click thumbnails to see thw works in full) and on instagram.com/hazeldooney (with images cropped to fit the format).



The works are designed to be hung individually or in groups, regardless of chronological order. Uniformity of format and mounting enables collectors to add new works from the series at any time. 



Each artwork is mounted by Julie Higham, a framer with over 20 years experience. She was recommended to me by master craftsman Graham Reynolds on his retirement. You can read more about him in my previous posts at Master With Class, Part One and Master With Class, Part Two.



Higham uses 100% cotton 8 ply Alpharag mat. It's acid and lignin free and buffered with calcium carbonate for added protection against acid migration. The colour of the Alpharag is a shade of white chosen to compliment the colour of the watercolour paper. Each artwork is attached to the mat using Japanese hinge paper and pure wheat starch adhesive. The front and back Alpharag mats are attached to each other using linen tape with pure wheat starch adhesive. When mounted, the final size of each artwork is 38cm high x 32cm wide (14.96  x 12.59 inches). 



Mounted works are wrapped in archival tissue, flat-packed and delivered by courier. I oversee mounting, packing and delivery, all of which are included in the price. 



If you are interested in one or more works from this series, please email me at dooneystudio@gmail.com.

Above: A mounted artwork from Dooney Lives. I like that it’s minimalist and subtle. It’s the kind of art I would have in my own room – collected en masse, framed with natural timber, hung in a grid over an entire wall.

Friday, July 08, 2016

No More Inpatient (for now)

Throwback to a few months ago. Morning in the private psychiatric hospital, reading My Life On The Road by Gloria Steinem and drinking coffee.
The private psychiatric hospital has a communal laundry but I rarely use it. Instead, I hand wash my panties in the bathroom sink and let them air-dry in my room. I do the same when I’m traveling.
Plastic ties that shortened my computer leads to ‘no hang’ length while I was an inpatient at the private psychiatric hospital. I used to leave them on because I went back regularly for scheduled admissions. It felt good to cut them off, though my optimism is cautious. I see my psychiatrist as an outpatient now.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

From Hazel

In response to requests, I've created a site where I'll archive Snaps from my series A Lo-Res Letter To You.

Initially I trialled accounts at Instagram and Twitter. But neither complemented my original idea. I want the experience of viewing the series to be direct and intimate, uninterrupted by public comments and conversations – or advertising. I found a solution at the micro-blogging platform Tumblr.

My new site fromhazel.tumblr.com is uncluttered and easy to navigate. It will be an archive for Snaps from A Lo-Res Letter To You. Images will be posted daily – a week after they were sent via Snapchat. This allows me to upload Snaps in bulk and program Tumblr to post them automatically every 24 hours. I hadn't planned on adding another site to my online presence so I needed to find a method that's time efficient. I've already posted a few images so you can see what it will be like.

Daily updates to fromhazel.tumblr.com will begin on Monday, 11th July.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

'In The Studio' Continues Here

Over the last years, the single consistent window to my world was a series of untitled photographs on Tumblr, titled In The Studio. I started it on the 15th of June, 2011 a few months after my father died

The photo's are a mix of art, sex, mental illness and my struggle to complete the last of my enamel paintings alone (after multiple production issues with materials and assistants). As I wrote in 2012, the photographs at In The Studio are an ongoing exploration of one contemporary woman's life as an artist, without the usual fey, girlish jitters. They are unflinchingly candid (and not just in their occasional depiction of sex), reflecting a life-long refusal to draw a line between the personal and the professional. The most explicit images are meant to disturb, to make one pause and think. At the same time, they consciously reference the media-saturated, reality-based, gossip-obsessed age in which we all live and work. You can read the rest of my statement here.

The last photograph is from 2015. It was taken at the private psychiatric hospital where I've been treated since 2012. I was exhausted after trialling Chlorpromazine. I had hoped the medication would help me force past the restrictions of my body and mind so I could paint like an unemotional machine. My plan backfired. Instead, I had a severe dystonic reaction. Muscles seized up, limbs jerked uncontrollably. My speech was interrupted by long pauses and stutters. Even my face twitched relentlessly. For over a month I struggled to walk or hold cutlery. Taking photographs was a physical impossibility.

Nine months later my fine motor skills are still recovering. I can take photo's again but I still can't draw or paint precisely. I don't know how long it will last or if the damage is permanent. Either way, life goes on.

