Weather, wear and tear, neglect and dilapidation can turn the ordinary into something unexpected and interesting. This peeling paint speaks to me of another world with rugged coastlines, vast interiors, island continents and uncharted territories. If I tried to paint this I couldn’t but I would see it in my imagination and want to explore those alien lands.
I saw my first Ellsworth Kelly painting, in a travelling exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, when I was 8 years old. All these years later I can still remember being awestruck by Rebound, Orange Blue 1 and Blue Red – large, bold, beautiful paintings of which I had never seen the like. Nine years later, at the ripe old age of 17, I went to New York for the first time, and to the chagrin of my non-art-loving companions I insisted on going to the Guggenheim to see, among other things, Blue Green Yellow Orange Red. Quite recently I have discovered that the National Gallery of Australia owns a number of Ellsworth Kelly lithographs: I am looking forward to the day they are exhibited!
In August this year I visited Maui for the first time and was lucky enough to experience the splendour and magnificence of Haleakala on a perfect clear day. Haleakala, meaning ‘house of the sun’, is a shield volcano, and forms part of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain. It is thought to have last erupted some time in the 1600s. In Hawaiian folklore, the depression at the summit of Haleakala was home to Maui’s grandmother, and according to legend she helped him capture the sun and force it to slow its journey across the sky in order to lengthen the day.
Haleakala takes my breath away. It is so beautiful that no photograph can do it justice. But before I left home my friends coerced me into taking a camera, and I took this picture, which is currently being exhibited in the 2012 Kodak Salon, at Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography.
From the distance all I could see in this was several rows of Mr Burns at the cinema. Up a little closer it appears to me as some painted remnant from Ottoman times, and an even closer look at the top half reveals a landscape from the Kimberley region of Western Australia. I doubt it was intended to be any of those things and the apparently random nature of how it appeared on a column in an old railway workshop is a complete mystery to me, which of course adds to its appeal.
People have been writing on walls and scratching surfaces for centuries. When graffiti is done well it can be pretty interesting and a valid and creative art form. I’ve seen some great examples, and our urban environment can certainly be enriched by graffiti art. But so often the graffiti you see day to day is really ordinary and merely vandalism. I don’t think this piece of graffiti is anything great, but what I do like is how it works with the textures in the concrete pillar. I don’t know if the black splodges are related to the tagging, but it’s the combination of squiggle, splodge, concrete and colour that caught my eye.