Posts Tagged ‘ephemeral’

woodford spiral flow

December 18, 2013






Woodford Folk Festival is a major event on the summer calendar here in SE Queensland and I am currently on the festival site as a volunteer with the set up crew.  As I said, this isn’t a small festival, and there are 200-300 people working on site, most of them volunteers, over a period of several weeks.  The site is extensive and pleasingly complex, with hills and valleys, creeks and forests, along with the proliferating array of tents, marques and other temporary structures being built. There is lots happening, lots of bustle, lots of busy people doing all sorts of things.  There is fun and socialising too, and with many of the volunteers having skills as musicians, artists, dancers, firetwirlers and jugglers and who knows what else, there is quite a creative atmosphere with plenty of interesting spontaneous things going on.  So, one day when I managed to have a bit of quite time by myself in amongst all of this, I decided to create something in this lovely little creek-line that I pass on my way to my shifts in the workers kitchen.  A small bridge crosses the little creek, giving a nice view of the small pool nestled at the base of a large tree, and that seemed like the right place to highlight with some bright red leaves from a Blue Quandong tree at the back of the kitchen.  It began as a line, which wound it’s serpentine way amongst the stones and reached the gravel bank and became a spiral.  This was the order of creation, but looking at the finished work, this was clearly working backwards, the leaves telling me to seek back to the source.  So this piece is about beginings, about creation, about order and design loosing it’s constraints as it interacts with the environment and follows a natural pathway of flow as it’s energy is distributed and dissapated.

chalkboard 002

August 16, 2013



You will recall, that I made myself a new chalkboard way back last summer.  The idea of the chalkboard is that it is a way to ‘free up’ drawing practice.  By using such an inherently ephemeral medium, not intended to be kept as a finished ‘work’ takes away all sense of anxiety over how a proposed drawing might turn out.  Trouble is, this process does its job all too well and so I end up making a drawing I like and wish I could keep.  So, this drawing was made last summer, and has just now been washed off, but not before a new version has been produced as a woodcut.  A woodcut is of course a very different medium to a chalk drawing, and so off course they are quite different images.  To see the woodcut, you had better take yourself along to the next show at The Left Hand Gallery in Braidwood, NSW.  Open on weekends, 24/25 August, 31 Aug/1st Sept, 7/8 Sept.  As Julian Davies, the resident curator at The Left Hand says of relief prints, “Once something is sliced away it cannot be put back. This is way of making pictures that asks for daring and imagination.” So the antithesis of a chalkboard really.



lace bark

January 3, 2013



Walking in Conondale National Park recently, one of the many delights to be seen was the large flowers of Lacebark (Brachychiton discolour) trees, scattered on the forest floor.  Lacebark are a large rainforest tree which at this time of year, along with their better known cousins the Flame Tree, are almost leafless but covered in spectacular flower.  Being usually very tall and often emergent from the top of the canopy, it is quite difficult to see the flowers looking up into the tree, but they make an impressive display on the ground when they drop anyway.  The underside of the flower was particularly inspiring with the contrasting dark and light pink, so a little ephemeral land art was in order.



A little later there was an even more spectacular carpeting of flowers beneath one of these forest giants, but it was time to push on with the days walk towards a swim at ‘Artist’s Cascades’.





December 4, 2012


I’ve made a new chalkboard which is a little more manoeuvrable than the last one on an old door.  Today I made the first drawing on it and here it is.  It depicts a scene inspired by my explorations in Wollemi National Park recently.  Well, more than inspired by, it represents quite a specific spot.  From Newness Campground, the main Pipeline Track led off downstream along the Wolgen River.  I followed an unsigned side track, that led off through the ruins of what must have been the fancier houses attached to the old oil refining works.  Now only sandstone  chimneys remain, like strange trunks amongst the forest.  The track dwindles, as it traces up a creek line which becomes increasingly densely forested, with high cliffs looming overhead on both sides.  In parts the track becomes difficult to follow, but after tracing it up and down several times in the days I was there, I can confidently follow it to it’s end, which is the place depicted here.  A truly magical spot, especially the first time you see it.  The deep narrow gorge, filled with high forest, is rather dark, cool and calm, oblivious to the sun filled and windy weather above.  Here the cliff on one side is particularly shear – glowing orange up above in the afternoon sun, but with a deep recess at the base.  Carved over the ages, by the smallest of ephemeral watercourses, is a great tube-like, vertical chute.  It carried no water on the day I was there, not even a dripping, but instead it shone a column of soft reflected light onto the circular, sand-filled depression at its base.  In the gloom of the forest it was like an enchanted stage, lit at just this time of day, waiting for the arrival of some cosmic actor.

I have photographs, though none look anything like this drawing.  It was one of those places that was too large, yet at the same time close and intimate, to capture in one frame.  This chalkboard drawing is instead based on a pen drawing from my notebook, made on that first days visit.  Even in my sketch, there was a figure at the base of the chute, although I was there alone.  I’m not entirely sure why I inserted the figure, perhaps to help with scale, but when it came to doing the chalk drawing, I certainly wanted to retain it, something to make the image more lively, and excentuate that point of focus at the base of the chute.  The figure I had drawn was a rather generic standing silhouette, and really not sufficient, so I started browsing books for another pose.  I soon settled on the works of William Blake as a good point of departure.  When I saw “Albion Worshiping Christ” I knew I had the right one.


