Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hot chocolate!

Our European correspondents returned from a recent jolly, spotting these delicacies in Bruges, Belgium along the way...

While perhaps lacking the aphrodisiac subtlety of mussels in white wine, steamed artichoke with vinaigrette or freshly stewed figs with ice cream, they are still an inviting example of the confectioners creativity...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Temptation of Saint Anthony

"Go out and see" Saint Anthony is reported to have said. It might be a useful lesson for art teachers to impart to their students, and the story of this ascetic and his trials in the desert has been a favourite of artists for centuries. On one hand a vehicle for the depiction of the triumph of piety over evil, on the other for the temptations of the flesh in the form of phantom women. Saint Anthony was an Egyptian Coptic but I have never come across a work that shows him as middle-eastern in appearance, and the phantoms are invariably Caucasian as well. Mmmm...he thinks...I have just given myself an idea! Maybe I should forget this blogging rubbish and get busy on the 'real' Anthony with some Nubian goddesses in the bomb shelled Libyan desert...

But before I do, some of my favourites...we begin with Paolo Veronese...

Paolo Veronese, Temptation of St Anthony, 1552-3, Oil on canvas, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Caen

An interesting comparison with the earlier work on paper below. From the fairly 'mainstream' Renaissance style he has gone straight for the jugular (so to speak) in this Mannerist masterpiece of chiaroscuro and composition. Anthony is about to get pounded with the hoof of a goat while the female figure claws his palm with her nails while languorously dangling an exposed breast over his eyes as demonic figures lurk in the background. It's almost like Saturday night at the Wyndham pub...

Paolo Veronese, Temptation of St Anthony, 1552, Pen and chalk on paper, Musee du Louvre, Paris

Felicien Rops says of his version: " Here is more or less what I wanted Satan to say to the good Anthony. I want to show you that you are mad Anthony, to worship your abstractions! That your eyes may no longer search in the blue depths for the face of Christ, nor for incorporeal virgins! Your Gods have followed those of Olympus. But Jupiter and Jesus did not carry off eternal Wisdom, nor Venus and Mary eternal Beauty! Even if the Gods are gone, Woman remains. The love of Woman remains and with it the abounding love of Life."

Felicien Rops, Temptation of St Anthony, 1878, Etching and aquatint, Felician Rops Museum, Namur, Belgium.

Here, an almost comic Satan displaces Christ from the crucifix, and replaces him with a engaging nude. Rops nearly always laces his eroticism with a generous dose of humour. The normal INRI at the top of the cross has been turned into EROS. Perhaps Saint Anthony is more horrified of Rop's imagination than he is of the elements that make up the picture? It is interesting to see the preparatory drawing for the female figure, and the change that has occurred in the final print. I like the shroud ringing the breasts, and the garter and black stay ups are always a nice touch...

Felicien Rops, study for Temptation of St Anthony, 1878, Etching, Felician Rops Museum, Namur, Belgium.

Max Ernst takes a different tack and looks at the second of Saint Anthony's temptations where he was attacked by visions of demons. Influenced by the extremes of Matthius Grunewald and Hieronymus Bosch his hallucinatory vision allows for some of his favourite motifs to appear. Painted in 1945 it reflects on the horrors of war. A good reason not to venture into the desert alone...

Max Ernst, Temptation of St Anthony, 1945, Oil on canvas, Wilhelm-Lehmbruck Museum, Duisberg, Germany my own humble version (with apologies to Nan Goldin for the appropriation of the blonde). It just fitted perfectly! Almost got the Coptic bit right though...

Bob Georgeson, Temptation of St Anthony. 2010, Photomontage

Thursday, 14 June 2012


David Walsh, the creator of Hobart's Museum of Old and New Art, describes it as "a subversive adult Disneyland". It certainly is an experience unlike any other gallery in Australia. No expense spared in its creation it mixes antiquities with a who's who of the global contemporary art scene, and particularly those artists who work outside the traditional formula. Even getting there is unique. Embarking on the MONA catamaran at Hobart's Sullivan's Cove for the twenty minute journey up the Derwent River, we arrive on a typically beautiful late autumn morning...umbrellas thoughtfully supplied...

The architecture is stunning. Carved into a sandstone point the three levels of the Museum sit on a structure of high tech steel with the sandstone left exposed. The effect is like being in an ancient temple with James Bondian trimmings. The architecture has been determined by the need to accommodate Sidney Nolan's Snake, a massive work comprised of 1,620 A4 sheets...

Sidney Nolan, Snake, 1970-72, Mixed media on paper.

Equipped with our iPods we begin to explore...the 'app' sensing what artwork you are viewing and supplying information as to its title and creator. Artworks are given luxurious amounts of space in which to exist. For example Anselm Keifer's Sternenfall/Shevirath Ha Kelim is afforded it's own purpose built room...

Anselm Keifer, Sternenfall/Shevirath Ha Kelim, 2007, Lead and glass.

One of my favourite pieces is Callum Morton's Babylonia. The large rock like structure with light emanating from a mystery source that when discovered and entered takes you into an intriguing spatial illusion appealed to my sense of mystery and the unexpected encounter.

Callum Morton, Babylonia, 2005, Mixed media.

Inside Babylonia

The antiquities sit a little uncomfortably with the mostly large scale of modern works, but Walsh has a discerning eye and has selected his collection with purpose, often relating to his overall interest in sex and death. And it is this theme that pervades wherever one goes. One could argue that a collection based on the whims of one man lacks a certain intellectual diversity that older cultural institutions have built up over time and with changing personnel. But Walsh is no fool. He knows his stuff, he thinks about what he is doing, and is prepared to take risks to share his vision.

