Morocco – Art, Travel, and Painting

April/May 2018
This journey exceeded high expectations, stunning landscapes, architecture, medinas (old city centres), kasbahs (forts, citadels), souks (markets) and riads (traditional town houses). Arrived in Casablanca in time to meet up with a small group of painters over dinner to plan out our seventeen days in Morocco. The trip traversed the regions from Casablanca on the Atlantic coast, to Marrakech in mid-southwestern region, across the High Atlas mountains to Tinerhir and Todra Gorge, then onto Café Tissardmine near Rissani close to the Algerian border in the Sahara desert, then north back across the High Atlas to Fes in the Middle Atlas mountains, then further north to Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains, back to Fes then to Casablanca overnight before the flight home.
Some travel notes and references.

Casablanca the ‘commercial and financial capital, where tradition and modernity co-exist1 On the Atlantic coast, the Phoenicians established a small trading post in the 6th century BC’2 Arrived and departed from Casablanca. Incredible how one film can conjure up an image of place. What you get is a crowded, noisy, chaotic city but with hidden gems, French colonial architecture, restaurants and bars. Only overnight in Casablanca then onto Marrakech.

Marrakech a ‘Berber city at the point of interchange between the Sahara, the Atlas and the Anti Atlas mountains1. Almost 1,000 years after its founding the red city continues to evolve, where tradition and modernity merge.’2 Walking around the old medina a sensory overload, souks awash with a vivid colours, high quality handcrafted artisan goods of all descriptions including carpets, leather, ceramics, jewellery, lamps, woodwork, copper, metalwork, basketry, fabrics, dyed yarn, olives, spices. Three days to take in the city including the gardens around the Koutoubia Mosque, Museé de Marrakech, Palais Bahia, Maison de la Photographie, combined with sketching from rooftop cafes and in the main square Djemaa el-Fna.

After Marrakech, drove onto Tinerhir via Ait Benhaddou with its ancient earthen clay architecture, used as a location for many films. Striking contrasts of the green river courses and oasis in the desert, a product of the snow melt from the High Atlas mountains, the life line of the surprisingly large inland cities. Overnight in Tinerhir and the next morning sketching in Todra Gorge, eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains, where ‘sheer cliffs 300m (985ft) rise up each side of the gorge1. After the gorge drove onto Café Tissardmine, a cultural retreat and guest house near the town of Rissani. Time out for almost a week, to sketch and paint each day. The stay allowed time for a visit to the local Berber village, Tissardmine, to Erg Chebbi at sunset, massive sand dunes, an absolute highlight of the trip, next day an excellent performance by the musicians Gnaoua Khamlia, at Merzouga about 35 kilometres southeast of Rissani, then the following morning trip to the Rissani markets ‘The Rissani souk is one of the most famous in the area’1.

After a week of relative peace and quiet in the desert, a full day’s drive (eight hours) back across the High Atlas, snow-capped peaks in the distance, across the Middle Atlas, through expansive farmland, and a cedar forest to Fes. Fes the ‘oldest of the imperial cities, founded in 7891. The medina the world’s largest car free urban area”2 The souks like Marrakech, but without the motorbikes, packed with handmade goods of all descriptions. A photographers’ paradise. A morning at Madrasa Bou Inania, founded in 1351–56, location for some sketching until the tour groups arrived. Then onto Palais Galoui ‘18th-century palace is as fascinating for its state of disrepair as it is for its architectural Andalucian style magnificence’2, off the tourist routes and hence time out for a peaceful morning of sketching.

After three days in Fes, a four hour drive to Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains ‘located in the hollow of two mountains: ech-Chaoua (The Horns). White and indigo lime-washed buildings and red tile roofs1. The old medina a mix of Moroccan and Andalucian influence’2. Our guide assured us that it was impossible to get lost in such a small town, but after a while the lanes all started to look the same, and I found myself lost in the labyrinth of blue laneways, felt like I had walked up and down thousands of blue steps, but remembered the old bushwalkers code, the only way out, head to high ground to locate the landforms to get a sense of direction, in this case the twin peaks. Time for some sketching in the souk, and then back to do some painting on the rooftop terrace with expansive views. Time as always was too short and we drove back to Fes for an overnight stopover, and then onto Casablanca for our last rather chaotic night, the clocks changed over, end of daylight saving which threw the flight times out, but somehow it was possible to negotiate the airport mayhem.

Ait Benhaddou
Todra Gorge
Café Tissardmine
Erg Chebbi

Sense of Place

180426 Djemaa el-Fna (Main Square) Marrakech
Djemaa el-Fna (Main Square) Marrakech, 26/4/2018

180427 Musee de Marrakech
Museé de Marrakech, 27/4/2018

180427 Pigments in the souk, Marrakech
Pigments, souk in Marrakech, 27/4/2018

180427 Roof top cafe sketching, Marrakech
From roof top café, sketching location, Marrakech, 27/4/2018

180428 Jewelery in the souk, Marrakech
Jewellery, souk in Marrakech, 28/4/2018

180428 lamps, in the souk, Marrakech
Lamps, souk in Marrakech, 28/4/2018

180428 woodwork, in the souk, Marrakech
Woodwork, souk in Marrakech, 28/4/2018

180429 1 Road over the High Atlas Mountains Morocco
Road over the High Atlas Mountains, 29/4/2018

180429 2 Snow capped peaks High Atlas Mountains
Snow-capped peaks High Atlas Mountains, 29/4/2018

180429 3 Ait benhaddou, High Atlas Mountains
Ait benhaddou, 29/4/2018

180429 4 Entrance Ait benhaddou
Entrance Ait benhaddou, 29/4/2018

180430 1 Todra Gorge
Todra Gorge, 30/4/2018

180430 2 Goat stampede Todra Gorge
Goat stampede Todra Gorge, 30/4/2018

180430 3 lunch Tinerhir, Morocco
Tinerhir, 30/4/2018

180430 5 Cafe Tissardmine, Erg Chebbi in the distance
Cafe Tissardmine, Erg Chebbi in the distance, 30/4/2018

180501 1 a Tissardmine, Berber village
Tissardmine, Berber village, 1/5/2018

180501 3 Erg Chebbi sunset
Erg Chebbi at sunset, 1/5/2018

180501 4 Erg Chebbi sunset
Erg Chebbi at sunset, 1/5/2018

180502 Cafe Tissardmine from the roof terrace
Cafe Tissardmine from the roof terrace, 2/5/2018

180502 Courtyard, Cafe Tessardmine
Courtyard, Cafe Tessardmine, 2/5/2018

180502 Musician, Gnaoua Khamlia, Merzouga
Musician, Gnaoua Khamlia, Merzouga, 2/5/2018

180504 Cafe Tissardmine verandah 2
Cafe Tissardmine veranda, 4/5/2018

180505 Indoor studio, Cafe Tissardmine
Indoor studio, Cafe Tissardmine, 5/5/2018

180507 Fes the old medina view from the castle
Fes, the old medina, view from the castle 7/5/2018

180507 Laneway in the medina, Fes
Laneway in the medina, Fes 7/5/2018

180507 The tannery and dye pits, Fes 1
The tannery and dye pits, Fes 7/5/2018

180508 Madrasa Bouinania, Fes
Madrasa Bouinania, Fes 8/5/2018

180508 Minaret, Madrasa Bouinania, Fes
Minaret, Madrasa Bouinania, Fes 8/5/2018

180508 Palais Glaoui
Palais Glaoui, Fes 8/5/2018

180508 Palais Glaoui 2
Palais Glaoui, Fes 8/5/2018

180508 The artist's riad
The artist’s riad, Fes 8/5/2018

180508 View from the terrace, Hotal Merenides, Fes
View from the terrace, Hotel Merenides, Old Medina, Fes 8/5/2018

180509 View from the roof, Chefchaouen
View from the roof terrace, Chefchaouen 9/5/2018

180509 Doorway, Chefchaouen
Doorway, Chefchaouen 9/5/2018

180510 Laneway, Chefchaouen
Laneway, Chefchaouen 10/5/2018

180510 Work inprogress, Chefchaouen
Work in progress, Chefchaouen 10/5/2018

Sketches in ink, pigments, gouache, acrylics
Great to be in a different, culturally rich environment, a challenge, out of my comfort zone. However, difficult to focus, sustain concentration, find a rhythm with so many distractions, the hazards of attempting painting en plein air. Back to basics, drawing and painting over simplified, quick sketches and impressions, but useful for later work. The pigments bought in the souk in Marrakech another challenge to work with.

