Sunday, November 2, 2008


text=03.11.08: I've been so busy of late that the digital diary has suffered somewhat. Early morning start to a new month of hard work, and I'm addressing that now. I have committed November and December to making a stained glass window for St Bede's Catholic Church at Pyrmont. It's a lovely stone church, the oldest in the district, with just 2x stained glass windows, beautifully decorated. The remainder are simple diamond leadlights, and the church is all the more elegant for that. The priest and I have been working on the design over the course of this past year and it is now at a stage where I am ready to run with it.

There is still considerable drawing to be done however, before I'm ready to cut glass, with the full-size cartoon having to be substantially re-drawn. The central motif of Christ in Majesty is fully resolved, a more or less faithful borrowing of a Romanesque design used on an altar cloth of the 12th Century. It's the images of the four evangelists which have caused me most distress, having worked through several changes already and devoted considerable time to research. I feel both the client and I are now of an accord.

Much of the business of the past few weeks has been caused by having to move house. The duplex I was in at Maroubra is earmarked for demolition (though having vacated, the owner is now stalling on the building project in light of the current financial crisis).The new location is vastly different: I look out back onto terraces and fences, interspersed by a few tall eucalypts. The frontage is the 'quiet' end of Elizabeth Street, in Zetland, with a bus route right outside the door and marauding late night revellers: a far cry from expanse of ocean and rocky outcrops.

The upside is I'm extremely close to my studio, about 7 minutes away if I drive. Also I'll be able to establish a lovely courtyard garden here. The environment out at Mistral Point was so harsh in terms of growing things: the ground is almost all sand and the winds are constant. (Great for kite flying!) Even buildings and especially vehicles suffered from the constant salt deposits. Inside the house my pencil sharpeners would rust in a matter of weeks! But I'll miss the sunrise over the ocean and catching an occasional moonrise. There's something unforgettably beautiful about a full moon rising over the ocean in a clear sky, and I managed to catch that experience only days before leaving.

I have several side projects that need to be worked on as well this month, which I should be able to fit into the program. Two severely damaged windows from the Catholic Church at Barmedman, NSW, a result of teenage vandalism, were brought up by Kerry .... of Dove Stained Glass in Wagga for restoration. Also a large window by Robin Seville, formerly of Bowral, in the monestery at Sutton Forrest and featuring Our Lady of Sorrows, which has suffered at the hand of vandals recently. So I'll get those going this week, but there'll be no new 'personal' artworks for some time I reckon. Already January is filling up with quotes for repair and restoration and it's looking doubtful that I'll be able to get away to attend the Ausglass Conference in Tasmania during that month.

Simultaneous with the Samjjana exhibition @ Global Gallery last month was the Art Sydney Fair (formerly the Affordable Art Show). A much smaller show than in previous years, it was nevertheless a valuable experience being a part of TAP Gallery's exhibit. I had only one major piece on offer: the large panel "It's About Life, Actually" which was made in 2005 for the Adelaide GAS/Ausglass Conference Members'Exhibition @ Light Square Gallery. It's a dramatic piece and as at that exhibition it drew wide attention, including a wonderful comment from an elderly gentleman as he exclaimed "Excellent! I haven't seen decent stained glass since Leonard French!" I've posted images of both exhibitions on my Red Bubble site.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Numero Quatro

Creating an extraordinary glasswork at the moment. The resolve that I walked away with after completing the Land Mark Education 'Curriculum for Living' was that I am powerfully creative, breaking new ground (yes, I knew that already...): it's happening now. Last month I drew the design and cut the glass for a new piece intended for the Ausglass Members' Exhibition in Tasmania, opening in December and continuing during the 2009 Conference. I thought at the time that that was a brilliant piece of work. This new piece, giving expression to a classical guitar composition of MaryJane Leahy's called "Circus Chaos" walks all over it! I haven't been so excited in ages!

"Circus Chaos", one of 7x tracks on the CD, to be launched at the opening of the Samjjana exhibition at Global Gallery, Wed 15th Oct., appealed to me from the first listening. There is a definite structure to it and a certain gentleness also, but laid over the top of the guitar work is a motley collection of random percussive noises complete with whistles and bells. When I quizzed MJ about her creative process, she told me they sat down in the living room surrounded by an array of percussion instruments, set to and had fun. The recorded noises were then "collaged" together to make a brief but delightfully entertaining work.

In my stained glass I have mimicked this process by collaging found object, pieces of old painted glass, decorated glass and the most dynamic of Lambert's flashed streakies. If you were familiar with my collage, assemblages and works on paper, you would already know how close this is to my artistic practice and why this particular song appealed so much.

Nothing like a short lead time to drive the creative engine. The group of 5x visual artists has been meeting with MaryJane and her percussionist Dominic Wy Kanak, newly appointed Mayor of Waverley, for some months now but it is only this week that I've had the clear space to be able to devote time and energy to creating a new body of work.The restoration of St Brendan's Catholic Church in Annandale is complete and the windows are installed, with the comment being "well, you'd never know they were broken!" St John the Baptist Catholic Church in Maitland and St Joseph's Catholic Church in South Maitland are also complete and will be re-installed shortly.

