A Drawing Lesson with Magritte

I have the class for one hour. We are all ceramics students, taking turns to give each other a drawing lesson. I begin with an overview to my approach to my studio ceramics work.

The theme for my art is the Australian bush, its qualities, influences and spirit – the spirit of place.
My objective is to make sculptures on a small scale to reflect intimacy of trees and their interconnectedness with other elements of the landscape, including ourselves.

This lesson focuses on one influential artist – Rene Magritte, a 20th century Belgian Surrealist painter, and how the incongruities of his images, when put together, highlight their intrinsic nature.

I show a painting from a book of his art This is Not a Pipe. This image has always stayed in my mind since I first saw it in high school. The apparent silliness of the statement occurring directly below an image of a pipe struck me as funny. Of course it’s not a pipe – it’s a picture, a book, a painting.

The incongruity exaggerates the notion of “pipe”. Its real nature is its smell, taste, etc. which are not apparent in a printed image.

Another series of paintings depicts floating rocks. This odd placement makes our intelligent mind shocked. It can’t be true. Rocks are heavy. Exactly the point! He makes you think about the nature of rocks, how heavy they are and how absurd to think they can float.

For our classroom exercise, I asked the students to take an object from the table – a selection of leaves, twigs, pods, bark, and feathers. I asked them to take a few minutes to study the chosen object. Ask yourself “What is its essential
nature? What are its characteristics, its tendencies? Why is it like it is? ”

Now I asked the students to begin to draw it, perhaps exaggerating these qualities. As an example, I chose a leaf, a small green camphor laurel leaf. It was supple, pointy, fresh, small and green with orange veins. I drew the veins. They became more dominant, and began to look like branches on a tree.

In the second part of our exercise I examined Magritte in more detail, and with more examples. These are some of his images:

  • A stone bird flies gracefully.
  • Three trees on a table with clouds suspended in their branches.
  • A bunch of leaves whose tips have become doves.

Students of Zen koans will perhaps have an affinity with these images.

Now I ask the class to take the essential quality they have discovered through this detailed examination of their object, and devise its opposite.

A feather is essentially light. A stone is essentially heavy. Opposites.

A leaf is small in comparison to the entire tree. Opposites.

A curling piece of bark with perhaps an insect hiding inside – its opposite could be the opening of an exhibition.
In- and Ex-, Opposites.

My leaf has turned into a tree. It shows an inter-connectedness, that the leaf and tree are essentially the same, not separate.

Just as ice by nature is water, can a feather by nature be rock?

The students enjoyed the challenge and came up with some interesting ideas. Hopefully opening some approaches to the mysteries of art.

 

Commentary on the fifth precept by Dogen

Buddhas and Ancestral Teachers realise the empty sky and the great earth.
When they manifest the noble body, there is neither inside nor outside in emptiness.
When they manifest the Dharma body, there is not even a bit of earth on the ground.
 

Poetry by John Anderson, modern Australian poet:

I find my spirit in the woodlands

I am trying to make you see what I mean

I am trying to make myself visible

I am trying to make the woodlands visible

The undiscovered forest

I believe that if you would see me you would see me in the woodlands

That you would see the woodlands and yourselves in the woodlands

When we see the butterfly, the tortoise, the wombat’s burrow we are looking at ourselves

The butterfly sees itself, sees itself in us

As it sees itself in the sunlight, the rock and the blossom (which are in us)

The lizard sees itself in the tree and the tree sees itself in the stars, the stars see themselves in us

All the worlds answer us as they answer each other

One place in the world sees itself in another

I first see myself in the furthest scatterings of Australasia. Where I see the furthest order again become visible, through outlines again and again repeated, in a distance of mauve, pale copper, of purple, in the furthest scatterings of the light

From: the forest set out like the night

by John Anderson (1948–1997)

Black Pepper Press

News & Events

Annual Bonsai Club Show

Illawarra Bonsai Society Exhibition May 6-7, 2017 I am proud to be selling my pots at this wonderful show in...
Read More »

Chance to Purchase new pots 3rd March

Be the first to beat the mad rush for new unique bonsai pots. My latest designs always go quickly. However,...
Read More »

First in Handbuilding section

Port Hacking Potters National Competition 2016 Whistling Powerful Owl, sold

Bonsai Pots in Use

Good to see my pots in use. These trees are not my plants:- my pots are being utilised in various...
Read More »

Artistic Excellence Award 2016

Just before Christmas I was generously awarded the Noel Summerill Perpetual Trophy for Artistic Excellence 2016 by Illawarra Bonsai Society. So...
Read More »

Retrospective Exhibition Sept 14-Oct2, 2016

Works range from my HSC year 1977. I have been making things in clay since before that time. It will...
Read More »

Hobart Bonsai Convention May 2016

What a lovely weekend! A surprise awaited me at Island Bonsai Nursery, Hobart, Tasmania. There was one of my early...
Read More »

Garden Show to May 1st

Inner City Clayworkers Gallery Co-op “The Garden Show” Ceramics work by local potters and gallery members 6 April – 1 May...
Read More »

Platter Matters exhibition

Inner City Clayworkers Gallery, corner St Johns Road and Darghan Streets, Glebe. February 10 – 29, 2016.

Handbuilding Classes 2016

Janet is teaching handbuilding classes where you can come with an idea or pick up some inspiration to create your...
Read More »

Exhibitions

Annual Bonsai Club Show

Illawarra Bonsai Society Exhibition May 6-7, 2017 I am proud to be selling my pots at this wonderful show in...
Read More »

Chance to Purchase new pots 3rd March

Be the first to beat the mad rush for new unique bonsai pots. My latest designs always go quickly. However,...
Read More »

First in Handbuilding section

Port Hacking Potters National Competition 2016 Whistling Powerful Owl, sold

Bonsai Pots in Use

Good to see my pots in use. These trees are not my plants:- my pots are being utilised in various...
Read More »

Artistic Excellence Award 2016

Just before Christmas I was generously awarded the Noel Summerill Perpetual Trophy for Artistic Excellence 2016 by Illawarra Bonsai Society. So...
Read More »

Retrospective Exhibition Sept 14-Oct2, 2016

Works range from my HSC year 1977. I have been making things in clay since before that time. It will...
Read More »

Garden Show to May 1st

Inner City Clayworkers Gallery Co-op “The Garden Show” Ceramics work by local potters and gallery members 6 April – 1 May...
Read More »

Platter Matters exhibition

Inner City Clayworkers Gallery, corner St Johns Road and Darghan Streets, Glebe. February 10 – 29, 2016.

Handbuilding Classes 2016

Janet is teaching handbuilding classes where you can come with an idea or pick up some inspiration to create your...
Read More »

New Exhibition Space

Come and see my latest work in Glebe “Inner City Clayworkers Gallery is proud to welcome our newest member Janet...
Read More »