Getting the attention of your crush in 1908

As February is the month of love, we thought it would be appropriate to feature one of the most romantic and sensual paintings in history – The Kiss (Lovers), by Gustav Klimt.

Before Klimt’s gold period (during which The Kiss was painted), Klimt painted for the State, with his work being hugely acclaimed by officialdom. These works were academic and traditional in style. One of his most famous earlier works is the ceiling painting in the Burgtheater in Vienna. Measuring 7.5m by 4m, this incredible work depicts the Greek theatre in Taormina. Everything in this painting is meticulously described and observed; the majestic building forms the backdrop to the foreground where a woman is performing. Klimt, in partnership with his brother Ernst and their friend Franz Match (eventually disbanded), decorated theatres throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and much of their work can still be seen today.

Theater in Taormina, Gustav Klimt, oil on marble, 1886-8

In his 30s he was cast out as a rebel after the scandal surrounding his paintings for the University of Vienna; large-scale ceiling paintings including motifs of Medicine, Jurisprudence, and Philosophy. Klimt did not adhere to his conservative-historical painting style and was asked repeatedly to rework the paintings. He liked to quote the poet, Friedrich Von Schiller (1759-1805), “If you cannot please everyone through your actions or your artwork, then please the few. To please the multitude is bad.”  Unfortunately, together with many other works by Klimt, the paintings were destroyed in a fire set by the retreating German army during the last days of war.

During this period, Klimt’s reputation transformed and his artistic person reinvented. He became the first President of the Vienna Succession, also known as the Union of Austrian Artists, with a vision to end the the distinctions in considering some art to be superior to others.

Kilmt travelled to Ravenna in 1903 and saw the Byzantine mosaics in the Basilica of San Vital for the first time. Witnessing the rich, vivid mosaics and the power of their beauty was a turning point in Klimt’s art practice, and saw the creation of The Kiss.

It has been speculated that this masterpiece had a personal agenda for the artist. It is claimed that the woman featured is Emilie Floge, fashion entrepreneur, long-time friend of Klimt’s and his sister-in-law. A sketchbook was discovered in 1917 containing preparatory sketches of The Kiss, with “Emilie” written in big letters beside them. There was controversy surrounding the platonic nature of their relationship, as Klimt kept his personal life out of the public eye. When he collapsed, suffering a stroke (which led to his death) in 1918, his first words were “Fetch Midi” (his name for Emily).

This incredibly beautiful painting, at 180cm x 180cm, shows their intense love transporting them into their own world, oblivious of their surroundings. The woman, beautiful, serene and passive, like most women in Klimt’s work, softly touches the hand that is embracing her so lovingly. This painting is unlike his many erotic drawings and paintings of couples; the embrace is much more loving than overtly sensual.

The Kiss (Lovers), Gustav Klimt, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 1907–1908


Written by Lauren Ottaway

Managing stress through mindfulness and art therapy

A workshop for living

There are different types of stress that can affect the body in profound ways. Mindfulness, which has long been practised in the East, is making a positive impact on the Western world by helping us stop and tune into our body. Our lives are increasingly jam-packed, with many people feeling like they are chasing their life, rather than living it. It doesn’t have to be like this! This is where mindfulness and art therapy play an important role.

Through the creative process, we will look at where you are now and explore new insights and strategies for living. These art processes give you a chance to experiment with changes you may like to make in 2018 before trying them out in real life.

Sometimes we may really want to try something new, but there are blocks or things stopping us from trying (fear, anxiety, perfectionism, money); the art therapy can look at these and help problem solve so you can move forward if you choose to.

Art therapy is for self-exploration, as no-one else can interpret your artwork; only you know what you think and feel and express through the art. There is the opportunity to share and gain new understanding through the verbal process if you choose to.

No artistic ability is needed as the art is an expression of your thoughts and feelings through colour, shapes and symbols using various art mediums. Some of the mediums we will use are collage, acrylic paints, and pastels.

Join us and learn the benefits that mindfulness can have on your everyday life.

Workshop details

  • Dates: Saturdays, 24-Feb
  • Location: Enderby Studio, 314 Church Street, Richmond
  • Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm
  • Materials: All materials included
  • Course fee: $114 incl. GST
  • Enrolments:

An open letter to Australia.

Dearest Australia,

This Australia Day I am going draw your landscape.

