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Bombastic Codpieces

1 Nov

Cash Brown’s  Bombast  series of works on paper takes its cue from the codpieces found in Renaissance portraits. The etymology of Bombastic is from a French term for cotton stuffing, used for protection and ornamentation in codpieces – a short lived but entirely memorable period in European fashion.

Size Matters at (small) GEMS

Opening Tuesday 25 November 6-8pm
22 November – 20 December

Robin Gibson Gallery
278 Liverpool Street Darlinghurst
Sydney NSW 2010 Australia

Open: Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 6pm

Cash Brown Bombast #9 after Ranuccio, 2010 ink, gouache and pencil on 240 gsm Arches 26 x 41 cm inc frame

Cash Brown
Bombast #9 after Ranuccio, 2010
ink, gouache and pencil on 240 gsm Arches
26 x 41 cm inc frame

Cash Brown Bombast #8   after Titian, 2010 ink, gouache and pencil on 240 gsm Arches 31 x 36 cm inc frame

Cash Brown
Bombast #8 after Titian, 2010
ink, gouache and pencil on 240 gsm Arches
31 x 36 cm inc frame

Cash Brown Bombast #6  after unknown Flemish painter, 2010 ink, gouache and pencil on 240 gsm Arches 34 x 41 cm inc frame

Cash Brown
Bombast #6 after unknown Flemish painter, 2010
ink, gouache and pencil on 240 gsm Arches
34 x 41 cm inc frame

Cash Brown Bombast # 5 after Bronzino , 2010 31 x 36 cm inc frame

Cash Brown
Bombast # 5
after Bronzino
, 2010
31 x 36 cm inc frame

Cash Brown Bombast # 11 after Gossaert, 2010 ink, gouache and pencil on 240 gsm Arches 28 x 33 cm

Cash Brown
Bombast # 11 after Gossaert, 2010
ink, gouache and pencil on 240 gsm Arches
28 x 33 cm

Size Matters

Many  assume that the cod  in codpiece refers to a fish. Because of modern slang usage, or perhaps due to total loss of touch with reality, some have assumed that “piece” meant a firearm. Not true.

In Middle English, Cod (or Codd in Old English, Coddd in Exceedingly Old English) meant bag or scrotum, which led to some interesting moments when dining out at the Renaissance equivalent of Long John Silver’s.

This is the tastiest codd I’ve ever had in my mouth

was a guaranteed show stopper, bringing about numerous jokes, and a homicide or two.

Codpieces began as a flat piece of material covering an improvement in men’s fashion — a well- placed slit. This new, easy access region in men’s pants allowed men to relieve themselves while standing without lowering their pants.
The simple flap was buttoned closed, laced closed, tied closed, or occasionally glued closed after a particularly exciting night at “The Yellowe Rose Publick Howse.”

The codpiece remained flat cloth for a number of years. While visiting England, Duke Fabrizio of Bologna, dressing hastily after a quick romantic interlude, used the flap to contain (or perhaps restrain) his nether parts while appearing before King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn.

Queen Anne, amused at the Italian’s conspicuous bulge, remarked

Be that thine codling or art thou glad to see me?

Codling is 15th century English for either a small, immature apple or any of several elongated greenish English cooking apples, so we may never know if Duke Fabrizio’s fruit was ridiculed, or complimented.

King Henry was very distressed by the whole business and assumed this bulge (from Middle French “boulge” meaning leather bag or curved part) to be the latest Continental style in courtly fashions. He immediately ordered his codpieces padded in order that he not look out of date by comparison to Duke Fabrizio, commanding,

My codpieces must compare favourably to Bologna.

Those literal minded tailors, envisioned a well endowed King,  and thus began the whole size contest that continues to this day.

EMIT exhibition open and catalogue online now!

15 Aug

The online catalogue for EMIT is now available


14 Aug – 24 Aug

Chapel off Chapel

12a Little Chapel Street


10 am – 5 pm  7 days

Curated, written and designed by Cash Brown

Resources for emerging conservation professionals

9 Aug

This week  I am pleased to launch a new blog, designed specifically to help emerging conservation professionals.