At times this is uncomfortable. For example Wim Delvoye's tattooed pig skin is at first a striking object, but when one reads about the pig being tattooed while alive then slaughtered and tanned in China (because that's probably the only place that would do it) one questions not only ethics but whether process has become the art, rather than process becoming the means to the end.

Wim Delvoye, Untitled (Osama), 2002-3, Tattoed pigskin.

It is Walsh's embracing of video art that is perhaps MONA's greatest strength. Judiciously placed throughout the museum as well as in it's own cinema, this medium displays an interest to the audience that is often lost when shown in isolated context. One of my favourites is Paul McCarthy's Painter, a film that shows that art can not only be funny, but hilarious. His piss take of the art scene is a laugh a minute comedy of all that is wrong with contemporary art, and should be on the curriculum of every art school in the country. A master piece...

Paul McCarthy, Painter, 1995, Video still.

The overall effect of MONA is one that mixes confrontation with beauty and accessibility to art that is largely ignored in the traditional institutions. And it is this accessibility that is MONA's strength. The public is invited (and encouraged) to engage with art, not be alienated by it. Walsh has thrown the gauntlet down. He is to be commended...

Blood of Medusa

Bob Georgeson, Blood of Medusa, 2012, Digital photo.

Bit of a lull in posts this week as the artistry of mother nature takes centre stage. Violent storms and huge swells make art and ideas seem somewhat irrelevant. And how invigorating it is for the soul to be at close hand on a deserted beach where the sound of wind and surf make conversation pointless (maybe it always is!). Occasionally coral is found after such storms. Reminded me of an earlier post about its origins in the story of Perseus and Andromeda from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Even though there are spectacular rocks where I live Andromeda was nowhere to be found. I will keep looking...

Monday, 11 June 2012


Another older work, can't even remember when...

Bob Georgeson, Lips, Photomontage, Private collection.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Self Administering Surrealistic Sex Machine

Bob Georgeson, Self Administering Surrealistic Sex Machine, 2007, Photomontage

I don't know if it's old age, but I was going through a cupboard the other day, and had forgot I had even made this piece. Cynics might say it's a pity you remembered at all...

Sunday, 3 June 2012


Dusan Marek, Title unknown, 1962, Oil on aluminium, Private collection.

I cannot remember the first time I encountered surrealism or the first time I saw a surrealist painting, but I can remember in the heady stoned days of the late sixties it was hard to enter a hippy pad anywhere without seeing a Dali or Magritte poster along side of Hendrix or The Doors. The word 'surreal' was often used to describe anything that was out of the ordinary. 'Wow, that sunsets surreal man!'

I had probably seen surrealist, or 'in the style of' surrealist painting at the Art Gallery of South Australia without realising it's context. In those days there were a number of Australian artists in public collections that had been affected by the movement. Artists such as Jeffrey Smart, Ivor Francis, Eric Thake, Jacqueline Hick and Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski had all been influenced by the 'revolution' in Europe, but few of them had made a long term commitment to the surrealist aesthetic. Even though I didn't know what the art was about, I often felt as if I knew the artists, felt like they were my friends.

About this time I had a job as a Numbers Porter with South Australian Railways. My job was to meet trains as they pulled into Adelaide Train Station and record the numbers on the carriages into a ledger. Why, I never knew. It wasn't like train carriages go missing very often, and I soon learnt that except for the two interstate trains the same carriages made the same journeys day after day, month after month, year after year. I would arrive at work, write all the numbers from the previous day in the ledger, which would take around ten minutes, and then settle down to sketch or read a book.

It was here that I noticed another numbers porter reading a book on film making. His name was Denys Finney, an aspiring film maker and art enthusiast. We quickly became friends and he showed me the path to how I could become an artist, something I had never thought feasible. We had passionate discussions about art and film, and about what constituted great art. He also introduced me to the world of the European film directors including Luis Bunuel, perhaps the most 'complete' surrealist of all.

I started to study the surrealists in more depth and found myself drawn to their vision. At that time my mother was working in one of the few commercial galleries in Adelaide, and had struck up a friendship with surrealist artist Dusan Marek, who's studio lay in the Adelaide Hills. She took me to visit him on two occasions and it was these meetings that have charted a course that I have followed ever since. Dusan was a Czech immigrant who had fled to Australia in 1948. He had decided to become a surrealist at 13 years old, and remained committed to the path throughout his life. He had also worked at the Railways and was very amused by my description of my job. He used it to teach me some valuable lessons about surrealism.

"Surrealism is not just an art movement. It is a way of life, a way of thinking, and a way of viewing the world. It is about discovering the marvellous in our existence. But most importantly it is about absolute freedom of thought and expression."  he said.

He was patient, not at all patronising and happy to teach me more about a subject that I was increasingly passionate about. A profound influence on my life...

The last time we met was shortly before he was to take up a teaching post in Tasmania. He said "Bob, we surrealists must stick together". He left the next day.

For the definitive essay on Dusan Marek click here...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Marilyn Monroe by Cecil Beaton

To commemorate Marilyn's birthday 1 June 1926. A truly great photograph shot at that split second where reality intersects with glamour. 

Marilyn Monroe by Cecil Beaton, New York, 1956