I’m not trying to make a political statement here, nor deny the significance and the impact of Australia day being on January 26th. On that point, I’ll just give my opinion and get it out of the way; I believe that the celebration of “all the things we love about Australia”* on the date of January 26th, is not going to enable all Australians to celebrate, no matter how much we would like them to. Once you understand the trauma from colonisation, you understand.

You will have to excuse my excesses with opinion and I should clarify that I have seen over four decades of life with you, Australia, in which time you have changed and so have I. I have loved you and at times have left you, but I remain utterly convinced that I belong to you.

I grew up as an Italian immigrant boy in country Victoria, speaking only Italian until I went to school. My mother did her best to connect me to you Australia, her new land. I remember when I was little, her encouraging me to collect images of the royals and paste them in a scrapbook. But it was not the royals, or when you were settled by Europeans, or even how big a figure Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser played in my father’s political narrative that formed my sense of belonging to you. OK, being invited to Canberra at the age of twelve to see Malcolm Fraser launch a book of Australian children’s cartoons, which included my cartoon, did have some impact on my sense of belonging, I admit, but now I am name dropping.

My little cartoon, in the wake of an Australian meat substitution scandal

It was the way you embraced my mother that first gave me a sense of belonging. My mother, taking my newborn sister to the health nurse when I was seven was the first time I remember feeling cared for by you. I think somewhere in my mind, I was aware that my mother had lost four siblings during their childhood, when growing up in Sicily. It seemed like people here in Australia, checked my sister at the health clinic, because they cared. My mother immigrated here as a young woman because her work as a seamstress in her Sicilian town would often go unpaid. She told me that after she began working for Zara Holt, Harold’s wife who ran a fashion label out of Toorak, she was delighted to receive a regular payslip. Growing up in your schools, or getting work often spoke of fairness and equity to me. Despite what I sometimes have perceived as a lack of empathy, I have generally experienced your laws and administration as fair. (I won’t mention much about your failings here, as I too have a responsibility to fix these.)

In primary school they taught us songs like ‘Kookaburra’ and read Dorothea Mackellar’s, ‘My Country’. I cannot forget her words or the images they evoked. Later your painters filled my mind with images of the bush. Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton painted at Mentone, near where over a century later I lived and spent the morning of my wedding day swimming alone. I have flown over your incomprehensible distances, driven through you and stood at the edge of the world where the Nullarboor Plain meets the Indian ocean. I have ridden my bicycle across you like Sydney Nolan whose work told me that I could feel irrational in the face of your space. Then there’s Fred Williams, what can I say; his work told me I could be a painter and that I could paint the landscape again. Albert Tucker, who I met in the ‘bargain basement’ of Myer told me to keep painting, ‘paint, paint, paint’, he said. Oh, and Gordon Bennett who spoke of silence through his work and his life, and has now fallen silent. It is not just the space you have to be aware of here, but watch for the silence also.

Marco Corsini, Where I stand, 2010, oil on canvas, 100 cm. x 100 cm. Private collection

Your harshness, your heat, Australia, your vague horizons. My memory soaked with the landscape I grew up within. After seeing his father go broke growing tobacco on the harsh ground of Eldorado, my father retreated into town to work as a diesel mechanic, but many weekends and even some weeknights were spent on my families’ tobacco farms, where, he really wanted to be. He didn’t say much, but he once mentioned what it was like to be up through the night running the irrigation for the tobacco. He mentioned the stars. It must have looked like a William Robinson night sky. I worked on the land seasonally from the age of twelve; tobacco, hoe rasping dry earth and the end of the row quivering in the distance. Later, graduating to fruit picking and eventually to working for the state power company, all in the same district. I now count myself very fortunate that I was able to be so immersed in your land.

Your space and your silence. I am seeking the consciousness of Midnight Oil to rage for your heart and to echo your haunting beauty like young Iva Davies’, ‘Great Southern Land’. I belong to you Australia; I have to admit, I don’t think I completely understand you, but as I draw, I will try to.

Written by Marco Corsini


Seeing but seeing.

André who has been attending my Studio Art class this term spent an entire session drawing a Protea. A charming older man who is always brimming with encouraging and engaging energy; he turned to me and exclaimed in his beautiful French accent, ‘I see, but I don’t see.’ For he had been drawing the complex flower for about two hours, only to come to the realisation that after drawing what he thought he had seen, he found himself coming back to see that what he had drawn didn’t really correspond with a deeper understanding he was gaining of the flower.

