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Make graceful and lasting change

Cressida Campbell

Cindy Tonkin - January 4, 2023

This is the week of our annual summer school trek to Mittagong and Bowral.

I had grabbed a few things but had no clear idea of what i wanted to work on for the whole week i spend just making.

Yesterday Nicola and I went to the National Gallery to see Cressida Campbell’s massive exhibition, and popped in to see a small Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns exhibition. Between them i got a nice set of possible ideas.

Here are some of the for the future ideas:

  • Rauschenberg’s x ray works reminded me that I wanted to do something with my dad’s X-rays – I think i can build an entire between his x rays and my own. not for this week, but to remember
  • again not for this week, but i could certainly do something with the guts of my dad’s hammer box
  • i have started “story worth” ing Mitchell, and that could combine with some masculine side of the family series?
  • If i did that i can check trove and old issues of the Lithgow mercury/Bathurst advocate to find reference to the Tonkin family there
  • I want some open shelves for beautiful things in my kitchen – i can do this by just removing the doors and painting or papering inside the cupboards

And here are some from this week (which less than 6 hours later i put into practice:

  • frieze of chairs
  • making another long concertina from the Electoral boundaries books (which i did bring with me), using sharpies since it’s china coated and doesn’t seem to like paint (and i only brought my gansai tambi watercolours unless I sand the paper, and then the watercolours might stick, if randomly)
  • Cressida Campbell included a few long pieces – a shelf of things (see the images below)
  • remembering the Jeffrey Smart street / shore / room with no regard to perspective.

The Cressida Campbell exhibition was joyous, although by the end of it i was tired of it. Her process as she described it in a video was long – she apparently only turns out about 5 good works a year. because she carves woodblocks, takes weeks to paints the block with watercolours, then wets the paper and the block to rub the print onto the paper. she then spends days touching up the the woodblocks and the paper. I imagine a lot of works just don’t turn out. She went to Japan on an artist’s residency to learn their way of doing woodblocks, and she rejected it, preferring her method.

she spent 7 years on the dole she says (“i’m not rich”), that “artist’s scholarship”. but she has lovely things, or an eye for lovely things which hits the mosman market i would imagine.

It was clear that she got better over time – the more recent pieces were the ones I liked the best – interiors and still lives mostly.

Rauschenberg and Johns was clearly a way for NGA to pull some works out of their attic (wherever they could draw a bow, long or short, to another artist in their attic they did so). But we saw that first, and that was where some of the inspiration came from. There was an entire wall of numbers (Rauschenberg I think) where i remembered that i can just do numbers in a frieze and it can be lovely – i did this in a long concertina book already in 5 and Mathematics (and no doubt others). that cheered me no end.

Cressida Campbell reminded me that i can literally just draw a chair or a series of vases or bowls or flowers or even my art table. Last summer where i copied others’ artworks with collage taught me that i can collage pretty much anything.

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