unfurl /4 writing+art

August 2020 — writing+art /painting /poetry /collage /video /playlists


unfurl /4



Masthead image: Power of a Red Square (oil on canvas, 94x92cm, 2019) Gloria Stern.

Introductory images: Rio Tinto's photograph of the Pilbara region of Western Australia; a view of Juukan gorge looking towards Purlykunti Creek, roughly in this location — ‹https://goo.gl/maps/kAJZcRyRa9SLTLKe7›.

Use the messages page on the UNFURL website to contact artists and writers. They often have works for sale or are available for readings or commissions. UNFURL will forward your message.

Public health poster (1919) May Gibbs, in the National Archives of Australia — https://bit.ly/2E8rnFZ

Steve COX /writing about art

Gloria Stern: Human beings, being human

The work of Gloria Stern crosses easily between figuration and abstraction, depending upon her preoccupation at the time of its making. Sometimes abstraction and figuration are brought together within a single work, as in a series of pictures she made using a combination of painted areas and collaged elements.

I shall focus here on six of Stern’s earlier works, in which she interposes figures within charged abstracted scenarios that emphasise the humanness of the subject. Many of these pictures seem to portray the isolation of the human being within the wider world.

In Dance hall (2006), four couples, expressionistically painted, dance together in an ambiguous space. This space is composed of torn sections of older paintings, now repurposed as the ‘floor’ and the ‘walls’ that enclose the dancers. All the plains in this cavelike room veer wildly from any expected angle, so that one can feel the frenetic energy of the careening dancers as their legs and arms lurch. The effect is giddying and unexpected. The very atmosphere shimmers in tune with the painterly surfaces, giving us a visceral sense of the action.

Dance hall (mixed media, 2006) Gloria Stern

In Righteous kill (2016), two urban teenage boys in hoodies are depicted sitting on a stylised city pavement, dwarfed against a wall of torn movie posters. The teenagers’ isolation is compounded by the fact that they alone have volume and solidity in this flattened out world. Their ‘reality’ is at odds with the artificial fragments of authoritative printed messages which seem to define the world which they inhabit.

Righteous kill (collage, 2016) Gloria Stern

A similar effect can be seen in Newsreader (2015), in which a man reads a newspaper in front of a massive abstract painting. It is unclear whether the painting is a work of art or the result of months of posters being torn from a hording. It is not clear whether the action takes place on a city street or in an art gallery. What is clear is that the man seems ambivalent to the situation in which we observe him. Once again, the narrative that Stern sets up is subverted by the ‘unknowingness’ of the protagonist, who is an indisposed participant.

Newsreader (oil on canvas, 2015) Gloria Stern

In Bleak day (2015), a man walks down a road or lane that twists around a corner before him. The entirety of his surroundings has been abstracted so that we are afforded only a suggestion of the town ‘furniture’: doorways; windows; posters; signage, etc., have been rendered as stylised slabs of paint, and are reminiscent of the forbidding, artificial streetscapes in the German Expressionist film, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920). An ominous shadow slides into view and bisects the road like a fissure—it seems to point the way towards the bend in the road, which suggests that the man’s fate is inevitable and irrefutable. As in the previous works, it is the human being, alone, who possesses ‘reality’ in this artificial, monochrome world.

Bleak day (oil on canvas, 2015) Gloria Stern

Foreigner (2015), features another isolated human in unnatural surroundings. In this case, it is a young woman, or perhaps a young girl. She stands hesitantly on a kind of floating platform. She gazes with some degree of trepidation through a square doorway, beyond which yawns an indigo void. The title of the painting tells us that the girl is alien to this environment—we know it, and she seems to know it as well. But there are no easy answers here. The task for every stranger in a strange land is to make the decision: Will she walk willingly into the dark space? And will the void be fertile, or hostile?

Foreigner (oil on canvas, 2015) Gloria Stern

In Living room (2015), we are afforded a view into a suburban room, in which a man and a dog are engaged in the process of observation. Once again, the figure is isolated and oblivious to the wider possibilities of his situation—the fact that he himself is also being observed. They are unaware of us, the viewer. We seem to be peeping around a red door, into the room. We gaze at the gazer, taking pleasure in being a silent participant. We can take our time, knowing that we will never be discovered by the man. But, as to what the man and his alert little dog are contemplating, we will never know—the narrative concludes offstage, the possibilities of which are completed in our imagination.

