Louisa Giffard

The Mysterious North!

I’m currently in the middle of the run of my first exhibition – a show I’m putting on together with my contemporary Eadie Newman. The title refers to my time spent in Canada, walking around through waving fields and seeing gnarled trees, vast creaking buildings, and all manner of beasts scurrying and slithering and flapping in a clattering cloud into the sky. As Eadie also went on an overseas trip this year – she to Europe, and I to North America, I decided that it would be a good tribute to our respective journeys northward.

The exhibition opened on January 15th. The opening went very well indeed. Here’s a picture of early in the night.

Opening of The Mysterious North

(Eadie is in the green dress, I am a sliver of skirt off to the left.)

The exhibition will be open until January 26th. All of our works are for sale, and I am selling prints of mine. If you’re in the Canberra region and you’re interested in attending, it’s at the Front Gallery and Cafe, at Lyneham Shops.

Now that the exhibition’s well under way – here’s some more of the works I’m showing!

Field of Life Bars

This work is inspired by the computer game Stronghold. The little bars are how one measures the health of one’s troops. I played the game a little too long before I went away, and I was plagued with mental images of all the health bars, jostling together as far as the eye could see – rather like corn in a cornfield.

Birdhouse and Loon

Picton ON is known for its birdhouse city, which has birdhouse representations of nearly every building in the town. I decided that Spark Box Studio should have their own birdhouse.

The Waiting Chair

 

There’s not all that much to say about this one, just that it’s a slightly heightened representation of the inside of the above Ontario farmhouse.

Transitional Boreal Dwelling

I was lucky enough to travel to Bancroft, and see the transition to boreal forest. I was entranced by the swamps lining the roadside, crowded with the skeletons of trees, and decided it’d be an appropriate setting for a rather strange house I found while walking on the island.

Tree Within Trees

 

The island was covered in huge trees, in various states of health.

Weed Damask

The wealth of greenery didn’t just end at trees. The farms and the alleys were bursting with all manner of plant life, some familiar and some strange.

Tree's reach

And finally, a work that isn’t in the exhibition. This is a very straightforward depiction of something I saw on Mont Royal, in Montreal, once again demonstrating that when it comes to mysterious and intriguing scenes, I don’t always have to change anything.

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Everything ends at exactly the right time

There are two reasons a movie is difficult to illustrate. One is that it’s dull-looking, was probably based on a play and has the cinematography of a British TV show from 1983. The other, is that the movie is so full of wonderful, intriguing imagery that you’re overwhelmed and have no idea how to sum it up in just one image. Well, I finally got around to reviewing Picnic at Hanging Rock, and it was most definitely the latter.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

 

In my mind, Sara, the one who was left behind, is just as important a character as the three girls who disappeared. The rest of the movie, I’ve tried to represent with a few objects – Miranda, and the rock itself. I’m represented by the powder blue gloves I wore in the review.

Walls

Yes, this time it’s walls rather than windows. More specifically, the Berlin Wall, and the movie that was screened on the very last night of its existence. That would be the East German movie Coming Out. It’s the first East German movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s about exactly what you’d expect it’d be about.

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Yes, another crowd shot like the last one! The nice thing about crowd shots is I can stick myself in there somewhere and it’s not as awkward. I’m enjoying this kind of thing, but painting that many people does take some time. Except this time they’re not lavender, they’re grey, because nothing was more Eastern Bloc than the colour grey. Or something.

Happy belated 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, everyone!

The most lavender of marriages

Ah yes, a title card! It’s been a long time since I’ve had an opportunity to a) put myself in a title card and b) make it kind of stupid.

Some movies are hard to turn into visual interpretations, because they’re not movies you’d really remember for their visuals. The 1990s gay comedy In & Out is one of those. You can’t really represent the irritating camp nature of I Will Survive in an image, so I took a different approach.

It's your wedding, I hope you're having a nice time!

It’s your wedding, I hope you’re having a nice time!

It’s rather fun doing something nearly in monochrome, and having the opportunity to draw a hundred near-anonymous people rather than fussing about likenesses. Doing everything in lavender does make me feel like I’m colouring a panel of The Phantom though.

I just realised this is the second time I’ve drawn a crowd of vague blurry people in a church.

Canada

I recently had the privilege of spending four weeks at the wonderful Spark Box Studio, a residency in Prince Edward County. There, I was surrounded by farmland and the sizzling sounds of cicadas, the shuffling expanses of cornfields and the cries of wheeling, screaming jays. Rural landscapes in Canada are very different to the countryside in Australia, in almost every conceivable way. The animals you disturb while walking are different. The farmland is different (crops, rather than livestock – I haven’t been to many crop-growing areas in Australia, and my city is slap-bang in the middle of what was historically sheep country.) The buildings are different, built for different conditions – huge barns like aircraft hangars, crumbling facades of historic houses where doorways end in midair.

