Thursday, March 23, 2017

Continuons

Long ago I wrote a blog entry, Solitude, about becoming anti-social and hermitic. Back then I often quoted Jean-Paul Sartre: Hell is other people. It's a line from his existentialist play, No Exit, which I revisited recently. The characters are damned souls locked in a room together in hell. There are no instruments of torture. Their hell is each other – their grating personalities and complicated histories.

Life can be like that. The hell of other people's company. We're not locked in a room together for eternity. But we are alive at the same time as each other, which is almost the same thing. A life-sentence of sorts.

I like connecting remotely by making art and writing. When I die, I hope others find some connection with what I leave behind. It's less complicated than dealing with other people. In the end, though, it's a lesser experience of life. Now that managing my mind doesn't take up most of my tolerance, I want to reconnect in person again.

It has been strange to return to the world while having a public archive of my complicated past. For a long time I wanted to start over with a clean slate. I thought about erasing all my writing – words are more specifically revealing than art. But I couldn't bring myself to destroy any more of my work. Besides, it wouldn't change my temperament or history. Eventually I thought, fuck it, this is who I am. We all have varying degrees of temperamental flaws and complicated pasts. And if we didn't start out that way we earn both through the experience of living.

The only solution I could find is the same conclusion as Sartre's characters in No Exit. To accept the complications of the human condition and get on with it. The final line of the play is
Eh bien, continuons – eh well, let's continue.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Constant Gardener

I sit across from my psychiatrist in his office, staring at the painting of the Indian garden. It hangs behind him, above his head. Long ago I asked if he placed it there for patients to look at and he said yes. I often wonder if it is special to him, or of importance in South India. But I don't question him further.

We have been talking like old friends but only about me: about my career; new art; my recent trip to Sydney and Melbourne to begin re-connecting with the world (my world) again. I am not here because anything is wrong. I am checking that my approach is sound and sustainable. Telling him about my plans. Asking for his opinion. We talk about my personal life and being open to connecting with others. About letting it happen instead of always blocking. I tell him I am quietly confident and a little scared. He says some anxiety is natural, he would be concerned by its absence. But he expects my confidence and happiness to grow. 

My attention returns to the garden. The painting has been a sanctuary for my mind over the last five years. It feels real to me. As if I have walked underneath the delicate golden arches, inhaled the scent of roses and jasmine, studied unfamiliar orchids. This is where I have been all that time I was away – in this exquisitely beautiful garden where it is always early summer. It is the place where my psychiatrist and I delved into and then reconstructed my damaged psyche. We walked through it together, confronting my troubled past. I sobbed into the grass as my broken heart healed. While I was lost in the painting, my mind was tended diligently by psychiatric nurses and staff at the private psychiatric hospital. Now, I know how to care for it myself.

I try to explain to my psychiatrist what the world is like to me now. Without the constant, exhausting struggle of inner turmoil and intense suicidal longing that came in my mid teens and stayed until a year or two ago. Everything is better than I thought. I keep staring at the painting and it occurs to me that the way I feel when I am in the world now is the same way I used to feel when I was inside the painting. Like I belong. Like everything is going to be ok.

He tells me we don't need to have these appointments anymore. If I ever want to rest for a couple of days I can return to the hospital. He doesn't expect it to happen, but it's always there for me. He does not have to say that he is there for me if I need him. I know.

I look at my psychiatrist's face and into his dark brown eyes. I realise he must have worked to a vision, with an understanding of how it would all come together: making a space for me to heal; re-planting the garden of my mind without destroying its wilderness, showing me how to tend it, how to both live inside my mind and in the world again. I think I finally get the companionable bond between us that is unrelated to our roles of doctor and patient. What we have done together – under his guidance – is similar to creating a major artwork. The process was a complex combination of experience, intuition, experiment, re-arranging, crafting and constantly refining. Except the result is not a garden or an artwork or an objet de art. It is me. Put back together again so I can live happily – and enjoy using the instrument I care about most: my mind.

Thank you, Dr. Chinna Samy. And thank you to all the staff (past and present) at Pine Rivers Private Hospital.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fine Motor Skills Test, Done!

The recovery of my fine motor skills has been measured in thin lines – black gouache stroked delicately onto paper using an exra fine brush.

