Archive for September, 2010

Just in: Pictures of Peter Kingston’s Toast-rack tram

Peter Kingston has just sent me these images of one of his artworks. The piece is a quaint and nostalgic toast-rack tram, heading for Bondi with a smattering of cartoon and real-life characters on board.

Peter has long been a champion for the retention of Sydney’s architectural and maritime history. As such, he is a lover of the trams which once rumbled up and down the city’s main streets and took thousands of commuters in and out of the suburbs.

Here, he has recreated one of the trams in all its glory.

“It lights up and contains Sydney eccentrics – Bea Miles, Mr Eternity, Ginger Meggs and his monkey, the White Man, the Trolley Man, Boofhead and the little Fan Man,” Peter said.

Please enjoy these pictures.

Elizabeth Fortescue, September 17, 2010

New Charles Blackman Photographs, exclusive to Artwriter

These rare photographs of Charles Blackman and his first wife, Barbara Blackman, were sent to me this week by their son Auguste Blackman, who gave me permission to publish them on my website.

The photographs were taken by Auguste at the Blackman Hotel in Melbourne this month, the day after the hotel’s official opening at which Charles, 82, had been the star attraction.

The photographs show Charles and Barbara sharing breakfast in the hotel.

One of the pictures shows Charles Blackman with his daughter Bertie Blackman.

My thanks to Auguste for permission to use these delightful and intimate family snapshots.

Elizabeth Fortescue, September 15, 2010

Peter Kingston Interview

Peter Kingston shows Sawmillers curator Elsa Atkin one of his chess sets

This week I interviewed Peter Kingston at his home on the Lower North Shore. Peter was putting the finishing touches to his work for the inaugural Sculpture at Sawmillers exhibition, taking place on September 18 and 19 at Sawmillers Reserve, McMahons Point.

Peter is one of Sydney’s best-known artists, who exhibits at Australian Galleries in Paddington. He cares deeply about Sydney’s built history, and has gone in to bat for the Walsh Bay wharves, prior to their redevelopment, and particularly for the little wooden ferries that plied the Circular Quay-Lavender Bay run.

Peter’s home is perched above Sydney Harbour and resembles, in its ramshackle charm, some of Peter’s drawings of Pittwater boat houses and the like.

The first thing you see when you enter is a giant and ancient glass-fronted cabinet, filled with Luna Park memorabilia. Peter was working with other artists including Martin Sharp on the redesign of Luna Park at the time of the tragic ghost train fire in 1979, which claimed the lives of six children and one adult. The fire has deeply affected the artists involved with Luna Park at the time of the tragedy. All sorts of theories have been proposed to explain the advent of the fire, but Peter said he likes to believe it wasn’t deliberately lit. The artefacts in Peter’s cabinet are poignant reminders of the night when flames roared into the sky and innocence perished.

Also near the front door are half a dozen newspaper cuttings featuring photographs of the Governor General Quentin Bryce, whom Peter admires very much. The Governor General is going to open the Sculpture at Sawmillers exhibition, in which 53 artists will exhibit, on the Saturday afternoon.

Peter takes me downstairs into one of his studios and shows me several of the wonderful chess sets which he has created. These are about three times the size of your standard chess set and consist of chess pieces made from plasticine and cast in bronze. He has hand-painted the chess boards, decorating them with pictures of the characters he has used as chess pieces.

The first chess set Peter showed me was his Luna Park chess set. Peter had made laughing clowns to be used as pawns, while Coney Island, dodgem cars and other amusement park objects took the place of the other chess pieces.

Next up was Peter’s Popeye chess set. At one end, Popeye was the king and Olive Oyl his queen. At the other end, Brutus and the Sea Hag were king and queen.

“This has been 20 years in the making,” Peter said of his Popeye chess set.

He recently had the chess pieces cast in bronze, especially for the Sculpture at Sawmillers show.

The final chess set was the Aussie Comic Chess Set featuring the Magic Pudding, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Ginger Meggs and Minnie Peters, and Blinky Bill, among others.

“It’s still under construction,” Peter told us.

One of Peter’s other assemblages was an old Sydney tram whose passengers were real-life characters from early Sydney. The formidale Bea Miles sat on one of the benches, no doubt quoting Shakespeare. Rosaleen Norton, the “witch of Kings Cross”, was also on board. And hanging off the side was “the fan man”, who Peter said was another colourful person from Sydney’s past. Peter loves the old trams, and has paid homage to them in this work.

“It’s a toast rack tram and it’s the most beautiful thing,” Peter said.

Finally, we noticed a green wooden assemblage mounted on the wall. This one, Peter told me, was made for his last exhibition. Nobody bought it. It’s the Luna Park ghost train, and represents the first time that Peter has tackled the awful topic so directly in his art. You can turn a little handle and see the ghost train cars rattle by, each one with a witch on board. It’s like Luna Park is closed, and all the characters in the rides have come out to play, Peter said.

It’s a eerie piece, and perhaps it’s no wonder that no one bought it. The ghost train fire is a part of Sydney’s history that few people like to reminded of, but one that Peter and Martin Sharp have vowed to keep alive in the public mind.