Monday, November 16, 2015

In Conversation: Bronwyn Watson

Bronwyn Watson is an emerging artist based in Melbourne, Australia. She has an Honours degree in Fine Arts from ACU and her artistic practice examines notions of the self in contemporary culture through photography.

Gallery & Curatorial Assistant Marion Piper recently chatted to Bronwyn about her work which is currently on show at Town Hall Gallery in the exhibition Likeness.


[MARION PIPER]: Hi Bron, let’s kick off this interview…

Can you tell me a little about your artistic practice? What’s your main thematic focus area at the moment?

[BRONWYN WATSON]: My artistic practice.. I'm developing a motto as of late.. "just play." I tend to over think things and I've found through trial and error (much error) that a bottom-up approach where I just give myself 'stuff' to work with and just get into it when I'm a bit overtired or silly results in the most interesting work, because when I'm tired or silly I don't over think like I usually do, I just get on with it. I mean, a whole lot of thinking does happen, and I make decisions well in advance of the act of taking the photos, but I like to give myself a bit of space in which to just muck around. The editing process is a bit the same. The strongest works usually come together in a flash (sans a bit of time spent on refinement once they're already essentially done), whereas the ones I spend hours agonising over never see the light of day.
WATSON, Bronwyn, Choreographing Frida (2014), photographic print, 110 x 110 cm, courtesy of the artist.

Main thematic focus.. That would be self. From a few perspectives/lines of thinking: firstly, as an emerging artist I'm still coming to grips with what it means attempt to make a career in the arts, in terms of what I like making, what I'm good at making, where I fit etc. I've always really liked the tradition of artists painting themselves, whether it's the self-portrait in all their finery (or hospital bed if we're talking about Frida Kahlo), or the artist at work, and I think I'm just trying to join that tradition in my own way. 

Then I'm also coming from the perspective of exploring my identity in terms of psychological growth - I'm trying to figure out what it means to allow myself to merely be, both the good and the uncomfortable parts of my personality, in terms of being human and making work. This resulted in the use of super vibrant colours for these recent works, and also the specific colours used. 

And then there is narcissism. I think I wrote in my thesis last year that I'm a bit narcissistic and I guess I'm still exploring that. I don't talk much but when I do it's usually about myself, so if there was ever doubt of me being a bit narcissistic there's the proof. That, and the several thousand selfies I've taken in the last couple years - no really. I tallied up the photos I've taken for these works and last year's and it's around the 3,600 mark now. Have I taken more selfies than Kim Kardashian? Who knows. 

A secondary focus I've always played with would be the act of creeping people out. I've been doing that a lot longer than I've been making work about myself. I've always liked, and liked to make, work that draws people in, then creeps them out to the point that they want to look away, but can't. Like Ron Mueck's hyper-realistic sculptures - the huge ones at least - you get close enough to see pores and hair follicles and it's kinda gross but really captivating. Patricia Piccinini too.

WATSON, Bronwyn, The Pause (2015), Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle cotton rag paper, 100 x 100 cm, courtesy of the artist.

[MP]: That’s an incredible amount of Selfies! 
The works you’ve made for Likeness are very striking - they are heavily layered and each layer is rendered visible, but only as it blends with another layer. 
Can you walk me through some of the technical process of creating one of your photographs? 

[BW]: Haha just a few hey! 

Yeah, it's pretty important that the layers talk to each other and blend together well. As for my process, sometimes I feel like it's effortless and hardly takes any work or time at all. That's not true at all though, I just have a short memory - a fair bit of time & energy go into these works, not all at once but building up over time. 

With each work, usually a few at a time, I make a lot of decisions early on and go about setting the scene, sourcing costume and makeup, buying silly lengths of fabric. Spotlight should love me! 

Then at some point I get to conducting my shoot. I focus best late at night because I'm really easily distracted. I think it also works best for me then because I'm too tired to overthink about how silly I look pulling shapes and faces in front of my lens with my little camera shutter remote. So then I shoot for hours until I'm either too tired to continue, or feel like I've got quality material to work with. 

So, I have my material which I backup in triplicate to my computer, my external HDD and my sister's computer. The thing about working digitally is that computers do like to fail for no reason occasionally and I'm terrified of losing works and shoots! 

