Archive | January, 2014

Myanmar time warp

26 Jan

I was fortunate enough to spend much of December and January in Myanmar (Burma) on an excellent adventure with my intrepid daughter. As there is little or no infrastructure there, and the government ruled by military junta, the state of the arts is in many ways rather grim.

National Museum, Yangon

National Museum, Yangon, looks modern and well kept on the outside…

There may well be a flourishing underground contemporary arts scene, but none we could find. The National Museum holds fascinating treasures, important archaeological and historical objects, however the condition of the building and the vast majority of its contents can only be described as woeful.

Caring for art and artefacts in tropical climates is challenging, especially if the materials and techniques of the works are not endemic to the region, for example photography, works on paper and oil paintings.  All examples of these types of cultural materials showed signs of degradation ranging from mild to severe, while the musical instruments, lacquerware, wooden artefacts, stone and ceramic fared better. Little or no climate control within the building envelope and unsympathetic display conditions have resulted in extensive corrosion for many metal artefacts. Dust, insect and physical damage combined with annual exposure to high relative humidity appears to have caused extensive damage to ornately beaded and metallic thread costumes.


Ceremonial Royal Dress worn by the last monarch of Burma, King Thibaw, prior to exile to India in 1885.

Works on paper appear to have acidic mounts, and are affected by mould, foxing, warping and acid burn, while paintings on canvas are warped, mouldy and blooming. Repairs to many stone images of the Buddha appear to have been made with proprietary adhesives, with many noses slipping slightly from their original positions.

Perhaps fortunately for the artefacts, but less fortunate for visitors, is that the lighting is very poor throughout the gallery, with intermittent fluorescents and the rare tungsten globe in a myriad of unused fittings. It is forbidden to take photographs in the museum and there are very few available on the web to illustrate my claims.

Over time, the government may change and seek to invest funds into the preservation of its national treasures. This will require enormous resources and keep conservators busy for a very long time. Its a great illustration of how prevention is better than cure, and also how privileged we are in developed countries to have access to such wonderful collections housed in well resourced facilities.

Cash Brown 2014

Artist turns conservator, who would have thought it?

23 Jan

It seems pretty natural to me that after years of making art and working within the cultural sector to support my career, that turning toward conservation would be an appropriate pathway to stimulate and invigorate my professional life. The material science aspect, archival qualities of materials, issues of access, ethics, politics of collecting and the detective like nature of much of conservation activity is as exciting as it is broad, interdisciplinary and open ended.

Apparently many artists turn to conservation as an alternative to teaching and administration positions, but conservators turning their hand to the production of fine art is a much rarer occurrence. Artist Penny Byrne has within the last decade risen to prominence as a very gifted and highly collectable contemporary artist. After 20 years as a conservator, her finely tuned skills applied to the restoration of ceramics are now applied to composite creations in ready-made porcelain found in op shops and on Ebay. To find out more about this very interesting artist, go here…

and here…

I am a big fan  of her work and hopefully soon will be able to pop one of her delightful pieces on my mantle piece.


An ode to Adam Cullen.

23 Jan

Adam Cullen and I had an interesting relationship. At first we were friends, then lovers, then friends, then acquaintances. At times we were enemies. Adam made some lifestyle choices which at the time were incompatible with mine, so we went our separate ways. We had made collaborative works together, and despite our differences, Adam was very supportive of my work, and I of his. I made several portraits of him from 2004 – 2007, and it is during these years that we had the most contact.

whats next

What’s Next? 2004, oil on canvas 150 x 180 cm

Adam Cullen and Growler, 2005, oil on canvas, 180 x 150 cm

Adam passed away on 28 July 2012 after enduring a series of serious medical conditions.

In 2008, he kindly wrote this catalogue essay for me for my solo exhibition Appropriate, at Robin Gibson Gallery.

Cash Brown has always made art… in some form of another. Whether it is printmaking, painting, installation, sculptural objects or drawing, she has maintained a constant devotion to aesthetics. Most importantly, Brown has never lost her sense of play.

This exhibition one might say is a climax, due to the fast she has thrown herself into her own melting pot of mediums she so furiously works with. It is her most major exhibition to date. Formally trained in academic painting at the National Art School, Brown has an almost obsessive preoccupation with the history of western painting and its socio-political baggage. This provides a departure point for her conceptual repertoire of visual and linguistic “gags”. The works in “Appropriate” draw their predominant and immediate visual reference from Gustave Courbet’s famous “Origin of the World” painting from 1866. From the grandfather of modernism one wouldn’t expect anything less!.. In a multitude of sublime meanings it exists as an image of a female torso, but its possible interpretations are practically endless.

“The Origin of the World” could be read as a landscape – a snapshot freeze frames of the infinite, the mystery of the human subject with all its existential pain and bodily pleasures rolled into one curious state of topographical being.

Brown, with her masterly paint work and economy of content and form has unravelled and at the same time appropriated this voyeuristic premise with her own unique technique and system of humour has created a kind of surreal pornography. The voluminous flesh is the surface which she scarifies. I use the term pornographic because we are so overly and completely saturated with nudity. It is nothing short of bravery that Brown undertakes a “series of nudes”. Brown has captured and consequently created a strange animistic and primitive hybrid.

These works are almost dream-scapes, a bizarre document of the evolution of psychoanalysis and hypnotherapy – all the hallmarks of the big themes, feminism, death, beauty and the geography of the unconscious. Close ups of what and how we think a riddle in itself.

Brown’s work is testament to her skill as a painter and a conceptual thinker. One can’t help but look at this manic collection of deliberated psycho sexualised felines and canines classical mythological icons. So why execute such strange and other worldly images made from the mixing of historical references? Why does a dog lick its crotch? Because it can. Why does an artist make cultural artefacts? Because they can.

Finally a great painting is a documented battle between realism, expression and abstraction. Brown successfully and rather uniquely executes this concept of trans substantiation.

Adam Cullen
March 2008