City Art Depot is excited to launch Artists’ Choice – an online exhibition. City Art Depot has represented artists in our gallery since 2001. With this exhibition we give our artists the platform to present one of their own works from the storeroom and provide some unique insight. All these works are available for sale now!
Sinking Step, 2019, oil on board, $780
A sea surges on a high tide, swamping up in great waves that eat human-created structures, destroying a bridge.
A river flows out to sea and is subsumed at the mouth, but the current yet runs strong, a visible disruption in the ever-rising tide.
When I made the body of work that Sinking step formed part of, I was preoccupied with dreams. I kept a notebook by my bed and would record those that stayed with me, bled into my waking moments. Mostly it was the feelings that would linger, welling up unexpected, and inextricably linked to the subterranean dream-places. My most affecting dreams are usually of environments suffused with a kind of clarity of emotion that is normally tempered, diminished when I’m awake. I was, and continue to look to the land for metaphors to understand the relationship between things, and at the time I made Sinking step to dream-spaces also, as sites of emotion and feeling, transmuted impressions of waking life – sources from which to explore many of the places of return in my work – the imagined, ambiguous, transient, mutable.
Painting can be a kind of embodied cognition, a means of traversing and understanding the corporal, organic, material, mortal. Sinking step is a painting which, to me, retains a sense of material arrested in motion, of flow disrupted, of surging tides and unknowns, of traversing states.
ORANGE ALARMER, 2019, watercolour and gouache, $660
I’ve never really liked orange. As a colour it stresses me out, so I’ve never really worn it and I hardly ever paint with it. In spite of my colour bias though, this watercolour, called ORANGE ALARMER, endures as one of my favourites from Choke, my exhibition at City Art Depot last March.
I did a heap of these ‘Alarmer’ paintings in 2018-2019. The underpainting was usually careful and considered, then allowed to dry before being 75% rinsed-away under hot water. The foamy top layer was started and finished in one session, usually over one frantic evening where I wouldn’t want to stop for long enough to allow the wet edges to dry. I started watercolour as a way of pursuing a form of meditative practise, but really, I ended up making a twisted nightly stress-game out of it. When I was too comfortable, I would double the size of the paper I was working on.
At some exhibition, years ago, another artist wanted to know my ‘trick’ to achieving all the little brush-work.
“Have you used a masking fluid and just done a wash over it?” they asked.
“No, I just used a small brush,” I replied. I was (for some reason) so proud of that self-enforced struggle. That struggle had been my measure for success.
I changed mediums again recently. Now I’m dry-brushing on stretched canvas – at a speed that is sustainable (and allows experimentation). Maybe my next exhibition will be less cynical, maybe not.
Francis van Hout
Flight Tectonic, 2019, oil on board (framed), $900
This work came out of a series that started from a study of paper folding, science/science fiction stories I was reading about folds in space and traveling through them to other stars and planets.
The painting is made up of two different shapes on two layers, the first is the box shape (taken from the box kite) and the two triangular shapes which is a stylised plane shape and is a bit of a pun on the word plane. These two layers were painted over and over until the finished work was achieved. Why the colours? Well to me black and white (grey) have always worked well with red and helps make the shapes stand out from the background and there is the influence of the Russian Constructionism artworks. The name ‘Tectonic’ comes from the Russian artist Liubov Popova who used the word Architectonic in the title of her work.
Ask me why I picked this work for the show and it will be because it just feel good – it reminds me of things, it makes me want to go up to it and look at it to see what’s hiding in it, behind it, between the layers, to find its secrets. It reminds me to look up, to take off, to reach up and that there is more to seeing. It also reminds me of a nun’s habit (i.e. The Flying Nun), with those big side wings ready to take off. It reminds me of a rocket taking flight in to space on a journey to the moon or is it the martians taking off from Mars to invade Earth? It reminds me of kites I made and flew, then lost.
I hope this gives you a little insight into this work and some of the reasons that I painted it. I hope that you give it a look and discover something within it that you can make your own or find something in it that reminds you of something.
local loop, 2020, acrylic and flashe on cotton, $670
Restless energy has propelled me through the house from room to room to studio, over the past six weeks. My new paintings reflect my surroundings – the domestic and the suburban.