WATSON, Bronwyn, Caravaggio's Brunch Pics (2014), photographic print, 110 x 110 cm, courtesy of the artist

I trawl though my files, taking note of those which catch my eye and seeing which other shots might best pair to make an interesting image. This bit is either really time consuming or quick as a flash. When I find a few images that talk to each other well, they kinda snap into place effortlessly, the image essentially makes sense and just needs some refinement. After that it's a process of scrubbing back and erasing bits I don't need to let things on lower layers that I do need show through. I repeat this process and end up with a number of iterations of works from the same shoot. Some are crap and will never see the light of day, but I needed to see them resolved. Others are just okay, but not awesome. Finally, there are usually a couple resolved works from each shoot that I'm really happy with. 

[MP]: I had a feeling your work was quite labour intensive involving a number of specific steps, but wow! How did you stumble upon this way of working (the layering, following your gut when making decisions, etc)? I can draw comparisons to artists like Cindy Sherman, but are there any other artists who influence what you do (in either content or process)?

[BW]: How did I stumble upon this way of making? Well it just kinda developed. One thing I was trying to do with my selfie works was have all the faces show through at once, so I had them all stacked on top of each other in Photoshop, mucking around with different opacities to find the best balance. I think there's a lot more 'mucking around' in my process than I'd like to admit to. Lots of trial and error. But I'm okay with it, it fits with my current mantra of "stop overthinking it and just play." I was finding though with this method that I was losing the lower faces and I didn't like that, so I started cherry picking the elements I had to work with to make interesting images that contained enough faces/facets. 

WATSON, Bronwyn, Frida's True Selfie #1 (2014), photographic print, 110 x 110 cm, courtesy of the artist.

As for artists of influence, definitely Sherman. Process mostly, my work is different from hers at least in that I'm in them, or most of them, on purpose. Have I mentioned I love her? Otherwise, I've always been fascinated with anyone that can make their medium walk that line between hyperreal and actually just plain surreal. I loved Dali since I was introduced to him in high school. James Gleeson's grotesque images shocked me but were weirdly still beautiful, there's at least one on show at the NGV at the moment and I'm incredibly keen to see this work I"ve been dreaming about in the flesh. Cannot wait. 

And it might be cliche but I've always loved a good oil painting. The one currently stuck in my head is one by Reubens, The Apostle Paul (c.1615). It's captivating. I was standing in front of it recently completely taken in by how much the figure seems to be in front of the canvas instead of painted on it, and to me that's just surreal. Caught in a staring match with a still image is an interesting place to be and in my opinion, is what makes an amazing portrait - painted or otherwise.

Also Frida Kahlo. She paints her pain and I admire her moxie.

[MP]: I can definitely see those influences in your work, particularly the play on the surreal nature of the ‘gaze’, it’s almost nauseating in some of your images!

I guess to wrap things up, do you have any exciting projects or exhibitions planned for 2016? Also, if readers want to find out more about your work, where can they go?

[BW]: Nauseating is a word I like to hear! Haha.

As for next year, I am in the midst of working that out actually! I want to say that I'm moving toward showing these works and actually taking my mentor Catherine Bell's advice and showing last years too, and I'm not saying that I don't want to do that, but really all I'm thinking about right now is making more pictures. I don't think I'm done yet, I still wanna dig into these vibrant pop colours, and multiple faces and figures have always had my curiosity so I'm not done with those yet either. I'm having fun, I guess I'll stop when I've had enough. Maybe I'll pull a Cindy Sherman and never stop taking photos of myself. Who knows!

Likeness is on at Town Hall Gallery until Sunday 20 December, 2015.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Portraiture is a staple genre in art. It has a long and rich history and we're very excited to have the opportunity to display contemporary portraiture alongside more traditional forms from our permanent collection. For example, we have some terrific digital photography from emerging talent Bronwyn Watson on the one hand and an oil painting by Australian portrait painter William Dargie from 1947 on the other. In the spirit of exploring just what portraiture can be, we are running a project through Instagram and inviting you to participate and share your own take on contemporary portraiture.

Robert Menzies' passport and cigar holder on display in Likeness

Social media has become a platform for manufacturing, playing with and sharing identity. From the selfie to the shelfie, from the braggie to the ‘what’s-in-your-purse’ photography we see on the internet, we want to explore ways in which we share our identity online. Inspired by the artists in Likeness, we want you to use your creativity to make your own photographic portrait on Instagram. You may wish to manipulate imagery of your face or body, or take a creative twist with the sort of images you choose. For example, the objects we use tell us a lot about our identity. We are fortunate to have a selection of personal items from Australia's longest serving Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, in our permanent collection. We have included them in Likeness as they represent a way of understanding an aspect of their owner.

Ilona Nelson, A Self Portrait, At Home (2015), photograph, (c) Courtesy of the artist

Another fine example of portraiture taken from a different perspective comes from one of our exhibiting artists - Ilona Nelson. Taken from her wonderful blog (which you can see here) this 'Self Portrait, At Home' uses a different object all together to make a statement about her identity. We would love for you to let your imaginations run wild and think about ways of expressing your identity through imagery.