I had understood what he meant. After all, my own journey as an artist and in many respects as a person has been one of seeing, only to realise what I thought I saw was not the actual reality, but an approximate reality. I’m sure we can all relate to this.

After having thought about the comment he had made, I raised the topic at our next class. André responded by describing his own journey of realising how preconceived notions can get in the way of real perception. He said he had realized this when undertaking studies in philosophy. He spoke of his realisation that to understand what one is looking at, one has to become, in his words, ‘nothing’. I took this to mean that one has to suspend all judgement. It almost seems a little absurd that one would have to suspend judgment when encountering something as simple as a flower. But even in encountering a Protea, to have to quieten ourselves and observe, then observe again, we realize that we really don’t have the capacity to comprehend what is ultimately infinite in its nature. With the perceiving of all things, especially other people, we comprehend but we cannot ever fully grasp.

André, pencil on paper, 2017

Above: André’s drawing of the Protea on the left which he theatrically signed off at the bottom announcing, ‘Remember that name’.

The conversation with André reminded me of some comments a friend who works as a counsellor made to me recently. He said that the most powerful thing anyone can do for somebody who is seeking counsel is to listen without judgement. According to my friend, this is very difficult for most of us to do. I have since been trying to suspend judgement and am resisting the habit I have of giving advice when in conversations. I’ve resisted the urge to judge what was being said, included asking leading questions based on my own assumptions and internal reactions. I would have to say that to be listened to seems to be helpful for other people, so I have tried it again and again. Perhaps making art stems from the desire to be heard with the process of manipulating materials giving artists, for a period, the ability to speak without being interrupted. What does all this say about us, this hunger to be heard, to be understood?

The courses and workshops we teach focus on the fundamentals of art practice. Interestingly in an age where there is a multiplicity of art practices, most people that come to MAC want to draw and paint. Most people have tried and are seeking to deepen their understanding of these art disciplines. We live with abundant possibilities available to us, including almost infinite access to images, yet for many of us there stirs within us a desire to do something as simple as draw. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise; drawing is one of the few key ways in which we encounter the world and translate it. Drawing, mathematics, language, and music are some key ways in which we encounter, understand and manipulate the world. Drawing is the most direct way of perceiving the world in a spatial way, so we shouldn’t be surprised at its popularity. Perhaps, we should be asking instead why we dismiss drawing so soon after early childhood, when it is so fundamental to perception. By focusing on the foundational aspects of drawing and painting, I’ve been able to appreciate that skills we once presumed were gifts are actually very similar to mathematics, or music, or language, in that they can be learnt through good training.

André’s declaration of seeing but not seeing indicates that at the heart of good training in drawing and painting is the setting aside of all assumptions. To start with, setting aside self-judgement about our ability to draw or paint. Then setting aside of other assumptions about the subject we are encountering. Often, we have spent a lifetime representing our subject using a formula which has more to do with the iconographic type of language than real perception. Think here of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. So much of how we teach centres upon introducing tools and techniques that enable people to see rather than reverting to a set visual language.

We see this setting aside of assumptions in great achievements such as in the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. I recently had the opportunity to return to see the Sagrada Famiglia Basilica in Barcelona. Designed by Gaudi, it has been under construction since 1882. He oversaw its construction from 1883 until his death in 1926. It quite literally is the fruit of a lifetime of dedication and study, encapsulating a vision which is unlike any other. Nothing can describe this Basilica adequately; the scale and intensity of a lifetime’s work condensed into one massive sacred building. I have never come close to tears in front of a building but this one caught me unawares. Gaudi not only redefined the aesthetics of architecture by studying nature and carrying across many organic aspects, he redefined the very mechanical nature of construction with that same study. The brilliance of the Sagrada Famiglia is that it not only looks organic, it is in many ways structurally organic, its engineering being based upon the structures Gaudi saw in nature.

Columns from the Sagrada Famiglia which contain within them several different mechanical elements which are copied directly from nature.