My linework is faster and more precise than when I started this piece six months ago. I resumed work on it this month. To my surprise, it took less than a week to finish.


I was terrified that I may never be able to use my hands in the same way again. But it seems everything will be ok.


You can see earlier progress photographs at Fine Motor Skills, Test One and Fine Motor Skills, Test Two
(click images to see a larger version).




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Grab Your Future (Together)

At the end of last year I gifted several Grab Your future By The Pussy! posters to women artists as a gesture of solidarity. I sent one to Carol-Anne McFarlane, a young artist in Florida, USA. We met (virtually) after she heard my interview with artist John T. Unger, titled Success outside the art system, a conversation with Hazel Dooney, a Dangerous Career Babe, on Art Heroes Radio.

In response, Carol-Anne sent me a hand written card on personalised paper, a copy of her first sketchbook and photos of my poster alongside her work in her studio. I was touched – and struck by how well our work goes together. You can see more of Carol-Anne's work at www.cmcfarlaneart.com.

Monday, February 06, 2017

PORNO Reinterpreted

Photograph of Zhitian Zhang by Zhitian Zhang, wearing the t-shirt from my PORNO exhibition in 2008. It was given to him recently by a stranger after he admired the t-shirt she was wearing – she is V., a Melbourne-based collector of my work. I love random acts of kindness and generosity. And I love the idea of men and women of different ages and backgrounds walking around (and doing cool photoshoots) in my PORNO tee.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Little Things

After I finished Study for Refined Face, Career Babe series (previous post), I made a card using the palette of colours that I custom-mixed for the artwork. I folded the watercolour paper in half and sewed watermarked writing paper inside. Then I wrote to J – to whom the artwork will be given – about her painting and my Career Babe series. On the last page I signed my name and left a space for CM, the commissioning collector, to sign his. The card and a label for the back of the frame were included with the artwork when it was sent overseas.


Study for Refined Face

A collector from Los Angeles emailed a few weeks ago. He has one of my very early enamels and wanted to give one of my works to a woman who's played a significant role in his career. I suggested Study for Refined Face, Career Babe series and emailed a small selection of digital studies with varying colours. We talked more about the artwork and the woman to whom he's giving it, then chose the final version together. I painted it in gouache on paper over the next week. Some days I worked in the air-conditioned conference room at the industrial facility. When it wasn't too humid, I worked at home in my bedroom-study-studio.

Every few days, I emailed progress photographs to the commissioning collector. I think of it as a virtual studio visit. I've included around a third of them below. When the artwork was finished I wrapped it in archival tissue, flat-packed it in corrugated plastic and send it by courier from Australia to Califonia. It arrived in a few days.

After production issues with the last of my large enamels and health problems that took a long time to resolve it was an extraordinary relief – and pleasure – to once again be able to create an artwork, deliver it on schedule and make it an enjoyable, meaningful process for everyone involved.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Acknowledging An Abhorrent Truth

While reading my earlier blog posts as research for a new entry, I noticed references to John Buckley, former art consultant and gallerist, former director of Institute of Modern Art, former director of Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and a former teacher and housemaster at Geelong Grammar. I knew John Buckley briefly, in 2004. I was represented by his gallery for a few months and left after my first solo exhibition there. I haven't seen him since. However I mentioned him here several times, in passing or in recognition of his accomplishments in the arts.

As part of my return to the world I am updating my overview of past associates and new art. I clicked a link to the John Buckley gallery to see what he was showing now. But the website no longer existed. I thought the gallery name may have changed, so I googled "John Buckley art Melbourne".

T
he title of the first article on the page read Famous art dealer abused boys when he was a teacher at Geelong Grammar. It was written in July, 2015.
John Buckley had been found guilty of paedophilia. In September 2015 he was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail for thirteen charges of child abuse while he was a teacher. He also pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography relating to 96 photographs of the boys. He is currently in prison and will serve his sentence in protective custody.

I have no sympathy for John. I condemn his actions absolutely.

I feel compelled to address the fact that I have previously written about him in a positive light. It is very difficult to reconcile that someone's abhorrent personal actions exist parallel to their significant career accomplishments. It is also important to acknowledge that accomplishments do not absolve anyone of their crimes.

