In late May I travelled with my artist friend Ken Giblin to New York for a fortnight. We booked accommodation on East 78thStreet so that we could be close to the big art museums. Our aim for this trip was to see as much art as we could and to enjoy being in a great city.
On our first day as we walked along our street towards Central Park we stumbled across a huge exhibition of Willem de Kooning’s work- De Kooning Five Decades. The work was outstanding. The next building along was full of art galleries. As we explored we came across a Louise Nevelson exhibition. Then there was a Jean Dubuffet exhibition. We were pinching ourselves because we hadn’t even walked out of our street yet.
We spent three days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It had a major exhibition called Epic Abstraction with a lot of the abstract expressionist work including a spectacular room full of Jackson Pollock paintings. At the Museum of Modern Art we were very excited by the beauty of the huge Claude Monet water lily paintings.
In Chelsea we saw a large exhibition of Joan Mitchell’s huge abstract paintings. They were gestural, expressive and lyrical and absolutely stunning.
There were private galleries having exhibitions on Picasso and Cubism, and Picasso and his women with a lot of the famous paintings and sculptures. There was tribal art from Africa and Oceania and Central Australian painting of great beauty.
There was also a lot of great street art to discover as we walked all over New York.
Everywhere we went we were inspired by the art and the city.
Since coming back to Melbourne in mid June I have applied myself to my painting and my sculpture.
Our trip opened my eyes to a lot of great art and made me realize that if I apply myself to my art each day then magic will unfold in all sorts of unexpected ways.
The Ugly Duckling
2 May 2019
I bought a copper covered wooden fire surround about 30 years ago. After about 10 years I threw it our on hard rubbish and then had second thoughts and retrieved it. When my daughters were young I bought them a book to read to them “ The Ugly Duckling” On reading it I felt some very deep emotion within myself when the Duckling first heard the wild cries of the swans flying overhead. With this story resonating within me I decided to use the fire surround in a sculpture of the ugly duckling. It was mounted on a large piece of steel and there it stood in my garden all alone for the next 15 years or so. Then last year I found another copper fire surround. I tried to make another bird sculpture with it but it annoyed me and it didn’t look resolved. So a few weeks ago I took both sculptures out of the garden and with a friend I pulled the second sculpture apart and integrated it with the first sculpture. When I had finnished I had the Ugly Duckling standing under a sign post facing a new direction.
So as a metaphor for my life I find this sculpture to be very significant for me.
Industrial Mould Sculptural Furniture
15 March 2019
Over the past ten years I have bought a large quantity of wooden industrial moulds which over a hundred years ago were used by industry. I had some significant circular moulds that had beautiful surfaces and the thought at the back of my mind was always how to use them most effectively. Over time the thought came to me to construct metal bases for these circular forms which would be in harmony with the past industrial use of these pieces.
The idea was to screw the wooden top to the metal base and when combined these pieces really came alive as one off sculptural dining tables and coffee tables.
How I got into Art
20 Dec 2018
At University I studied Economics and Law and I hated it. I loved reading novels rather than studying but somehow I still managed to pass exams and I was encouraged to persevere as these degrees were wonderful meal tickets. I graduated in 1980 and then I quit. My confidence was at its lowest ebb. My family constantly told me that I’d thrown my life away. I was now unemployed with no idea what I would do with my life. During the day I used to look out the window of my parents’ North Balwyn home wondering when something exciting would ever happen in my life. Everything always seemed so static. I was stuck in a big hole and had no idea how to get myself out of it. Years passed and I started doing casual work like cleaning, gardening and childcare. Then I landed a job in the public service. I was a payments clerk in the Department of education. The work was very boring but provided me with some stability over the next five years. After I resigned from the public service I started doing personal development courses and realized that the blankness I felt was covering a whole world of deep emotion. I had been shut down emotionally for years and years. More years passed and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Friends would say to me ”Gary, you are intelligent. What are you going to do?” And I would just shrug, still bewildered by that question.
One day I did a two hour art workshop where we were asked to draw what we felt while listening to some rhythmic music. I found this absolutely liberating. To draw what I felt was easy for me and I enjoyed it. I was going within and didn’t have to draw an object in the physical world but just my immediate response to the music. I now knew that I wanted to do art. I sold some shares and I bought some paintings that I thought revealed lost or hidden parts of myself. I met some artists and felt a connection with them. Then I started painting expressive abstract paintings where I connected with what I was feeling in my inner world. I organized a largescale exhibition in Ballarat of 24 artists’ work and from then on kept on the path of being an artist. I’ve been on that path now for 25 years. Art is what I love doing. Doing art is what makes me happy. All it asks of me is to be myself. To be authentic and to live and breathe art with passion and with love.
Collage and Paintings Revisited
07 Jan 2015
Over the past 6 months I have experimented with many collage in my paintings.