An experience of great art is an experience of seeing, of seeing reality, often all at once, as an intense surge of truth. And it is, exhilarating. Whilst we perceive the inherent fidelity almost instantaneously, it has been for the artist, a lifetime’s journey in learning to see and subsequently translate. We as the viewer are struck by the distilled truthfulness which has been translated from long experience and work. I think this is what drives me as an artist. It is the quest for the unreachable infinite which received one grain at a time through labour, then imbues all things with meaning. If a Protea can be infinite, complex and beautiful, then how much more then, our lives.

Written by Marco Corsini

Inside Marco’s Drawing in Nature class

Marco normally ventures out into the bush to draw and paint solo. However, he has been very generous this year and has given us the opportunity to draw under his tutelage in the environment which inspires him the most: nature. Take a look at his first class and the wonderful work they produced.

Marco will be running another 5-week course in February and also a speciality workshop – Drawing the Australian Landscape – over the Australia Day weekend


Alyssa DN copy
Alyssa, pencil on paper
Drawing along the Yarra in Kew
Don’s drawing
Don’s drawing (close-up)

Students’ work from our Abstract Painting Workshop

Marco ran an Abstract Painting Course over the long weekend.

Over seven hours, students explored colour theory, conceptual elements, tone, colour and composition in an artwork.

Students were given a number of ways to approach abstraction by looking for compositional ideas and manipulate shapes and forms. They began by creating collages using images from magazines, cut up paper, or by drawing from life using Still Life. These collages were then used to create the composition on their canvas.

This course provided a unique opportunity to explore abstraction and different compositional elements of an artwork. Take a look below at the incredible work that was produced during the workshop!

Below are the initial abstract concepts:

And here are the final works:

If you would like to join our next Abstract Painting Workshop, visit our course page and join our waiting list!

Have you asked Google “how to draw”?

Google recently revealed the top ten “how to” searches of all time, and “how to draw” made it in at number 5.

When you ask Google “how to draw”, the search results show an overwhelming number of step-by-step websites and videos on how to draw anything from a fox to the 3D alphabet. Whilst these instructional blogs and videos seem to satisfy the searcher’s needs, we know that it is with continued drawing practice that drawing skills improve. In fact, we have noticed that some students come to our classes after reaching the limit of what they can do through online training videos.

This is one reason why we do what we do. We design classes that help everyone and all skill levels – including those who are googling “how to draw”.  Our teachers are all practising artists themselves, and aim to help you with whatever you are searching to do creatively.

Why do we draw?

We begin expressing ourselves unselfconsciously through drawing before we can say our own name as it is an instinct we are born with. But by the time we finish school, most of us don’t pick up a pencil again for a very long time. As drawing does not seem to be of tangible use for everyday life, it is easy to place less importance on it, and ultimately forget about it.

We draw for self-expression; to process thoughts and feelings; for pleasure; to record moments in time; to read and interpret the world. Drawing is valuable in our lives because it is a form of visual thinking and challenges us in different ways, from hand-eye co-ordination, to how we really understand and “see” an object in front of us.

People often seek drawing classes in adulthood because few things in life can generate the same feeling that creativity can. Drawing can be calming, it can challenge us and change our brain patterns. Drawing classes are also a “mature” way to continue what we loved doing as children; we may attend classes for the familiar feeling that drawing creates within us, or because we want to become a master of the craft.

Jesse Dayan, Two Empty Chairs and a Top Hat Signifying a Brief Absence, Charcoal on Paper, 2012

We have also noticed that many people at Melbourne Art Class, once they have retired, seek drawing classes with us, because they now have the time to pursue something they have always wanted to do. We feel privileged that we can help these people reconnect with their creativity and the lost art of drawing.

The reasons why we draw are subjective and widely varied, however, we want to emphasise that it is never too late to pick up the pencil again.

We can teach you “how to draw”

Our classes provide an environment that cannot be replicated in an online tutorial. When you are around creative people, you feel yourself become more inspired and more likely to be motivated to return week after week. Practice, ultimately, will improve your drawing. And we believe everyone can draw.