Instead of continuing In The Studio on Tumblr I will post short photo' essays here, integrated with the rest of my work. I am not a photographer – I simply want to create a record.
I see photographs as a reflection of my external reality. Glimpses of my internal experience can be seen in the art I make.

T
he raw, ongoing narrative of my life remains elemental to my identity as an artist. As my work and personal life are entangled, they are often (not always intentionally) revelatory and intimate. I expose myself not to receive flattery but to create a connection with those who view my work that’s as intimate and as open as possible.

Do I still have secrets? Yes. And no, I won’t reveal them.

Above: The final photograph from In The Studio, 2011 to 2015.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Lo-Res Letter To You

A Lo-Res Letter To You is a new, ongoing series of impromptu drawings-on-photo's delivered via Snapchat. It's digital ephemera with no collectible value (that I know of). My hope is that it has some value as an experience. I think of it as an experimental public artwork for the 'million-fold audience of just one'.

Each Snap is
made
using a small-screened iPhone 4. I draw using my finger. Lines are thick and unrefined with no variation other than colour – no zoom or hacks. I prefer to keep the evidence of my hand rather than use special effects. I make one image a day and post it to my 'story' so it's available to view for the next 24 hours. 


T
o view
A Lo-Res Letter To You as it's made,
add me on SnapChat. My username is hazeldooney or you can scan my Snapcode, above (click to enlarge). Feel free to screenshot and share the images, as long as they're credited to me, not altered and not used for commercial purposes (see CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 for details).

For new users of SnapChat:
The Snapchat app is widely available and free to download. You can read instructions on how to create an account here. To add me as a friend, open Snapchat and tap the ghost at the top of your camera screen. Tap 'Add Friends', then 'Add Username'. Type in hazeldooney and wait for Snapchat to find me, then tap 'Add'. Alternatively, take a photo' or screenshot of my Snapcode (image above, click to enlarge), tap 'Add Friends', then 'Add by Snapcode'. Instructions for how to view my 'story' are here.

UPDATE :

In response to requests, A Lo-Res Letter To You is now archived at fromhazel.tumblr.com. Images are posted daily a week after they were sent via Snapchat.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Evidence and Emotion

The photograph above is of me at seventeen, at the airport with my father. He didn’t know I’d booked a one-way flight to London via Japan. I wasn’t running away from him. Leaving was the only way I felt I could stop everything I wrote about in Broken.

Months before, I cut off my long dark blonde hair and dyed it for the first time: black. I wore men’s clothing. At the time I didn’t realise how worried my father was about me. But looking at the photo’, it’s obvious.

Creating timelines and revisiting photo’s, diaries and mementos helped me to better understand – and more importantly, overcome – traumatic experiences. Going through my box of personal mementos made me realise the significance of keeping the pony-tail of my ‘virgin’ hair. And why I had so carefully wrapped and kept it among my most precious things.

I’m most interested in photographs as proof, evidence and documentation of events. Several of the new artworks I’m making combine 'evidence’ (photo’s and other ephemera) with expressions of internal experience.

I can’t change my troubled past. But some of the skills I learned while dealing with the impact of it are extremely useful. I am using these skills in other areas, now, as I rebuild a happier life. It’s inevitable that they seep into the way I make new art. 

Excerpt

Long ago, during my brief stint at art school, I was encouraged to keep a visual diary. I was also told I needed to keep drafts of my work. I hated both. My natural instinct is to write about ideas. Then I re-work images or objects as I go – a habit developed from impatience and a reluctance to 'waste' art materials.

Yet I started keeping an artist diary last year. It started as a practical solution. My mind wasn't functioning well enough to categorise my notes and and I kept losing them. So I decided to write everything in one place. Diary entries, dreams, ideas, notes, personal confessions. Everything.


Sketching happened organically. I wanted to remember places and experiments in perspective. I realised (very late) that it's a great way to collect material – memories, observations, references – that can be used later.

Above: Excerpt from my notebook
Everything, Part One. Private psychiatric hospital, 15 April 2016.

Inner Life

I still dream vividly. When I wake, it takes a while to adjust to reality. Writing down dreams (and nightmares) helps speed up the process. It's a kind of purge – taking an experience out of my mind and putting it somewhere else. Then I focus on my surroundings: changes in light, the way the curtains move in the breeze, the sound of my own breath.

