I began to reflect on the King River as a source. Its river stone beds and shallow streams, sometimes bubbling around arrangements of boulders, sometimes disappearing into deep, dark, still waters, which had never been beautiful to me when growing up and I had never thought of its significance in our lives beyond its supply of water. The river as a source which had branded a primordial sense of dependency and intimacy within me over my half lifetime. The river that constantly flowed, had always flowed, will always flow. The river that bound us around itself and preserved us. I slowly connected to the idea of source and slowly felt that my own dependency on this source was being revealed. That I had felt a need for years now, to constantly return to this source. I began to connect with the notion of origin and that just as I sat on the banks of this river or swam or drank from it, all I could ever do was draw close to it, to be within in, return to it. I had to return to this river. I have always returned to the King River.
From, Returning to the river, Marco Corsini, 2016
Marco Corsini’s paintings feature the landscape and his immediate environment. Using shifts in viewpoint and perspective and often painted over extended periods of time, the works explore perception and the nature of painting as a recorder of experience rather than as a representative tool. Alongside a phenomenological interest in consciousness and experience, Corsini’s work also incorporates personal motifs such as the horse, indicating the artist’s own presence. The paintings explore perception and subjectivity, asking us to go beyond everyday discourse into deeper engagement with the nature of our existence.
Originally published on Thursday, 29 March, 2018 by Marco Corsini
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!
Paintings that describe fragmented domestic spaces populated with disintegrating walls, are timely. They come when the industrial spaces around Rosi Griffin’s Collingwood studio are rapidly transforming with new developments continually springing up for a swelling inner city population. They come at a time when massive rises in Australian house prices have turned property development and residential renovation into a national sport when glossy magazine style layouts of idealised domestic spaces cloud our image of that the home has been for most of us.
The paintings, Fragmented Dwelling and Urban Transformation, describe this time as the disintegration of the domestic space. Not only is the possibility of ownership becoming more remote for emerging generations but for those that have a home, the domestic space is now set in the context of surrounding development and unattainable images of perfection. The domestic space is being threatened on many levels as materialistic impulses cloud out communal and familial impulses. The stability and viability of that space is being torn, dislocated and shredded like the walls in these paintings. We can no longer claim to be escaping the slums, as Modernism claimed almost century ago, rather, it is now all for the sake of the new and the ideal as dictated by fake images of domestic perfection.
Walls create a space that not only protect, but also provide a known place, and in that place gradually builds a narrative of belonging. The experience of a neighbourhood, the identification with a place are held by familiar walls. The walls of our home, the walls of our streets, are pages on which our stories are written. Without them we fall into a a perpetual present with no past, perpetual change eroding a language of belonging. Language of home gradually disintegrates and becomes abstracted until all that we have in its place are traces of memory of what was. As in Build after demolition, we no longer have identifiable walls, just the trace of walls that define a present space with no history and no story. Edges without containment and protection.
Opening Friday 2 June, 6 pm to 8 pm at St Heliers Street Gallery, Abbotsford Covent, 1 St Heliers Lane, Abbotsford.
Over the three months that Melbourne is home to an awe-inspiring collection of Van Gogh’s works spanning his life and representative of the seasons through which he viewed and painted the world, we will be taking a closer look at some of his works at the NGV.
In October 1884, Van Gogh sent a letter to his brother Theo, along with some small photos of his recent works, so that Theo (who was an art dealer) would have something to show of his work, if the opportunity arose. In the letter, he described Avenue of Poplars in Autumn as “The last thing I made is a rather large study of an avenue of poplars, with yellow autumn leaves, the sun casting, here and there, sparkling spots on the fallen leaves on the ground, alternating with the long shadows of the stems. At the end of the road is a small cottage, and over it all the blue sky through the autumn leaves.”
From this passionate and intricate description alone, you can get a real sense of Van Gogh’s love for Autumn. It was his favourite season, and he wrote in 1882, “I sometimes yearn for a country where it would always be autumn, but then we’d have no snow and no apple blossom and no corn and stubble fields.” 
Van Gogh was living back with his parents in Nuenen, in Norther Brabant, at the time he painted this work. A few months earlier he had been living alone in northern Netherlands, and, driven by loneliness, moved back to his parents’ house. Van Gogh was drawing and painting fervently at the time and the darkness in this image would carry through to his future work.
He began painting in oils in the early 1880s and really enjoyed the medium. You can see the liberal application of the paint in the details of the textured lines used to create the tall poplars and the woman in the foreground. The vibrant Autumn colours and soft graduated sky, combined with the tall, dark shadows, create an undisputable feeling of the season – something which Van Gogh, over his short ten-year career, translated onto the canvas with genius.
The melancholic interpretation of the painting inspired author Greg Bogarerts to write Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, a tragic story of the lone figure in the painting.
  Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written late October 1884 in Nuenen.
When paint brushes were more prevalent than selfie sticks
/ˈsɛlfi/ noun informal
a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.
Despite this modern definition of the selfie, it isn’t as recent a phenomenon as you might think. The term was coined in the 2000s, however, people have been creating selfies for centuries.