Outdoors, I have been watching autumn arrive, the changes it has brought to my new (limited, confined) landscape, and noticing specific objects, walls, trees that exist within my local loop.
This painting recalls the narrow, elegant silhouette of a particular tree I pass each day, one that will not lose its leaves to the autumn wind.
Deep Gold, 2019, gouache on paper (framed), $4900
In seeking to go somewhere new and unfamiliar, I naturally staged the newness in a familiar place. Having sought for a way to work with the subantarctic islands for years (since seeing them on a voyage some years ago) I remained open to ideas. While having a drink with some friends after a meeting at Astrolounge in early 2019, I decided it would be an idea to depict a sci-fi landscape around a fictional subantarctic island that people hadn’t got to. The cat was asleep on the mat is a nice image but not a very good story – but the dog was asleep on the cat’s mat is better. Accordingly, I set up a crude narrative by means of an old idea – a strange emperor – and sent a ship to disturb it in its own realm. These parameters also allowed me to explore issues of human exploration, and of discovery, and of the cost to the discovered region. Thus secured, I started out on some large paintings to depict matters. They were difficult and they took months to complete, but they were done, and were set in frames of unseen splendour made exquisitely by David precisely to my unrealistically preconceived idea. In the first painting, the ship with its crew has arrived at the shores of the island, with a huge storm brewing, and is confronted by the Cerberus-like kraken which destroys all comers. The prognosis is plainly grim, but the ship presses on. Once they had finished up on the island they discovered such wonders as they had not imagined, as seen in the other paintings in the show.
Gravity iii, 2018, gouache, pencil and charcoal on paper (framed), sold
Gravity iii is taken from my recent exhibition ‘Gravity’ with City Art Depot. I’ve chosen this piece because I feel the original statement I wrote back in 2018 is so relevant to my current thinking in this strange time we are all living through. “Sitting somewhere between the biological and astronomical these works are spaces I’ve created to be at peace with uncertainty, to realise that so much of reality is beyond my control and to let the relief and terror of this realisation wash over me. In creating these works I wanted to provide refuges both for and from chaos.”
the smell of sea hair is about, 2019, embroidery thread on calico fabric (framed), $550
This piece is about a spirit who crawled from the seas and onto the land. The seas were dark and the land is vibrant. One of the spirit’s eyes is bleeding light, the light travels through the air and lands on mountain ridges far away. The spirit can see dense green forests that spread to the horizon. Some trees grow from the black edges of the oceans, they creep into the pure sky with spiky black tendrils. The spirit is coloured differently to the land or the seas. The spirit is a new thing. It walks with quiet feet that leave only tiny indentations on the land.
(This piece was made using embroidery thread on calico fabric. I did a sketch and then transferred the drawing to a piece of fabric. I then stretched the fabric on an embroidery frame where I used the thread to give dimension and colour. The piece is indeterminate in nature, pointing towards a time many eons before or many eons after humans existed.)
Hoard, 2015, walnut shells, gold leaf, brass, paint and oak, $2900
I made this work about 5 years ago and it remains one of my favourites. Interestingly, it never seems to have particularly appealed to anyone else! Or perhaps it just sort of passes people by.
This piece was strongly influenced by my very old (1862ish) and dilapidated house. Having just spent 5 (or however many it’s been) weeks very happily confined to my house, it seems a good time for me to think about it again.
I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and have always had a bad/good habit of opening up parts of the house that I definitely shouldn’t. It always results in finding some sort of structural disaster. It is genuinely some sort of miracle that the house hasn’t fallen down yet (touch wood!), not because of my interventions but because it’s very precarious.
Anyway, one of the first ill-advised investigations I did (I was actually specifically advised not to investigate this) was to dismantle a horrible looming, leaning wall above the mantlepiece of the fire. The lounge has a strange low ceiling and this bit of wall was always extra oppressive. Especially being right next to the coffin shaped entrance to the room. Actually, I don’t mind the coffin shape, but others have commented on it.
The ugly wall was concealing part of what was a massive double sided red stone fireplace and handmade-brick chimney.