We have a few drawing classes scheduled for the remainder of 2017 and we would love to help you improve, or refresh your drawing skills:

Drawing Bootcamp with Marco Corsini – Nov 4  

An intense crash-course introducing you to the fundamentals of drawing

Drawing in Nature – en plein air with Marco Corsini – 5 week course from Nov 12

A unique opportunity to draw alongside, and receive tuition from artist Marco Corsini in his natural element – the outdoors

General Drawing – Cylinders, Flowers, Folds and Fish with Marco Corsini – 6-week course from Nov 11

Be introduced to various classical strategies and techniques for drawing from Still Life

Introduction to Drawing – The Four Elements of Sketching with Hilmi Baskurt – 5-week course from Nov 21 

Explore the four basic elements of sketching and drawing, including understanding the subject’s structure, proportions, and the placement of its compositional elements.

And here is the rest of the list of “how to” questions we have been asking Google. How many have you asked?

  1. How to tie a tie
  2. How to kiss
  3. How to get pregnant
  4. How to lose weight
  5. How to draw
  6. How to make money
  7. How to make pancakes
  8. How to write a cover letter
  9. How to make French toast
  10. How to lose belly fat

Written by Lauren Ottaway

The magical effect of spring on artists

Although the weather is lagging a little, spring is definitely all around us. Beautiful pink and white buds are appearing and then blooming so quickly, leaving a beautiful blanket of colour on garden beds. The trees are transforming with abundant new growth and the birds are becoming louder each morning. This is such a fleeting time of this season, so we thought we would showcase some works that depict spring and rebirth in different ways. We hope this time of the year is also inspiring you, too!

Claude Monet, Springtime, oil on canvas, 1875

Claude Monet was one of the most prolific French Impressionist painters. Through Monet’s works, some of which were the same scene painted at different times of the day and year to reflect the changing light and seasons, you can clearly see the approach of capturing one’s perceptions before nature. In this painting, Springtime, you can also imagine Monet setting up with his easel in the fragrant, warm countryside capturing the early blossom of spring.

Sandro Botticelli, La Primavera, oil on canvas, c.1482

La Primavera literally translates to the season of spring. This masterpiece was commissioned by Lorenzo Pierfrancesco de’Medici and now hangs in the Uffizi in Florence. Venus stands in the centre of the canvas in a lush orange grove on a beautiful carpet of wildflowers. It is a celebration of the return of spring and the ripeness and fertility that the season brings as it awakens the world out of its cold, wintery slumber.

There are a number of interpretations of this work. Some believe that the woman in the foreground of the painting represents Primavera, the embodiment of spring. Others believe the figures on the right to be Zephyrus grasping at the nymph Chloris. According to myth, he married her and she was transformed to Goddess of Spring. And some see the figure with roses as representing the metamorphosis of Chloris to Flora.

Mary Cassatt, Spring Margot Standing in a Garden (Fillette dans un jardin), oil on canvas, 1900

Mary Cassatt produced many studies of young girls during the early 1900s. The child featured in this work is Margot Lux, from the village near Cassatt’s country home who modelled for Cassatt in more than fifty of her works. This image captures a fleeting instant of play suggested by the movement of Margot’s clothes slipping from her shoulder and bundling her dress in both hands – perhaps before or after running. The striking, pink flower in her bonnet and the warm background portray this beautiful moment on a spring day with soft application of paint and sensitive detail.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Spring, oil on canvas, 1622-35

This work celebrates the preparation of the land as spring nears. It shows the community working together to prepare the soil, sow seeds and plant crops as the world itself wakes up from a cold, Flemish winter. Brueghel would take his father’s sketches and drawings (Brueghel the Elder), and would execute them in paint, and many of these works detailed the lives of Flemish peasants. This particular piece is a re-working of his father’s drawing of 1565.

Katsushika Hokusai, Fuji from Gotenyama near Shinagawa on the Tokaido, colour woodcut, 1830-1835

Hokusai was a ukiyo-e painter and printer of the Edo period in Japan. He was inspired by Mt. Fuji and produced a series of thirty-six woodcuts depicting different viewpoints of the impressive volcano, entitled Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji. This work is part of that series and celebrates not only Japan’s national icon but its most revered season. Springtime is so heavily celebrated throughout the country that they have blossom reports on television during the weather report, complete with maps of Japan, which slowly turn pink as the whole country blooms. In Hokusai’s work, you can see the couple on the hill on a picnic blanket underneath the cherry tree; this is still a popular activity around the country and is the traditional way to enjoy the blossom in Japan. The other figures are dancing and celebrating the arrival of this vibrant and important season for Japanese people; not only is it meaningful for the farmers, the joy of spring is culturally ingrained

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Spring Bouquet, oil on canvas, 1866

Renoir’s work is absolutely bursting with colour, vitality, and spring. This is one of Renoir’s earlier works, as you can see the precise rendering of reality (although there is an apparent looseness), painted before his great Impressionist works of the 1870s. This wild work lends itself to a country garden in spring. The brightness of it, glowing with light and colour indicates that Impressionism is just around the corner.

