Posts Tagged ‘bones’


June 27, 2011

Sent off the file to the printers today for the invite to a new show opening at The Front Gallery and Cafe in Lyneham, Canberra from July 20th. Working hard to get it all together on time, but it’s looking good so far. Will make a nice last hurrah before setting off travelling. I’ll add more images from the show over the next few weeks.


June 12, 2011

When I was living in Bowral last year, one of my favourite places to explore was Carrington Falls in Budderoo National Park.  The falls themselves are spectacular and easily reached by car and a short stroll to lookouts etc.  Of more interest to me was the two routes down into the Kangaroo River downstream of the falls, which National Parks seem to keep quiet about and so it takes a little exploring to find them, and realise they can be joined into a nice day’s loop.  On the eastern side of the gorge is Stevo’s Track, which seems to be an old logging track which switchbacks down the Waratah studded sandstone cliffs to reach a sizable flat area perched halfway down the slope.  The deeper soils here support a tall forest of Blue Gums and Tallowood.  On the Western side, a track leads out to the now un-maintained Missingham Steps.  No switchbacks here, just a steep plunge down through a narrow gully that cuts through the cliffs.  And despite the name, not a lot of steps either.  There are some cut into the rock, but often subsequent tumbling of boulders has left them stranded anyway.

On my last trip down the ‘steps’ I came across a group of animal bones, perched on a mossy rock.  The remains of a rock wallaby perhaps?  The place always felt special and amazing, and this group of bones only heightened the feeling.  The way they were grouped on the rock, undisturbed, felt almost like they had been placed as an offering.  It was quite an uncanny feeling.  I didn’t feel I could disturb them, so I just took a few (mostly blurry) photos in the dim green light of the canyon, perched high above the forested flanks of the main valley, while simultaneously feeling vulnerable to the great mass of the plateau above me in this incision of mossy rocks that I shared only with these wallaby bones.  Reflecting on this place now as I write, I realise that it has common characteristics with some other places where I have had similar feelings of it being somehow special.  Most notably coming to mind is a place in Washpool National Park that I dubbed ‘The Gates’ and made a drawing of the spot which included the text of a little story I wrote about it.  ‘the Gates’ formed the place where I left the fire trails and ventured off track into a small but wonderous, boulder strewn catchment that I called home for a month.  These places are natural thresholds, a constricted opening in the natural barriers between  one part of the landscape and another, often from a broader, generalised, easily accessed area to a smaller, more specific, secluded or difficult to reach area with few human visitors.  A classic Shangri La fantasy perhaps.  These are places that I love to be in, they feel more like home than anywhere else.   A difficult passage through (should I say it?)  a liminal zone from the outside ‘normal’ world to pass into the secluded paradise heightens the senses and intensifies the expectation.  At ‘The Gates’ there was an unussual boulder, that I came to see as the Guardian Spirit of the place, who you needed to respect in ordered to be allowed entry into that homeland.  Here at Missingham Steps, the bones performed this same role, a sudden jolt to the senses, requiring an almost ritual respect as you passed, in order to be able to truly appreciate the valley below as ‘home’.

Below is the view from this place and another looking almost vertically down on the bones and the base of the ‘steps’ below.

I should add that both routes are not formally constructed walking  tracks, are very steep, and receive no maintenance.  Furthermore, the ‘tracks’ only reach halfway down to the river, the rest is rather a matter of finding your own way, though there are many (unofficial) markers of various kinds, from flagging tape, to rock cairns, to tin lids!  But as is so often the case, these markers intrude on the ‘natural’ feel of the place, without actually offering an effective trail to follow since they always seem to be lacking at crucial places and trying to rely on them only diminishes the propper observance of the landscape that should be your true guide.  If none of this is the kind of thing that puts you off, then you will love the wonderous delights of the river valley below.  I hope to return sometime, and spend a few weeks camping and drawing in this little visited gem of a place.  Perhaps I’ll find you there.


December 21, 2010

Peter McLean, Skull, white ink on paper, 2010

Still working with skull and bone images a lot lately, and enjoying using white media on black paper.  Using black Hahnemuhle which is strong, soft and deeply black – beautiful.  I’m especially enjoying what white ink will do on it.  I just love the way the pigments in the ink form a reticulated pattern as it dries, or when it moves slowly across a surface.  Reminds me that this isn’t just some abstract process of human mind and hand forming an image – I could never create the beauty of the reticulation by conscious decision – this comes about because of the physical properties of the material itself, reminding me of countless patterns seen in nature created by the interaction of particle and flow.

October 22, 2010

Kangaroo jaw bone on the ground near Mt. Clear, Namadgi National Park, Australian Capitol Teritory.

‘Jaw Bone’, Wood engraving printed on Kozo Light paper.