20180427 sketch from the roof top cafe, Marrakech (posca pen)
Sketch from the roof top café, carpets in the market, Marrakech 27/4/2018

20180430 Todra Gorge Morocco (posca pen)
Todra Gorge, before the goat stampede, 30/4/2018

20180501 Cafe Tessardmine courtyard 1 (gouache)
Cafe Tessardmine courtyard 1/5/2018

20180502 Cafe Tissardmine, Morocco (pen)
Cafe Tissardmine, 2/5/2018

20180502 z1 Cafe Tissardmine, Morocco, concertina book 1 (ink & pigment)
Messing about with pigments, Cafe Tissardmine, 2/5/2018

20180502 z4 Tissardmine Village, Morocco, concertina book p5 (ink & pigment)
Messing about with pigments, Cafe Tissardmine, 2/5/2018

20180508 Madrasa Bouinania, Fes, Morocco (posca pen)
Sketch, minaret, Madrasa Bouinania, Fes 8/5/2018

20180508 Palais Glaoui, Fes, Morocco (posca pen)
Sketch, Palais Glaoui, Fes 8/5/2018

20180508 Palais Glaoui, Fes, Morocco 2 (posca pen)
Sketch, Palais Glaoui, Fes 8/5/2018

20180508 from the roof terrace, Fes, Morocco 2 (posca pen)
Sketch of the view from the roof terrace, Riad Alya, Fes 8/5/2018

20180510 view from cafe, Chefchaouen, Morocco (posca pen)
This is what happens when you completely lose concentration, view from a café, Chefchaouen, 10/5/2018

Art References

Delacroix (Eugène ) sketchbook, Moroccan journey
Eugène Delacroix, sketchbook, Moroccan journey, 1832

Delacroix (Eugène) sketchbook, Moroccan journey, 1832 (2)
Eugène Delacroix, sketchbook, Moroccan journey, 1832

Roberts (Tom) A Moorish Doorway 1883
Tom Roberts, A Moorish Doorway, 1883

Kandinsky (Vassily) Arab Cemetery (1909)
Vassily Kandinsky Arab Cemetery, 1909

Klee (Paul) View towards the Harbour at Hammamet 1914
Paul Klee View towards the Harbour at Hammamet, 1914

Klee (Paul) Hammamet with Mosque (1914)
Paul Klee Hammamet with Mosque, 1914

Matisse (Henri) Moroccan Landscape (Acanthus), 1911-13
Henri Matisse, Moroccan Landscape (Acanthus), 1911-13

Matisse (henri) Entrance to the Kasbah, 1912, Hermitage Museum
Henri Matisse, Entrance to the Kasbah, 1912

Matisse (Henri) Window at Tangier, 1911-12 Pushkin Museum Fine Art
Henri Matisse, Window at Tangier, 1911-12

Matisse (Henri) The Moroccans, 1915-16, Museum of Modern Art
Henri Matisse, The Moroccans, 1915-16

Whiteley (Brett) Tangier Postcard 1967 (2)
Brett Whiteley, Tangier Postcard, 1967

Other references

1DK Eyewitness Travel – Morocco, travel guidebook, 2017

2Lonely Planet – Morocco, travel guidebook, 2017

Art Travel Adventures – Morocco

Kandinsky and Klee in Tunisia (Speaker: Professor Roger Benjamin, Art History, University of Sydney), Site specific: the power of place lecture series AGNSW, Wednesday 2 August 2017

The Heidelberg School: Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, Jane Sutherland, Frederick McCubbin (Speaker: Georgina Cole, Art History, National Art School), Site specific: the power of place lecture series AGNSW, Wednesday 9 August 2017

Art, Culture and Landscapes of Morocco (Speaker: Kenneth Park) AGNSW, Thursday 27 July 2017

How the Spirit of Morocco Seized Matisse, by Michael Kimmelman, NYT

Brett Whiteley Art and Life, Barry Pearce, Bryan Robertson, Wendy Whiteley, 1995



Greece and some ancient and modern art

Another journey back in time, triggered by a recent session at the AGNSW Ancient Greece: the invention of the classical orders sent me digging back into art books, classicism and Picasso, and notebooks of travel around Greece. Returning to books and travel notes to reimagine the experience and art discoveries, retracing the journey through web links to places, still providing inspiration decades down the track. The faded photographs of the experience (below) are hardly ‘picture postcards’ but do help conjure up memories of time and place. Some travel notes and quotes (from old guide books needless to say everything has changed since, including spelling of place names).

Greece bookended ten weeks travelling around Europe, my first trip overseas, four days at the start (March) and fifteen days at the end (May), packed in as much as possible. Descent into Athens across the unbelievably blue Mediterranean, islands scattered in the blue haze. General pandemonium on the bus into Athens at the first sight of the Acropolis. As the sun set behind the Acropolis, strolling around the night markets where nearly everyone had relations or knew someone from Sydney or Melbourne. Visit to the Museum, sculpture so lifelike it was easy to imagine the subjects still walking around the Plaka. An afternoon clamouring all over the Acropolis. Train to Patras along the edge of the magnificent blue sea, orange and lemon orchards, green, yellow, blue, red poppies everywhere, donkeys loaded with oranges meandering through the orchards. Evening in Patras, ‘gateway for sailing to and from Italy’. Train to Olympia, mud brick houses along the way, rain and muted colours, flowers everywhere white, yellow, blue, red, travelling back at sunset, goats, donkeys, geese, sheep being herded into pens for the night, back in time to catch the ship to Brindisi, Italy, night on deck under a full bright moon.

Returned in mid-May on a ship from Brindisi bound for Corfu in pouring rain and what felt like gale force wind. A wild night, the ship pitching violently, everyone sea sick, the place a wreck. We made it up to the top deck and stayed in the fresh air singing ‘the long and winding road’, it kept the sea sickness on hold. Disembarking in Corfu a relief for everyone. Corfu, in the Ionian Islands, ‘gateway to the Adriatic. According to Homer, the last staging point on the journey home to Ithaca of Ulysses’. Bussed over to the other side of the island to the village of Pelekas. Fully recovered, found the best restaurant with the usual grand finale, everyone smashing all the plates to show appreciation. Riding around the island on mopeds, swimming along the way, hills covered in red poppies, old stone mills. After a couple of days, caught a ship back to Patras and then a train, we thought was going to Athens but found out thirty minutes into the journey we were heading in the wrong direction. The guard stopped the train and flagged down a train going the other way, excellent service. Alighted at Corinth and met by the proverbial little old lady at the station who found our accommodation and a well received tip. Complex history (to say the least), the place knocked down and rebuilt so many times in the end ‘it is essentially a Roman city’. Spectacular rugged scenery, train to Mycenae, to the Lions Gate (built 1250 BC1), and the domed temple of Agamemnon. That night’s sleep enhanced by the sounds of donkey, goat, rooster, fighting cats, turkeys, and trucks. Bus to Epidavros, ‘sanctuary dedicated to the healer god Asklepios. Ancient theatre designed by Polyklitos with amazing acoustics and able to seat 14,000 spectators’. Train back to Athens to offload gear and then train to Pireaus, in 1920s style wooden railway carriage, to catch a boat to Santorini, which took sixteen hours instead of twelve. Arriving so late, after midnight, an argument broke out between the captain and the wharf manager, a small tug boat pulled alongside and we were loaded aboard and ferried across the sea under a clear sky and bright moon, magic. Arriving at the old port there was no transport, the four legged vehicles locked up for the night, so we had to walk up the long and winding road, but the view was incredible. Sleepless waiting for sunrise, at first light the view even more stunning, the long climb was more than worth it. In the ‘Agean Islands south of Athens, thought to be the site of the lost city of Atlantis, a volcanic island rising sheer out the deep surrounding sea. Former home of the Phoenicians, Dorians, Romans, and Byzantines, with relics also of Minoan civilization’. Caught bus to the black beach Perissa and stayed there for a few days. Perissa: rugged beauty, blue sea and sun, room opposite the beach, but then the next day a gale blowing dust, no rain, shredded washing. Only way out, flight to Athens, one hour, then train to Livadeia, snow covered mountains in the distance. Bus to Delphi, ‘the ancient sanctuary, centre of the world’ narrow winding mountain roads, walk to the temple of Apollo, the stadium, the theatre ‘3rd century BC able to seat 5,000 spectators’. On the way to Thiva, the bus dropped us at a cross road and we had to walk 3k into a small town along the dusty road as the sun set behind the mountains. Bus to Eretria, then the Greek Rivera, but at that time of year empty and silent. After a week of travelling, lack of activity was hard to take, so caught a bus back to Athens. Sat by the fence on the Acropolis near the theatre with a play in progress, dinner on a rooftop with a floor show, cafes and folk singers. Walking through the little winding streets around the Plaka, away from the shops and tourists, old houses, cats, wisteria, with views over the chaos. On our last day sitting up on the Acropolis, under a tree, the Parthenon in view and then final glimpse from the bus on the way to the airport. End of our odyssey and from then on hooked on art and travel.


