Banana Flower – Georgia O’Keefe

After visiting the MoMA exhibition recently, I was struck by the power and dynamism of the art movements from the 1880s onwards. What also left an impression on me was that I was in the company of incredible male artists and figureheads who drove the direction of modern art. Female artists were definitely in the minority.

Within the exhibition, to the left of Dali’s Persistence of Time (which was so shockingly smaller than anticipated) were two modest drawings, both charcoal on paper (though with their incredible execution, you could have mistaken them for ink or oils). They were drawn by Georgia O’Keefe, America’s “Mother of Modernism”. The drawing in particular that spoke to me was Banana Flowers, pictured below. It hung silently, yet confidently on the wall, and the masterful skill and the sensitivity of the drawing compelled me to examine it up close. It was unlike any other work in the exhibition.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Banana Flower, charcoal on paper, 1934

These drawings could have been easily missed amongst the intriguing worlds of Giorgio de Chirico and others in the same space. Hopefully this was not the case, however I wanted to highlight this one incredible drawing in this month’s newsletter.

Georgia O’Keefe (1887 – 1986) studied art formally, however she found that being taught how to draw and paint like other artists was not inspiring. After a hiatus, the work of artist/teacher Arthur Wesley Dow piqued her interest and she begun drawing and painting as she liked. She spent many months of the year in New Mexico, where she fell deeply in love with the landscape. She had an intense response to nature and a need to recreate the equivalent in art.

Her relationship with photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz proved challenging to O’Keefe when he applied Freudian interpretations to her abstract art, which, in turn, influenced art critics’ opinions. She had also posed nude for Stieglitz’ photography, and the link between exploring her sexuality through art was even stronger for it. However, this was not at all the case. She turned to creating works of recognisable objects, still lifes, and her famous close-up, large-scale flowers to try and dislodge this falsely created persona. Flowers, however, did not escape the same interpretation.

To this day there is still discussion around whether O’Keefe’s flower works depict female genitalia; in 2016, Tate Modern curated a Retrospective with 100 or her works offering alternative views on this theory. The exhibition aimed to dispel these myths by presenting works spanning six decades. The large-scale, cropped flowers for which most of the clichés about her work persist, were influenced by modern photography of the 1920s. A love for nature and landscape inarguable flows through her work and the exhibition portrayed this as her most persistent source of inspiration.

Written by Lauren Ottaway

A call for young artists – headspace Dream Catcher Art Competition

Dream Catch competitionMental health touches many of us, our loved ones, and is particularly prevalent among creative people. You don’t need to look very hard to find an artist who was affected by mental illness; Van Gogh, Gauguin and Rothko, who suffered from bouts of debilitating depression; Munch’s anxiety and hallucinations; Michelangelo’s underlying melancholia, just to name a few.

I believe that a creative outlet plays an important part of a life touched by mental illness. The entire spectrum of emotion can be acknowledged and celebrated, because it is OK to feel sad, and happy, and everything in between. I myself am extremely thankful for these artists, as well as the many creative people around me who continue to express themselves.

Headspace Hawthorn is celebrating Mental Health Week 2015 with an art exhibition dedicated to young people’s hopes and dreams for the future. MAC, along with headspace would like to invite our young artists to enter artwork that reflects this theme and join in this celebration of creativity.

The event is open to 12 to 25 year olds and entry is free. Three artists will WIN a $200 JB-HI-FI voucher and a NGV Membership. You can submit your entry by email; please include your full name, mobile number, medium-size photo of your artwork and a brief description before Thursday 8th October to

When: Thursday 8th October, 6 pm to 9 pm

Where: Dream Catcher Art Exhibition at Appleton Street Studios, 53 Appleton St, Richmond VIC 3121, Australia

More information

Melbourne Exhibition Review: Kate Daw – Love, Work (Show Me Grace)

Kate Daw: Love, Work (Show Me Grace)
at Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne

Elizabeth Fritz

Kate Daw’s exhibition, Love, Work (Show Me Grace) is her third solo exhibition at Sarah Scout Presents.

As I entered the gallery’s hallway, I was surrounded by pale lilac wallpaper with a floral motif. This is Daw’s installation that has been described as ambitious. It felt intimate and inviting and made quite an impact but on closer inspection it started to reveal a whole lot more.

