Friday, October 07, 2016

A Room of One's Own

My current workspace is small. It functions as a bedroom, study and studio. But I love it – and I love the ease of working without a half-face rubber respirator. Next time I wear a rubber mask it'll be for pleasure only.

As with all images posted from 2016 onwards, please click on the photograph above for a larger version.


Thursday, October 06, 2016

Fine Motor Skills, Test Two (A+)

I painted the linework on this gouache study over the course of a day, a few days ago. Each side of the line is painted individually, so this section isn't finished yet.

As I mentioned in Fine Motor Skills, Test One, I drew the image last year, before my severe psych'-med'-induced dystonic reaction. Painting precisely is the best way to assess the recovery of my fine motor skills. I'm slower than I used to be and still have occasional waves of dystonia. But I can paint in a wide range of ways again and my exceptional fine motor skills are returning.

Finishing this gouache hasn't been a priority for me. Rather, it's something I've done between everything else: refining my online presence and strategy going forward; developing a range of new work in new media; consulting with my bookeeper, accountant and business mentor about the financial side of my career as I re-establish; closing my final enamel studio; emptying the storage unit associated with my enamel studio; re-connecting with collectors and friends; and looking at what other changes to make as I build the foundations for the next stage of my art and life.

That said, I've genuinely enjoyed painting this work. It's meditative, soothing and ultimately reassuring – proof that my unusually refined dexterity isn't gone, after all.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

No More Enamel Paint(ings)

The enamel period of my oeuvre has ended. My high gloss enamel paintings will only ever be available on the secondary market now.
Although the decision is final and I've worked toward it for an excruciatingly
long time, I found it hard to let go of materials I've accumulated over the years. For a couple of decades, tins of enamel paint were among my most important possessions. Whenever I moved I took them with me; transporting them myself from place to place, state to state.

The paints were a mix of discontinued colours, specialist enamel delivered from America and endless shades I custom-mixed myself. But there is no point continuing to store ageing hazardous paint – one tin has already exploded.
Over the last weeks I decanted my remaining high gloss enamel paint. Then took it to a rubbish tip that recycles and properly disposes of hazardous waste. As instructed by the council, I poured my bottles of turpentine over absorbent kitty litter so it became a solid material and disposed of that too.

I wore a breathing mask, changed my clothes and showered afterwards. But I'm still recovering from exposure to the fumes.
During the next weeks I will empty the rest of the storage unit associated with my enamel studio. I may need to rest afterwards but hopefully not for long.
I am impatient to focus completely on new work in non-toxic media. I have a build-up of words, ideas and new art inside me. I need to let it all out.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Libraries and Liberation 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 (click thumbnails to see the works in full) and on (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

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 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 or so 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 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.

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
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. 

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.


In response to requests, A Lo-Res Letter To You is now archived at

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. 


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.

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

Friday, June 10, 2016


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 and (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.