Alfred Sisley, The Small Meadows in Spring, 1880-1

Sisley was there at the beginning of Impressionism with Pissarro and Monet, and a pioneer of the plein-air method and the movement’s aesthetic. Sisley’s work took on a new vitality when, due to financial reasons, he was forced to leave Paris and move to the countryside in 1880. He loyally worked en plein-air, which can be felt in his work, The Small Meadows in Spring. You will notice that there are no hints of spring blossom or wild flowers in this piece. It is his daughter painted in the foreground who represents the image of spring and new life.

Vincent van Gogh, Almond Blossom, oil on canvas 1890

The almond tree is one of the first to bloom in the southern regions of France and is a symbol of spring which can arrive as early as February. This beautiful, Japanese-inspired work was a gift for Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, whose wife had just given birth to their first child. The painting was meant to hang above their bed and represent new life.

Claude Monet, Springtime, oil on canvas, 1872

We had to include a second painting of Monet’s in this list, because this piece captures such a beautiful moment of solitude, in nature, and also reminds us how important it is to disconnect and be outside. Featured in this painting is Monet’s first wife, Camille Doncieux, who, before they were married, was his model in the 1860s and 70s. It has been claimed that she also modelled for Renoir and Manet.

This serene setting, with the dappled sunlight dancing on her dress through the canopy of trees, the wildflowers in the foreground and patches of warmth in the background magically captures a special moment in spring.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Primavera, oil on canvas, 1894

Dutch-born Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was infatuated with Rome and the ancient world. A classicist painter, in this work he portrays the annual Victorian custom of sending children into the countryside on May 1, however, the scene is placed in Rome.

In this impressive work, he used his extensive research of the ancient world to depict the dress, sculpture, architecture, and musical instruments. The procession of figures adorned with spring flowers, playing musical instruments, and surrounded by townspeople above celebrating spring renders a spectacular and captivating scene.

Margaret Olley, Ranunculus and pears, oil on canvas, 2004

Margaret Olley is a widely-recognised figure of Australian art and is one of the most significant still-life and interior painters. Ranunculus and pears is one of many Still Lifes she painted in her home, from which she drew inspiration. Many of her Still Lifes evoke the warmth and colour of spring. She also found beauty in the everyday objects she gathered around her, and most of her works feature pottery, art and exotica of her travels. She acquired many, many objects over her lifetime and her bulging studio almost became as famous as the artist herself! To outsiders, her house appeared chaotic, but Olley had actually arranged it like a Still Life.

Written by Lauren Ottaway.



The artist as receiver

Written by Marco Corsini

We all experience the same material world, albeit at different times and under different circumstances. As artists, we look at the same objects, however, the infinite possibilities our minds present and the possibilities of the medium we use, open up unique paths of interpretation and representation. As observer and representer, we discover a unique version of a perceived reality.

Spanish artist, Antonio López García has mentioned advising art students that they must choose between the objective and the subjective. While some of the nuances of his statement may remain lost in translation, I think what this means for most of us is that we should be aware of the creative tension between representing the world we understand with fidelity (the objective), and the language, the signs, the symbols, techniques, and strategies we use to represent that world (the subjective).

Juan Ford, The Luminary, 2015, oil on linen, 51 x 41 cm

If painting styles sit on a scale between the objective and the subjective, then Hyperrealism and Photorealism would sit at the objective end of the scale and Abstraction would be at the subjective end of the scale. A work really never has just one element alone, objective or subjective, but a mix of both, in different proportions.

For example, Hyperrealism and Photorealism are often images interpreted from a photographic image as the reference used by the artist, which has been used to assist in achieving extreme realist effects. However, although appearing objective, this technical process can introduce its own inherent element of subjectivity. Not only in the choices made (like subject and lighting), but subtly, in its technical means. Standing in front of a work by Juan Ford’s for example, soft, lens effects are evident, translated faithfully and most likely, consciously into the final painted image.