Memories of Time and Place

800329 Athens Acropolis theatre
Athens, Acropolis theatre 29/3/1980

800329 Athens the Parthenon
Athens, the Parthenon 29/3/1980

800329 Athens the Plaka
Athens, the Plaka 29/3/1980

800331 Olympia
Olympia 31/3/1980

800517 Pelekas, Corfu
Pelekas, Corfu 17/5/1980

800518 Pelekas, Corfu
Pelekas, Corfu 18/5/1980

800520 Korinthos
Corinth 20/5/1980


800521 Epidavros 2
Epidavros 21/5/1980

800521 Epidavros
Epidavros 21/5/1980

800524 Santorini (postcard copy)
Long and winding road, Santorini, 23/5/1980 (postcard copy)

800524 Santorini
Santorini 24/5/1980

800524 Perissa 2
Perissa, Santorini 24/5/1980

800524 Perissa Beach Santorini
Late afternoon, local trash and treasure collector, Perissa, Santorini 24/5/1980

800524 Perissa
Perissa Beach, Santorini, 24/5/1980

800525 Delphi 2
Delphi 25/5/1980

800525 Delphi
Delphi 25/5/1980

800525 Delphi The Theatre
Delphi, The Theatre 25/5/1980

800530 leaving Athens
Leaving Athens 30/5/1980

Art References – a sample

Greek Cycladic vase in the form of a bear2500-2200 BC
Cycladic vase in the form of a bear 2500-2200 BC1

Greek Cycladic marble idol 2000 BC
Cycladic marble idol 2000 BC1

Greek Cretan Faience statuette of Snake Goddess Palce of Knossos c 1600BC
Faience statuette of Snake Goddess Palace of Knossos c 1600 BC1

Greek Mycenaean Ivory group two goddesses and divine child from acropolis of Mycenae 14 century BC
Ivory group two goddesses and divine child from Acropolis of Mycenae 14 century BC1

Greek Archaic period Ivory two girls about 630
Ivory two girls about 630 BC Archaic Period2

Greek Archaic Period Kouros from Attica about 600-590
Kouros from Attica about 600-590 BC Archaic Period2

Greek Archaic Period Kore from the Acropolis about 500
Kore from the Acropolis about 500 BC, Archaic Period2

Greek Archaic Kore (the Peplos kore) from the Acropolis about 530 archa0006
Kore (the Peplos kore) from the Acropolis about 530 BC, Archaic Period2

Greek Archaic Period East frieze of the Siphnian treasuryAre,Aphrodite,Artemis
East frieze of the Siphnian treasury Ares, Aphrodite, Artemis, Archaic Period2

Greek Classical Period Heracles, Atlas, Athena - Olympia Temple of Zeus0002
Heracles, Atlas, Athena – Olympia Temple of Zeus, Classical Period3

Greek Classical Period Charioteer from Delphi about 478
Charioteer from Delphi about 478 BC, Classical Period3

Greek A Goddess of Victory from the balustrade around the Temple of Victory, Athens, erected 408 BCE
A Goddess of Victory from the balustrade around the Temple of Victory, Athens, erected 408 BC

Greek Classical Period Gravestone of Hegeso from Athens about 400
Gravestone of Hegeso from Athens about 400 BC, Classical Period3

All the above sent me back to the books, Classicism in modern art and Picasso. A selection.

Picasso, Seated Woman, 1920 Musee Picasso Paris
Seated Woman, 1920

Picasso (Pablo ) Three Women at the Spring, 1921
Three Women at the Spring, 1921

Picasso (Pablo) Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), 1922
Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), 1922

Picasso (Pablo) The Pan Pipes, 1923
The Pan Pipes, 1923

Picasso Femme nue assise devant un rideau. [Nude woman sitting in front of a curtain.], Vollard Suite, 1931
Femme nue assise devant un rideau. [Nude woman sitting in front of a curtain.], Vollard Suite, 1931

Picasso Jeune sculpteur au travail. [Young sculptor at work.] Vollard Suite, 1933
Jeune sculpteur au travail. [Young sculptor at work.] Vollard Suite, 1933

 Picasso Flûtiste et jeune fille au tambourin. [Flute-player and young girl with tambourine.], 1934
Flûtiste et jeune fille au tambourin. [Flute-player and young girl with tambourine.], 1934

Other references

1 Minoan and Mycenaean Art, Reynold Higgins, revised edition 1981

2Greek Sculpture – The Archaic Period, John Boardman, 1978

3Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, John Boardman, 1985

The Picasso Museum of Barcelona, Rosa Maria Subirana Torrent, 1975

Picasso, Hans L.C. Jaffé, 1980

Picasso, National Gallery of Victoria, 28 July – 23 September 1984, Catalogue

Picasso The Last Decades, Art Gallery of NSW, 9 November 2002 – 16 February 2003, Catalogue

Picasso, Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, Art Gallery of NSW 12 November 2011 – 25 March 2012, Catalogue

Pablo Picasso, Artists of the 20th Century, Kultur DVD

Amsterdam and Flemish art flashback

Following a recent visit to the AGNSW exhibition Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age – masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, the brilliance of Rembrandt, his contemporaries, and those that followed, sent me digging deep into the past, travel notebooks, back to a journey in Europe and five days in Amsterdam in 1983. At the time an escape from frenzied life drawing more like scribbling classes. Amsterdam an art feast, as always the best way to get acquainted with a city was to walk as much as possible and catch public transport. However, footloose wandering without a plan did lead down some surrealist streets, past suspect shopfronts presented an ideal opportunity for some life drawing (inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec and Otto Dix), but decided to move on in case I was charged with loitering with intent to draw, and glad to make it back to the Leidseplein before dark.

Back then, I had the audacity to take a photo of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch with an old film Kodak Instamatic camera, but well I was there and nothing was the same again as the saying goes. Thick texture, composition rather than side by side, back to front, so life like figures almost about to leap out of the frame, blazing with light, three dimensional.1 Unlike reproductions in books, that photo although faded (see below) always continues to resonate, evoking memories of the time and place when the photo was taken, so I tend to defend taking pictures of artworks provided it does not intrude on other peoples’ space in an exhibition or gallery2.

Another highlight was the exceptional collection at the Kröller-Müller Museum and the challenge of getting there by train, bus, and then a bike ride for a couple of kilometres in the De Hoge Veluwe National Park. “Established in 1934 a private collection gift to the State”3 The Museum represents a range of works from all periods from ancient Greece to modern art. It “has the second largest collection of Van Gogh’s works in the world, as well as modern masters including Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian. The sculpture garden now has more than 160 sculptures by prominent artists, from Auguste Rodin to Henry Moore, and from Jean Dubuffet to Joep van Lieshout” Art heaven for a few hours, first time I had seen works by among others Arp, Dubuffet, Maillol, Marini, Oldenburg, Snelson (see snaps below), Serra, di Suvero, Fontana. Going back through the collection on the website a continuing inspiration.

Locations, galleries, museums
Van Gogh Museum
Stedelijk Museum
Museum Fodor
Arts and Crafts Centre
Kröller-Müller Museum

Sense of Place
So busy looking at art, forgot to take any other photos of places

830831 Amsterdam canal tour
Amsterdam from the ferry, canal tour 31/8/1983

830831 Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 1
Reminder of a neighbour, outside Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 31/8/1983

830831 Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 2
Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 31/8/1983

830901 Marken
Day trip to Marken, 1/9/1983

Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo 2/9/1983

830902 Marta Pan, Floating sculpture, 1960-61 Kroller-Muller Museum Otterlo
Marta Pan, Floating sculpture, 1960-61

830902 Dubuffet Jardin d'email Kroller-Muller Museum Otterlo
Jean Dubuffet, Jardin d’émail, 1973-74

830902 Maillol Air Kroller-Muller Museum Otterlo
Aristide Maillol, The Sky, design 1939, cast in 1962

830902 Marini Rider Kroller-Muller Museum Otterlo
Marino Marini, Horse and Rider, 1951-55

830902 Oldenburg Trowel Kroller-Muller Museum Otterlo
Claes Oldenburg, Trowel, 1971

830902 Snelson Needle Tower Kroller-Muller Museum Otterlo

830902 Snelson Needle Tower Kroller-Muller Museum Otterlo 2
Kenneth Snelson, Needle Tower, 1968

Art References landscapes – Flemish origins
A selection from my art reference collection

Bosch (Hieronymus) The Hearing Forest and the Seeing Field (1470s) Staatliche Museen Berlin
Hieronymus Bosch The Hearing Forest and the Seeing Field, 1470s

Brueghel (Pieter) Winter the Dark Day 1565
Pieter Bruegel Winter the Dark Day, 1565

Reubens (Peter Paul) Philemon and Baucis 1620-25
Peter Paul Rubens Philemon and Baucis, 1620-25

Rembrandt van Rijn The Mill 1645-48 NGA Washington 3
Rembrandt van Rijn The Mill, 1645-48

van Ruisdael (Jacob) Waterfall & Hilly Wooded Landscape 1655
Jacob van Ruisdael, Waterfall & Hilly Wooded Landscape, 1655