My art rarely develops from dreams. I don't analyse them, either. I'm interested in them only as a glimpse of the unconscious mind.

I was caring for the children of an old adversary while cleaning the house of someone who had been murdered. It turned out the victim’s family bought the place. They came to help. Everywhere they'd cleaned, they placed strange porcelain knick-knacks.

The family wanted to show me how to bake bread. I opened the oven door at their instruction. It was hot already and there were loaves inside. The tray was big and heavy, made from cast iron. I didn’t have an oven mitt or cloth so I used a fire iron to manoeuvre the tray. While I was pushing it back into the oven a loaf of bread shaped like a puppy fell on the floor. I picked up the pale golden loaf, laughing because it was lovely. It came to life and licked my neck.


Dream, 29 November 2013.

Reading List

Books I’ve revisited as I clarify the direction of my new art, writing and photography:

Blue by Derek Jarman (exquisite)
Days: A Tangier Diary by Paul Bowles
Eva Hesse, Transformations – The Sojourn in Germany 1964/5 and Datebooks 1964/65 by Sabine Folie, Georgia Holz, Eva Hesse and Gerald Matt
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) by Andy Warhol
My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard (for research only – I find the book so boring that even skimming it is a chore)
The Lives of Lee Miller by Antony Penrose
Freud at Work: Lucian Freud in Conversation with Sebastian Smee by Bruce Bernard and David Dawson
Francesco Clemente: A Portrait by Rene Ricard and Luca Babini
Encountering Eva Hesse by Griselda Pollock and Vanessa Corby
Eva Hesse Drawing by Catherine de Zegher (editor)
Frida Kahlo: The Painter and Her Work by Helga Prignitz-Poda (my favourite painting by Kahlo is My Nurse and I, 1937)
Frida Kahlo Masterpieces by Schirmer’s Visual Library
Frida Kahlo by Andrea Kettenmann
Clemente: A Retrospective by Guggenheim Museum Publications
Andy Warhol “Giant” Size by Phaidon Editors
Jean-Michel Basquiat by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Luca Marenzi
Derek Jarman’s Garden by Derek Jarman with photographs by Howard Sooley
Micro: Very Small Buildings by Ruth Slavid
The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, Fifth Edition by Ralph Mayer

Saturday, June 11, 2016

What Am I Doing Here?

Not long ago I told a friend that blogging is dead. Yet here I am, re-starting a blog I began in 2006 and abandoned in 2013.

I want to write about my work again. I've experimented with various platforms over the last months but this format remains the clearest way to communicate. The layout is user-friendly, readers can search key words. My development as an artist is documented here. Although my past can be discomfiting to revisit, it's important to claim both successes and failures and show how (and why) my work has evolved.

Besides, writing is an essential part of my creative process. I've always used words as a way to figure out ideas. My earliest visual diary is full of scrawled text with more diagrams than drawings. I work out how to make the art itself later.

It is inevitable that I will say too much. I'm terrible at moderation. I am silent or I speak my mind. I care about authenticity more than I care about being liked. There is still no line between my art and life. And 'real' life is messy, exquisitely beautiful, equally painful and constantly in flux.
It's also the shared experience that connects us, tenuously, to each other.

Above:
Hazel visits Port Philip Bay, postcard to my mother from one of her closest friends, 1996.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Inventory

After a ‘perfect storm’ of madness, bankruptcy and the death of my father – followed by years of intensive treatment for bipolar disorder as an inpatient at a private psychiatric hospital – I am rebuilding my life as an artist.

My resources are limited but I don't want to borrow money to start over. I figure it's better to work with what I have

I have a room to work and sleep in, enough money for food and health insurance, intelligence, talent, experience, courage, a reputation (for better or worse), debt, bipolar, dystonia from trialling Chlorpromazine, insomnia, an excellent psychiatrist, a progressive private psychiatric hospital I can go to if I need intensive treatment, twenty-seven sheets of Arches watercolour paper in medium 300gsm 297 x 420mm, eight 14ml and thirty-six 5ml tubes of Winsor & Newton watercolour paint, two 37ml tubes of Winsor & Newton gouache, thirty-nine 14ml tubes of Winsor & Newton gouache, three high quality paintbrushes in different sizes, five 7B lead pencils, a box of ephemera from my life, a digitial camera, an aging laptop, internet access, a cheap printer, an early model smartphone, a sewing machine, a car I bought for $500, a muse, a few close friends and – last but not least – people who support, collect and care for my art (and, despite everything, me).


