Sunday, February 26, 2012


On the 9th March I'm taking part in a mixed exhibition called "Viva la Frida" at The Circle Gallery, Westend. It will run for a week, and features the work of more than 25 local artists and craftspeople. Associated workshops are being organized by The Art Shed.

This show has generated enormous excitement amongst those I know who are involved. Everyone knows, or should know, Frida Kahlo - that Mexican artist with the monobrow who painted many portraits of herself in a part naïve part surrealist style, often incorporating animals, flowers, fruit and other symbolic embellishments in her work.

Working with Frida as inspiration has been like a license to embrace colour, pattern, and exotic imagery. Others in the project have spoken of feeling like they are channelling the muse and it is a bit like that. Kahlo is admirable for her feminist attitudes, her political activism and her stoicism in the face of considerable physical pain and ill-health. Her work is distinctive, beautifully structured, always interesting, heart-felt, and undeniably strong.

As a person she was attractive (the famous mono-brow not withstanding), sensual, nymph-like (especially when seen in the company of her husband, fellow-painter Diego Rivera, and a charged-up representative of her culture, making a fashion statement of frills, beads, shawls and colour.
File:Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera 1932.jpg

I'm contributing a variety of pieces: clothing, accessories, and a painting. At this stage my only complete work is a heavily embroidered, beaded and appliqued soft sculpture: Monkey Magic.

If you are a Brisbane local join the fiesta frenzy at The Circle - from 6 p.m. on the 9th there'll be Mexican music, wine, and nibbles, with gold coin donations benefitting the women's legal service (in the Frida spirit) so that we can all get in on the chic-a channelling process.                                         
                        Until next time:  ¡adiós!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Memory Lane

Memory lane can be a pleasurable, sometimes poignant, even a little challenging place for an amble. Last week I caught up with a friend who I haven't seen for perhaps 15 years - she lives in Murwillumbah, and we spent our time at her local, the extraordinary Tweed River Gallery. Trish and I have never been close friends because we've never lived for long in the same place, but our paths keep crossing and we share mutual passions, acquaintances, and some similar life experiences.

Above all, we both paint. I have a lino print that she made from one of her son's drawings of sharks watched from the jetty at Broome, WA, when they lived there; she has an oil still life that I did a hundred years ago for my first exhibition ever, when I lived on a Darling Downs farm.

Highly Commended, Michelle Dawson, Sparrow Man
The Tweed River Gallery is such a marvel - we had gone there to see the Stuart Cussons exhibition, that included an exquisite hand-made book reverencing his father, but there was also an extraordinary collection of 50 printmakers' works by a collaboration of Chinese and Australians, and the Portia Geach Memorial Award for 2011: an incredibly diverse range of portraits by contemporary female artists.

For me though pick of the pack was "Bessie Gibson: an artistic life". My mother feels that my grand-father knew Bessie from his time at Brisbane Technical College, and her work speaks of that earlier era of dynamic Australian female artists. And also has something of my grand-father's feel about it - the palette as well as the gestural brushwork of her larger oils.

Bessie Gibson, Untitled (Lady with Pearls), oil on paper
Bessie Gibson, Untitled (Lady with Pearls), oil on paper
I think we all need the odd day out of our usual lives like that, and an amble down Memory Lane. My friend Melanie from Kimono Reincarnate talks about the pleasure of keeping art dates with yourself, and I enjoyed meeting up again with Trish so much - revisiting memories of my years in the country and finding out about how she's meeting the same sorts of challenges that life throws our way at this stage in our lives where ever we live.

I came home feeling a little challenged, wonderfully stimulated, and utterly refreshed - although that last might have been partly to do with a nice long drive in My Lovely Car's air con too, with Brisbane rejoicing in a typically sultry February!

Have happy days!