Be original, be unique and be yourself. Keep an eye on the @townhallgallery Instagram account for examples and tag your own with #likenessthg and we’ll share the most interesting, most creatively unique interpretations of likeness.

Popup Library for Likeness

For our current exhibition Likeness, we have constructed an adorable popup library in gallery 3. We have joined forces with the City of Boroondara library service to bring you a diverse selection of books that explore portraiture as both a concept and an art making practice. 

There are some comfy couches and plenty of reading material so feel free to stay a while in gallery 3 on your next visit to THG. It's quiet and there's plenty to read!

Our full reading recommendations are listed below as well as the details for all of the City of Boroondara Libraries so you can drop by in person to borrow some books.

The popup library will be on display until the close of Likeness on December 20, 2015.

Happy reading!



BELL, Julian.
Five hundred self-portraits

BOND, Anthony. Self portrait: Renaissance to contemporary

BORZELLO, France.s Seeing ourselves: women's self-portraits

FINGER, Brad. 50 portraits you should know

FREELAND, Cynthia A. Portraits and persons: a philosophical inquiry

GASTON, Vivien. The naked face: self-portraits

GIBSON, Robin. Painting the century: 101 portrait masterpieces 1900-2000

GRAY, Anne. Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960.

ROSS, Peter. Let's face it: the history of the Archibald Prize

SCHONLAU, Julia (ed). 1000 portrait illustrations: contemporary illustration from pencil to digital

WEST, Shearer. Portraiture

CARRIKER, Pam Mixed media portraits: techniques for drawing and painting faces 

KULLBERG, Ann Colored pencil portraits step by step

PEDERSON, Jean. Expressive portraits : watercolor and mixed media techniques

PRATO, Cate Coulacos. Mixed-media self-portraits : inspiration & techniques

RAYNES, John. Drawing & painting people: an easy-to-follow guide to successful portraits

SIDWAY, Ian. The portrait pocket palette

SINGER, Joe. How to paint portraits in pastel

SZUNYOGHY, Andras. Portrait drawing

THOMAS, Joy. The art of portrait drawing

WINNER, Luana Luconi. Painting classic portraits: great faces step by step 

WHYTE, Mary. Painting portraits and figures in watercolour

Photographic Portraiture

CANTRELL, Bambi. The art of people photography: inspiring techniques for creative results

ENNIS, Helen. Mirror with a memory: photographic portraiture in Australia

GREER, Fergus. Portraits: world's top photographers and the stories behind their greatest images

McCURRY, Steve. Portraits

MANNING, Erin. Portrait and candid photography: photo workshop

SMITH, Brian. Secrets of great portrait photography : photographs of the famous and infamous

SONHEIM, Steve. Creative photography lab: 52 fun exercises for developing self-expression with your camera


City of Boroondara Libraries

Ashburton Library
154 High Street
Ashburton 3147

Balwyn Library
336 Whitehorse Road
Balwyn 3103

Camberwell Library
340 Camberwell Road
Camberwell 3124

Hawthorn Library
584 Glenferrie Road,

Kew Library
Cnr Cotham Road & Civic Drive
Kew 3101

Phone: 9278 4666 - for all libraries

Friday, October 23, 2015


Public art project and artist in residence

City of Boroondara

Artist Laura Woodward with her artwork The Return (2014) exhibited at Town Hall Gallery.

'The Droplet Project' is an art project set around the themes of integrated water management and water sensitive practices, working with an artist in residence and engaging with the Boroondara community.

The City of Boroondara is seeking to commission an artist to develop a public artwork to be displayed (temporarily) outside on a City of Boroondara site. Space for development of the artwork will be provided through the provision of an artist in residence studio at the Hawthorn Arts Centre for six months. As the focus is engaging with the community, the selected artist will be required to develop and run 6 -10 creative participatory cultural development workshops that engage with targeted members of the Boroondara community around the artwork and the key themes - valuing water, integrated water management and water sensitive practices. It is expected that some of these targeted members of the Boroondara community will be young people from local schools in the municipality.

The completed work will be displayed for a short time (approximately 3 months) outside at a City of Boroondara site. The preferred location is the (soon to be) landscaped civic space adjacent to the Hawthorn Arts Centre at 360 Burwood Rd (corner Burwood and Glenferrie Roads), Hawthorn. 

City of Boroondara seeks expressions of interest from experienced professional artists who wish to be considered for this exciting project.