Vermeer (Johannes ) View of Delft, 1660-61
Johannes Vermeer, View of Delft, 1660-61

Van Gogh (Vincent) Wheat_Field_with_Cypresses 1889
Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889

Willem de Kooning. Door to the River, 1960.
Willem de Kooning, Door to the River, 1960

Appel (Karel) Horizon of Tuscany #36, 1995
Karel Appel, Horizon of Tuscany n° 036, 1995

Other references
1 Simon Schama, Power of Art, 2006 (book and DVD)

Simon Schama, Rembrandt’s Eyes, 1999

 2 Instagram is changing the way we experience art, and that’s a good thing, Adam Suess and Kylie Budge, The Conversation, 31 January 2018

3 Kröller-Müller Museum, catalogue, 1981

Intensely Dutch: image, abstraction and the word post-war and beyond, exhibition catalogue, AGNSW 5 June-23 August 2009

Blue Mountains National Park, NSW – landscape painting

January 2018, a short trip from Sydney, so familiar it’s too easy to take this national park for granted. Sublime, distant stillness, with the ever present edge of danger, fires in summer. Several days mainly revisiting old haunts and lookouts each morning and some sketching before the thunderstorms rolled in at four o’clock each afternoon. Working en plein air, spontaneous and free, but the painting is going backwards trying to bring it all together, in pursuit of that elusive one shot action painting.
This trip a reminder of previous bushwalks to the Wollangambe River, inflatable rafting through the gorges and ravines, falling over a large rapid or small waterfall (depending on the vantage point), saved from injury by my backpack. The adventures the perfect artistic inspirational experience, light filtered through waterfall spray in a ravine. Black and white photos taken by a friend, still in use for reference, capture the mood of the special places along the river (see below).

The Three Sisters
Echo Point
Wentworth Falls
Govetts Leap
Wollangambe River

Sense of Place

z20180125_180744 The Three Sisters (2)The Three Sisters, Jamison Valley 25/1/2018

z20180125_180750 Echo Point (2)Echo Point, Jamison Valley 25/1/2018

z20180125_181026 Echo Point (2)Echo Point, Jamison Valley 25/1/2018

z20180125_192510 So drinking not painting local critic Dellmere Cottage (2)So drinking not painting…local critic, Katoomba 25/1/2018

z20180127_115647 Govetts Leap (2)Govetts Leap, Grose Valley 27/1/2018

z20180127_120134 Govetts Leap (2)Govetts Leap, Grose Valley 27/1/2018

z20180127_154631 Outdoor studio (2)The outdoor studio, work in progress, before the storm, Katoomba 27/1/2018

Sketches in ink, gouache, and acrylics
trying out colour mixes

z20180127_154646 Work in progress In Dellmere Garden (2)Work in progress, Katoomba 27/1/2018

z20180127_163740 The Red Shed Dellmere Garden (2)Work in progress, The Red Shed (before the storm), Katoomba 27/1/2018

Earlier, working with grey scale values

2014 Wollangambe ravine
Wollangambe Ravine (acrylic, January 2014)

2014 Wollangambe Ravine (oil)
Wollangambe Ravine (oil, 2014)

Wollongambe River – previous photography trips


Art References

Martens (Conrad) Interior of the Burrangalong Cavern 1843 AGNSW
Conrad Martens, Stalagmites, Burragalong Cavern (1843)

von Guerard (Eugene), Weatherboard Creek Falls, Jamieson's Valley, New South Wales (1862) NGV
Eugene von Guerard, Weatherboard Creek Falls, Jamieson’s Valley, New South Wales (1862)

von Guerard (Eugene), Govett's Leap and Grose River Valley, Blue Mountains, New South Wales (1873) NGA
Eugene von Guerard, Govett’s Leap and Grose River Valley, Blue Mountains, New South Wales (1873)

Hern (Charles Edward), Govett's Gorge, looking towards the valley of the Grose, New South Wales, 1879
Charles Edward Hern, Govett’s Gorge, looking towards the valley of the Grose, New South Wales, 1879

Streeton (Aurther Fires On 1891 AGNSW
Arthur Streeton, Fires On, 1891

Malherbe (Robert) Govetts Leap, 2013
Robert Malherbe, Govetts Leap, 2013

Tran (Sokquon ) Wombeyan Caves 2013
Sokquon Tran, Wombeyan Caves (2013)

20180131_171043 (2)
Blake Raymond, Flight 24/7, ArtExpress 2018 AGNSW
‘Flight_24/7 explores the natural beauty of the Blue Mountains landscape and the threat of the proposed development of Badgerys Creek airport. Red flight paths pierce the landscape, symbolising their possible impact on this world heritage site.’




Tahiti, Samoa, and the Art of Polynesia

Best way to spend New Year? Escape to the South Pacific, with added bonus of crossing the international date line and celebrating twice. Back in 1994, flight across the South Seas, sometime into the flight it was back to yesterday and arrived in Papeete, Tahiti, still a French outpost, at five minutes to midnight new year’s eve. It was a while ago, but recently reading about Oceanic Art brought back the memories and visual images so went on a photo and travel notebook hunt. Some recollections. The first two days were fine, allowing time to get a bit acquainted with paradise, walking, and a circle island tour. Then it started raining. It kept raining, torrential rain, for the next three days. Cyclone in the Austral Islands to the south of Tahiti. On an eight day trip, I was losing hope. I could have read novels at home. Dashing about in the deluge to get food, les roulettes (the food trailers), the cafes la Retro, Acajou, the Moulin Rouge, the Piano Bar, I could have been in Montmartre. Then the rain stopped. The colours emerged. Day trip across the Sea of the Moon by catamaran to Mo’orea. Tour of the island to Belvedere (the lookout), picture postcard view over Cooks Bay, Opunohu Bay, and Mount Rotui. Marae Titiroa, pearls, Tiki Village, the locals preparing for the evening show. An entertaining French speaking guide who kept referring to guidebooks to converse in several languages Japanese, German, English. I asked about the meaning of the tattoo around his right angle. He explained that traditionally tattoos in Polynesia reflected one’s social standing, and in his case? ‘Administrative assistant’. Later, bus trip up to Mount Maran to Viamahuta Cascade.

Still enraptured with the South Pacific, late Christmas eve 1996 flew to Samoa. Arrived in the capital Apia, on the main island Upolu, on Christmas Day. Only problem, everything was closed except for the churches in full song ‘Go tell it on the mountain’ resonating near and far. A completely different experience to Tahiti. Back then Samoa was (and hopefully still is) the most traditionally Polynesian country, most of the islands owned communally1. Some recollections of time and place. The fales (homes) open plan living at its extreme, no walls and few possessions, large extended family gatherings, cooking on umus (earth ovens), graves of old chiefs out front next to the cricket pitch. Waking each morning to the sounds of snorting omnivorous ungulates and crowing roosters. Tour of the southeast and across Upolu to the north coast, Papapapaitai Falls, Mafa Pass, Fuipisia Falls, Latofoga Beach, Togitagiga Falls, next to the O Le Pupu-Pué National Park. Flying over the Pacific was reason enough for the visit. On the way back flying into the Kingdom of Tonga, the Pacific dead calm and crystal clear, it was like flying over land, the sea bed with hills, ridges, valleys, reefs in stunning colours.

Art References
Gauguin’s art is widely considered one of the foundations of modern art, he stepped away from observation of the real world (the impressionists and post-impressionists) towards symbolism,2 the breakthrough painting Vision After the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the angel) (1888), scattered borrowings from East and West artistic traditions. After this painting he abandoned representation, use of colour and ideas dominated his technique, ideas and symbolism from form and subject, dreams and imaginary situations.3 Although he was of his time, an idealist colonial in search of a simple lifestyle, ‘less drawn to Polynesian art, than to their religion and what remained of their lifestyle’2 but, and like other later artists (Ernst, Lipchitz, Epstein, Hess, etc. drawn to the conceptual nature of traditional art forms), could be accused of cultural appropriation4. However for most artists its standard practice to get inspiration from anywhere and from everything, hence the disputed Picasso quote “Bad artists copy. Great artists steal”. Another apt Picasso quote “When I don’t have red, I use blue”. Despite his dubious reasons for being there, Gauguin’s Tahiti paintings are captivating, his use of bright complementary colours a passport to the South Seas.