Where I am now is unfamiliar territory. I did not expect to find myself here. But I know what to do. The first step is to
assess my position. The next is to find a way forward.

Above: Morning in my bedroom, study, studio.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Dooney Lives

No. 1, 2016.
Lead pencil on 300gsm watercolour paper,
15.5 x 12cm (6.10 x
4.72 inches).

The first in an ongoing series titled Dooney Lives. More works will be posted regularly at www.hazeldooney.com and www.instagram.com/hazeldooney (images on the latter cropped to fit Instagram's format).

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Lo-Res Reflection

I’m looking at a woman. Stretched on a bed. Struggling towards pleasure like a woman in labour freeing her body of the dreadful progeny trapped inside it. And here is the veil of grain, of filter, of technology. Always keeping me at a distance from the viscera of the act. A taste of an impossible intimacy. Underscoring of its impossibility and yet, still, jouissance of reaching for it.
 
I am circling this object of desire, aspect after aspect; not her body, her skin, her sweat or the musk of her cunt, but the knowledge of her, turned inside out and made porous by my desire. I will never get inside her, no matter how many orifices I penetrate. But that doesn’t subdue my desire to try.

In writing on eroticism, Georges Bataille said that nakedness was a "state of communication revealing a quest for a possible continuance of being beyond the confines of the self." Here is the struggle towards that. Unadorned by mysticism or romance. The woman on the bed, the camera and me, all receivers, consumers of these intimate proofs. Here is the narrative of pleasure, fighting to get out of its skin, trapped in the violence of discontinuity, individuation as prison. In the process of reaching and failing, returning home with the consolation prize of orgasm and exhaustion.

In much of her earlier work, in the pattern formed by the many identical images of abstracted femaleness, Hazel Dooney left me gaps. Gaps in the abstracted artifice of the commoditized woman. Upskirt moments of neon-coloured crotches. Reminding me that no matter how much I thought I’d successfully avoided these simplifications, these absurd distillations of my culture, they had infected me regardless. That instant recognition was the firm slap in the face. And the sting was the exhortation to search beyond the simple lines and into the gaps. Maybe she felt there was no visual language adequate for the truth within the gaps. Maybe, at that time, she doubted it existed. Maybe she felt there was only perpetual deferral.

I am glad that she has embarked on this journey so eloquently. On this language of an approximation of truth, knowing that none of us will ever truly speak it fluently, knowing how many of the cognoscenti will write it off as unfashionable and naïve, it’s a bravery to attempt it. It is the most any of us can do once we’ve left the bullshit of feigned disinterest behind.

Madeleine Morris, 2012, inspired by Lo-Res Nudes

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Freeze Frame

Thomas: The Moment Before Connecting was the first in a series of enamel paintings inspired by film stills. It was exhibited at my first, self-produced show, Hazed, in Brisbane, in 1997, and argued the idea that episodes from every contemporary, hyper-mediated life are edited and replayed in memory as cinematic fragments. These paintings were the out-takes, the isolated frames, with characters extracted from familiar yet unresolved scripts.

Most of the other works in the Film Stills series were glossy, colourful and sexually suggestive, each unabashed by the inspiration they drew from the clichés of advertising and mass-media entertainment. But Thomas: The Moment Before Connecting was different. It was a unique (in my work) expression of masculine tension, tapping a primal undercurrent of frustration and violence. It was also the first to reveal my own sexual duality. I used my own brother, Thomas, as its model.   

Thomas: The Moment Before Connecting remains an unsettling, atypical work from a decade-long oeuvre that focuses on the way female identity is shaped, sometimes insidiously, by media. Yet it remains at the very core of ideas that still pre-occupy my imagination and for which I am still looking for a coherent – and yes, filmic – ‘edit’. 

(For Lawson-Menzies auction catalogue, 2013)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Direct Connection

I was recently interviewed by Darryn King, an arts writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Economist, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun-Herald and Time Out. His resulting article "Outside the frame: Online galleries are drawing visitors in a way their real-world counterparts can only dream about" was published today in Spectrum, the arts lift-out in the weekend edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. It covers opinions by several online only galleries, a traditional gallerist adopting new media, and me.