The other, exposed and interesting, side of which was in the bedroom next door.
So I pulled at least some of the ugliness off and discovered as I expected, a wonderful brick chimney stepping back and up into the ceiling. I also discovered that there didn’t seem to be anything at all holding the ceiling up… But the best thing was I discovered a ‘rat ramp’, winding its way up the steps around the chimney into the ceiling cavity.
There’s a very old walnut tree at the bottom of the garden, and much like I gather walnuts and bring them up near the fire, so have the rats for a very long time. They had taken them into the ugly cavity, cracked them open, and dropped the broken shells and built a ramp from the secret hole at the bottom to wherever they went to at the top. It was one of the most well constructed things in the house. And such a delightful discovery. As delightful as evidence of chronic rat infestation can be.
So, ever since, I’ve been quite enchanted by walnut shells, especially walnut shells in hidden spaces. But really, I think from the first time you see a walnut, you’re enchanted by them. Those little brain like shapes, and the shells always seem so useful. Even though you can never really think of how best to use them. Unless you’re a clever rat. And the old trees have a magical quality about them. Certainly the one in my garden does. It’s does something inexplicable to the light around it.
Sadly, the lovely fireplaces are now a stack of stone and bricks in the garden waiting for a way to be best used. But the rats and the walnut tree persist.
And that is where the idea for Hoard came from. Treasure in a wall.
I also like the idea that to be properly appreciated a hole must be cut in the wall for the Hoard to lurk inside until someone opens it up and finds it. And it takes a certain kind of person to just cut a hole in their wall.
Argentinian Tieless Braid, 2018, charcoal on paper (framed), $1100
Argentinian Tieless Braid is from a small series made in 2017–2018 that explored different equine braids. During this time I was moving from abstraction to figuration in my artwork, but was still negotiating the ‘how’. Perhaps because of this I experienced recurring nightmares of a dark, vexed horse.
To plait a horse’s tail may be seen as girlish, and these works certainly draw from my childhood. But as a keenly attuned animal, horses often reflect the emotions of their handler. Plaiting needs unhurried time in close proximity to hind legs, therefore requiring a sense of mutual trust between human and animal.
When trust is achieved then grooming (including plaiting) becomes an act of affection. So, as I look back at these works, I wonder if these drawings were a kind of psychic care. Trusting the nightmare to not be so frightening, Argentinian Tieless Braid wills the horse to still for a moment, and trusts me enough to approach.
March of The Elephants, 2020, wool on acrylic, $400
The work, March of The Elephants, looks at the last moment before the many rise up against the few, and reflects on overcoming adversity, and confronting the elephant in front of you. I wanted this piece to show not only the heavy pressure and tension of reaching the point of confrontation, but to also highlight the spark of optimism and hope that exists in that moment.
This work is made by transferring a hand drawn pattern on to perspex. The stitching points are then hand drilled into the perspex to allow the pattern to be sewn through. This is a long and reflective process that was a welcome distraction during the lockdown.
Stone Soup, 2020, acrylic on paper, $500
In response to City Art’s request to restart their gallery exhibition programme with an artists’ choice online exhibition I tentatively decided to start a new work.
Stone Soup, of the old European folk tale, came to mind while thinking of a name for my painting. I studied the large grey pumpkin on the kitchen bench. It had a stone-like quality about it.
“Less is more”, thought I, remembering Riduan Tompkin’s advice and the name of one of his exhibitions.
The simplicity of a bowl of nourishing soup was welcome in times past and still is as far as many folks are concerned.
And so I present this painting; simple in concept and application. As simple as stone soup.
Red River – The Blue Knife 8/10, 2019, mezzotint, $650
This print is one of a group of five with the title ” Red River”. I experimented with a combination of mezzotint and drypoint on these plates and for “Red River – The Blue Knife” I used a plate that had previously been used for another image. A faint diagonal line appeared across the print from the previous image but I decided to keep it because it could perhaps be the boat’s painter. I intended to have more objects in the boat, but inking and wiping the plate trying to keep the blue colour pure was tricky, so I first printed it with only the knife as a trial. The first print was cool just as it was. I decided it needed nothing else.