Category Archives: Art

Art and contemporary art, art practice, art exhibitions, galleries

Leaves – Watercolour


J.K.Leahy Watercolour 2017.

I’ve been working with the basics of watercolour again and seeing more colour than dirty water on paper. The “Leaves” study is an example of clean colour.

Rescuing good habits is a result of teaching art again and as my friend Terence said, it is good because teaching is learning.  I am teaching my students and learning again, all the good habits I had forgotten.

Above is a render of leaves from my garden. Some of you may know the blood-red foliage of Euphorbia cotinifolia (Caribbean Copper Plant, or Red Spurge) which I often photograph and post here. The sap is poisonous, but this hardy small tree is a favourite because of its gorgeous foliage. I caught on camera a few coloured leaves at the end of autumn when the leaves went from green to golds and orange before they all fell. Above is a negative painting (homework) for my students who are learning different watercolour techniques. If you are in Brisbane and want to join my classes, please email me for details on joycelinleahy@gmail.com. I hope you like this study of the leaves.

 

Mother’s Creations – Poem


Handmade by Freda Kauc – acrylic and wool bag. (sold).

Mother

JK.Leahy  – Poem, Memoir

A wrinkled dusky pink sheet cradles a flowered meri blouse, a laplap and a bible – a word or two in the bible is for me, she echoes…

Room scented with sea, woods, coconut oil, eucalyptus and basil

A lotto ticket to set me up for life (her farewell and a surprise gift)

“If I won,” she always said, “I would let you decide what to do with the money”

We had laughed and discussed the possibilities

On the bed, an italic old-style farewell, handwritten in a very neat prose, mixing pidgin and dialect –

“Pawi – my child, I will miss being here…”

My mother was in a plane and gone

Twelve months threaded colourful bilums, gardens, and stories,

bringing me back to the first ten years of my life.

An assortment of brown hue – sculptured gum branches stacked for winter’s fires

Through the window, her many familiar artwork marked my surroundings, reminding me of her even bossy ways

-purple and green kaukau leaves sitting neatly on mounds

“You have sweet potatoes for winter”, her voice reminds me.

The large elephant leaves of pumpkin spreads and sprout golden flowers – a promise for more food.

But, I miss her telling me her stories.

Freda Kauc mobile phone bags.

See below some of my mother’s creations. All her bilums featured here were sold before she left Brisbane for Papua New Guinea. If anyone is interested to purchase my mother’s bags – please write to: joycelinleahy@gmail.com

Freda Kauc bilum – handbag.
Freda Kauc handbag and mobile phone bag.

 

Art Experiments: Natural Pigments Plus…


Art experiment in progress. My apologies for ignoring this blog, but I’ve been learning as well as teaching myself new things. I’ve been side-tracked from blog writing. It has been an interesting time of working out and documenting what works with natural pigments and what to avoid when I make art.

This test work of a Trobriand (PNG) grass skirt has been painted and (poured on) with tea, coffee, turmeric, David Smith watercolours, watercolour ground on watercolour canvas. I’ve not used watercolour canvas before; it is quite soft and drinks less water than paper. I hope you like it.

We started our Creative Writing Workshop three weeks ago and this week tutor Isabel D’ Avila Winter gave us a fun exercise. Basically it teaches the technique of how to write a story by making connections. Class members chose and exchanged two words, a noun and an abstract noun and in ten minutes we free wrote whatever story that came into our heads in connection with those two words. Try it with your friends or a pal sometimes. You just don’t know what you can come up with. I had the words “happiness” and “feather” – which has probably led me to painting a grass skirt. For those of you that understand Papua New Guinea culture, you’ll know what I’m talking about – singsing. You can find more on singsing and related subjects in my previous posts and once I clean up the copy from the two-noun exercise, I’ll post it here.

Lapun Man Simbu – Old man from Simbu – Art


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This is a work in progress. Old man from Simbu, Papua New Guinea is a painting challenge to myself to paint larger (work) with better light and skin tone. I love the traditional dresses and particularly the headdresses from Simbu, a highlands province that is very rich in culture. I painted a young woman from Simbu a few years ago and was asked, why haven’t I painted a male from the same area. Good question. I had never thought of it. So I picked up the brush, filled the re-cycled jars with water…and, am still working on the old man from Simbu.

I found this exercise exhilarating because to get the painted black face separated from his normal brown skin and give him a background – all in dark colours was tricky. I hope you like him.

Kau Kau Cuttings – Watercolour


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Kaukau Cuttings. Watercolour by J.K.Leahy©

My mother and I have been planting Kaukau or sweet potato cuttings. We hope, we will soon stop buying the good kaukau at Coles for $9 per kilogramme. The cheaper – $6 per kg kaukau, is tasteless, so we took the expensive one and tried to grow it.

