the back story "Still life with Monastery Crows"

The piece "Still life with Monastery crows"

sold yesterday to my dear friends Mick and Angela Forbes - I thought I would write the "backstory " (pun intended) for them and also show I construct my work from many diverse sources. In the process I also want to illustrate that  every piece I exhibit is the sum of my skills, cultural history scholarship spiritual life and life experience to date.

Last year I decided to revisit Tarrawarra monastery set in beautiful farmland outside Yarra Glen Victoria- I had last been  there as a  Therry College school boy in the early 70s and have been doing so much religious art thought I should reconnect with its source and my own upbringing.

It was with some trepidation I drove up the long track  to the monastery - I wasn't sure how I would cope with the intense 24 hour cycle of devotions after so any years feeling the weight of catholic disapproval of my gay self
As I drove up the winding hill past the yellow fields flocks of crows rose up   to meet me.
I immediately thought of Van Gogh's images of crows and wheat fields -Van Gogh is my my spiritual father  and mentor and both his art work and writings are intensely moving .  I recognised we were also  a part of a grand european humanist tradition that transcends dogma and  persecution.

The monastery guest house and chapel
are beautiful but very austere - a few very simple beautiful  pieces in the chapel and the guest house is painted in the creams and browns of the cistercian order with  very few concessions to modern technology. The next day after getting up through the night and early morning I went for a walk in the monastery grounds picking figs and arranging them as a still life in my sparsely decorated room

After lunch where we were waited on by the charming and erudite Abbott, Dom David, I went for a long walk in the surrounding fields

The farm is very beautiful

Here are a few pictures that speak for themselves.
As I came up the hill and down past an abandoned railway line I disturbed a flock of crows in some dead trees. A mournful but beautiful scene the basis for this  landscape the Valley of the Crows

The French Connection
Bruno a Frenchman living in Melbourne responded to an advertisement on a dating site looking for models for my art work. Like other of his countrymen he is not prudish about his body and is very literate about all things creative. Here he is posing in my studio.

 At the same time Bruno began modelling for me I began studying the work of the 19th century French artist Gericault. I was particularly impressed by two works - the Raft of the Medusa  and this portrait of his friend. I love the dramatic lighting and colouring of the Raft of the Medusa as well as its strategic use of male nakedness and I like the simple colouring of the portrait of his friend ( also thought to  be the model for the naked figure in the left foreground of the raft picture )

 I asked Bruno to pose for me with a balloon back chair, a family heirloom I have placed in my studio that is ideal for more formal portraiture work
Here are some images from that shoot in the form of a proof sheet I use to select the most promising images.
 I finally chose a full back view as I have also been exploring the concept of the human skin as a canvas on which to project images principally through my Man of Flowers series . In looking at my online discourse with people who follow my work on deviant art I remember that it was also influenced by my taste in erotica -men at play -a site which depicts men informal wear in various stage of undress and sexual congress

I used a couple of on-line editing packages such as Picassa and Pic Monkey to merge the various elements of the picture and give a suitably gothic feel including a program which replicates daguerreotypes 

So when an artist asks you to part with hundreds of your hard earned dollars to purchase his or her work be aware of the intense thought visual literacy sensual and spiritual effort that goes into his or her best work 

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