The oldest form of the selfie is the traditional self-portrait. Over the course of an artist’s life, self-portraits are created to physically represent the artist, to capture their emotional state (see Picasso’s Self-Portrait during his blue period below, mourning the loss of his friend), to announce their vocation as an artist among many other reasons we will most likely never know. As Picasso said, “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?”
Many portraiture artists were commissioned to immortalise the elite of the time on canvas. If you didn’t know how to paint (in a time when cameras didn’t exist), you paid an artist to create a portrait for you.
Spanish-born Velázquez joined the royal household as court painter, and over his forty years of service, he painted the king forty times. This may seem excessive, however, compared to the reported 93 million selfies that are taken each day, which would equate 2,583,333 rolls of film, I am not sure…
Although it may not seem to be at first glance, one of Velázquez’ key self-portraits is Las Meninas, below. The composition, which has been likened to a snapshot in time, features a number of figures from the Spanish court, and Velázquez himself, working at a large canvas. In the mirror at the back of the room you can see the reflection of the subjects of his painting, King Philip IV and Queen Mariana appearing to pose for Velázquez.
This incredible piece by Van Eyck is harder to identify as a self-portrait. Van Eyck was one of the first great Western artists to portray personal events of life. In this painting, he was the witness of for this Flemish wedding. Like many selfies taken today, pay particular attention to the mirror; you can see the artist in the reflection of this extremely intricate work.
Some of the most notable self-portraiture artists included Rembrandt, who produced over 40 self-portraits in his lifetime,
And Van Gogh, who would often lack money to pay for a sitter and would paint himself.
The significance of ageing can be seen in portraiture over the span of an artists’ life, like English Painter Stanley Spencer’s 1914 self-portrait below compared to his self-portrait completed 45 years later.
Frida Kahlo, considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, began painting whilst she was recovering from a near-fatal bus accident. She was not afraid to confront her pain and purged her emotions on the canvas. During her recovery, she had to wear a steel column to support her spinal column, below. Despite so much physical and emotional pain, she endured in her lifetime, she was able to transcend it and express it on the canvas. She painted 55 self-portraits during her career, and in 1939, her work, The Frame, became the first Mexican work to be purchased by the Louvre.
The first modern-day selfie
The first modern-day selfie was taken in 1839 by Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer of photography, using the first publicly-available photographic process, a daguerreotype.
Then the debut of the portable camera in 1900 saw the general public (those who could afford the invention) using it much like the masses use their smartphones today.
The 1970s saw the arrival of the classic Polaroid, and Andy Warhol became the King of the modern selfie we know today. People have said he Instagrammed his life before Instagram existed, however his long and in-depth work with photography and the human face revealed a lot more than your average Instagram feed. Warhol created self-portraits throughout his life, providing a glimpse into his personal sphere as he experimented with his image, including snapping himself in drag in 1981, and the infamous 1986 purple Self Portrait (which sold for over USD23 million in 2010).
Interestingly, we have seen history repeat itself, with the increase in popularity of large, personalised canvas prints of family members in the home. Not quite as extravagant as commissioning Velázquez, but along the same vein. The Polaroid has also made a return, with the tangible photograph creating excitement for people whose traditional medium is digital.
Combining of the mobile phone with a camera in the early 2000s facilitated the creation of the untameable beast that is the selfie movement of today. It has created careers, inspired pop songs, selfie sticks, and then a movement against selfie sticks. And with the help of social media platforms, it is a major part of internet culture.
Without having to constrain ourselves with a limit 36 photos on a film that needs developing at the chemist, the digital age is revolutionising how we portray ourselves, and our lives. Selfies are not stored in digital photos albums for reminiscing – they are shared online for instant gratification in the form of likes, loves and shares. Many argue that we are in the narcissistic age; we can invent, and re-invent ourselves using in-app filters and celebrities as inspiration. The ability to convey to the world that you are living a glamorous, or interesting life is easy to achieve with lighting, a head-tilt, filters, some hashtags and the tricks used to get a few hundred thousand fake online followers (no, we are not linking to this)! The selfie has made fame or the perception of fame more accessible, and desirable to the masses. But after the flood of adoration, post-selfie, how are we left feeling? One could suggest that an emptiness, an existential niggling remains in the void between the online and offline worlds. And the answer to post-selfie deflation of the digital age? Post another selfie.
So, where does that leave portraiture?
Humans will always be fascinated with humans, and although the selfie has evolved, traditional portraiture continues to intrigue us and is no danger of disappearing. At Melbourne Art Class we have noticed that our students find it enriching to turn off the screen and spend a longer, more meditative time creating an image of the person.
Whether the selfie is benefitting us is fiercely debated, though if you would like to explore the human face and create a selfie first-hand but not instantly, we are offering an Introduction to Portraiture Course with artist Marco Corsini, beginning on April 29th (no selfie sticks required).
We had our talented regulars, plus a few new faces in our Painting Course this Term, and it was a fantastic class. Hilmi’s teaching is based on traditional oil painting techniques, using elements of Flemish painting with a contemporary adaptation.