At the other extreme could be a work like that of Sean Scully whose abstraction looks subjective, but has various objective real-world origins. I’ve seen it quoted that Scully’s abstract paintings are inspired by the shapes and the patterns of New York City’s walls, facades, and hoardings. I’ve also read that they originate in Scully’s experience of a checkered Irish society. Either way, there is an objective element to a subjective interpretation.

Sean Scully, Raval Rojo, 2004, oil on linen, 92 cm. x 102 cm.

As artists, we are able to perceive and receive that which we observe. It is the observing that drives us to respond in the creative act, but also our attempt to respond in the same creative act, which drives us back to observe. We inhabit a cycle of receiving from that which we observe and responding, all because we make.

As artists, a creative tension exists between the objective which we observe and perceive as external to us, the objective which we receive, and the subjective elements of our response. It’s tempting to say that an artwork is an entirely subjective product, but if art were entirely subjective, we would not consistently be able to see universal elements in art which we understand and discuss corporately. These elements are a transferral of the objective, the perceived, received by the artist and communicated effectively enough to be referenced by others as an objective real world element. Elements such as Scully’s clashing yet simultaneous association of forms which give us a visual sense of what we may later be told are relationships within a society or urban habitation. We may not know what Scully’s inspiration or intention was but we get a sense of the relationships described through the visual. Or that we get a sense of isolation and irony when viewing the ridiculously bound yet robustly physical masculine figure by Ford, which seems to also represent something of the current male experience. There are real world elements in these artworks which render them in part, reflections of an objective world.

The three painters I have mentioned have all received in some way. Ford, his Australian male locality and subjectivity, his conceptual formation. Scully received from the pattern and form of his society, both in the cityscape and sociologically, also from the development of painting into modernism and abstraction. López García, received from being trained by his uncle when he was a boy and from his encounter with his immediate environment and life. These artists, having received, have also chosen to respond through their art practice, or we could say have chosen to give, because they have not just responded, they have passed something on, as if they themselves have become a conduit of the world. Each artist a unique conduit derived from the tension between objective and subjective.

Vincent van Gogh came to realise that he could receive and give through his immediate surroundings of light, colour and persons in southern France. He opened up to this provision that for him eclipsed, at least for a moment, negative experiences such as mental health struggles and poverty. I am not advocating a cure-all in art, but the fruit of such receiving and subsequent giving was visible in the lines of people that inhabited the National Gallery of Victoria for months during the recent exhibition, Van Gogh and the Seasons.

I adore the reclusive, awkward man, Paul Cézanne. Although just like Van Gogh, he was committed to working from life around him, Cézanne didn’t necessarily represent the world perfectly. To my mind, his paintings were sometimes awkward and flawed, but from the awkwardness and from his unique way of seeing the world, a position developed which translated into great visual poetry in his later work. Cézanne tells me that while my mastery of my craft as a painter may seem slow at times, if I am open to being a student of the painting tradition and if I open myself to receiving from that which is around me, I will eventually respond from my own beautiful position in the world. In giving in this way, I add something to the world.

Grand Via by Antonio López García, 1974-1981, oil painting, 88.9 cm. x 91.44 cm
Marco Corsini, Where I stand, 2010, oil on canvas, 100 cm. x 100 cm. Private collection


Work from our Life Drawing Class

There are many drop-in life drawing classes around Melbourne, which are fantastic for artists who have experience in drawing from the figure. Here at Melbourne Art Class, we run a unique, six-week Introduction to Life Drawing Course, tutored by a number of our talented artists / teachers. We have designed this course for students who would like to learn the fundamentals of life drawing and receive one-on-one tuition in a supportive environment. During this course, students learn different techniques for drawing the figure, and many of our students complete the course multiple times to hone in on different skills with our teachers’ guidance.

Our current Life Drawing Course is presented by Hilmi Baskurt, and the students have achieved incredible results in such a short time! You can see some of their brilliant work below.

Our next Life Drawing Course will be presented by artist Jesse Dayan, and this will sadly be his final short course at MAC. It has been an absolute honour having Jesse teach our Life Drawing short courses, and we are very fortunate that he will still be able to run Life Drawing workshops here at Melbourne Art Class in the future.

You can find out more about our tutored Life Drawing Courses and enrol here.

Click on the images below to enlarge them.