Often when I am interviewed for an article, only a fraction of my response is used. It's inevitable that a number of key facts are left out. So here are the questions I was asked for "Outside the frame" and my responses in full:

Hazel, some readers will be familiar with your views of the gallery system. Could you describe for us your initial disenchantments about the system, but also how you came to them?
Ever since I dropped out of art school, I'd been sceptical of the entire, rather artificial system that had sprung up around art over the past 100 years, including its increasingly arcane, theory-driven (rather than skills-oriented) educational institutions and its galleries, both state-run and commercially funded. When I began my career as a working artist, I wanted to stay away from this system, convinced that, in an age in which information was increasingly accessible via the web, it wasn't really necessary any more.

Still, for a long time, I was insecure about leaving it completely. I produced my first solo exhibition myself, but although it was a success – good media coverage, great attendance, great response and a sell-out show – I didn't realise the significance of what I had accomplished. I was subsequently approached by the traditional art world and did gallery shows and found myself at the mercy of unscrupulous, manipulative dealers and the inflated egos (and simpering social sensitivities) of institutional curators. I felt increasingly disconnected from those most interested in my work – the people who actually collected it. Then a very smart man called Creed O'Hanlon sat me down and gave me a multi-lateral perspective of how I could manage my career myself and still achieve my various, high-bar ambitions as an artist by better understanding and utilising the web and social media. He convinced me to be less concerned about my work being widely distributed for free by others and more concerned about communicating directly and uninhibitedly with the large audience for art that is online.

I immediately withdrew from the major galleries that were then representing my work in Melbourne and Sydney and became the first Australian artist of any note to abandon bricks and mortar and middlemen for the web.

What has the journey of your career as an artist been since that time?
I haven't once regretted my decision not to work within the traditional system. The value of my work has risen exceptionally quickly since I got out of the gallery system and with it, my income. But more importantly, I am connected directly not just to my collectors but a huge sea of people who are interested in my art, my life. And I've resolved to be as open and expressive as possible with them, to a level that some commentators now feel has become a deeply truthful, if sometimes uncomfortable kind of performance art, in which nearly every aspect of what I do – even the most intimate moments of my personal life – are displayed. I don't see it that way and I will admit that sometimes I am not altogether happy that I have allowed the level of scrutiny that I have, but I remain committed to it.

How has your approach to representing yourself online evolved? How important is your online presence for what you do?
I think everything I have described above underscores how important my online presence is. I see it as entirely integrated with everything I do as an artist, not just commercially but intellectually, emotionally. In this, I am, ultimately, an artist of this age.

Describe for us your current model for making and selling art.
I don't really need (or have) a 'model' – everything I create is sold, sometimes even before I have created it. The demand for my art outstrips my capacity (and my desire) to make it. In fact, I often retreat to make art just for myself, to experiment, to explore, to play, without the pressure of 'the market' I have created. What's most interesting is my relationship with the secondary market, and the degree to which I have been encouraged by major Australian auction houses to work directly with them in promoting my collectors' sales of my work (and note, I do not sell my art on my own behalf through auctions). It's a unique situation in the Australian market, although major artists in New York and London have long had close contacts with Sotheby's and Christie's and others.

What do you see in the future for 1) the gallery system; and 2) the growing trend of buying art online?
The gallery system is going the way of the record company and the newspaper – it's not a question of whether it will survive but rather when it will finally keel over and die. It's doomed, and already irrelevant. As for what you call a 'trend', it isn't. It is an everyday reality. The audience is now connected directly to the artist and it will at best suspect, but more probably, resent any attempt to filter or control it, or worse, manipulate it. The artist has to welcome this as an opportunity, not just to sell art but to help the audience to better understand and appreciate what they are attempting in their work.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall To Grace