Living room (oil on canvas, 2015) Gloria Stern

In these works, to varying degrees, Stern deals with notions of sentience; isolation; and human sovereignty. She also implicates the viewer as a silent witness to others’ aloneness.

And isn’t that, after all, what we do on a daily basis?


Gloria STERN /painting

Gloria Stern is a visual artist currently living and working in Melbourne, Australia. She grew up in Melbourne and originally trained in Graphic Design. After working in the design industry for several years both in England and Australia, she then switched across to full time painting. Since 1996, she has had 12 solo exhibitions and has been included in numerous group shows.

Gloria‘s paintings have been acquired for private collections in Australia, UK, USA, and New Zealand. Her works are also featured in the collections of Cowan Design, Melbourne, and the City of Boroondara Collection, Melbourne.

«I have always been interested in exploring both figuration and abstraction in my painting, however, over the last couple of years, I made a conscious effort to remove the figurative element from my work in order to explore spatial relationships, colour and atmosphere within abstraction more deeply. This body of work led up to my last solo exhibition “Altered Space” in 2019. Since then, my interest in the figure is returning, but I think, in a less literal way than before. I am currently exploring ways of using figurative elements as more integrated abstract shapes, that allow for a freer interpretation of meaning.»

Special thanks are extended to Steve Cox for his very much appreciated essay (reproduced above).

Website: ‹www.gloriasternart.com

Instagram: ‹www.instagram.com/gloriasternart

Facebook: ‹www.facebook.com/gloria.stern.18

Recent paintings by Gloria Stern

Green Forms (oil on canvas, 94x92cm, 2019) Gloria Stern
Monumental Dream (oil on canvas, 92 x122cm, 2019) Gloria Stern
In Out and Continuing On (oil on canvas, 94x92cm, 2019) Gloria Stern
Night Light (mixed media, 30x40cm, 2020) Gloria Stern
Power of a Red Square (oil on canvas, 94x92cm, 2019) Gloria Stern. Acknowledgement: «A particular detail in the 1954 painting by Australian artist, Ralph Balson, titled Painting, has been the primary influence for my work, Power of a Red Square. In the study of this detail my obsession was to understand the nature of transparency and the power and effect of colour that I believe he had achieved so brilliantly. My painting is an enlarged study of this detail, achieved to the best of my ability at the time of its making.»
Time Passing (diptych, oil on canvas, 61x92cm, 2019) Gloria Stern

Ali WHITELOCK /poetry

Ali Whitelock is a Scottish poet and writer living on the South coast of Sydney with her French, chain-smoking husband. Her latest poetry collection, the lactic acid in the calves of your despair, is published by Wakefield Press and her debut collection, and my heart crumples like a coke can (Wakefield Press, 2018) has a forthcoming UK edition by Polygon, Edinburgh. Her memoir, Poking seaweed with a stick and running away from the smell, was launched at Sydney Writers Festival to critical acclaim in Australia (2008) and the UK (2009).

«Poetry was not something I ever thought was for me. I hated it in school and never read it as an adult. Then I turned fifty and, by some bizarre twist of fate, started writing my own.

The more poets I got to know, the more I was astonished to learn that many of them had been writing poems since they could hold a pen and had parents who’d recite verse to them morning, noon and night. How I longed for one of those poetic pipe-smoking fathers in corduroys sporting a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, who’d read poetry to me in the evening by a roaring log fire. In my childhood, the only poem remotely hinted at in our house was 'A Red, Red Rose' once a year on St Valentine’s day. In short, our house was empty of poetry, literature, logs and books in general.

In an interview, brilliant Scottish writer Andrew O’Hagan told the interviewer there were no books in his home when he was growing up. After the interview Andrew’s father called him, more than a little annoyed, “What do you mean, you grew up in a house with no books? Sure there was a green book sitting on top of the fridge for years!” To which Andrew replied, “Dad, that was the Kilmarnock phone directory.” So the great Andrew O’Hagan and I shared similar book-less upbringings, but clearly that’s where the similarities between us end.