Venus Point
Blow Hole Arahono
Gauguin Museum
Maraa Caves
Mt Maran

Sinalei (rebuilt after the 2009 tsunami
Coconuts Beach (rebuilt after the 2009 tsunami)

Sense of Place
z950106 Papeete 1 (2)
Papeete 6/1/1995

z950106 Moorea Sea of the Moon 23 (2)
Mo’orea, across the Sea of the Moon 6/1/1995

z950106 Moorea 32 (2)
Mo’orea 6/1/1995

z950106 Moorea 20 Beachcomber (2)
Mo’orea 6/1/1995

z950106 Moorea 27 Tiki Village (2)
Mo’orea, Tiki Village 6/1/1995

z950106 Moorea 26 Tiki Village (2)
Mo’orea, Tiki Village 6/1/1995

z950107 Viamahuta Cascade Tahiti 7 (2)
Viamahuta Cascade, Tahiti, 7/1/1995


z961225 Apia 5 (2)
Apia, Samoa 25/12/1996

z961226 Sinelei Resort 11 (2)
Sinalei Beach, Samoa 26/12/1996

z961228 Coconuts Beach 3 (2)
Coconuts Beach, Samoa 28/12/1996

z961229 Latofoga Beach Samoa
Latofoga Beach, Samoa 29/12/1996

z961229 Along the Coast Samoa Tour 5 (2)
Along the coast, Samoa 29/12/1996

z961229 Samoa Tour 16 (2)
‘Treasure Island’, Samoa 29/12/1996

z961229 Togitagigi Falls Samoa Tour 12 (2)
Togitagiga Falls, Samoa 29/12/1996

Art References

Heva Mourning Dress, Society Islands, Australian Museum

Ahu-parau – Pearl-cloth ornament, Society Islands, Australian Museum

Polynesian Hawaiian feather cloak Australian Museum
Hawaiian feather cloak, Australian Museum

Polynesian Bird-Man Relief, Easter Island, British Museum
Bird-Man Relief, Easter Island, British Museum

Polynesian Marquesas Islander with full body tattooing, drawing 1804

A Marquesas Islander with full body tattooing, drawing 1804, published in Captain A J von Krusenstern, Voyage around the world, London 1913

Polynesian Bird-Man figure, Easter Island, American Museum of National History
Bird-Man figure, Easter Island, American Museum of National History

Polynesian Soul-catcher, Pukapuka, Cook Islands, 1876, British Museum
Soul-catcher, Pukapuka, Cook Islands, 1876, British Museum

Polynesian Staff God Mauke, Cook Islands, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Staff God Mauke, Cook Islands, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Polynesian Figure, Tahiti, Society Islands, British Museum
Figure, Tahiti, Society Islands, British Museum

Polynesian Tiki, neck ornament, Maori New Zealand, British Museum
Tiki, neck ornament, Maori New Zealand, British Museum


Gauguin (Paul) Tahitian Landscape 1891
Tahitian Landscape, 1891, Minneapolis Institute of Art

Gauguin (Paul) Rue de Tahiti, 1891, Toledo Museum of Art, Oh
Rue de Tahiti, 1891, Toledo Museum of Art

Gauguin (Paul) Te Burao, 1888, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Te Burao (The Hibiscus Tree), 1892, Art Institute of Chicago

Gauguin (Paul) Parahi te maras, 1892
The Sacred Mountain (Parahi Te Marae), 1892, Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Gauguin (Paul) Mahana maa I Food Day I, 1892, Cincinnati Art Museum
Mahana ma’a, 1892, Cincinnati Art Museum

Gauguin (Paul) Matamoe (Landscape with peacocks), 1892, Pushkin Museum, Moscow
Matamoe (Landscape with peacocks), 1892, Pushkin Museum, Moscow

Modern Art references2

Ernst (Max) Inside the Sight The Egg 1929 Pompidou Centre
Max Ernst, Inside the Sight: The Egg, 1929, Musee National d’Art Moderne, Pompidou

Ernst (Max) Max Ernst, La Belle Jardinière, 1923
Max Ernst, La Belle Jardinière, 1923

Ernst (Max), After Us Motherhood, 1927
Max Ernst, After Us Motherhood, 1927

Hesse (Eva), One More than One, 1967
Eva Hesse, One More than One, 1967

Lipchitz (Jacques), Figure 1926-30, MoMA
Jacques Lipchitz, Figure, 1926-30, MoMA

Epstein (Jacob), Female Figure, 1913, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Jacob Epstein, Female Figure, 1913, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Gaudier-Brzeska (Henri), Doorknocker, 1914
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Doorknocker, 1914

Other references

1 South Pacific Handbook, David Stanley, 5th edition 1993

2 Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art, Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, MoMA, 1984

3 The Post Impressionists, Gauguin, Kultur DVD

4 Art History 101: Why Primitivism was Cultural Appropriation, Ellen Oredsson, 26 October 2016

The Art of Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Fall 1981

Symbolism, José Pierre, 1979

Gauguin, Robert Goldwater, 2004

Masterpieces from Paris – Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and Beyond, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Australia, 2009

New Caledonia and the Art of Melanesia

Myth, imagination, and the power of art. Re-reading a catalogue from an exhibition of art from the Sepik River region, New Guinea (Myth and Magic, NGA August 2015) brought back memories of a short trip to New Caledonia back in July 1999.
New Caledonia, still a French outpost, located approximately 1500 kilometres north-east of Australia, is made up of groups of islands. The three major ones are Grande Terre, Isle of Pines and Loyalty Island. The indigenous people are Melanesians, known as Kanaks.1

Some recollections of the trip. A Lapita pottery exhibition at Musee de Nouvelle Caledonie, the Lapita people arrived in the South West Pacific over 3,000 years ago2. Standing transfixed in front of ceremonial masks, the ‘power of the spirit presence’3, the personality of each piece, beady shell eyes, human hair, bones, and teeth. A group of young skylarking Rastafarian teenagers, dreadlocks and beads, looking like a reggae mosh-pit from a Bob Marley concert, only a couple of decades too late. Hooting and laughing at the photographs of their ancestors in grass skirts, they sauntered over to check out what I was looking at so intently. Silence descended as the power of the pieces took hold. After a while, spooked, we all quietly left the room into the brilliant sunlight with a heightened awareness of the power of the past, still relevant to us today. It’s hard to imagine how powerful the masks were on moonless nights, around the fire, when they emerged from the darkness into the firelight. That would have sent any teenagers home for an early night and allow the elders the time to contemplate the universe, existence, and what to do about the hostile neighbours. On a visit to a traditional Kanak house, a fellow traveller forgot to duck as he entered the doorway and was literally scalped. An ambulance arrived and he was taken away to hospital, he was OK but everyone shaken due to the sight of a lot of blood. Met again at the airport a couple of days later. Sutured and heavily bandaged he laughed off the incident saying it would be a good conversation starter over drinks for years to come. He had been in town to trace his Kanak ancestry. A couple of generations back, his ancestors had been enslaved and transported to Cairns to harvest sugar cane. The Tjibaou Centre, extraordinary architecture, designed by Renzo Piano, appears like a series of oversized baskets from a distance. The aquarium’s amazing display of fluorescent corals and flashlight fish.

Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Musee de Nouvelle Caledonie
Aquarium des Lagons

Sense of Place

z 990715 Noumea

Noumea 15/7/1999

z 990715 Tjiabou Centre 1 Noumea

Tjibaou Centre 15/7/1999

z 990715 Tjiabou Centre 4 Noumea

Tjibaou Centre 15/7/1999

z 990715 Tjiabou Centre 8 Noumea

Tjibaou Centre 15/7/1999

z 990715 Tjiabou Centre grounds Great House 2 Noumea

Traditional Kanak great house 15/7/1999

z 990715 Tjiabou Centre grounds traditonal house Noumea

Scene of the scalping, traditional Kanak house 15/7/1999

z 990716 Lagoon 1 Noumea

Noumea 16/7/1999

z 990716 Noumea

Noumea 16/7/1999

Art References

Kanak mask, New Caledonia

Melanesian Water spirit mask
Water spirit or Costume mask, mid 19th century, Central Grande Terre Island, New Caledonia

Melanesian mourning mask
Mourning Mask, before 1853 C.E., Kanak, New Caledonia

Melanesian mask Torres Strait PNG (2)
Mask, Torres Strait3

Melanesian mask 1 (2)
Mask, Erub Island, Torres Strait4

Nolde (Emil) Still Life with South Sea Sculpture (2)
Emil Nolde, Still Life with South Sea Sculpture3

Nolde (Emil) Mask Still Life III 1911
Emil Nolde, Mask Still Life III (1911)

Nolde (Emil) Masks II 1920
Emil Nolde, Masks II, 1920

Other references

1 South Pacific Handbook, David Stanley, 5th edition 1993
2 Lapita, The Pottery from the Site at Foué, New Caledonia, Christophe Sand, 1999
3 Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art, Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, MoMA, 1984
4 The Art of Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Fall 1981
Myth + Magic, Art of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea, National Gallery of Australia, 2015
Power of Art, Simon Schama, 2006

Tanzania and the Art of Africa

Always captivated by the art of Africa, the impact the art had in particular on Picasso, a journey to Africa was always on my art appreciation expeditions list. Made it happen back in late December 2005, only a short time, ten days in Tanzania, but packed with action and incident, a cultural encounter albeit brief, that still remains vivid long after the experience. One of those trips, being out in the landscape, to see art in the making, and in galleries, however what could go wrong did go wrong, but the journey was much more than expected, just meeting the guides, the locals with their art, and seeing native animals roaming free in their environment where they belong (not in a zoo).

Some recollections
On the way from the airport into Nairobi, Kenya, middle of a long dry season, the Maasai grazing their precious cattle on the grass verges, including the downtown business district, with marabou storks roosting in the trees. The bus trip from Nairobi to Arusha in Tanzania, the landscape parched, dust devil whirlwinds in the distance. Visit to Ilkinding’a village, huts, cattle and corn, walk through nearby gorge. Walking around Arusha, including National Natural History Museum featuring caste of one of our ancestors Lucy (Australopithecus) (hominin species bones 1.2 million years old), tools, Laetoli footprints (3.5 million years old), art emporiums, and huge craft market. Lake Manyara, although due to the long dry season the lake was far in the distance, a thin pink line of flamingoes just visible in the distant haze. Amazing range of animals: giraffe, elephant, hippopotamus, zebra, wildebeest, impala, gazelle, dikdiks, warthogs, baboons, vervet monkeys, helmeted guinea fowl. Evenings at Migunga Bush Camp around an outdoor fire, with monkeys cavorting around in the trees. MtoWaMbu, a market village, wood carving, banana plantation, banana beer making, the markets had an impressive range of quality art, mainly sculpture, MeKonde masks the standout. Drive through Moshi to Marangu, on the eastern slope of Mount Kilimanjaro. To the locals Kilimanjaro has two peaks Kibo (the snow covered peak) and Mawenzi. Long walk around the village of Marangu with local market. Walk to a lookout but Kilimanjaro covered in cloud, so no postcard pictures on this trip. Kilimanjaro National Park, two hour walk to Marangu Gate (the start of the Kilimanjaro trek taken by about 90% of over 12,000 trekkers each year)1, monkey spotting worth all the effort to see blue monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys in the wild.

Art references
Wandering back through the history of western art and the pivotal moments when an artist, or group of artists, smash through the received wisdom and conventions to land at a new level of seeing. One such point when Picasso looked at African art not in an ethnocentric sense but as new way of expression, which led to his breakthrough painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), ‘fundamental shift in the nature of art from styles rooted in visual perception to others based on conceptualisation’.2 (art references below).

Mount Meru
Ilkiding’a Village
MtoWaMbu – market town
Migunga Bush Camp
Lake Manyara National Park
Kilimanjaro National Park

Sense of Place

Z 051226 Mt Meru on the road to Arusha
Mt Meru on the road to Arusha 26/12/2005

z 051227 1 Gorge near Ilkiding'a villiage
Gorge near Ilkiding’a Village 27/12/2005

z 051227 2 Traditonal dance performance Ilkiding'a Village (2)
Locals, Ilkiding’a Village 27/12/2005

z 051227 Markets Arusha
Markets, Arusha 27/12/2005

z 051228 1 shy elephant Lake Manyara
Lake Manyara National Park 28/12/2005

z 051228 3 Puzzeled monkey, Lake Manyara
Puzzled monkey Lake Manyara 28/12/2005

z 051228 2 Hippo pool Lake Manyara
Hippo pool, Lake Manyara 28/12/2005

z 051228 1 Grazers Lake Manyara
Grazers, Lake Manyara, 28/12/2005

z 051228 3 The thin pink line Lake Manyara (2)
The far off thin pink line of flamingos, Lake Manyara 28/12/2005

z 051228 4 lunch by the jeep Lake Manyara
Lunch by the jeep, Lake Manyara 28/12/2005

z 051228 5 monkey crèche Lake Manyara
Monkey crèche, Lake Manyara 28/12/2005


Around the art emporiums, Arusha 31/12/2005


z 060103 Mawenzi from the balcony
View of Mawenzi (peak to the east of Kibo), Kilimanjaro from the balcony, 3/1/2006

z 060103 Kibo from the balcony
Kibo from the balcony, 3/1/2006

z 060103 Downtown Marangu
Downtown Marangu, 3/1/2006

z 060103 Market Day Marangu
Market Day, Marangu, 3/1/2006

Art References

 African Art

African, Mask, Etoumbi region, Congo
Mask, Etoumbi region, Congo

African, Mask, Pende, Zaire (1)
Mask, Pende, Zaire

African, Mask, Pende, Zaire (2)
Mask, Pende, Zaire

African, Fetish, Yombe, Zaire
Fetish, Yombe, Zaire

African, Ekpe Society Emblem, Ejaham, Cameroon
Ekpe Society Emblem, Ejaham, Cameroon

African, Dog Fetish, Vili, Congo
Dog Fetish, Vili, Congo

African, Mlbuya (sickness) mask, Pende, Zaire
Mlbuya (sickness) mask, Pende, Zaire

African, Nimba Mask, Baga, Guinea
Nimba Mask, Baga, Guinea


Picasso (Pablo) Les Demoiselles d_Avignon, 1907

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907

African influence, Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 1907 (detail) 2
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 (detail)

African influence, Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 1907 (detail)
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 (detail)

African influence, Picasso, Bust of a Woman (Marie-Therese Walter) 1931

Bust of a Woman, 1931

Picasso (Pablo) Bull's Head 1942

Tête de taureau (Bull’s Head), 1942

Picasso (Pablo) La chèvre (The goat) 1950

La chèvre (The goat) 1950

Other references

1 East Africa Handbook, Michael Hodd, 2002

2Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art, Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, MoMA, 1984

African Art, Frank Willett, 1971

The Picasso Museum of Barcelona, Rosa Maria Subirana Torrent, 1975

Picasso, Hans L.C. Jaffé, 1980

Picasso, National Gallery of Victoria, 28 July – 23 September 1984, Catalogue

Picasso The Last Decades, Art Gallery of NSW, 9 November 2002 – 16 February 2003, Catalogue

Picasso, Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, Art Gallery of NSW 12 November 2011 – 25 March 2012, Catalogue

A close-up look at what happens when tourists and Maasai communities meet, Vanessa Wijngaarden, The Conversation, 11 October 2017




Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory and Art of the Top End

While looking back through art and travel books, struck again by the incredible conceptual art of the Tiwi. Back in September 2007 managed a one week escape, based in Darwin. Main reason for travelling north was to visit Kakadu National Park, Bathurst Island (part of the Tiwi Islands) and Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) plus art galleries in Darwin.

Some of the lasting impressions.
Aboriginal languages spoken in most places. A day trip, thirty minute flight in six seater plane across the Beagle Gulf to Bathurst Island. Multiplicity of dogs, including two great danes, asleep in the ashes of an old camp fire, grey apparitions when they stood to greet us. Meeting some of the Tiwi artists at the Tiwi Design Centre and the Ngaruwanajirri Art Centre, seeing their art in situ, their materials, and the artists in action. Came away with a gift of some white and yellow ochre (still in use) but the red was too precious to be given away.

Day trip to Kakadu National Park. Left early 6:30 am for the drive down the Arnhem Highway through Humpty Doo, and Adelaide River. Walk to Nourlangie Rock, and the famous rock art. Later that day a boat trip along the Yellow Water Billabong, extravagant abundance of bird life including magpie geese, black-necked storks (Jabiru), white bellied sea eagles, royal spoonbills, pacific black ducks, wandering whistling ducks, green pygmy geese to name a few, accompanied by the ubiquitous crocodiles. One hour flight over Kakadu, East Alligator River, the escarpment, then over the awesome stone country of Arnhem Land, and back to Jabiru airport.

Day trip to Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge). Another early 6:30 start and long drive to Adelaide River War Cemetery and Edith Falls and waterhole. Magnificent still, cool waterhole, some jumped in for a swim, and then almost instantaneously leapt out when they saw the (albeit empty) croc traps. Was it possible they asked for crocs to surf over the waterfall. The guide nodded but said none had been caught that year, yet, could be a problem during and after the wet season. Two hour spectacular boat trip through the gorges, Jawoyn country, red rock canyons, white sand beaches.

Back in Darwin for a round of gallery visits. However, it’s difficult to be a flâneur in late September in the build up to the wet season in Darwin when it feels like humidity is off the hygrometer scale. The only strategy, walk ten minutes, twenty minutes in an air conditioned shop or gallery, repeat for the rest of the day, only expense tonic water, but go easy on the gin until after 5pm.

