My 1st painting @ ACSA

W&M_embrace_final copy

The first painting in my ‘Tonal Realism’ class was to copy an ‘Old Master’ painting! I’d been through the school on open day and admired the Vermeers, Van Goughs and Titians,……there was even a bloody good replica of the Mona Lisa.

So acceptance of my choice of a ‘Master’ being one very young and alive, Adelaides own Anna Platten, came as a bit of a surprise. But I was personally delighted because Anna Plattens recent retrospective at the Art Gallery of South Australia had been my primary inspiration behind choosing to attend ACSA (Adelaide Central School of Art) over other Universities to pursue my fine art career.

Anna Platten is also Rod Taylor’s wife (founder of the school) who are both featured in the painting. My first awareness of her work was at the recent retrospective, which encompassed some thirty years of her work. I remember walking into the darkened gallery, the spot lights dramatising the vivid colours in her series called ‘The Journey’,….and being riveted to the spot in awe! No other artist had ever affected in that way, with their work. It was not only her use of colour which she used in such a contemporary way, contrasting with the dark moody shades which impressed me, but the subject matter of the paintings did indeed convey a “dream like existence” – and life as a stage upon which we are all players.

As I reluctantly exited (after four hours) I read with interest the plaques on the wall, about Anna, only to discover that we were both born in the same year. We had probably both started painting in our early twenties, but my life had led me along a more commercial career path and I had put the brushes away in exchange for computers and twenty years of being a graphic designer.

I secretly wondered if I could somehow recapture thirty years of lost time and become as good as her, by copying one of her magnificent paintings. So my personal challenge was set!

My fascination with the painting comes from the composition. To be in it and style it as well. Then there is the raw aspect of yourself and your husband as props – which I found deeply personal and sacred. It seemed matrimonial and very ‘Garden of Eden like.’ Idealistic even. Viewed at a time when I was going through an estrangement from my husband, the painting touched me and I was reminded once more of marriage, vows, adoration and protectiveness.

I was privileged to meet Anna at a recent talk she gave and asked her what all the little animals in the painting represented? Anna said that they were “feelings!” Lovely. She went on to say that one woman had interpreted Rod (her husband in the painting) as being her Noah, which I also thought very apt. I however interpreted them as the children she was going to bear him. We all interpret paintings differently, which is the beauty of art in itself.

For the assignment I chose a section of the overall painting, as I could not have possibly accomplished the whole deal. I still felt as though I had bitten off more than I could chew. The detail in it is extraordinary and I had a wonderful time exploring all the elements and perfecting them as best I could. It certainly pushed me and took me four months to complete, but Annas probably took a year.

Anna’s exhibition was called “The Devil is in the Detail”, I can certainly vouch for that!

My painting (copy) is a tribute to you Anna, I hope I have done your work justice.

Love ya work! (and thank you for being such an inspiration and allowing me to post this on my blog)

As the author of this work I (Barbara Harkness) acknowledge the moral rights to the above have been asserted with the copyright, designs and patents act 1988. If you wish to use any of my material you may contact me for permission.