Two-thirds of the way through high school I was removed from the English class in order to make way for a student with more promise. I was put into geography. It wasn’t entirely useless—I can now read an ordnance survey map with great confidence, name the deepest ocean at the drop of a hat, dazzle at dinner parties trundling out the capital cities of the world like a trained chimpanzee.

Eventually I ran away from my geographical and non-bookish past in Scotland to Australia. Did my past catch up with me? Absolutely. But Australia offered me something Scotland at that time did not: endless skies, super-sized servings of ‘she’ll be right’; affordable therapy and a chance happening upon a secondhand book, when I was forty nine, called Eight American Poets. When I opened its pages I discovered John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton. My mouth fell open like a drawbridge and I allowed these poems to march on in.»

You can read more about Ali at her website, ‹www.aliwhitelock.com›.

Steven WARBURTON /one painting

Steven Warburton is currently working (in Emerald) and exhibiting in Melbourne, Australia. Since completing a Fine Arts degree at Monash University, Steve has exhibited widely, in group and solo exhibitions. His paintings and drawings are held in collections Australia-wide and internationally.

«As an artist's work is a reflection of his or her emotions, ideals, thoughts and influences, it is necessary to understand the importance the work plays in the artist's life.

My work is the direct result of things that I have borne witness to, overheard in conversations, observed in the media or dreamt. It reflects my right to express my thoughts, in a way I hope will be accessible to the viewer, both aesthetically and literally.

As the world around us changes, the environment, the politics, our society, thus my imagery changes too.»


Photo: Steven Warburton (2010) by Grace Leung.

One painting …

This underpainted image is a road on the way from Emerald to The Patch that I used to travel four times every weekday when I drove my son to and from primary school. It’s a large piece, measuring 167cm x 167cm, that I started in 2012. It was the larger sibling to a number of small works I painted of the same road. This painting came first, then the smaller works sprang from the idea. I preferred the intimacy of the smaller works and I chose to reuse the large canvas.

From 2005, I had painted a series consisting of enlarged automotive parts in landscapes. I didn’t feel I’d finished with the concept from over a decade earlier, and I wanted to add a human element. I had been toying with the idea of replacing the machines with large, sculptural stone heads.

At first, the stone head appears to poke its tongue out at the world. People mill around in groups. People are questioning, waiting. Protesters running from an attack. There is a large obelisk, possibly from 2001: a space odyssey. The lines on the road are from a photo of the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets in Melbourne. The lines indicate some movement and direction.

When I came to rework the painting a second time, there had been a lot of social unrest about immigration and refugees being sent offshore. I chose a head from Rodin’s ‘Burghers of Calais’ to stand in for my feelings about this.

In the next version I thought it needed more contrast as the image was too dark overall. I lightened the sky but maintained the impression of a nighttime scene. Deleting the main obelisk and figures near it allowed the foreground to be an ‘open playing field.’ Continuing with the asylum theme, I added the boat skeleton to the foreground, representing rejection and death. Also, I cropped the main head to shorten and emphasise the face. I changed the base to become a pedestal with barcode-like supports.

At this stage I also added text near the figures across the middle of the painting. This comes from work I had been doing on a personal graphic novel at the time. Flow over effect. “I can’t do this now” “Sometimes I wish I could help” “I find it kind of funny” “I find it kind of sad” “My eyes are shut but the images still get in” “Don’t breathe”

The randomness of the sky still bothered me. I liked the simplicity of style in the graphic novel work I’d been doing and decided to bring it into this piece too. So, I started to paint the sky all white.

Then the image didn’t look top-heavy anymore, and removing the element of the boat wasn’t a difficult decision. This emphasised the white lines in the painting.

The sculptural head didn’t have the confrontational look I was after. It was just sad, tormented and broken. I had recently completed another painting with George Washington’s head. It had the look I was after for this painting and felt it would go well with the new white background. I believe that using a figure from the past, reminds us that the problems of today aren’t just a contemporary issue … They originate from other times just as complex and violent as ours.

This whole process was on and off over a period of seven years and I feel the final piece is one of the best paintings I’ve done. I’ve learned so much from it. I feel now I can simplify my images rather than overload them to create a ‘narrative.’

Steven Warburton (July 2020)

Mad world (oil on canvas, 2020) Steven Warburton.
Steve Warburton in his Emerald studio.

