The 21st century has not delivered all that was promised. I still await the delivery of my personal jet pack. However, some people do fly to work. Late one afternoon I watched a tiny yellow plane inch from one side of the sky to the other. I imagine a farmer was at the joystick, flying back to her remote homestead, puttering off into the gathering darkness.
I know what you’re thinking: “not another painting of a hand dryer!” But this one was a beauty. I was at an art show and went into the men’s room. And there it was. It was not a particularly powerful dryer; it could not deliver the visceral thrill of, say, a Dyson Air Blade. Indeed, it was more like having your hands breathed on by an old asthmatic horse. But the dryer was chrome plated and looked like a Cylon out of Battlestar Gallactica (if a Cylon assumed the form of a bathroom appliance). Frak! I just had to paint it.
Have you tried plein air painting in a men’s room? It’s a challenge. As you’ll see below, there were lots of crazy shadows and glancing highlights from the harsh lighting. The easel got in the way too.
There is a constant thumpety thump as cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes cross the expansion joints of the Burke Road bridge. Under the bridge, the river glideth at its own sweet will, on its journey from the vast inland down to the sea.
It may be news to French readers but Australia had its own impressionist movement. It was mostly carried out by the Heidelberg School, a group of painters who perhaps should have been more properly called the ‘Box Hill and Eaglemont School’. No matter, the places they painted are all changed utterly, and are now vast tracts of suburbia that look roughly similar.
This picture celebrates the Hurstbridge train line, which cuts through the Heidelberg School’s old painting grounds, binding Heidelberg to the centre of Melbourne with rails of steel. An old staging inn stands nearby, where the ghosts of pre-train travellers stay overnight before the final day of their spectral horse and wagon journey into the city.
Buying birthday presents is always difficult, and Beijing set the bar high by giving Canberra a garden for its 100th birthday. And the garden has sculptures in it, and they are not of pink flamingoes or lawn jockeys. This is a copy of a 2,000 year old bronze of a galloping horse from the Eastern Han Dynasty. Obviously a sculptor in ancient China loved horses, had an eye for capturing movement, and what Robert Hughes might have called ‘a whiplash sense of line’.
To symbolise its speed, the horse is standing on a flying swallow. I once accidentally ran over a crow in my wheezy Ford Falcon (which did not look or move like an avian predator in the least). The result was much less elegant and left me grief and guilt stricken for weeks.
I painted the horse in a hurry and didn’t bother erasing the false starts and other draft details. Best to keep things spontaneous. I may paint in a background, but I fear it will compromise the picture’s freshness. We’ll see.