This term they painted from still life for four sessions, and from a life model for five. Take a look at their brilliant work below!
The assimilation of new techniques into children’s art work.
I have returned to teaching a children’s class after two years focused upon developing the adults’ classes.
I came into this new children’s class with the intention of introducing some elements of ‘atelier’ or ‘academic’ style training for the children. This is the methodology that many of the adults who have attended our classes would be familiar with, that enables us to rigorously teach technique.
Whilst I intended to introduce the same elements as in our adult’s classes, those of you that know me, will know that I am heavily influenced by Steiner and Montessori educational philosophies. These philosophies emphasise intrinsic self motivation (self motivation), creativity and the natural rhythm of child’s development. Whilst these philosophies are not completely incompatible with the style of training I wanted to introduce, it certainly gives me a lot to consider as a teacher.
We have had our first two classes for the term and the results, in fact, the way in which the first week’s instruction was absorbed then reappeared, fully integrated into the second week’s work has left me speechless. Perhaps these children are just incredibly talented, but somehow, they have taken in the new techniques and used them to produce work which incorporates those techniques into their own powerfully iconographic style. The three examples below by Taku, Chloe and Tyla display a far more individual approach than I would commonly see in adults, yet all have used the techniques of constructing a sphere and use of tone that I had shown them the week before. They do this while still maintaining an aesthetic integrity; the work holds together as personal statement. The new techniques have been subsumed to the personal visual logic each child individually consistently maintains.
On the basis of these works, it seems that it is possible to teach technique to children without restricting their creative or personal expression. Taku, for example, maintains a powerful expressive line and an arresting visual impact over the foundation of the structural approach he had been shown. Chloe has a whimsical play with the line of the structural drawing. With the interplay of line and the rubbing of the charcoal, the groups of objects all merge into one whole, showing an interplay of relationships between objects. Tyra also uses value, or tone in a powerful way, inventing value for visual impact (the shadow wasn’t present in the arrangement she was drawing from).
I realise that while teaching what is essentially a limiting process to the children, I shouldn’t limit the children’s other visual processes and iconographies. The purpose of restricting would be to show the assimilation of the technique I am teaching more clearly. The problem being that by restricting other information children use in the image, I may be sending the message that other forms of expression aside from that being taught are are wrong. The eventual casualty of such an approach being the death of creativity, exploration and intrinsic learning.
For the age group in my class, (9 – 12 year olds), it seems I can teach technique and that the child experiences an adaption of the new technique into an existing canon of technique, creativity and visual language rather than a weeding out of those pre-existing elements. In so doing, they maintain their ability for powerful personal expression.
I’m very much looking forward to the work that is to come.
We have been asked for a long time now, when will we be holding art classes during the day?!
Well, we are excited to announce we will be running two new Drawing and Painting (Studio Art) classes during Tuesday and Friday mornings from 2017! Finally, we hear you say!
Artist Marco Corsini will be presenting these daytime art classes and they will run the same way as our popular evening Studio Art Class (don’t worry, he will still be taking our Tuesday night class)!
Marco’s Studio Art Classes are our longest-running and are the foundation of Melbourne Art Class. We welcome people from all creative backgrounds, skill levels – anyone who needs a space to be creative, become inspired, acquire specific skills, continue an artistic project – the list goes on. The unique element about this class is that we limit enrolments to only ten students, so Marco is able to provide critical feedback, drawing and painting tuition or just help you get your idea out of your head and onto the canvas.
To get to know Marco’s classes a little better, you can read about his Tuesday evening class here.
Our classes are held at Enderby Studio, 314 Church Street, Richmond.
Daytime Art Course Dates
Term 1 Tuesday mornings: Feb 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, Mar 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th (8 sessions)
This first half of Hilmi’s Painting Class for Term Two focused on one composition with different Still Life objects, and we are so proud of the works they produced.
The class is focusing on oil painting techniques, with students encouraged to develop an understanding and technical proficiency in painting using a classical approach modified for contemporary use; using some of the elements of Flemish Painting technique a faster contemporary, approach. You can see their incredible progress here. The first image is the underpainting, and the second is their final work.
During the second half of the term they are working on painting a Life Model – we are looking forward to seeing what our talented students produce!
We recently held an Abstract Painting Workshop with Irene over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
Students followed a process which took them from creating a collage from coloured paper and some found magazine images to the undertaking of an abstract or semi-abstract painting in oils or acrylics.
Painting from collage allowed the students to experience the entire process of making an artwork, even when there has been difficulty in starting an artwork before. During the course, the students learnt about the elements and principles of design; conceptual elements; tone, colour, composition and narrative; and how to unearth deeper and more meaningful aspects of an abstract piece.
You can see Karin’s process below:
And here are some other final pieces from the workshop:
We would like to thank these students for sharing their incredible work! If you are interested in a painting course at MAC, we are currently offering general courses in oils and acrylics. You can also explore abstraction (or anything you like!) in our Studio Art Course on Tuesday nights.