Although I am revulsed, I see no benefit in deleting my past mentions of John Buckley or the record of my exhibition at his gallery. Attempting to erase a past association would be disingenuous. I can't help but think of how someone he abused may feel if they saw a record of his great reputation in the arts here with no mention of his crimes. Or if they had read my mentions of him or his art career before, then discovered I had erased them with no explanation. I believe it is appropriate to acknowledge John's criminal convictions here, in the same archive where I previously mentioned his career accomplishments.

Above all, my heart and thoughts are with the survivors of John Buckley's abuse.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Poster No. 1

I wasn't thinking about accessible art when I made a DIY Grab Your Future by The Pussy! poster, printed at my local office supplies shop. I designed it for myself because I wanted a provocative, inciting mantra to hang above the desk where I work. It's a female alternative to 'grab life by the balls'.

The idea evolved after my best friend and unexpected muse Adam – a
long-serving military veteran with whom I often talk strategy and power – sent me this cartoon of Trump grabbing the Statue of Liberty by the pussy. I don't know who the artist is, but they're good. The image made me think more on liberty, women's rights (and responsibilities), autonomy over our bodies and freedom of choice. And, of course, the problematic and now-globally-known phrase 'grab by the pussy'. I wanted to shift the meaning of the phrase from invasive and threatening to defiant, humorous and above all pro-active. Regardless of who holds political power.

I was surprised by the strong, positive reaction to my poster – from both men and women.
I realised that text-based, high quality, 'autographed' posters are a way to make a print series that is conceptually strong (rather than just a reproduction of other work) and widely accessible. They're a solution to an idea I've thought about for over a decade.

So, i
n
response to requests, I had Grab Your Future by The Pussy!
made by a specialist company as an unlimited edition of A2 size posters
, digitally printed on premium photo gloss
255gsm paper with black lettering and a white background. My signature and the year are hand-written on each using a Posca acrylic paint pen in black or pink.

My posters are $A99 (Australian dollars) each. Single shipping is
via DHL courier: $A25 within Australia, $A45 to all international locations, with estimated arrival before two weeks. Posters are wrapped in archival tissue and a plastic sleeve, packed with care in a cardboard tube and shipped via courier to ensure they arrive in excellent condition. If you would like to receive your order faster or before a specific date please let me know. Shipping for large orders will be quoted individually.

Pricing covers production, packing, shipping, administration, GST (within Australia) and a very small profit marginmy posters are as inexpensive and accessible as my work is ever going to get. The price does not include taxes and duties on arrival for international orders, or insurance on shipping (though the latter can be arranged on request).

If you are interested in one (or more) of my posters, please email me at dooneystudio@gmail.com.
The cut-off order date for posters to arrive before Christmas is Thursday 15 December.


Over time, I will add new posters to this series. However please note that these works
should be bought for love, not investment. They will look beautiful framed or cool pinned to the wall and I hope they'll incite and energise you as they do me. But they will not increase in value over the years in the same way as my other artworks. Please also note that – aside from one limited edition etching in 2001 that sold out long agothese posters will be my only series of prints. In addition to the ongoing Dooney Lives series, my primary focus from next year onwards will be large paintings and installations, with smaller one-off studies made during the creative process.
Above: Examples of Grab Your Future By The Pussy! posters in my studio, signed and dated in pink and black acrylic paint pen. Each poster is A2 size: 42 x 59.4cm (16.53 x 23.38 inches).

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Inside Out

Candid snapshot, taken yesterday. It's out of focus (except for the bookshelf) but aside from having more defined smile lines around my eyes, it's an accurate depiction of me now – in a private, unguarded moment with a friend.

I haven't posted many photos of myself recently because they're not relevant to my current work. I also wanted more time to heal in private. However I'm aware that people wonder how I am, given that I still go to the private psychiatric hospital for maintenance treatment.