The visit to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin, reignited a memory of time and place via the sound booth simulation of Cyclone Tracy. The sound booth gave an inkling of what was experienced in Australia’s worst weather event, Christmas 1974. Shrieking howling wind, difficult to withstand the sound for ten minutes not hours, how anyone survived is a miracle, but survive they did including a cousin, his wife and their infant daughter. All they had left was part of the bathroom wall and a door wedged over the bath tub, which they sheltered under for hours, and a crystal bowl (a wedding gift) which landed in mud in the right place at the right time. Emerging from the cyclone simulation I felt more than a little shaken. Remembering that anxious Christmas night in 1974 with intermittent radio reports of a direct hit on Darwin. We were in the backyard at my aunt’s place in the country town where we grew up. As was his way, to distract the young ones, Dad transformed himself into Nelson Eddy and sang ‘Tramp, tramp, tramp along the highway’.

In addition to the warning on the door to the Cyclone Tracy sound booth, about nausea and fainting, there should have been further warning: ‘those who enter may exit with memories of Christmas past’.

Art references
Contemporary art of northern Australia includes works from and about: the Kimberley, Tiwi Islands, Arnhem Land, Gulf of Carpentaria, Cape York. See art references below and some comparisons.

Aboriginal art has a long history. Recent archaeological finds put human habitation at 65,000 years in the Madjedbebe rockshelter in Kakadu1. ‘The archaeologists found evidence of the mixing of ochre with reflective powders made from ground mica to make a vibrant paint’. In Arnhem Land the Aborigines left paintings chronicling 15,000 years of their history. In early 2017, ‘a group of Aboriginal rangers discovered hundreds of works of rock art while conducting dry season burn-offs in the remote West Arnhem region. The local people estimate there could be more than 30,000 pieces in one area alone’2

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Bathurst Island
Tiwi Design Centre
Kakadu National Park
Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge)

Sense of Place

P1000332 (2)
Across the Beagle Gulf to Bathurst Island, 21/9/2007

P1000315 (2)
Tiwi art gallery and studio, Bathurst Island, 21/9/2007

Croc habitat, one of the beaches, Bathurst Island, 21/9/2007

Part of Nourlangie Rock Art, Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

East Alligator River, Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

P1000368 (2)
Dry season, Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

The Escarpment, Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

Stone Country, Arnhem Land, 22/9/2007

‘There’s something down there’, black-necked stork (Jabiru), Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

Some of the locals, royal spoonbill, wandering whistling ducks, pacific black ducks, Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

A sentinel, white bellied sea eagle, Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

Smiling croc, Kakadu National Park, 22/9/2007

P1000386 (2)
Nitmiluk National Park, 23/9/2007

Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) 23/9/2007

Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) 23/9/2007

Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) 23/9/2007

Art References – relativities and differentials

Tiwi, Tutini (Pukumani grave posts) 1958 AGNSW 20170802_171257
Laurie Nelson Mungatopi , Bob One Apuatimi , Jack Yarunga , Don Burakmadjua , Charlie Quiet Kwangdini , Tutini (Pukumani grave posts), 1958, Tiwi, North region, AGNSW

Mathaman Marika, Wagilag Sisters' Story, 1959, AGNSW 20170802_171340
Mathaman Marika, Wagilag Sisters’ Story, 1959, Arnhem Region, AGNSW

Yunupingu (Munggurrawuy), Lany'tjung - Banaidja Story, 1960
Munggurrawuy Yunupingu, Lany’tjung – Banaidja Story, 1960, Gumatj, Arnhem region, AGNSW

Bedford (Paddy) Untitled (Emu) 1999
Paddy Bedford, Untitled (Emu), 1999, Gija, Kimberley region, AGNSW

Stevens (Keith and Tjampawa) Piltati 2014 AGNSW
Keith and Tjampawa Stevens, Piltati, 2014, Pitjantjatjara, Southern Desert region, AGNSW

Marawili (Nonggirrnga) Lightning and Sea Spray 2014 AGNSW
Nonggirrnga Marawili, Lightning and Sea Spray, 2014, Madarrpa, Arnhem region, AGNSW

Gabori (Sally) Dibirdibi country, 2010 AGNSW
Sally Gabori, Dibirdibi country, 2010, Dulka Warngiid (Bentinck) Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, AGNSW

Gabori (Sally) Dibirdibi Country 2012 QAGSally Gabori, Dibirdibi Country, 2012, Dulka Warngiid (Bentinck) Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, QAGOMA

Tjupurrula (Bobby West) Tingari sites around Kiwirrkura 2015
Bobby West Tjupurrula, Tingari sites around Kiwirrkura, 2015, Pintupi, Western Desert region, AGNSW

Cummings (Elizabeth) After the wet Elcho Island 2004
Elizabeth Cummings, After the wet Elcho Island, 2004

Sciberras (Luke) Buffalo country, Katherine, NT, 2016
Luke Sciberras, Buffalo country, Katherine, NT, 2016

Other references

1 Buried tools and pigments tell a new history of humans in Australia for 65,000 years, The Conversation, 20 July 2017

 Indigenous rock shelter in Top End pushes Australia’s human history back to 65,000 years, ABC 20 July 2017

2 Aboriginal rangers discover rock art sites while conducting burn-offs in Arnhem Land, ABC 30 July 2017

Our Way Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Lockhart River, Sally Butler 2007


Shoalhaven River, NSW – Landscape Painting

Nothing captures the power of place quite like Arthur Boyd’s paintings of the Shoalhaven River. The paintings, made over a ten year period from 1972, are exceptional through the intensity of light, the deep defined shadows, and broad range (naturalistic, narrative, fantastic, biblical, mythological) 1. The first time I saw some of the works was an exhibition back in 1989, I knew then I had to go to the place that inspired them, which eventually happened with two field trips in 2009 and 2012. Recently re-reading the book Artist and the River1 brought back memories from those trips.

The two field trips in October 2009 and September 2012, and a day trip to Bundanon in June 2011, made the paintings even more compelling. In 2009 and 2012 stayed at the Old Mill in Braidwood for a week on each trip, with time for side trips to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, about a one hour drive away. Art immersion at its best. Our painting site, near Braidwood on the Shoalhaven River, a special landscape to return to as often as possible. The photographs taken on the trips captured some of Boyd’s Shoalhaven, in particular the cleft triangular rock formations where the rock reflections in the water make diamond shapes.

As well as sketching and painting along the river most mornings, the everyday activities away from the city routine seemed unremarkable at the time, and yet it is these experiences that evoke the memory of place. Some of the scenes.

Blazing down the Hume Highway hammered by hail and wind blasted. Morning crystal clear water and perfect reflections, springtime dappled afternoon forest sunlight, wood fire and smoke, downpours and rainbows, a night of howling wind and pelting rain. Chirping sparrow chicks in the eaves, early risers no sleeping in, sound of a crow then complete silence. Rushing around town in Braidwood (population 1,651) in freezing intermittent sleet flurries in search of hot pancetta for the slow cooked one dish wonder for dinner in front of the fire. Arriving at the nearby stream each day just as the local platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) disappeared, that outlier on the tree of life2, the elusive monotreme ‘no relation to fish or fowl, nor bird nor beast, nor horned owl, in fact he is the one and only’3. Standing up sketching on river rocks, one small slip, sketch book flung afar but fortunately no injuries. Driving down an isolated, bone rattling, long dirt ‘road’ to Monga National Park, thought out loud ‘not a good place to get a flat tyre or break down’, no mobile coverage. Then, to reinforce that thought, on a tight curve in the washboard road, a weathered, worse for wear, pre-war (WWII) bungalow with a lone, wary, old blue cattle dog (the breed usually described as ‘energetic and intelligent with an independent streak, prone to accidental injury’) on guard on the veranda, one ear pricked at the sound of the car. Nailed to a dead tree nearby a sign painted in large red letters ‘no public phone here’. The ‘road’ a scene of utter wombat (Vombatus ursinus) carnage. I counted at least twenty bodies in about one hour of driving, and began to wonder if they had been deliberately run down, either that or mown down by an inebriated maniac in a hurry at dusk to get home in time for dinner. The wagon came out of that day a little bit worse for wear which was confirmation of the travellers rule ‘never trust hand drawn maps found in local shops’.

From there, onward to ‘walk ten thousand miles read ten thousand books’ (Gu Yanwu, 17th century late Ming, early Ching dynasty).