Judy JOHNSON /poetry

Judy Johnson is an multi-award winning writer who has been publishing her work for over 20 years. She has written five full-length poetry collections, several chapbooks and a novel. Her verse novel Jack was the result of a mentorship with the late Dorothy Porter. Jack won the Victorian Premier’s Award for poetry and was a text taught in University of Sydney and University of Melbourne. She has had writing residencies in Ireland at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan, The Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Western Australia, and in many other places. Her interests have always centred around Australian history and her latest poetry book Dark Convicts deals with the life and times of her two First Fleet African American convict ancestors.

Dark Convicts (2017) Judy Johnson

Sebastian STEENSEN /collages /painting studies

Sebastian Steensen is a Melbourne-based artist who has worked for over 20 years in the areas of painting, drawing and, occasionally, printmaking and photography.

«After tertiary studies in Fine Arts, and a stint as an art teacher in China, I’ve staged a few one-person exhibitions, and been included in group exhibitions.

My work is strongly figurative, and it follows the tradition of western narrative painting. I believe it is informed by my drawing ability. But, technically, I always wish to combine this with painterly aspects, by which I hope to move the imagery beyond illustrational ‘recording,’ into more robust psychological territory.»


Untitled collages (mixed media, 210x150mm, 2020) Sebastian Steensen
Untitled collages (mixed media, 210x150mm, 2020) Sebastian Steensen
Untitled collages (mixed media, 210x150mm, 2020) Sebastian Steensen

Studies: heads, hands, and gags

Studies:heads, hands, and gags (acrylics on paper, 45x60cm, 2020) Sebastian Steensen


https://bit.ly/2XBPDYa› (Tweet, 3 June 2020) Rhanna Collins

Adam Goodes, UK interview

Dave Chappelle, 8:46

Uluru Statement From The Heart

Leetona Dungay (2019) by David Moir

“Optimism is the true moral courage” /Zander’s masterclass on the Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1

‘Dance’ for two hands


The UNFURL playlists page now has a movies section.

Make a mask …

Put on the mask … Then, play …

Internet roulette


Ashbery https://bit.ly/35UtSVY / Auden http://bit.ly/3af1wXq / Koch https://bit.ly/2xPA0lT / Sweetheart https://bit.ly/2SRYm5R / Proust https://bit.ly/2y81dk3 / Syllabus https://bit.ly/2zHBLlJ / Farrow https://nyti.ms/3cJyjWf ••• Sales https://bit.ly/3gBOWWl / Angels https://bit.ly/370bBrb / Cellos https://nyti.ms/3dxApZI / Woke https://bit.ly/2XzYvNT / Mining https://bit.ly/3cD7Usn / Satan https://bit.ly/3haeWIO / Tank-man https://bit.ly/2My9Bgj / Falerii novi https://bit.ly/37kpTTt / Hairlessness https://bit.ly/2AVYgDY / Statues https://econ.st/3e7WApC / JK Rowling https://bit.ly/3fuiKCZ / Zoo https://bit.ly/2N7WrXH / Coghill https://bit.ly/2YifqFq / Say their names https://bit.ly/2YfJK39 / Melville https://bit.ly/3hN9WKa / Ablaut reduplication https://bbc.in/2UZnJ6X / Mann https://bit.ly/37HJLjJ / Don't ask https://bit.ly/315POxd / Developing https://bit.ly/2Z3q0iq / Bullshit https://bit.ly/2VaqVwq / Angela Davis https://bit.ly/2CsJLbA / Sockpuppet https://bit.ly/31aPtt7 / Fashion https://nyti.ms/2BtPAWe / Poetics https://bit.ly/3gp6wMa / Wargaming https://ab.co/38IfNfL / Degas https://bit.ly/3enciws / •••

Unfurled already

UNFURL is edited, designed, and published by Stephen J. Williams. St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia (August 2020), ‹bit.ly/unfurl4a›.

A PDF (portable document format) version of UNFURLS can be downloaded from the UNFURL home. These PDFs are a complete screenshot record of the words, images and links in each UNFURL.

Send information, evidence, and theories to ‹unfurleditor@gmail.com›.

(All proceeds go to UNFURL's poetic justice fund.)

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Stephen J. Williams