It's actually insanely busy for me on the exhibition front: apart from preparations for Samjjana @ Global Gallery, I have a suite of figure drawings at TAP Gallery in their exhibition "About a Man", which gives way next week to "Nudes", in which I am presenting 2x new drawings. I've been posting photos of these drawings to my Red Bubble site and have had some wonderful feedback on them.

"Spring Equinox Salon 2008" just opened today to a good crowd at the Palm House in Sydney's Botanic Gardens: here I have a series of botanic studies for glass works in pencil and charcoal, some landscapes and street scenes and four small stained glass panels featuring daffodils.

And just up the road from my studio, for the month of September I have a solo exhibition at the Gallery Cafe, located in Devonshire St a few doors up from the Gaelic Club. Well, it's kindof a solo; I share the space with my alter ego skribe, who usually works out on the street but has made a series of studio works on found substrate, including ply, MDF, gyprock, masonite, cardboard and even glass. Oh, and also on this weekend is the Hills Grammar Art Prize, for which I was pre-selected. I entered a large wall mounted stained glass piece for the prize and skribe has 2x small works on laminated MDF in the general Art Show. Phew!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Well, as if I wasn't busy enough, I've embarked on an archival project: I'm collating all the info from all my job books to establish an electronic record of all Residential, Ecclesiastic and Institutional commissions, all Restoration projects that I've completed and all autonomous artworks that I've made since I began private practice. Many have never been photographed, but at least there will be a systematic record established before I completely lose the plot and forget altogether what those projects were. It may take a while; my job numbering system is up to 2320, with a 'strike rate' of around 50%. I'm not bothering tho with all the repair jobs, of which there have been many, nor the occasional straight out glazing jobs.

Powering away on the lead bench this week and last, making diamond leadlights for Sydney University. A colleague, Wolfgang Jansen, won the tender to renew several of the large windows fronting the Quadrangle. The job entails numerous diamond leadlight panels, so Wolf has farmed out some of the work between myself and Grant Kennewell. Not especially creative but keeps the wheels turning. And one has to be surprisingly accurate in the making of diamonds: they're not as straightforward as one might think. Certainly jigs can speed up the cutting immeasurably, but the slightest innaccuracy (we're talking fractions of a millimetre) and the diamonds will move out of alignment in the leading.

When these are done it's back onto a series of decorative panels for one of Sydney's beautiful North Shore mansions and continuing with the restoration schedule. The first set of windows for St Vincent de Paul's Marian Centre in Lewisham were completed and installed last week; two painted windows for St John the Baptist Catholic Church in Maitland are underway and some re-lead work for St Joseph's Catholic Church in East Maitland is waiting.

With my other two students taking time out, I've had Clive Hillier on the light table for the past two Saturdays. Putting him through his paces with glass paint and silver stains, while he works on some restoration for Terrance Plowright. It's very encouraging when tradesmen such as Clive, who have been in the industry for quite a number of years, are prepared to take on the role of student to improve their skills in areas where they may be deficient. Like many professionals in this industry Clive is largely self taught, initially learning the craft under a chap named Karl at East Sydney Community College.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


"...from the pink and purple palette of the perished evening, a blue-black night rose up around us as we rode. We plunged with the sea into tunnels of light. The robe of sunset slipped from the shoulders of the city..." Such scintillating prose is rarely found and a joy to read. A quote from "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts (first published 2003), my current read. Enjoying it thoroughly. Pat Conroy describes it as a "work of extraordinary art, a thing of exceptional beauty". Half-way thru its 933 pages, I cannot disagree. As busy as I am I still find time, or rather make time, to read, both fiction and non-fiction: I find both enjoyment and relaxation in the stretching of one's mind, exploring someone elses.

Arundhati Roi manages a similarly elevated level of prose in "The God of Small Things", and having read two of Patrick White's novels just prior, the most surprising "The Twyborn Affair" (1979) and the incisive "Voss" (1957), I certainly see what all the fuss has been over Mr White. By contrast, I found Virginia Woolf in "Orlando" (1928) tedious. While loving these forays into quality literature, I did not make it to any of the Sydney Writers' Festival events, nor any Sydney Film Festival showings.

Much as I would have liked to, the work schedule has been quite demanding lately, with the Annandale Catholic Church restoration project nearing completion, windows from the St Vincent de Paul centre at Lewisham under way and a trip to Maitland last Tuesday to remove windows from St John the Baptist Catholic Church, St Thomas Catholic Church, (East Maitland) and the Holy Family Catholic Church in Largs.

In between all that has been a set of inscription panels for Warren Langley, in his commission for new windows to the chapel at St Ignatius College, Riverview. I admire Warren's work ethic: wherever he is able, he distributes the workload amongst a network of fellow artisans established over many years and always allows a certain degree of autonomy, relying on his confidence in the skill of the practitioner to produce results of exellence.