In layman's terms I'm still crazy. I am not symptom free and it's unlikely I ever will be. Yet my psychiatrist describes me as being in 'partial remission'. It means that although I still experience symptoms of bipolar and comorbidities I have enough insight to manage them (most of the time). I do so with skills and strategies I've learned over the years, ongoing assistance from psychiatric specialists and periods of respite in hospital. It's a delicate balance. It will still take months, perhaps another year, to rebuild my physical strength after muscle atrophy caused by a long-lasting dystonic reaction. But I am making progress.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Lo-Res Letter, Exhibited

My series of digital ephemera, titled A Lo-Res Letter To You, will be included in the forthcoming exhibition Curtain Call, 1000 2000s S.O.A.P at Blindside artist run initiative in Melbourne. The exhibition is curated by State of Art Platform [S.O.A.P.].

The curatorial aim of the exhibition is "to examine the channels of exchange between artist and institution".


My artwork bypasses the institution to reach viewers directly.
A Lo-Res Letter To You explores DIY artistic production and direct dissemination using accessible tools: social media apps, a basic smartphone and internet connection. The flyer was made using an eight-year-old digital camera, cheap scanner, borrowed digital imaging software and an office supplies store print-shop.

As usual, my ongoing series A Lo-Res Letter To You is available to view via Snapchat and Instagram Stories. From Wednesday 7th to Saturday 17th December, images will be created specifically for the exhibition. My 'physical' contribution to the show is a stack of fliers with details of the exhibition and information on how to view the series. The fliers will be displayed on a plinth in the gallery for viewers to take. They are also being distributed in inner city areas of Melbourne this weekend.


Curtain Call, 1000 2000s S.O.A.P
runs from 7th to 17th December. Opening night is at 6 to 8pm on Thursday 8th December at Blindside, Level 7, Room 14, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne CBD.

Above: Fliers for
A Lo-Res Letter To You, 7 - 17 December, 2016.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Young Women To the Front

Since I re-engaged with social media this year, I've noticed young women are taking photographs of themselves (and each other) in front of Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists. Sometimes they tag me on Instagram and Twitter. Or I stumble on the photographs by accident. It means a lot to me that my words continue to resonate with the audience for my work – especially the next generation of women.

Above: photograph courtesy of Jessie Norman

Sunday, November 27, 2016

He's The Man

With Robert Doyle, the Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Melbourne, after the completion of Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists in 2013.

The Lord Mayor contacted me after reading Art Matters, a blog entry about the importance of public art, critiquing the "tedious, disinterested bureaucratic processes" of local government and urging a direct connection between artists and officials.

I cannot speak highly enough about my experience of working with the Lord Mayor on my first public artwork. The administration for the project was comprehensive yet efficient. He trusted my creative decisions absolutely, he seems to have an innate understanding of artists and was engaging, respectful and gracious – including to my very young, punk, somewhat starstruck Project Assistant, Kirsten. He even had the good humour to pose for this photo.

In short, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle made Ten Dicta happen, and he ensured that the process of creating and installing a public artwork for the City of Melbourne a great experience.


Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists
is at Royal Lane, 231 – 233 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Women Behind Ten Dicta

It may seem that Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists was installed with only two painters and my assistant Kirsten. But there are always people working hard behind the scenes. Without them, pulling off any project of significant size would be impossible.

In this instance, everyone working behind the scenes was a woman – each of them
intelligent, talented, experienced, efficient, passionate and dedicated. They resolved every issue with grit and grace so the project could be pulled off flawlessly, on a tight schedule.

After I left Melbourne I printed a photograph of us onto watercolour paper, made it into thank you cards and sent one to each woman.
I was never sure how to publicly credit and adequately thank the women behind Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists because their roles are discrete. I remain unsure of the protocols but I am keen to create a record of their work on this project.


Above, from left to right: Sarah Ritchie,
artist and Public Art Program Project Coordinator, ‎Arts and Culture, City of Melbourne; Jane Crawley, Manager of Arts Melbourne, City of Melbourne; Shelley Blake, Marketing Manager, Arts House, City of Melbourne; me; Kirsten George, artist and Project Assistant; and Shona Johnson, Team Leader, Arts Programs, Arts and Culture Branch, City of Melbourne. Not pictured, camera-averse Brock Brocklesby, Project Manager, Megafun; and Michaela Coventry, then General Manager of Megafun. It was a pleasure to work with you all. Thank you for your unwavering commitment, enthusiasm and tolerance while I learned on my feet. And thank you for showing me by example how to work together as a team – especially as a team of women.

Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists
is at
Royal Lane, 231 – 233 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD.