Industrial Cathedral

Industrial Cathedral
"Industrial Cathedral" charcoal drawing on paper 131 x 131 cm Jane Bennett. This drawing was a finalist in the 1998 Dobell Prize for Drawing (Art Gallery of N.S.W.) ; Finalist in 1998 Blake Prize for Religious Art ; Winner of 1998 Hunter's Hill Open Art Prize

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boat at Goat

The Shirley Smith is now on the slipway on the western side of Goat Island.
The last few canvases that I have completed at Moore's Wharf have  Goat Island as their main subject.
The eastern side of the Island which faces Moore's Wharf, features the old amenities block, which was once the site of the iconic TV series "Water Rats", and the heritage cottages which once housed the headquarters of the Harbour Master.
The western side of Goat Island still has an operating shipyard, one of the last vestiges of Sydney's rich heritage as a working harbour.
The only hint of this on the eastern side is the barely visible tip of the crane poking out from the treetops.

plein air oil painting of Sydney Ports tug 'Shirley Smith' on slipway of Goat Island by artist Jane Bennett
Starting a small oil sketch of the "Shirley Smith" on the Goat Island slipway, 
oil on canvas 13 x 18cm
$250

Enquiries about this painting:

Several years ago I managed to paint on Goat Island, but it was difficult to arrange access there, and even more importantly, back.
I have longed to return to paint on Goat Island, and last week I finally got my wish.
I hitched a ride on the "Mann's Point", courtesy of Sydney Ports Corporation, and painted 2 tiny oil sketches.
plein air oil painting of Sydney Ports tug 'Shirley Smith' on slipway of Goat Island by artist Jane Bennett
Starting a small oil sketch of the "Shirley Smith" on the Goat Island slipway
oil on canvas 13 x 18cm
$250

Enquiries about this painting:

I had a great vantage point as I was sitting on a jetty directly opposite.
plein air oil painting of Sydney Ports tug 'Shirley Smith' on slipway of Goat Island by artist Jane Bennett
My first small oil sketch of the "Shirley Smith" on the Goat Island slipway, oil on canvas 13 x 18cm 
$250


Enquiries about this painting:


Next time, I must take some larger canvases, as I would like to include the crane.
I might not get the opportunity to return until the end of this week as there have been so many commitments and distractions.
My solo exhibition continues until the end of the month. Once the paintings had been hung, and the official opening was over,  I  had to organize a panel discussion and an artist's talk.
plein air oil painting of Sydney Ports tug 'Shirley Smith' on slipway of Goat Island by artist Jane Bennett
Another view of my small oil sketch of the "Shirley Smith" on the Goat Island slipway, oil on canvas 13 x 18cm
$250

Enquiries about this painting:

I have left one of my French box easels on Goat Island, to make it easier for me to return with larger canvases.
The people at the shipyard have been wonderful. They are so friendly and easygoing, and have so much passion for the unique maritime heritage of Goat Island.

plein air oil painting of Sydney Ports tug 'Shirley Smith' on slipway of Goat Island by artist Jane Bennett
Starting my second small oil sketch of the "Shirley Smith" on the Goat Island slipway, oil on canvas 15 x 31cm
$480

Enquiries about this painting:
Painting on the island is an inspiring experience, but the trouble is that if I have left something behind, I have to do without until next time.
It can be awkward to take equipment there, and even more awkward to take it back.
I tried to take the bare minimum of stuff in my trolley luggage, but even so I needed help to lug my easel from the boat to the ramp.

plein air oil painting of Sydney Ports tug 'Shirley Smith' on slipway of Goat Island by artist Jane Bennett
My 2nd small oil sketch of the "Shirley Smith" on the Goat Island slipway 
oil on canvas 15 x 31cm
$480

Enquiries about this painting:
My return journey to Moore's Wharf was with the apprentice boat repairers,  in a much smaller boat.
They were keen to get home, so it was a fast and bumpy Harbour cruise. 
It was made even more exciting by having to juggle two small wet canvases and make sure that they didn't fall in the water.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Lashed to the Mast" - Plein Air painting as extreme sport

I wanted to try painting a large canvas of the spectacular view of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf for my solo exhibition "From the Hungry Mile to Barangaroo" which is now on display at the Frances Keevil Gallery.
I never do anything by halves, so I got the biggest canvas that would fit inside my station wagon - 122 x 183cm!

suitcase with studio equipment of plein air artist Jane Bennett
My Artist's Studio in a suitcase
I always pack my paint, brushes and other necessary items such as lunch into trolley luggage, as it is less of a strain on my back than carrying a bag. When I use a small easel, such as a French box easel, I also pack it into trolley luggage so I can roll or drag it rather than have to carry it.
I was worried about the canvas going hang-gliding over Sydney Harbour, or even snapping in two which happened while I was painting the Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay.

The solution was to take a studio easel as well as a French box easel, and to use cable ties to secure the canvas to the studio easel, and the easel to a large chunk of timber.

The most important thing is not to forget to bring a good sharp pair of scissors to remove the cable ties!
The studio easel had casters so I could move it around without too much trouble. I used the French box easel to store my paint, medium and brushes.

canvas tied to studio easel by plein air painter Jane Bennett
I've had to cable tie the large canvas to my studio easel
The renowned 19th century marine painter J.M.W.Turner used to boast that he was once "lashed to the mast" to witness a storm at sea as inspiration.
canvas tied to studio easel by plein air painter Jane Bennett
I've had to cable tie the large canvas to my studio easel- and then cable tie the easel to a timber block!
I've always loved Turner's paintings and now I feel that I am literally following in his footsteps!
timber block and easel used by plein air painter Jane Bennett
Timber block and easel
Quite literally.
Like Turner,who also had a predilection for painting enormous canvases, I'm also very short, so I had to stand on this useful block of wood so I could reach up to paint the sky!

timber block and easel used by plein air painter Jane Bennett
Timber block and easel used by plein air painter Jane Bennett
It felt like a long way down!

Starting a large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
Starting a large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf about 7.30am.
I like to prime the canvas with a coloured ground before I paint. This technique is called "imprimatura" and it helps to reduce the glare reflected by a white canvas outdoors, as well as giving more depth to the tones.
Usually I prime a canvas blue when I'm about to paint Sydney Harbour, but this black primed canvas was originally intended for an interior of the Eveleigh Railway workshops.
Another essential ingredient is really good coffee, as you can see from the plunger on the chair. I always pack a non-leaking thermos of hot water in my trolley luggage. Unfortunately the milk has to be longlife UHT milk, as fresh milk will go off in the sun by the afternoon, and there isn't always any shade where I paint, as I mostly paint on wharves or industrial sites. 

Starting a large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
My large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf at about 8am
Black actually turned out to be a good choice. 
The day started bright and sunny, but the clouds gathered quickly. 
The calm morning Sydney Harbour seascape I had originally intended to paint was soon transformed into a brooding study of an impending storm.

Starting a large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
My large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf at about 9am
 Plein air painting is full of abrupt changes of mood and direction, which is why I enjoy it so much.
It feels almost as much like a sport as art.
The amount of physical strength involved in just being able to handle a canvas of this size out in the open air is surprising. I have to work out just so I can keep lugging my easels up and down stairs.
The other thing that is underestimated by the people who view the finished canvas in a pristine white-walled gallery, is the amount of concentration required to sustain the atmosphere over the hours required to finish a work of this size.

Starting a large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
My large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf at about 9.30am
 Light, shadow and colours of the sea and sky change constantly, and it takes the reflexes of an elite tennis player to even attempt to capture these fleeting effects.
Starting a large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
My large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf at about 10am
Apart from the skill needed to paint these fleeting effects, it also takes a great deal of experience and judgement to decide which are worth capturing.
My large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf at about 11am
 By noon, I had most of the canvas painted,and it was looking very promising, but an hour later the weather had changed dramatically.
Dark clouds started to cover the sky and the sea changed colour from turquoise to prussian blue, then to slate grey.
The wind whipped up, and I had to decide whether it was too risky to continue.
Starting a large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
My large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf at about noon

If I decided to continue the painting on another day with similar weather conditions, there was the risk of not being able to complete it in time for my exhibition. On the other hand, if I pressed on, it might get so windy that it would be physically dangerous to keep on painting.

I had almost as much canvas to cope with as some of the smaller yachts out on the harbour, who were starting to have trouble.
And if I wasn't careful, my canvas would have travelled just as fast in the wrong direction!

Starting a large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
My large plein air painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf at about noon
 Also, the colour, mood and light conditions were so different from when I started that it would mean repainting almost everything!
The sensible choice probably would have been to put the canvas away and start a small study of the stormy conditions.
But I liked the dramatic light effects so much that I took a calculated risk and quickly repainted the canvas to reflect the changed conditions.

plein air oil painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett

The completed canvas
'Storm, Goat Island' 2013 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm
I had to work very quickly. I didn't dare take a break for lunch in case my canvas wouldn't be there when I got back.
But I'm glad that I took the risk, as the canvas has really captured the colour and mood.
The brilliant yellow buoys surrounding the excavation of the North Barangaroo Headland Park contrast strongly with the ominous sky and dark, choppy sea.