In addition to these smaller jobs are the larger projects: a new window for St Bede's Catholic Church in Pyrmont (still in design development stage), a set of abstract windows for a group of holiday bungalows in Byron Bay (very early stages ) and a series of new windows and door panels to one of Sydney's grand old Federation mansions at Killara (cut the small porthole this week just gone).

Overiding all of that is my committment to exhibit in a group show at Global Gallery, Paddington: "Samjjana" - 5x artists working in 5x different media expoloring the concept of harmony and equity, as expressed thru the musical ideas of Maryjane Leahy, a science lecturer at Wolongong University. Maryjane will launch her first CD (titled "Samjjana") at the exhibition and, accompanied by Dominic Wy Kanak (Deputy Mayor of Waverley Council) on clapsticks and warup (his family's traditional TSI drum) and the bodhran (Irish drum), will play pieces of her own guitar compositions at both the opening night, Wed. 15th Oct. '08 and the "meet-the-artists" barbecue, Saturday afternoon, 25th Oct. If you're in Sydney during those times you will be well rewarded by getting along.

I also find time to go dancing, entertain special friends and have fun. Too tired on Friday, regrettably, to enjoy the dubstep night "Void" at Pheonix, last night I took a visitor from NY to the new club night "Underground", in the old basement of the Oxford Hotel, Darlinghurst, instead.

The curious crowd that turned out to investigate was not entirely consistent with their advertising, which was very much "macho-male", but a fair attempt was made by the promoters to establish something quite different on the Sydney club scene. The decor was decidedly dungeon-esque, with curtains of sliced rubber inner tubes and heavy metal beads dividing the dancefloor from the more intimate spaces and black plastic sheeting lining the walls. Interesting vibe.

The main act, a white-faced punk singing badly to thrashing backing tracks, was unfortunately quite dreadful, yet possessed a strong alure by dint of his sheer passion and his engagement with the crowd. The organisers perhaps tried a little too hard to be "arty" and we met many of the same faces down the road at Phoenix Bar in a much more relaxed state.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


This is my first Post on Blogger, and mirrors the Latest News just updated on my own website, This is my general plan for the posts, though others may well creep in, particularly if I am moved to verbal ingenuity by current events.

Busy, busy, busy in the studio with several projects running simultaneously. I am nearing completion of the restoration of damaged stained glass from St Brendan's Catholic Church in Annandale, with only one window, the Baptism of Christ, remaining to be done. I've left the most challenging till last: there are no remnants of the original glass and apparently no photographic record either, so with all of Christ's head and upper torso missing completely, it's going to really test me, given the high standard of painting in the windows generally.

The Designers and Creators Expo held in Canberra at the beginning of June went off fairly well, with enough sales on the floor to cover costs and thus far two confirmed commissions. While there I had an interesting experience: one of the visitors introduced herself as the great gand-daughter of John Radecke, whose signature appears on the Annandale windows that I've been working on over the past month. Apparently there was a monograph on the artist published some time after his death: one I will have to search out. Jenny Zimmer discusses Radecke in her book Stained Glass in Australia, published by Oxford University Press in 1984; she also talks about John Ashwin and Co., for whom Radecke was chief designer and painter.

Further research is definitely called for, as I met a Bob Radecke during my tenure in the Lane Cove studio. Already in retirement, his new girlfriend encouraged Bob back into stained glass and they would come into my shop now and then to purchase supplies. I gather Bob must have been John's younger brother. In fact, while I was working as Staff Artist for Taronga Zoo I would see the Radecke signature on old illustrations there. Bob had been engaged as an illustrator for the industrialist John Halstrom's range of enamel stoves. It was Halstrom who founded Sydney's Taronga Zoo.

I've had a wonderful afternoon today: got down to the S.H. Ervin Gallery at Observatory Hill to catch the last day of John R Walker's retrospective. What a wonderful exhibition! I had not been aware of this artist's work until reading a review of the show by John McDonald in last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald (Spectrum). McDonald's writing is almost always inspiring; he cuts to the quick of the subject matter at hand and brooks no fools. This article was no exception and was sufficient to inspire me to make the trip into the city despite the horrid weather (it's been absolutely pouring and blowing a gale out at Maroubra, for days now).

I was not disappointed: John Walker's paintings are a delight. Many carry the same evanescent light that one would find in a Lloyd Rees and true to McDonald's review, echo the lyrical Fred Williams and the magnificent Arthur Boyd.

An additional delight awaiting me at the gallery was their regular Sunday afternoon event: this week's being a reading of new poetry by the group DiVerse, featuring poems written especially for this exhibition and read by the authors. John Walker and his wife Anne attended the function, so I not only acquainted myself with new artwork but also met the artist. I was particularly impressed by the poems of Louise Wakeling: I found her words to be as strong, inspiring and moving as those of Judith Wright's, a former resident of the Braidwood region where John Walker now lives and works. Louise genuinely added something to the visual works to which the poems spoke, the whole experience providing a fascinating access to the paintings, one which I would not otherwise have had.