It is envisaged that the artwork take the form of an outdoor work which is designed to withstand the outdoor environment of the site for the proposed display period. 

How to Apply

Download the Expression of Interest form here, and any questions can be directed to: 

Mardi Nowak, Senior Curator, Town Hall Gallery
Phone: (03) 9278 4775

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sounding out the Vision

Humans have identified five types of senses that we have evolved to help us find our way in the world - sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. And over the years we have come to accept them as separate and distinct ways our bodies gather information about the universe around them. These senses are like our antennas, bringing data from the outside world back into our inside world – through our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin.

Eye Score installation shot, Gallery 1 
Artists from l to r: John Aslanidis, Angela Cavalieri, Michael Graeve.
Documentation photography courtesy of Christian Capurro

The art you encounter in museums and galleries is mostly made to be consumed by sight - to be taken in through the eyes. For Eye Score we have brought together a collection of artwork that accesses your ears through your eyes.

The gallery spaces have each developed their own flavour - their own character - driven by the nature of the particular artworks in that space. In the first gallery there is a sense of feeling; in the back gallery there is a sheet music library; and in the long gallery there is a biological flavour.

The first works you encounter are text works. Catherine Clover has produced a site-specific intervention on the large glass-walled entrance foyer. Clover provides a reflective experience, where the subtlety of visual concentration marries the subtlety of aural concentration.

Catherine Clover (2015), so to speak, site-specific text installation, (c) Courtesy of the artist.
Documentation photography courtesy of Christian Capurro

Text is at the start of the show because writing is possibly the first audible image. Humans first started communicating with body language, then with voice (sound) and then with writing (image). Once we figured out that you can scratch circles and lines and dashes into clay and send it 100km away in a way that carries our voices over the horizon, we could start talking silently.

So text is at the start of the exhibition. It’s also a way to show that while you’re inside a fairly isolated gallery, the ideas connect back outside into the presence of the world. Angela Cavalieri’s prints are along the entrance wall, swirling lines of lyrics moving through space. The first gallery contains a central work – John Aslanidis epic-scale 5-metre painting. Its vibratory effect activates your central nervous system and its delivery platform echoes its inner content.

Michael Graeve’s site-specific painting installation is a master class in composition. It is rich with the experimentation of improvisation and yet conducted with symphonic orchestration. The spaces of empty wall left between the colourful paintings is as important as the paintings themselves.

In the back gallery we have a record shop - a library of sheet music. John Nixon’s fourteen abstract paintings are geometric modernist history in the theatre of a postmodern environment. And also vice versa. This work has been site-specifically modified by Nixon, extracting all the even-numbered panels from his full suite, leaving #1, #3, #5, #7… etc on the walls for Eye Score. Improvising his composition in this way is a form of performance that reinforces the ideas inherent in the work.

Dylan Martorell's various scores
Documentation photography courtesy of Christian Capurro

In the same space is a suite of diagrammatic pencil drawings. Dylan Matorell’s scores are architectural blueprints taken from nature and constructed as instructions. They are the DNA of plants converted to guide-lines for songs. Martorell’s work runs across and into the long gallery where his biological source material reveals itself most directly and connects to the nature of the artworks in that space.

Along the central 19-metre wall, local Boroondara artist and musician Carmen Chan has produced a site-specific wall painting that pulls at the architectural space to weave an expression of bodily movement. Bubbles breath their way across the expanse, rising against gravity to meet their home.

A series of six Sound Paintings by Danae Valenza are record sleeves for bands whose music is only ever heard in your own head. Isolating notes and recombining them, Valenza delivers a concert of electronic sampling, but with rich analogue tones. Musicians' hands float free to talk in sign language. The looping historical journey of Eye Score returns to our earliest form of audible imagery – body language.

Eye Score installation shot, Gallery 3
Artists from l to r: Danae Valenza, Angela Cavalieri, Carmen Chan
Documentation photography courtesy of Christian Capurro

All of the characteristics described above are only part of the ideas and significance of the artworks. They each have much more to tell you about an array of different topics and themes. But it is their way of communicating sound through visual means that unites them as a group. Each in their own unique way, each with their own beautiful interpretation of sound into vision.

Monday, October 12, 2015

In Conversation: Angela Cavalieri

The second installment of our In Conversation series takes Gallery & Curatorial Assistant Marion Piper into the gallery and up to the work of Angela Cavalieri. Many of you may remember Angela's work from the exhibition Re-writing the Image in 2014. We're thrilled to be working with her again and to learn more about her inspirations and influences for Eye Score: The Audible Image


[MP]: Hi Angela!
Let’s kick off this interview for Eye Score…

You exhibited with us last year in ‘Rewriting the Image’ - is the work in Eye Score dramatically different or in a similar vein?