plein air oil painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
'Storm, Goat Island' 2013 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm
 Art vs. life!


plein air oil painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
'Storm, Goat Island' 2013 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm
This photo best shows the painting in context with the landscape.
However large the canvas actually is, it will always look like a postage stamp compared with the real thing. I can assure you that this canvas is a lot bigger than I am!(I am 5' 1" which is fairly short even for a girl.)
By the time I took these photos, I was so worried about the canvas blowing away that I had to cable tie it to the container - I didn't dare risk putting it on the easel!

plein air oil painting of Goat Island from Moore's Wharf by artist Jane Bennett
'Storm, Goat Island' 2013 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm

And finally a few days later, here it is hanging in my solo exhibition "From the Hungry Mile to Barangaroo" at the Frances Keevil Gallery. 
 
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Barangaroo - Where Art, Architecture, History, Politics and Economics meet

The discussion "Why the hullaballoo about Barangaroo? Where Art, Architecture, History, Politics and Economics meet" was held on Sunday 10th March, in the courtyard of the Frances Keevil Gallery, where my solo exhibition "From the Hungry Mile to Barangaroo" continues until Sunday March 24th.
This was a brave experiment.
Neither Frances nor myself have ever put together anything like this before.
It was well worth it! The conversation between the panel members was informative, entertaining and at times passionate and stirring. The audience was enthralled - many of them stayed on afterwards to ask questions, take photos and even get autographs!

Barangaroo discussion by Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery

Meet the distinguished panel: 
From left to right : 
Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM
Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
And the facilitator for the event, the renowned investigative journalist, Quentin Dempster.
Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
From left to right - 
 Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM, Quentin Dempster, and Frances Keevil, Director of the Frances Keevil Gallery.

Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Dr Jack Mundey AO, is the legendary elder statesman of activism. He spoke movingly of the history of the famous Green Bans, in which as secretary of the New South Wales Builders' Labourers Federation (BLF), he led a successful campaign to protect the built and natural environment of Sydney from inappropriate development.
Apart from his unique credentials as a champion of heritage and sustainable urban planning, Jack had played an important part at the beginning of the story of the Barangaroo development.
 In 2006, Jack was a member of the jury to choose the design for Barangaroo. The jury had unanimously selected
 the design by the team headed by Philip Thalis - which bizarrely has now been completely discarded by LendLease, the developers of the site.

Incidentally, LendLease's design had come a distant second in the initial competition.

Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Philip Thalis, deep in thought.
Philip Thalis is the principal of Hill Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects. 
His design team won the competition to design Barangaroo - yet their design has not been adopted for the actual construction.

Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Philip Thalis gave a thought-provoking speech pointing out flaws in both the process and the design.The contrast between the potential of what Barangaroo, could and should have been, and the unfortunate reality was made completely clear to the audience.
Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
John McInerney, previously for many years a Councillor of the City of Sydney, is now the "President of Australians for Sustainable Development". He has a wealth of experience in how councils and the State government interact throughout the stages of planning and development, and provided startling images of the impact of the Barangaroo buildings which are currently under construction.
Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
John McInerney examined many of the peculiarities of the entire planning process of the controversial Barangaroo project, and exposed some very disturbing implications for the future of Sydney. Most people in the audience had not previously grasped the consequences of some of these decisions and were completely gobsmacked.
Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Alex Greenwich MP, was elected as Independent Member for Sydney in September 2012. His predecessor, Clover Moore, had controversially been forced to relinquish her seat in Parliament to continue in her role as Sydney's Lord Mayor. Alex regards Clover as an important mentor.
Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Alex Greenwich MP in action. 
His speech about the development of Barangaroo being used as a "Trojan Horse" to  force the displacement of the residents of Millers Point, was passionate and articulate.


Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Dr Graham Jahn AM, Director of Planning and Transport at the City of Sydney.

Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Dr Graham Jahn AM, added some background detail.

Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Quentin Dempster was a wonderful choice as facilitator for the discussion. His polite, yet probing questions brought out the best in the panel. The chaotic and complex narrative of the planning process behind Barangaroo was revealed to the eager audience.

Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney - 3 champions of social justice.

Barangaroo discussion by Quentin Dempster, Philip Thalis, Dr Jack Mundey AO, Alex Greenwich MP, John McInerney, Dr Graham Jahn AM at the Jane Bennett exhibition at the Frances Keevil Gallery
Jack and me 
I can't thank all the participants enough for their wonderful efforts to make this discussion a success!
And I am just as grateful to Lynn and Frances, Directors of the Frances Keevil Gallery for stepping well outside their comfort zone to host this event at the gallery and to organize it so well.