I managed to complete a small series of works while there, working on and off while gathering visual information wherever I trampled on the island. As I’ll be having an exhibition in January, I won’t be showcasing all of my works yet (for all my non-local readers, I’ll put the works up online, in time.) However, here are a few that might give viewers an idea what I’ve been working on.

Canada house

The buildings especially really stayed with me. Here, finally, were the absurd Victorian dwellings that depicted in my previous work – and they were everywhere around me! Simply walking around the country revealed dozens of strange buildings, some needing a new context, others hauntingly weird on their own.

I didn't have to change anything

I rounded one corner and saw a caravan, isolated in the middle of the woods, windows boarded up and a pile of firewood next door. Needless to say, I got out of there as fast as I could.

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Some buildings looked as if they’d outlived their usefulness and littered the landscape like shipwrecks.

As well as my paintings, I did a series of objects. These are made of thermal plastic (what you might know as “shrinky dinks” ) kindly provided by one of my hosts at the residency. Each piece is less than 6 cm/2.5 inches wide

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(This is the distinctive milkweed plant that proliferates across the country)

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This last piece is a magnolia warbler I had the opportunity to see up close at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory. This piece is particularly tiny – half the size of the others.

Of course, my trip ranged rather further than just Prince Edward County, and I was able to take photographs of a lot of very strange and unusual things. As a consequence, more work will probably come soon, featuring other aspects of the North American continent.

 

 

The Colour Scheme

When I walked into a second hand store and bought a ludicrous striped shirt in 2008, I had no idea how much that shirt would come to influence my work. Yes, whenever you see this incredibly obnoxious combination of colours, it’s because of that impulse purchase – of a shirt that was obviously far too garish for its original owner. Whenever I’m too uncreative to think of a good way to incorporate myself into a title card…out comes the colour scheme! It’s just a very convenient shorthand for my show.

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I think I’ve managed to employ it to new heights of hideousness this time! Hopefully a hideousness that’s so eye-burning, it becomes almost compelling. At least that’s my excuse. The picture still works if you convert it into black and white, by the way.

You’re tearing me apart!

Before that line was associated with the heinous antics of crater-faced Tommy Wiseau, it was said slightly histrionically by James Dean, in his most famous movie, Rebel Without a Cause.

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One of the main things I learned from this movie is that to be regarded as a chicken is the worst thing of all. (Kind of funny, considering that the director was a bit of a chickenhawk himself, so the constant chicken motif has an added dimension.)

Oh, and fathers who do any sort of housework are unmanly and terrible, and should be hitting their wives in the face instead. Hooray!

Gimme 20 dollars?

This is the title card for Sara Dane, which is a more than moderately horrendous period drama based on the life of convict businesswoman Mary Reibey – whom most Australians would know by face, if not by name. Yes, she’s the woman on the $20 note. Now, Australian currency has several sophisticated counterfeiting measures in place, in order to make it extremely hard to replicate. However, for some inexplicable reason, I decided it’d be a great idea to put myself to the challenge.

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I could have just done a pink/red wash, but why take the easy way out? It turned out a bit more orange and less red than I would have liked, and has a lot of the ever-so-wonky touches of something done by hand, but that’s part of the “charm” of traditional art, I suppose. Certainly one of the most complex title cards I’ve done, and it was an enjoyable challenge.

 

Redcoats

It’s been a long time in the making, and I’ve only just managed to get around to reviewing Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. And what image from the movie stuck with me more than other? Our main character carrying people (with little regard to our modern understanding of not aggravating potential spinal and internal injuries – which is unsurprising, seeing as this film is set in the 18th century.) So, it was my destiny to paint myself being lugged about like a sack of grain, along with a little hint of the beautiful idyllic pastoral landscapes the movie frequently depicts.

 

Barry Lyndon inspired more than just this piece of art though. Before I even watched the film, the idea of redcoats was the inspiration for a woodblock print. However, I’ve been locked out of aperture so I can’t access the print at this stage. I’ll put it up later.

The blue hour

The “sensual”, “erotic’ nude paintings in Blue is the Warmest Colour weren’t just an unsophisticated idea of the kind of art a lesbian artist would create, they were also not particularly creatively fulfilling to look at. But when it came time for me to review the movie, I thought to myself… what’s better than making a parody of bad art?

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Not nude this time because I think one nude self portrait is more than enough for this world.