Artists have always been intrigued by women at (and on) the edge.
William Hunt, of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood , fell in love with Annie Miller, a prostitute, after painting her – despite his religious anxiety. Picasso visited brothels from the time he was thirteen and one of his most famous paintings, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, is of five prostitutes.
Picasso was also one of several writers and artists – among the others were Jean Cocteau, Alexander Calder, and Pablo Gargallo – who were fascinated with the wild and uninhibited Kiki de Montparnasse. She was the woman-as-cello in one of Man Ray's most famous images. Ernest Hemingway and the artist Tsuguharu Foujita wrote introductions to her autobiography.
The beautiful Lee Miller (one of her photographs is above) was Man Ray's lover, assistant, and muse. She was a sought-after fashion model until a photograph advertising a menstrual napkin (scandalous at the time) ended her career. Miller was troubled – traumatized by childhood rape – but bold. She arrived uninvited on Man Ray's doorstep to offer herself as his apprentice and left an accomplished photographer herself.
De Montparnasse and Miller were less inhibited, less conformist, and more at ease with themselves than other women of their time. It made them compelling muses for the men who painted, photographed and wrote about them and why we remember them even today.
I am no less interested in wild, uninhibited women who live outside the mainstream. The difference is that I'm a woman too, in a time when women with desires can be in control of both their lives and bodies.
The women who've modelled for me have come from various backgrounds, a few of them troubled. But their decisions to be porn stars, escorts, bar girls, strippers, or simply to live unfettered by 'straight' conventions, were freely made rather than the result of coercion. None are victims. If they once were, they wrested power from those who oppressed them (men, always men) and now live as they choose. They are refreshingly frank. They have nothing to hide – at least, not from me. They are women who are genuinely uninhibited and sexy. They're playful, curious and open to new ideas. Their emotions – good and bad – are usually at the surface, not suppressed. One model who sat for me had a PhD and worked as a humanitarian. Another was a stay-at-home mother who stripped naked in front of me, not once looking away, just moments after we'd met.
Art using uninhibited women isn't always – or even often – about sex. The qualities that make a woman sexually intriguing make her a perfect subject for a portrait. There is something deeper and more confronting in their posture and gaze.
Helmut Newton
, whose works were inspired by a mid-century view of powerful, sexy (and kinky) women, was also a great portraitist. His work with women who were willing to go further than others allowed him to be bold and original in his photography. I suspect that their openness and willingness helped to develop his ability to push deeper into his subject's psyche.
I have yet to see women painted by a woman with the same level of insight. Instead, portraits of women by women are too often glib. 'fan girl' mimickry, like Elizabeth Peyton's substance-lacking daubs. I prefer the bold, bruised paintings of British artist Jenny Saville, who portrays women as slabs of meat, even if her work is about about her own body rather than another woman's, and it fits too neatly with an oppressive view of women as objects to be devoured.
Art about strong, uninhibited, unusual women is discomforting, especially when it's created by a woman. Other women and post-feminist men are often unsettled when there is no element of political correctness. It's easy to understand and dismiss a fantasy female figure. After all, these are a staple of pop' culture. But it's more confronting and complicated if porn stars are given heroic, sympathetic dimensions – as in my Big Pin-Ups. The cages of post-feminist professional women are rattled by a series of empowered-but-glamorous Dangerous Career Babes. Or when a female art collector is stripped naked and objectified.
I am not an erotic painter. I am a painter of women. I started with self-portraits, exploring my own identity and the roles thrust on me as a woman. Over the years, more and more of my work is about other women. I'm interested in their complexities and contradictions. I'm a feminist, but I hate the dry, mainstream feminist view of how a woman should behave. I'm a modern woman who is open about her sexuality and her sexual experimentation.
My first portraits of other women were of them fucking. My early photographic portraits were equally intimate. I was included in many of them.
Now, my portraits of other women don't include me. But through prising myself open, seeing other women at their most intimate, and experiencing the responses of other women, I've become more adept at reading them as an artist. I have a better idea of other women's fears, desires, insecurities, internal conflicts and ambitions – the parts of themselves that are very rarely shown to anyone else, not even their lovers or friends. These hidden parts are what I'm interested in capturing in my portraits, whether they're sex workers, TV actresses, housewives, career women or trust fund junkies.
Each of my portraits offers an interior glimpse of an individual, but I suspect that, over time, it will be the body of work that is most revealing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Show And Tell