It was natural to have kaukau on my mind when I painted my first watercolour this year. Women is Papua New Guinea, especially in the highlands, share kaukau cuttings and this is how they transport the leaves – in bilums. Sometimes they would be given the cuttings by friends and family members. Other times they bring the cuttings from the garden home to plant near their houses.

In fact, it weren’t for my mother being in Brisbane, I wouldn’t plant kaukau because it is too much work. The soil is too dry and if rain does grow the tuber; hare, possums, rats and who knows what else, eat the leaves. Often the animals dug for the tubers as well. This time we used bamboo stakes and placed a net around the garden. My mother was determined.

I had to give in to this planting, because my mother would not give up. And now, I’m glad I went along with her. We planted two species, one was our favourite Hawaiian kaukau from Coles.  Another kaukau called wan mun (one month) was given to us by my friend Marina. That term wan mun meant literally in one month we would eat the tuber. That has not happened yet. I’m not surprised because the conditions here are tough.

We are still waiting for the one month kaukau to bear and it is now three months. The Hawaiian sweet potato is white skinned and purple inside. I chopped the tips off and grew them in a drum until the shoots were strong enough to transfer to the garden. It was a long process.

Kaukau Cuttings II. Watercolour by J.K.Leahy©

Unlike the women I had painted and their gardens, the kaukau in our garden seemed to take forever to grow. I remember growing it in the humid Lae (PNG) climate. Six months gone in Brisbane, and we now start to see the kaukau leaves spread and grow rapidly. I stuck my fingers under soil to see whether there were really any tubers – and there are. I was inspired to really bring these tubers to harvest. I will post some pictures here at harvest time. I don’t know when that is.

“We have to wait for a few more months”, my mother said. This was because, she said the hot summer and then hail storms last year killed off all the leaves and then the surviving tubers re-grew new shoots. We cut the stems and planted more. Now my son has this crazy idea we could build a larger garden to grow more. (I don’t think so...I muttered under my breath).

I hope you enjoy my watercolours and I will keep you posted on the sweet potatoes.

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Women & Kaukau Cuttings II. Watercolour by J.K.Leahy©

 

 

Natural Dyes and Processes – India’s Story


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Turban cloth – Victoria & Albert Museum ©

I was looking for various textiles that have been prepared by hand and I was particularly interested in natural dyes and its processes. I found this great article in Victoria and Albert Museum called “The Fabric of India: Nature & Making”. 

These are some of the short film clips and a paragraph on the dying process. If you are interested, read the full article on the museum’s website.

India’s natural dyes, especially those for blue and red, have been renowned for millennia. Blue dye was so closely associated with India that the ancient Greeks took its western name – indikos (indigo) – from the country itself. Red dyeing with fixing agents (mordants) was known to the Indus valley civilisation by about 2500 BC.

Fixing the colour is the great challenge of dyeing cloth. Indian dyers’ use of mordants was key to their expertise, which was unrivalled until the invention of western chemical dyes in the 19th century. It is this wealth and mastery of bright and lasting natural dyes that perhaps best distinguishes India’s textile heritage.

The Tale of the Coconut – A story from Papua New Guinea, produced by German Filmmaker


I was introduced to The Tale of the Coconut last night by Professor Craig Volker who was my English Teacher in Aiyura National High School from 1981-82 in Papua New Guinea. In this story,  a Duke Of York traditional story (or legend) was taken and translated it into a modern film.

Prof Volker was involved in this project, which was made in Madina, New Ireland where he comes from. He was originally from the USA, but taught and lived most of his life in PNG and has adopted Madina as his village. This film is the first PNG children’s film produced in a Tok Ples – native tongue. There are also German, English, and Tok Pisin versions.

The film was produced and directed by Marc Thümmler.

THE TALE OF THE COCONUT // DIE LEGENDE DER KOKOSNUSS (2015)

Children’s film // Kinderfilm, 15 min, 2015
SYNOPSIS
When you turn around a coconut you will find a human face on its bottom side. The children’s film THE TALE OF THE COCONUT explains why this is the case. The children of Karawara Primary School tell us an old legend from their home, the Duke of York islands in Papua New Guinea.
THE TALE OF THE COCONUT recounts how a group of men from the island leave for Pigeon Island to go hunting. After the hunt, one of the men is left behind on Pigeon Island without a raft and has to swim back home by himself. On his trip back he is attacked by a shark.
At first he cleverly distracts it with the pigeons he caught. But then he runs out of pigeons…

If you want to watch this movie, here are the links;

I am happy to send you the links to the other language versions of the film that are now available online:

English version with optional French and Spanish subs

Ramoaaina version (Tok ples) with English subs

Tok Pisin version with English subs

German version

Tok Pisin version with German subs