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Europe Sketches - 1

Chapter I: the ghosts of Venice 
Figure 2.1. Isola Tiberina Source: Europe Sketches 

In a chance conversation on my mobile phone, with Keith Hansen about how there was a new publication entitled, Brett Whiteley: Art and the Other Thing, by Ashleigh Wilson which was due to be released in 2016. Keith always feels overlooked, within the daunting shadow, of his second cousin Brett, who was extremely gifted, but cursed genius, afflicted with too many daemons and addictions. I decided on an impulse, to request the loan of one of Keith's art dairies, such as Europe Sketches, circa 1975. This artistic rendition of an ancient Roman bridge over the river Tiber, leading onto the 'Isola Tiberina;' an island shaped like a boat is just the foretaste of one sample of this said artist's diary: please refer to Figure 2.1., above. My intention is to extract the life-force of an artist embedded within the retained memories of Keith's text and imagery on the individual pages of his art diary. I also wish to relish the unexpected fillip of the accessibility of his European portfolio of artwork consisting of other sketches and paintings such as the example of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Dusk - Venice: please refer to Figure 2.2., below.
Figure 2.2. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Dusk Source: Keith Hansen

The Catalina seaplane, creamy white, thus being the main focus of attention, in this painting, taking off from the orange reddish-hued water of the Grand Canal - Venice. The application of the dusk-like shades of reddish-orange to almost everything on the canvas, highlights the subtle blending of the twilight just before the sunset. One can almost imagine the rocking motion of the gondola on this watery space as the attention is drawn to the mermaid figurehead lurking in the corner of this painting. There is the creepy aspect of carving the life-force of the feminine siren into the ancient wood with the end-result of predatory features and wiles. This mascot of protection derived from a mythical creature supposedly offered up to the gods of the ocean as tribute for a safe journey for all-male crew of sea-farers. In the background the San Giorgio Maggiore Church stands as the majestic statement of an iconic landmark of the Roman Catholic religion within the watery locality of Venice. Although for Keith Hansen as the artist, he does seem to be somewhat obsessed, with this particular church built on an island as a source of inspiration? Various paintings and sketches of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church will be showcased throughout this creative project yet to be defined. This church has also been extensively painted by a diverse palette of artists such as the following;Claude Monet, Canaletto, J. M. W. Turner and Raoul Dufy. Therefore, I have explained to Keith, that I intend to create the sense of the Gothic-like atmosphere of the floating city of Venice within the uncanny themes of mythology, history, architecture and art - so Sigmund Freud.  There should be just the creepy hint of the macabre within the recreation of the haunted text on the page - the ghosts of Venice thus released for the imagined audience to either to enlighten or to be frightened beyond their wits.
Figure 2.3. Europe Sketches front / back covers Source: Keith Hansen

There was an element of the cloak and dagger as I stepped down from the train onto the railway platform of Circular Quay in search of this overly cautious man who regards himself as a real artist in the twenty-first century. Today, he was in possession of a treasured personal artifact over forty-one-years-old such as the example of Europe Sketches: please refer to Figure 2.3., above. This artist's diary is filled to the brim with the tantalizing promise of artwork hand-drawn which is sometimes splashed with pen inks, Conte crayons, charcoal, watercolours and gouache paints. There is also the intriguing text hinting at the poetic and the very personal reflections yet to be transcribed as this artist's handwriting is somewhat difficult to decipher. The premise here is the still living artist will be able to behold, in my unbiased interpretation of both the text and the imagery pertaining to Europe Sketches. His teacher's quotation was that:"the greatest compliment to any artist is the re-interpretation of the concepts of genius belonging to another." This was the advice of Brett Whiteley regarding his student Keith Hansen,'the Sorcerer's Apprentice of Art.' The ability to turn magic into art and poetic prose is indeed the craft of alchemy for the artist. One has to be gifted, in the arts', to be able to call on, the magical elements of fire, air, earth and water from the inkwell of creation. Such as the example of the black ink drawing of Keith's angelic muse materialising out of the ink-bottle and old-fashioned ink pen with metal nib: please refer to Figure 2.4., below.
Figure 2.4. Keith's muse of the ink-bottle Source: Europe Sketches
Figure 2.5. Two photographs of Keith Hansen Source: Keith Hansen