I started noticing uneven edges and fraying, this wallpaper is in fact pieces of dyed calico that have been pasted to the wall. The origin of the floral images is twofold; the gardenias are photographs straight from Daw’s garden and her student created the linear flower drawing. These two images have been printed onto fabric to create a visually rich and somewhat feminine feel. The textural effect works well. “Striking” commented a man as he walked into the hallway.

Image courtesy of artist and Sarah Scout Presents.
Image courtesy of artist and Sarah Scout Presents.

The remaining space is comprised of a further two rooms. The artwork in the first room was not what I expected. There are two paintings, one on canvas with the word ‘MAM’SELLE’ and the other on reclaimed blackboards comprising of light blue flowers heads. On the adjacent wall was a series of small boards, some with text and some with images. I read the texts over and over trying to get a sense of the meaning. One of the boards posed this question; “What is important in your life? “Fresh coffee and a sense of autonomy” was the response. There are in fact big questions offered up on these small boards. Such as what true happiness might be? And is there ever a point of satisfaction we arrive at? What initially appeared to be a somewhat underwhelming room was suddenly being transformed into a contemplative space. Here the viewer could be confronted with weighty topics that were based on actual conversations between Daw and a few young women.

Daw’s diverse influences continue to be evident in the second room. Floral motifs, words painted on black boards and references to sisterhood dominate.

KATE DAW Blue Flowers (when we slept in the studio you gave me some good ideas) 2015 oil paint on found blackboard 41.5 x 60.5 cm (framed) Image courtesy the artist and Sarah Scout Presents
KATE DAW Blue Flowers (when we slept in the studio you gave me some good ideas)
oil paint on found blackboard
41.5 x 60.5 cm (framed)
Image courtesy the artist and Sarah Scout Presents
I am not really interested in logical links, rather how far I can stretch things both from their     original source and from one another. I am fascinated by certain books, relationships, memories and associative, sensory experience, among other things.
Kate Daw in conversation with author.

Love, Work (Show Me Grace) is a collection that showcases Daw’s interest in literature, design and reproduction but at the same time there is something jarring about how she paired the complexities of the underlying subject matter to the almost simplistic, child-like works of art. But perhaps this is precisely what makes it compelling and thought provoking.

Love, Work (Show Me Grace), until May 16
Open Wed-Sat 12pm-5pm
Suite 15, Level 1
12 Collins St. Melbourne

Andrea J. Smith’s exhibition at Australian Galleries

Andrea J. Smith’s new body of work was recently exhibited at Australian Galleries, Derby Street.
Andrea J. Smith Three ladels, 2011
Andrea J. Smith Three ladels, 2011

Andrea was a guest artist at Melbourne Art Class in 2013, discussing her art and work practices such as the use of the “sight size” technique.

Knowing how she creates her works allowed me to examine the paintings in her exhibition with a more attuned eye and not just simply be overawed by her skill.
 Andrea trained in the use of traditional oil painting techniques used by the old masters at the Florence Academy, which is evident in her work.
Every portrait and still life has a strong illusionary quality.  When standing afar, you may think you are peering in to a Mediterranean kitchen, with plump, bold tomatoes, eggplants and persimmons playing the characters on weathered surfaces and rusted metal.
However, when you get closer to the paintings, you can see playful brushstrokes skilfully placed to give a slight sheen to the skin of fruit, or the crispness to a lemon leaf.

Andrea J. Smith detail of Ladle and lemons 2014
Andrea J. Smith detail of Ladle and lemons 2014
Andrea has explored combinations of complimentary colours in her still life works, Composition of blue and orange, Composition of red and green. The colours do not seem to be the focus of these still lifes however, as they do not dominate her limited palette.
The portraits in her exhibition all have a haunting quality to them. Her subjects stare at you, illuminated by the gold leaf surrounding them; they almost float towards you.

Andrea J. Smith The four seasons 2003
Andrea J. Smith The four seasons 2003

These paintings have bolder colours, yet retain the soft, almost dusty light that Andrea captures in her still lifes.

She also has a number of landscape paintings in her exhibition, which appear to be painted more freely than the other works.
A looseness and energy to her brushwork is evident, where only a few brush strokes suggest sky, or grass, giving her work a real freshness and freedom compared to her still lifes.
Andrea J. Smith Harcourt 2014
Andrea J. Smith Harcourt 2014

These landscapes are some of her latest works; perhaps we are seeing a shift of Andrea’s technique?

Written by Lauren Ottaway – current MAC student