Monday, March 21, 2022

Washed away in the flood.

 In a year full of historic events, Brisbane experienced a 'once in a century' flood event in February. Except we also had one eleven years ago.

My house was all safe in spite of 80% of our usual annual rainfall arriving in one week, and I was just about to breath a sigh of relief. Then I was notified that my art and document archive, located in a storage unit in inner Brisbane, was inundated, and closed until the water had gone down and it was safe to enter.

Two days later we were allowed in, and water had reached chest height in my unit. Many things were out of reach of the water, but more things had been drowned. The entire exhibition of art painted on books, which I showed at Toowong Library (there's a post about it with pictures further down the page), had to be thrown away. Lots of other works on paper had to go, but I'm doing my best to salvage The Fiddle Icons series, which are oil on board with gold leaf. They are in a muddy state of disrepair, but they seem stable, so I've started by working my way through the archive of family documents and photos. Many photos have been too badly damaged to save, and I'm deeply sad to see family history for the Murray, Fenwick, Mathiesen and Gilchrist families in Scotland, England, Denmark and North Queensland and Victoria, in ruins. 

I'm scanning many things, and then disposing of many of them. Some are able to be saved. I've been doing this for two weeks now, and I can see an end somewhere in sight. There is a lot of grieving to be done while peeling apart all these papers. Thank you to many of my dear friends who helped with all sorts of things, from moral support to hefting wet things out of storage, to helping with logistics and acquiring a dehumidifier (one of the world's wonders).

At the moment, I'm not too proud to say all donations to my "donate" button will be gratefully received.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Lamb Island Storytelling Festival


This weekend I am presenting at the Lamb Island Storytelling Festival as a songwriter, and talking about two or three songs I've written, under the trees at the community garden. My auspicious company for the session includes Joe Geia, Vicky MacDonald, John Willsteed and Esther Bertram. Check out the island and the festival here. This afternoon at 1pm, the songwriting session is called "Words that change the World".

Here are the lyrics of two songs I'm singing and discussing in case you'd like to consider the words.

The Wooden Spoon

© Nicole Murray

The wooden spoon is in my fingers, it is dancing in the dough

Creaming butter in with sugar, beating egg-whites into snow

Folding milk and flour in turn, and fragrant tablespoon of liquor

Lightly rising with my thoughts as little candles burn and flicker.

I'm the cook of all the ages, in my arms the mixing bowl

Baking tray or double saucepan, raising up a banquet for your soul.

I make rituals to mark you rites of passage, spoon and knife

Dancing as I place along the table all the courses of your life

Sweetest mother's milk I gave you, at the triumph of your birth

Filled with magical protection, honouring your first day on this earth

Every year a fine confection of a cake to mark that day

Candles, sparkles, cats and spacemen,

Princesses in sugar-spun array.

Clashing bells and petals floating, wedding breakfast in the park

Platters of sublime invention, sailing round your incandescent spark

When you slid the blessed knife through royal icing's counterpane

Moistened depths of fruit lay open, all the ringing crystal bubbles sang

When your final course was served, the table's merry disarray

Told of splendour and reknown, a wondrous life resumed into the clay

I was there to play my part, for smooth as marble sat the cake

Clinking glasses, glowing stories, all the love that gathered at your wake.

Fruit cake, fruit cake, Christmas cake is fruit cake, wedding cake is fruit cake

Nuts and cherries, rum or brandy,

Fruit cake, fruit cake, wrapped in paper new-baked,

Festive journeys we make to mark a grand occasion with a.....

Violet Sarah

© Nicole Murray

We are travelling through a town this day and must have bread

And it’s where can I find a good baker in this town she said.

When we have supplies on board we shall both thirsty be

And it’s where can I find a good alehouse in this town said she.

On the Violet Sarah, Violet Sarah, beauty of the cut, jewel of the travelling waters.

In the Beehive Tavern by the tow path on the right

We will sup on the finest of real ale pint by pint.

In the Beehive Tavern there’s an ale called Dove’s Delight

And it tastes of the raspberries in summer, honey and sunlight.

Do you see that cloud-white swan with trailing cygnets three?

She comes asking for scraps at the galley, snapping viciously.

Don’t throw aught into the cut for cygnet or for duck,

Nor to wash in the vile green water only brings bad luck.

Climbing through the hedgerow not a mile or two from Bath,

We go dancing along in the meadow all about the path.

Down the reedy bank unto the river’s shady brim,

We can hear that the Avon is calling us to come and swim

Nancy, dearest Nancy, do not fall into the drink

As you’re painting the name on your vessel, toes upon the brink

Don’t be so foul-tempered, dearest Nancy dripping wet

With a bruise like a blackberry and a mouthful of regrets

[Sitting in the bow we sing the Green Man song again,

And reprise it all afternoon, we sing hundreds of green men.