Captains Flat
Majors Creek
Monga National Park

Sense of Place


Platypus territory, near Braidwood 14/10/2009


Diamond reflections, Shoalhaven River, Bombay Reserve 17/10/2009


Rock reflections, Shoalhaven River, Bombay Reserve 17/10/2009


Flying rocks, Shoalhaven River, Bombay Reserve 17/10/2009


Vision splendid near Braidwood 18/10/2009

P1010034 (2)

Riverbank and four rocks, the Shoalhaven at Bundanon 12/6/2011


The Shoalhaven at Bundanon 12/6/2011


Shoalhaven River, Bombay Reserve 27/8/2012


Monga National Park 31/8 2012


Araluen 1/9/2012


Shoalhaven River, Bombay Reserve 2/9/2012

Sketches in ink and acrylics

2009 Braidwood Pond 14 October 2009 20170827_140250 (2)

Platypus territory, Braidwood 14/10/2009

2009 Braidwood Pond 14 October 2009 P1020651

Platypus territory, Braidwood 14/10/2009

Riverbank Shoalhaven River at Bundanon 12/6/2011


2012 Braidwood 3 Sept 2012 P1010512

Shoalhaven River, Bombay Reserve 28/8/2012

Riverbank Shoalhaven River 3/9/2012

2012 Braidwood 3 Sept 2012 P1010544

Shoalhaven River, Bombay Reserve 3/9/2012


Art References

Boyd (Arthur) Reflecting Rocks 1975 AGNSW
Arthur Boyd, Reflecting Rocks 1975

Boyd (Arthur) Riverbank and Rock Cleft 1974-6 (2)
Arthur Boyd, Riverbank and Rock Cleft 1974-6

Boyd (Arthur) River, Sandbank, Figure and Red Hill 1975-6 (2)
Arthur Boyd, River, Sandbank, Figure and Red Hill 1974-6

Boyd (Arthur) Shoalhaven River 1976
Arthur Boyd Shoalhaven River, 1976

Boyd (Arthur) Rocks at Budgong Creek 1979
Arthur Boyd, Rocks at Budgong Creek, NSW 1979

Boyd (Arthur) Three Rocks Near Punt Road, Bindanon 1981 (2)
Arthur Boyd, Three Rocks Near Punt Road Bundanon, 1981

Boyd (Arthur) Bundanon Series 1982 (2)
Arthur Boyd, Bundanon Series 1982

Boyd (Arthur) River bank and four rocks 1993
Arthur Boyd, River bank and four rocks, 1993

Walker (John R), CH Crossing the Shoalhaven, 2001
John R Walker, CH Crossing the Shoalhaven, 2001

Walker (John R) View from Arthur_s spot and Calypso Creek, 2001-2
John R Walker, View from Arthur’s spot and Calypso Creek, 2001-2

Rees (Lloyd) The Timeless Land 1965 (3)
Lloyd Rees, The Timeless Land, 1965

Whiteley (Brett) The Meting Place 1981
Brett Whiteley, The Meeting Place, 1981

Frederick McCubbin, Last Impressions 1907-17, National Gallery of Australia, 15 October 2009
Abstract Expressionism, National Gallery of Australia, 25 August 2012
Arthur Boyd, Agony & Ecstasy, National Gallery of Australia, 26 September 2014
John R Walker, Here I give thanks, Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra, 6 August 2015

 Other references
1The Artist & The River – Arthur Boyd and the Shoalhaven, Sandra McGrath, 1982
2The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, The Lost Hero of Science, Andrea Wulf, 2015

3A.B. ‘Banjo’ Patterson, Old Man Platypus (recall it being read out loud in primary school on wet Friday afternoons):

Far from the trouble and toil of town,
Where the reed beds sweep and shiver,
Look at a fragment of velvet brown –
Old Man Platypus drifting down,
Drifting along the river.

And he plays and dives in the river bends
In a style that is most elusive;
With few relations and fewer friends,
For Old Man Platypus descends
From a family most exclusive.

He shares his burrow beneath the bank
With his wife and his son and daughter
At the roots of the reeds and the grasses rank;
And the bubbles show where our hero sank
To its entrance under water.

Safe in their burrow below the falls
They live in a world of wonder,
Where no one visits and no one calls,
They sleep like little brown billiard balls
With their beaks tucked neatly under.

And he talks in a deep unfriendly growl
As he goes on his journey lonely;
For he’s no relation to fish nor fowl,
Nor to bird nor beast, nor to horned owl;
In fact, he’s the one and only!




Daintree National Park and the Art of Cape York, Queensland

Going back through material collected from a trip in 2010 to the tropical north for the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, continues to provide a wealth of information on the dynamic indigenous art scene. Getting out into the environment heighted the appreciation of the art from the region, with time for day trips to the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation where the rainforest meets the reef. The national park, founded in 1981, is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Site, achieved after a long environmental campaign in the 1980s.

Despite all the road sign warnings, there were no sightings of the elusive cassowary (aka emu in a party hat). Migaloo the white whale didn’t make an appearance either, the whale cruises up and down the east coast, winters in the tropics and summers in Antarctica.

Held annually, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair includes works from across Queensland and the Torres Strait. Indigenous Australian art has a long lineage. A recent archaeological dig now puts occupation at over 65,000 years in northern Australia at the Madjedbebe camp site.1 Contemporary indigenous art emerged in the 1970s2. Today many works feature pointillism combined with aerial perspective, intense colours, particularly those from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia which dominate the current art scene3, reclaiming country through art. This year marks a ‘radical change’4 in the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, for first time it includes a large number of paintings by the APY artists, and its about time.

In comparison with the central desert (sacred designs), Arnhem Land (bark paintings), and APY paintings, the works from Cape York feature lyrical abstraction, action painting, are gestural, atmospheric with mood and emotion, the ‘Sand beach’ people where art and culture reflect deep understanding of the environment and its seasonal moods.’5 A style dealing with what is important to the community today. Some of the artists from Cape York and works below.

From the Lockhart River area (850 kilometres north of Cairns) 5:
Samantha Hobson scenes of fire, flying over the reef, and the beach at night.
Rosella Namok rain series, psychological impact, mood, atmosphere, ‘metaphysical aspect (conceptual not visual aspects of a subject but understanding and knowledge of it)’, personal experience, understanding of place.
Fiona Omeenyo free flowing line, expressionist figurative compositions, ancestral figures and kin relationships, coastal imagery past and present, Quinkan rock art iconography.

Judy Watson from northwest Queensland. Themes of political invisibility, dislocation, cultural memory, politics of place. Pigment soaked canvasses, works intuitively through listening to oral histories, travelling into country, and research of official records.

Places and events
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Green Island
Port Douglas
Daintree National Park
Cape Tribulation
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Kuranda

Sense of Place


Port Douglas 22/8/2010


Daintree River 22/8/2010


Cape Tribulation 22/8/2010



Sand crab art, Cape Tribulation 22/8/2010


Sand crab art, Cape Tribulation 22/8/2010


Green Island 23/8/2010


Monarch of the tropics 24/8/2010

Art References

Hobson (Samantha) Bust im up 2000 NGV

Samantha Hobson, Bust ’im up, 2000

Hobson (Samantha) Flying Over the Reef 2001_141803

Samantha Hobson, Flying Over the Reef, 2001

Hobson (Samantha) Burn grass season night time coming, 2001 NGV

Samantha Hobson, Burn grass season: night time coming, 2001

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Samantha Hobson, Burn Grass Season, 2002

Hobson (Samantha) Bush Fire 2002_142220 (2)

Samantha Hobson, Bush Fire, 2002

Namok (Rosella) Blue Water 2002_142316 (2)

Rosella Namok Blue Water, 2002

Namok (Rosella) Kaapan & Kuyan 2002_141912 (2)

Rosella Namok, Kaapan & Kuyan, 2002

Namok (Rosella) Boggy Road to Chili Beach 2002_142003 (2)

Rosella Namok, Boggy Road to Chili Beach, 2002

Namok (Rosella) Clan Groups Not Sharing Rough Times 2004 (2)

Rosella Namok, Clan Groups Not Sharing Rough Times, 2004

Namok (Rosella) Soft Morning Rain 2004_142036 (2)

Rosella Namok, Soft Morning Rain, 2004

Namok (Rosella) Today Now..We'pia Change 2004_142350 (2)

Rosella Namok, Today Now..We’pia Change, 2004

Namok (Rosella) Before Time...Proper Strong 2005_142414 (2)

Rosella Namok, Before Time…Proper Strong, 2005

Omeenyo (Fiona) Family Day 2006_141941 (2)

Fiona Omeenyo, Family Day, 2006

Omeenyo (Fiona) Many Rivers to the Sea 2006_141646 (2)

Fiona Omeenyo, Many Rivers to the Sea, 2006

Watson (Judy) museum piece 1998 AGNSW

Judy Watson, museum piece, 1998

Watson (Judy) names of the natives 2010 NGA

Judy Watson, names of the natives, 2010

Watson (Judy) bunya 2011

Judy Watson, bunya, 2011

Other references

1 Buried tools and pigments tell a new history of humans in Australia for 65,000 years, The Conversation 20 July 2017

2 How the Men’s Painting Room at Papunya transformed Australian art, John Kean, The Conversation 30 June 2017

3 Why the remote APY Lands dominate the Australian art scene, ABC RN by Georgia Moodie for ABC Books and Arts

4A delightfully playful portrait, a historic moment for landscape painting, Joanna Mendelssohn, The Conversation 29 July 2017

5 Our Way Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Lockhart River, Sally Butler 2007