Albion Worshiping Christ is one of the plates from Blake’s epic work Jerusalem , a book of 100 etched and hand coloured plates that took 16 years to produce.  My drawing has omitted Christ, to be replaced by the wonders of nature, so it seemed a rather fitting choice.  Of course my chalkboard drawing is only meant to be a temporary sketch, and the landscape elements did come fairly easily.  The figure, however, was a labour.  I re-did it many times, and also extra sketches on black paper.  The more I worked on it, the less it looked like one of Blake’s cosmic men, and the more it looked like a distorted half man/half frog, perhaps by Francis Bacon! (I love the work of Francis Bacon by the way, but it really wasn’t what I was trying to achieve in this instance.  I hope I get the chance to see the show on at Art Gallery of NSW)  Eventually I stopped trying to force the figure into the particular scale and position where I though it should be, and instead let it and my hand have their way, and Albion came out twice as big, as he kept wanting to, over and over.  He still took quite a bit of fiddling – perhaps I was trying to achieve too much with a piece of chalk and an eraser.



clouds on a black sky

May 27, 2011

I know the blog has been pretty quiet of late, and I apologise to regular readers.  I hope a few of you at least has persisted and check back in now and then, secure in the knowledge I’d eventually get back to posting.  Rest assured I have been busy, in fact blog posts are probably somewhat inversely proportional to general business.

Peter McLean, Untitled (clouds), 152cm x 56cm, monotype, 2011

One recently emerging project is large monotypes, continuing on the themes of clouds and skulls.  I think I have written about skulls and bones here before, but why clouds?  For a lot of the same reasons really.  Clouds are ephemeral of course, coming and going with every one unique, and yet adhering to recognisable forms.  And where do these forms come from?  The interactions of physical materials (water vapour, ice crystals etc) and nature’s processes (convection, condensation etc.) all operating beyond ordinary perception leaving us these fleeting objects in the sky which often promise but don’t always deliver life-giving rain.

Monotypes are a form of printmaking, though unlike most print forms can not be made as multiples.  Flat plates of metal, glass or perspex form the matrix on which the image is drawn in stiff ink.  The positive image can be applied to the plate using brushes, rags or a range of implements, or ink can be applied to the entire plate with a roller and a negative image drawn by removing the ink through similar means.  This second approach is the one I have been using.  While monotypes can be printed by hand, the best results are achieved by passing the plate and paper through a press in a similar way to an etching.  I’ve been using the Hilton electic press at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra, which is just big enough to allow me to print up to a full sheet of Hahnemuhle paper edge to edge.

Inking up on the Hilton press at Megalo Print Studio

cherry leaf wall piece

March 19, 2010

I mentioned in the last post that I used the cut-out stencil to aid in the making of a wall piece.  Below are a couple of pics of the piece, a disintergrating man, made from cherry tree leaves pinned to the gallery wall.  It was shown at M16 Gallery as part of ‘Light Industrial’, a show that resulted from a series of community arts workshops that focused on the industrial site where the gallery and studio complex is located.  While it is mostly bitumen and  sheds, an old weeping ornatmental cherry tree opposite the main door gives a touch of something growing.

Untitled, Peter McLean, 2009, leaves and pins, detail.

Untitled, Peter McLean, 2009. Leaves and pins.

The exhibition was held in the winter, but I had already collected a lot leaves from beneath the cherry tree in the autumn and dried and pressed them so despite being on the gallery wall for several weeks they were quite stable.  There was a powerful dried leaf smell when you were up close to the work too.  It was quite different seeing this type of ppiece on the wall instead of on the ground as I had made them before.  Also, although the work was still temporary, it was not exposed to the elements and prone to blowing apart at any moment like the pieces on the ground.  That’s why I decided I needed to contrive the sense of the image disolving from the base, where I had been making the outdoor work with a complete figure.

hibiscus man

February 23, 2010

My ephemeral silhouette project, which was the initial impetus behind this art out and about blog, is not something that I do so regularly now, but they do still appear now and then.  This fellow was made in Melbourne’s Domain in January.  They appear to be some kind of Hibiscus flowers, similar to the coast cottonwood.  I don’t know if the flowers usually turn dry before they fall from the tree, or if that was because it had been 43 degrees celsius and dry as a bone the day before.  While temperatures above 40 are not unheard of in Melbourne, the previous night had been the warmest minimum on record at 30.6.

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?

leaf circles

May 29, 2009

I’ve been unable to resist doing some leaf works lately, and they have all been circles.  A circle marks a spot, and it also creates an inside and an outside, like a Venn diagram, but with only one set.  I’m not sure yet what this means in terms of why I am making leaf circles, but I am sure it is relevent somehow!  The occupation of space perhaps.




I wanted to use the white leaves (pubescent undersides) because I was a little bit perplexed as to why only some of the leaves were white underneath, only about 10% or less.  They all came from the same tree.  While the whiteness does wear off over time after the leaves have fallen, but this is only a partial explanation, since even when looking at just the ‘freasher’ yellow leaves, most are smooth underneath (and therefore not white).



This last one is only a half circle of course, but conceptually continues beyond the paving to circle the large tree on the left where the leaves came from.  I did it early in the morning at school.  The day remained fairly calm so the circle stayed more or less intact, but the centre had more and more new leaves fall onto it, obscuring the distinction between the inside and the outside over time.

River sculpture

May 26, 2009

I’ve been meaning for some time now to add in some more links to other artists.  Well today I received a comment from Albertus Gorman, otherwise known as artist at exit 0.  His wordpress blog has had me chortling away – I just want to see more and more.  But I made myself stop rushing through the old posts, I want to slow down and consider them more carefully when I have more time (I’m supposed to be preparing a seminar for tomorrow).  Among other things, he makes sculptural figures and wildlife from the flotsam deposited on the banks of the Ohio River.  And what an interesting River it seems to be!    The stories that go with these whimsical creatures are great too.  If you have a look at his site I guarantee you wont be disappointed.

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