[AC]: Hi Marion! 
Different in that the work in Re-writing the Image was a 3-Dimensional object (an artist book) and the two works in Eye Score are 2-Dimensional. They both have imagery made up from text. The works in Eye Score are based on music lyrics from Claudio Monteverdi's madrigals and the artist book was based on Italo Calvino' s "invisible cities", in particular the continuous city.

Giro (2015), Hand-printed linocut print and acrylic on paper, Artist Proof, 130 x 272cm
(c) Courtesy of the artist. 

[MP]: Great! I can see the links between your previous works and the ones for Eye Score, particularly the idea of using another creative work as inspiration. Is this something that has always been a part of your creative practice?

[AC]: Yes, it has...there has been influences from literature or music from great writers and musicians.

Detail of Giro (2015), Hand-printed linocut print and acrylic on paper, Artist Proof, 130 x 272cm
(c) Courtesy of the artist. 
It has also come from great architecture, monuments or places that that I have been to through my travels and residencies....there has been many references from Rome, Renaissance domes and arches as well as early Romanesque architecture from Catalonia, Spain.

[MP]: Your work is very architectural in nature which also has links to the structural nature of writing. Are the texts you garner inspiration from ones you feel personally connected to in terms of their cultural content, or do you use them because of their structural or aesthetic features? 

[AC]: They are mainly related to places I have been to or buildings I've visited.
The historical or cultural connection for me is important as well as their structural aesthetic quality. 

Ragionando (2015), Hand-printed linocut print and acrylic on paper, Artist Proof, 121 x 206 cm
(c) Courtesy of the artist.
[MP]: Fantastic! Can you tell me of a place you have visited recently that took your breath away?

[AC]: Venice in the rain.... and it wasn't the first time!
PS: actually Ravenna wasn't too far behind!

Detail of Ragionando (2015), Hand-printed linocut print and acrylic on paper, Artist Proof, 121 x 206 cm
(c) Courtesy of the artist.
[MP]: Haha I would imagine that Venice in the rain would be incredible!

After participating in Eye Score, what other exhibitions or projects do you have on the horizon?

[AC]: I'm basically just going to continue working with some ideas I had during my Venice residency. I'm currently working with an animator and musician on a project for the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival. I'd like to expand that further. In April next year I have a show booked in Darwin at the NCCA.

Detail of Ragionando (2015), Hand-printed linocut print and acrylic on paper, Artist Proof, 121 x 206 cm
(c) Courtesy of the artist.
I have a solo show "Canzone - Music as storytelling", on at the moment at fortyfive downstairs in conjunction with the Melbourne Festival till 24th October.

There is also a documentary showing my research and outcome from a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship in 2012-13. It is on Youtube as well, the link is:

You can checkout some earlier work on my website:


Eye Score: The Audible Image is open to the public until Sunday 1 November, 2015. For more information on Angela Cavalieri, check out her website: 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

This May Be the Last Time - Screening this Saturday

Town Hall Gallery has your Saturday arts events covered with a free film screening of This May Be the Last Time at 1pm Saturday 10 October.  The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014 and is being shown in conjunction with our current exhibition, Eye Score: the Audible Image.

If film isn't your thing, there is also a free artist talk with Jesse Dayan at 2pm.  Jesse has been a semifinalist in the Doug Moran Prize, a finalist in the National Works on Paper Prize and was shortlisted for the Brett Whiteley Travelling Scholarship. A recent graduate from Victorian College of the Arts, Jesse has exhibited in Melbourne, London, Adelaide, Coffs Harbour and Bendigo.

Then to round your day off, join us for the launch of The Power Street Project at the Community Project Wall.  Power Street Project is an exploration of the relationship between discarded objects and place-making. On weekdays, Lauren Castillo walks from her home on Riversdale road in Hawthorn, straight up Power St (that turns into Denmark St), to her workplace at QArt Gallery on High St in Kew. Castillo collects discarded objects which she has called ‘groundfinds’ on her daily journey and repurposes them into jewelry and other wearable items. Power Street Project is a participatory exhibition as Castillo encourages you, the viewer, to notice what is discarded around you and how you can re-purpose ‘junk’ into something wearable or useful.  A smoothie bike will be onsite to quench your thirst, though you will need to cycle away to get your treat!

For more information about these events please contact the gallery on 03 9278 4626 or  

To see what other events are coming up, visit our Public Programs page.  We look forward to seeing you at Town Hall Gallery soon!