These rare sepia-toned photographs of Keith Hansen show the other side of his creative psyche as the musician in possession of his fiery passion for life like a true Spaniard of times past. Therefore, the creative process of writing the musical notes and poetic prose was for Keith a further extension of his artistic expression. It appears that in both photographs of Keith as a much younger man in the 1970s - there are variations of mood of either being pensive or happy.  In both photographs he is also posing with his vintage Maton Guitar which brought second-hand in the 1960s - with the sunburst logo on the head-stock: please refer to Figure 2.5., above. Keith's alter ego namely his guitar travelled all over Europe with him and this finely tuned instrument of Australian design was left behind in Berlin. This guitar was named Brumby - definitely a free spirit with a taste for the exotic.  There is however, an interesting twist to this story, as another musician now resides in Morocco with somewhat preloved guitar still fondly remembered by Keith.  The overly sensitive artist who still feels his emotions too deeply as he embraced the concepts of his European experience within the culinary delights, the wine and other things too naughty to mention here.
Figure 2.6. the nude and the dolphin Source: Keith Hansen 
Figure 2.7. Grecian Urn: front / back view Source: Marjorie Savill Linthwaite

There are many tales relating to Greek mythology about the gods, dolphins and mortal men with the main emphasis in this case on the Sun God Apollo.  This Olympian deity was able to shape-shift into the nature of either the dolphin or the wolf.  I have taken two photographs of this Grecian Urn displayed with the skull of the saw-toothed dolphin which should further enhance the narrative of the front and the back of this pottery vessel. This type of painting on the Grecian Urn is attributed to the Athena-Bowdoin painters' dated from 500 - 475 B.C.,showcasing the artwork of the past. The reconstruction of this particular Grecian Urn from the fragments of pottery are somewhat flawed, because of the head of the older man is missing and some of the drapery of the robes are missing from the back view. I would like to draw attention to an amazing visual of the female nude riding the dolphin executed within the minimalists' approach: please refer to Figure 2.6., above.  Keith was inspired by the imagery of the young naked man Phalanthos riding the dolphin holding out in his outstretched hand a phiale (shallow saucer) at the Sydney University Nicholson Museum - in recreating his artistic interpretation: please refer to Figure 2.7., above.
  Figure 2.8. The Lonely Bride of Winter / Sienna_Italy Source: Europe Sketches

And, yet in another conversation on my mobile phone, about my research, with Keith Hansen, who is the still breathing research subject of my archival interest, in regard to my creative project? I asked his permission to re-invent one of his poetic songs with a light touch ever so respectfully transforming, The Lonely Bride of Winter, (Autumnfrom one of the pages of his artist's diary into a poem. Keith very graciously granted permission in regard to my request. The following two pages of Europe Sketches consist of The Lonely Bride of Winter and the sketch of Sienna - Italy inked in the colours of black and blue: please refer to Figure 2.8., above. I am trying to endeavour so as to "render the intangible tangible; offer us the possibility of sensing the other through the enduring fabric of their material".  Doing justice to the recall of the nostalgia of the 1970s and I am always respecting the experience too precious, too personal as an artifact of memory for Keith. He was quite obviously in a melancholy mood when penning this piece of disjointed lines of poetic prose which may be inspired by love misplaced but never forgotten. Perhaps, Keith was still trying to recapture the naivety of his first love affair as a teenager - the object of his obsession a mature woman of twenty-plus. However, for Keith Sienna proved to be an interesting experience because of the mythology of the Capitoline Wolf.
 Figure 2.9. Winged - She - Wolf Source: Keith Hansen

The somewhat intriguing concept of the  she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus - whose mother was one of the Vestal Virgins' namely Rhea Silvia. Quite surreal when you consider the visual, which is weirder still when considering the original artifact was purloined from the temple of Apollo. I made the decision not to include the sketch of the she-wolf suckling the twins from Keith Hansen's artist's diary as the example was not up to his usual standard of artistic expertise.  However, Keith was extremely disappointed, so he decided to locate the replacement for the she-wolf ans male twins: please refer to Figure 2.9., below. Although, I was not expecting the daemonization of this ancient artifact of the she-wolf represented with bat-like wings. Why were the male twins' re-imagined into naked female winged nymphs? Two questions which deserve answering from Keith the artist, methinks. Apparently, this illustration outlined in black and splashed with various  shades ranging from blue to green watercolour from his portfolio of drawings from a children's book. Quite bizarre as I think this is decidedly creepy considering the image.  There appears that the fragmented mythology relating to the concept of the winged-wolf in German, Russian and Hungarian folklore is somewhat sparse, regrettably. I have not been able to find any written research material about this subject of mythology in the English language. There is however gargoyles in the shape of winged-wolf but here also the history is obscure with very little information available at this moment in time. 

Ashleigh Wilson. 2016. Bret Whiteley: Art and the Other Thing. [Online] Available at: <https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/brett-whiteley.> [Accessed 7th November 2016].

Dudley, S, H. 2010. Editor Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations. 1st Edition. London and New York: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.
Nicholson Museum. 2009. Collection search - Museums - The University of Sydney, Detailed Object Record: Attic red figure neck amphora [Online] Available at: <https://sydney.edu.au.museums/collections_search/?record=ecatalogue.38804>[Accessed 26th October 2016].



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