Last week I posted a black and white photograph on tumblr of my hands stroking a cock. It provoked a flood of critical emails – unusually, a lot of them from fans of my work.
I've been accused before of using my sexuality to sell my work and myself. Such assertions are easily dismissed: my work sold well long before anyone knew even what I looked like, let alone anything about my life. But this time several men and women whom I know care about my work have expressed 'discomfort' and 'uncertainty' about the degree to which I've 'exposed' myself in this photograph. (Oddly, they didn't say a word when I wrote about my childhood sexual abuse.)
The 450 or so photographs I have posted to In The Studio are an ongoing exploration of one contemporary woman's life as an artist, without the usual fey, girlish jitters. They are unflinchingly candid (and not just in their occasional depiction of sex), reflecting a life-long refusal to draw a line between the personal and the professional. The most explicit images are meant to disturb, to make one pause and think. At the same time, they consciously reference the media-saturated, reality-based, gossip-obsessed age in which we all live and work. Their frankness is what lifts them above mundane documentary and makes them, collectively, a kind of perfomance art.
But there's more to it than that.
Being transparent about my life and work liberates me: it unchains my psyche and my self-expression and enables me to create without boundaries. At the basest level, if I'm willing to show myself fucking or masturbating in life, you can be sure I won't hold anything back when depicting myself – or anyone else – in my art. The photographs enable the viewer to understand what goes into my art, and why. They can glimpse the raw experiences that form the ideas for individual pieces.
Too often, it's mistaken for exhibitionism or narcissism. In every artist, there is an element of both. As I've written before, making art is elementally, egocentric. But I expose myself not to receive flattery (to achieve what psychiatrists term 'narcissistic supply') but to create a connection with those who view my work that's as intimate and as open as possible. Even if, sometimes, it unsettles or upsets them.
Do I still have secrets? Yes. And no, I won't reveal them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Buying Me

Yesterday, on Twitter, I was asked how, if I don't have traditional gallery representation, people might acquire my work.
I resisted the impulse to be glib. After all, it's simply a matter of emailing me. And yet in this age of 'click-to-buy' and next day delivery, this might be, for many people, counter-intutive.
I don't have an online catalogue. I don't even have a stockroom of available works to browse offline. Nearly all my works are commissioned (some a few years before I begin them) and those that aren't are being held for exhibitions planned over the next couple of years. My website has been designed as an archive not a shop front, a research resource for collectors, curators, auction houses, students, media and anyone else with an interest in my work or me.
Maybe surprisingly, I am very approachable and 'user-friendly'. I am a temperamental artist, sure. But I am also a competent business woman. I answer every enquiry personally – and immediately, if I am online. If I'm not, if I'm travelling or I'm busy in the studio, it might take up to 12 hours (but no more).
Most people write to ask what works are available. Sometimes they refer to a work they have seen on my web site or elsewhere and ask if I have anything else like it. I provide details about what works I do have available, as well as new works I'm developing. I also pass on any information I might have about works being sold by in the secondary market, through auction houses with whom I have good relations. Very occasionally, I will sell works on behalf of collectors wanting to 'trade up' to a bigger work of mine. Prices for my work range from a few hundred dollars for a small drawing to upwards of $A35,000 for a very large enamel on canvas.
If a collector is interested in commissioning a work, I outline very clearly the steps of the process, providing as much information as possible so that they feel able to make a decision. I answer any and all questions they have collector by email or 'phone. I give my number to genuine enquirers and answer my phone to them at any hour. Calls from the USA and Europe in the middle of the night are common.
I don't have a gallery and only collectors and dealers with whom I have a close relationship are welcome at my studio. I'm not interested in operating as a shop. However, I do believe in providing a good buying experience: I email (or, less frequently these days) snail-mail color-accurate photographs, dimensions and technical descriptions ahead of a sale and ongoing updates after it.
I give a watertight guarantee that the finished work will be delivered in pristine condition (otherwise, I will fly to wherever it is to repair it). I meticulously wrap and pack small works in layers of archival tissue or breathable foam and bubble wrap. Larger works are wrapped and packed in my studio by professional art couriers. I often organise transport on behalf of collectors: I don't charge extra for this service and I don't take a commission from the companies I recommend.
When a work is delivered, I advise on how to handle and hang the work, including, if appropriate, archival framing. I provide a signed artist's valuation and provenance for insurance and future sale purposes. And I remain available to all my collectors, at whatever time they want to contact to me.
If you're interested in buying my work, or would like to be contacted when new work is available, just email me. My address is listed on the contact page of my website.