With resources, hints, tips and contributions from peers, I hope it will grow over time to become a unique digital asset for those of us who are charged with the care of cultural materials and look forward to actively developing it.

Suggestions for content are welcome!

Faking it – making replicas of artworks

12 Jul
Cash Brown at the Stadelijk

Hanging out with three magnificent Schoonhoven works at the Stadelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Conservators often face complex issues when faced with contemporary artworks. The materials, techniques and rationale behind them can often be better understood through the construction of replicas. While undertaking a recent internship at the Rabo Art Collection with Rabobank Netherlands, I was lucky enough to work with conservator Lydia Beerkens. Together, three small relief works by the artist from the collection were replicated. To find out how and why, follow the link!

The home of Heironimous Bosch

11 Jun

S’ Hertogenbosch is a pretty town in the Netherlands, famed as the home of  the Heironimous Bosch who was born there around 1450 died there in 1516.

I like an artist who is not afraid of changing their name, and despite no original paintings by the stand alone master, this town has AMAZING BALLS!


People queue for Bossche bollen (chocoladebollen) and after eating one of the giant cream filled chocolatey pastry balls of deliciousness, I can see why!

Oh my god, knife and fork and exercise required

Oh my god, knife and fork and exercise required

Almost undoubtedly, as was vogue among his contemporaries in Italy, Bosch changed his name  to Heironimous Bosch , probably to reflect and to draw attention to his home, ie ‘s-Hertogenbosch (the Duke’s – Hertog – woods – bosch), but perhaps also to distinguish himself from the Van Aken name he was born with, as his dad, uncles and brothers were all into the art game. Alas there is no surviving grave for me to visit and frottage either, so this post is more about the highlights I found in a few hours when visiting this delightful town. Spelling is different everywhere so please do not quote me.

The first thing you are confronted with in this magical town after disembarking the ridiculously convenient intercity train is the magnificent golden dragon atop a mighty pole in the middle of a super fountain on the first traffic island. I view this as a sentinel for the town, which stimulated the imagination of one of the greatest artists of all time.





Knit bombing, guerilla crochet and other yarns…

23 May

The small city of Utrecht in the Netherlands is a charming place filled with canals, bicycles, the tallest cathedral in the Netherlands and lovely parks. A short stroll down my canal side street on my first day here revealed a very exciting public artwork. The artist/s are unknown, it is probably illegal, but is one of the most delightful outdoor site specific yarn installations I have seen.

Cosy car

Cosy car

Bike bomb

Bike bomb

Crocheted canal

Crocheted canal

No barriers

No barriers

Bridge of happiness

Bridge of happiness


If you noticed from my last post that I seem to be drawn to works with an element of craft, well you would be right. I am assuming it is a sort of art envy, as although I can paint and draw, find it difficult to even sew on a button, let alone knit one –  pearl two. There is a lot of dedication, and humility in this type of  practice. I found this particular installation (which spans a footbridge adjacent to a huge bridge building site and extends 400m down one side of the canal until the next bridge) to be a delightful departure from the more predictable forms of street art, which can often damage buildings and create a psychological barrier to entering spaces where it prevails.

Graffiti v Street Art I prefer the crafty approach!

Graffiti v Street Art
I prefer the crafty approach!

I admire artists who use methods traditionally associated with craft, and curated an exhibition in Sydney in 2010 which reflected that reverence. Hands On | Craft in contemporary art featured emerging and established Australian artists whose primary mode of production involved working with yarn or other traditional craft based materials and methods to realise their work.

Human hair, buttons, telephone directories, cane toad leather, tea towels, native grasses, electrical cords, latex, socks, rags, deconstructed woolen rugs and blankets, silk,  shipping rope and fishing line were all stitched, woven, glued and pressed into a fabulous range of sculptures, installations and images. You can check out the catalogue here, but be warned, there are a few saucy things in there – but hey, I am sure you  would expect nothing less from me!


Art Basel|Hong Kong: highlights

20 May

A few days in Hong Kong is never really enough, especially when Art Basel is on. The event itself is pretty exciting, with international exhibitors, launch parties, talks, satellite events and art nights in creative precincts making it a great destination for antipodean round eyes wanting to soak up as much international art as possible.