Fremantle Print Prize

September 27, 2010

The 35th Fremantle Arts Centre Print Awards, Australia’s largest print prize, opened last friday (in Fremantle, Western Australia).  I was very pleased to have been selected as a finalist with Sections of Life, a handmade book of relief prints taken from bone.  The show continues until 21st November, so if you happen to find yourself in Fremantle…

Peter McLean, Sections of Life, 2009.

lake george happenings

July 22, 2010

Lake Geoge, near Canberra has been getting a lot of attention lately, and as I’ve written about the lake here before I thought it might be a good way to bet back to blogging after I’ve left it dormant for a while (apologies to my regular readers – you know who you are!). What has to be the best public art I’ve seen in a long time appeared on the lake recently and has been drawing a lot of attention from passing motorists. Four life-size and realistic sculptured zebras graze the lake bed in front of one of the rest stops. They were installed by artists, Alan and Julie Aston.

It’s a bit old news now, but earlier in the year Weereewa-A Festival of Lake George, was held on and around the lake and in the nearby town of Bungendore. I was involved in a couple of events. Megalo Print Studio and Gallery mounted an exhibition of hand printed tea towels titled “windwash”. I screenprinted a couple of designs which contributed to the installation of work from many members which stretched some 200 meters out onto the dry lakebed.

Finally, another festival event was a “works on paper” exhibition and prize. After spending some time exploring the lakebed one afternoon, and collecting materials I made a drawing using powdered bone and sediment from the lake on black paper, which won me a joint first prize!

“Lake George”, Peter McLean, powdered bone, lake sediment and acacia gum on paper

new engravings

April 7, 2010

After a very busy month, I’ve finally had a run of a few days at home. Apart from a lot of gardening, I’ve also made a couple of new wood engravings. Firstly a tiny landscape carved on a small round of pear wood, about an inch across.

After that warm up, I moved onto something a little more ambitious. An image of an animal skull on a large round of hawthorn. The block is about 20cm long and the image itself about 10cm I guess. I’ve been carving it over the last few days and started proofing today. I’m still quite undecided how I want to print it for an edition. Printed as dense black, the engraved image looks great, but I think the shape of the block becomes too dominating, so I’ve been experimenting with lighter printing. Getting the balance right and the prints consistent will be something of a challenge though. Anyway, here’s some images.

wood engraving of scull from hawthorn block

Skull, wood engraving, Peter McLean 2010

walking on water…?

January 28, 2010

Yesterday I went for a walk on Lake George (or Weerewaa in the indigenous language). Though no, I wasn’t walking on water, Lake George hasn’t had any water in it for years, since late 2002 in fact. (Besides, I lost my Jesus-like locks recently). The lake bed is quite expansive and rather flat. It is not a salt lake, but rather converts to sheep grazing when there is no water, which is not that unusual, though it can be up to 5 meters or so deep when full.  The Federal Highway from Canberra to Sydney skirts the edge, so I have passed it often and it is an incredibly beautiful landscape.  The play of the changing light on the lake bed and the hills on the far side mean the view is never quite the same.  Yet, though I sometimes stop briefly at one of several rest stops along the way, I have not before walked out onto the lake bed itself.  At the moment even the grazing must be quite marginal, the soil was cracked and crumbling and the dry plant cover sparse.  I did a few sketches, took many photos, collected two sheep skulls and some dirt to take back to the studio, and made a bone circle to leave on the lake bed.

Many Canberra artists have made Lake George the focus of their attention for a period, it seems to captivate people.  One of my favorites is Rosalie Gascoigne’s ‘Suddenly the Lake’ made from tin and ply. There was water in  the lake in the mid 90’s when she made it, and when I first saw the lake.  Click here to see an image. Perhaps I will have a Lake George period soon?

bone prints

December 21, 2009

An exciting new direction my work has taken in the last few months has been relief prints taken from bone – that’s right, bones.  In this case a small animals’ jaw bone that I found in the bush has been sanded flat on one side to print from.  I didn’t do any additional carving into the bone, other than create a flat surface, so all the intricate shapes and forms you see above are a direct result of the structure of the bone.  A series of these prints were taken from the one bone and bound together in a little hardcover book I called “Sequence of Life”.  I’m very excited by the possibilities for a lot more bone prints next year, and other natural structures that I find on walks too.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

bone man

October 27, 2008

I’ve been meaning to make a figure with these bones for a while now. They are kangaroo bones found beside the bike path between home and uni. Somewhat inevitably, the figure takes on more the feel of a skeleton than a silhouette. Bones are such a powerful symbol of death – such a different feel to the work than a flower man for example. Though ironically the bone man will probably last somewhat longer. A bit like dust man (see previous post ‘detritus’). Thinking back, dust man might be the only art out and about figure that has been done indoors so far. It is at least a week since I did dust man, but he still looks much the same, silently loitering in a half forgotten stairwell in the printmedia workshop of school of art.

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