Don't break my green man, don't break my green man

Don't break my plaster cast of him, I like him a lot.]

Friday, May 10, 2019

Scenic Art - a big month at Queensland Theatre

Every now and then a big, exciting job comes along.

In February I painted and finished the set for the world premiere production of Hydra. A new play by Sue Smith, tracing the story of Australian writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston in their ten year odyssey on the Greek island, Hydra required floor to ceiling plaster walls and a stone floor, with props and furniture. After working on every single surface on the set, I now feel capable of renovating a house!

Working closely with the building team, Pete, John, Alex, Jamie and Chris, and set designer Vilma Matilla, I created the floor panels first, then experimented with the plaster wall texture, doing final finishes in situ after bump in to make it all consistent.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Art of the Book - on show at Toowong Library

I have a new exhibition on show at the Toowong Library. The Art of the Book is a collection of my paintings on books and altered books. The works share an emphasis on narrative and as books, they come with an inherent connection to storytelling. Thematically, they are a microcosm of an actual library, because their subject matter varies wildly from politics to landscape, history and Dr Who.

Here are some images from the show. Please come along and see the works while they are at Toowong. The show runs until the end of August 2015.

Carousel. Acrylic paint on book. $200
Images of circus and fairground recur in Nicole's work, the places where our imaginations run wild and where our dreams live.
The Magical Cloud Crown. Collage, acrylic paint and metallic leaf on book. $200
This evocative occult image, with it's intimations of magic spells, comes from a collection of occultism found in a remainders bookshop called “Book Off”, in Tokyo.

Weeping Angel. Polymer clay, collage and mixed media on book. $200
We are as culturally bound together in contemporary society by shared televisual fictions as we once were by literature. Weeping Angel is an expression of one of our most surprisingly resilient stories.

Weird Fish. Shellac, acrylics and oil paints on book. $200
The idea that water creatures might worship the moon came from Maleny painter Peter Hudson. These water creatures evolved from pictures in a mediaeval manuscript.

Twa Corbies. Acrylic paint and charcoal on book. $200
The ancient Scottish ballad, Twa Corbies, tells of two crows in a field, surveying the abandoned body of a knight in a ditch, and deciding which part to choose for dinner (his bonny blue e'en, or eyes) and which part to line their nest with (his gowden hair).

The Dragonflies. Acrylic paint on book. $200
Some artworks are a direct response to the book at hand, and the book's original title sparked an exploration of winged cut-outs and the use of book pages for paper art.

The Whitlams. Collage and acrylic paint on book. $200
The imagery of orthodox saints has been appropriated to depict two giants of Australian social and political history.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On the fourth day of Christmas - four little paintings!

I am delighted to be included in the Small Works show at Bosz Gallery, 4/9 Doggett Street, Fortitude Valley, for the Christmas season. The show is full of works up to 50cm x 40cm, and up to about $400, so if you are looking for an artwork for your special gift, here's a good place to start!

Christmas is a time of storytelling, and I have chosen works from my series of paintings on books to resonate with the idea of a time to think, reflect and imagine. Each work is framed and ready to hang, and is $400.

Please join me at the gallery on Friday 12 December for their Christmas party. There will be drinks, nibbles and art from 6pm. If you can't make it then, the gallery is open 10 - 6, Wed to Sun.

The Merry-go-round in the Sea
Acrylic and charcoal on book substrate, 2014.
Named after the book by Randolf Stow, this is a work about childhood memories.
The Peace Cranes
Charcoal, sculpted paper and shellac on book substrate, 2014.
Drawings of nests are embedded between the pages, and a flock of origami cranes fly across their folded world, made from a legal tome on land law. They live within yet outside of the human world.

Matthew Brady's Lookout.
Acrylic and collage on book substrate, 2014.
Matthew Brady was a notorious bushranger-pirate in Tasmania. He excaped from the horrors of Sarah Island in 1824, and spent the next two years robbing coaches and ships, until he was betrayed and hanged in 1826. This is the view from his lookout, where he had a clear sightline to the road and the river. 

A Toy Theatre for Melba
Mixed media on book substrate, 2014
Fascinated with the world of the imagination created in Victorian toy theatres, I made one within a book, with curtains and proscenium arch made from aluminium flashing, and Melba upon the stage.

The artworks have been framed in decorative box frames and are ready to hang.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A New Studio and a New Collection of Work.

With the launch of my Creative Art Services business this year, thanks to NEIS, I am combining my skills and providing music and art performances, tuition, fine art pieces and merch. My new workspace is in West End, a very stimulating part of Brisbane, and I'm developing an expressive collection of art pieces, working with books. Here is a series of images following the development of "Weird Fish", a piece based on a mediaeval illumination of the same name.

Fiddle Icons Show in Derry, 2012