The VIP program was outstanding, and I particularly enjoyed the wonderful talk at Duddell’s on 20th Century Chinese brush paintings, an area which I have no scholarship, but a new found interest in a very beautiful art form. Fiona Hall’s talk was a wonderful insight into her practice, and upcoming 2015 Venice Biennial installation in the new Australian Pavilion in the Giardini.

In a sea of works under super bright lights on site, many highlights are worth mentioning… in pictures. Funny I can see some biases emerging! If you missed the show, check out some of the work online here.

What's not to love about Neo Rauch?

What’s not to love about Neo Rauch?

Harland Miller I Can Can I, 2014 watercolour on paper 152 x 121.5 cm Ingleby Gallery - Edinburgh

Harland Miller
I Can Can I, 2014
watercolour on paper
152 x 121.5 cm
Ingleby Gallery – Edinburgh

Jonathan Owen Untitled, 2014 carved 19th century marble bust with further carving 80 x 60 x 13.7 cm Ingleby Gallery - Edinburgh

Jonathan Owen
Untitled, 2014
carved 19th century marble bust with further carving
80 x 60 x 13.7 cm
Ingleby Gallery – Edinburgh

If you have to ask the price, you cant afford it.

If you have to ask the price, you cant afford it.



Crystal studded antlers mmmmm

Crystal studded antlers mmmmm


Morandi magic


Pony fetish


Vibha Galhotra – thousands of tiny bells and encaustic works of sediment in water

Tony Oursler - a brilliant use of micro projector

Tony Oursler – a brilliant use of micro projector

Made to last…

1 Feb Brook Andrew, Men 2011, rare postcards, sapele and neon, Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne Photography: Christian Capurro

One of the great things about taking the time to visit regional galleries is seeing exhibitions and artworks  in environments which often have a focus on their locale, history or the procilvities of benefactors or directors.

As a new resident of Victoria, I have been slowly making my way around the state to visit regional and private galleries and am always delighted by the variety and flavour these excursions provide.

Today I visited the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park for the first time,  to take a look at the Made To Last: the conservation of art  exhibition before it closes on Sunday 2 February 2014.

Made To Last: the conservation of art  is an intriguing exhibition featuring five very different artists, including Penny Byrne whose work I have highlighted in a previous post. This wonderful exhibition gives insightful entries into artists materials, methods and reasons for choosing them, as well as some very interesting information on how work is looked after in transit, in the gallery, longer term concerns and how the artists themselves consider their work over time. Curator Sherryn Vardy is a recent graduate from the Master of Conservation of Cultural Materials (which I am currently undertaking), and am pleased and encouraged to see such a strong exhibition coming from an interdisciplinary approach.

I took these photos myself today with my iPad, and thank gallery staff for permission to do so.


With materials ranging from live plants, wood block prints on handmade paper and neon/timber/video composites to lollies, oil on canvas and synthetic turf, issues of permanence, reproduction and longevity are easily recognisable as conservation issues worthy of consideration. The interesting thing for me, was the emphasis on communication and indeed collaboration between conservator, artist, custodian, curator and venue which is necessary but usually a hidden and mysterious aspect of the public presentation of artworks.


The exhibition holds together very well, with works selected all of an intimate scale, allowing the viewer to contemplate the materiality of each work up close and personal. It is playful, humorous and even includes a rather gorgeous packing crate which could easily be mistaken for a contemporary work in its own right.


‘Made to last: the conservation of art brings together five living contemporary artists who use a range of complex materials in their work: Brook Andrew, Penny Byrne, Juan Ford, Ghostpatrol and Claire Anna Watson. While some materials a conservator encounters may be unstable, a different kind of instability is evident in the themes of the five artists included in Made to last, involving the impact of humanity on the world – past, present and future’ (Sherryn Vardy 2013)

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If you missed it, please follow the link to the exhibition which has wonderful texts and a really interesting video. The exhibition will be travelling to Darwin in late March and is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the tropics! Details of dates and venue will be posted here shortly.

Cash Brown 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.