Firstly I went up to my attic and gathered a large number of figurative paintings that I considered to be not quite resolved. I discovered that in using collage exciting things happened to the work. It introduced a new element which when applied spontaneously helped to resolve the painting. I used old paintings and drawings and learnt that a life drawing that maybe doesn’t quite work, when torn up, reveals some great dynamic marks. I also discovered that when tearing some collage off the painting the residue marks left could be incredibly beautiful.
Collage is a great way of recycling old paintings and drawings and giving them a new life.
Often we just throw away things without seeing the inherent beauty that is within.
This could include a scrap of paper or an old gnarled piece of wood with layers of paint on its surface. Using collage, I find, is akin to playing. You make a mess and you get your hands sticky and wet and you get totally immersed and absorbed in the process of discovery. Collage has so much to offer in art.
12 Dec 2014
For many years I was encouraged by galleries to concentrate on my figurative work. This meant that abstract painting took a back seat for many years.
I wanted to paint abstract but whenever I tried I would see a figure wanting to emerge. Then a few years ago I painted some abstract paintings quite naturally and spontaneously and rediscovered its magic.
Over the past few years I have really enjoyed experimenting with abstract painting. Some are gestural, some are lyrical and gentle and some I explore using blocks of colour. With all my abstract paintings I am totally engaged. It has opened up a whole new field of creative expression for me and I am loving immersing myself in the creative process with each new painting that I commence.
There are always surprises and always different solutions in resolving each painting.
Industrial Mould Sculptures Revisited
4 Dec 2014
Just over a year ago I bought over 100 industrial moulds. These moulds were used by industry over 100 years ago. They have text and numbers and each piece is intricate and unique and beautifully crafted.
I fell in love with these pieces and set to laying them all out on the rug in our living room and started playing with them. Some combined easily whereas other combinations came very suddenly and unexpectedly after much time and consideration.
I now have created 26 sculptures using the industrial moulds. Most are figurative, some are masks and some are abstract. All to me are very beautiful.
01 Dec 2014
I love rearranging old tools and bits of metal and having them welded to make sculptures.
I start by gathering a whole lot of pieces of metal from my back shed and playing with the pieces on the ground. I keep rearranging them until I am happy with the layout. Whilst lying on the ground the metal pieces look ordinary but once the metal is welded a transformation happens and the work comes alive.
So lately I have been creating a whole series of amazing figurative sculptures.
Because the metal I am using is often very old the figurative sculptures can look as if from antiquity.
I favour a minimal approach to my sculptures. They often seem to work best by keeping them very simple.
I love these works and feel inspired to keep creating and keep experimenting.
Recently we had our pond resurfaced and one of my sculptures (photographed) was used as a feature sculpture for the pond. My sculptures can easily be adapted for a pond subject and I am happy to do a pond sculpture commission for your pond. Please note that for any commission the hose will be clear or hidden within copper piping and will be incorporated into the sculpture.
I have often admired industrial moulds that were used to make industrial metal pieces of all shapes and sizes 100 years ago. These moulds were made of wood and often painted orange, black, yellow and red which signified some aspect of the industrial process.
Recently I purchased 50 of these industrial moulds and I have been making sculptures from them over the last three months.
I find each piece intriguing and beautifully crafted and it has been very exciting using these historical pieces in my recent sculptures.
Featured in Real Living Magazine
One of my paintings, Bird Man, featured in the September 2011 issue of Real Living, hung beautifully on the wall of Stephen's "boys retreat". The caption reads, "This lounge room was intended to be Stephen's "boys retreat", but it's occasionally invaded by his daughters, Asha and Gaby. A vibrant painting- Bird Man, by Gary Solomon takes pride of place over the sofa. "I love the bold colours and naive, simplistic execution," Stephen says.
The Art of Aiding Charity
March 15, 2013
I held a charity exhibition in my home in 2011 to raise money for Oxfam's East Africa food crisis appeal.
This article appeared in local newspaper the Stonnington leader.
Review on my Yarra Sculpture Gallery Exhibition
GARY SOLOMON: FIGURES OF THE IMAGINATION YARRA SCUPTURE GALLERY UNTIL APRIL 17 2011
Gary Solomon’s 86 paintings and sculptures fit perfectly into the warehouse environment of the Yarra Sculpture Gallery in Abbotsford with its corrugated iron roof and ample skylight. Both the painted and sculpted figures float in a kind of ecstatic space, set loose from the confines of gravity and propelled by their own energy and joyfulness. They complement each other reflecting the artist’s sense of delight and confidence in experimenting.
Since 1993, he has had a show each year including the Solo Exhibition in the Jewish Museum Access Gallery in 2003 and another in the Leo Baeck Gallery in 2008. But there are no specifically Jewish references in his work; if anything, Solomon seems inspired by tribal and African art, the shapes simple and elemental, the colours bold and often bursting out of the canvas.
His sense of humour is most evident in the sculpture which is made of found objects: rusting metal tools and bicycle chains, bits of discarded wood, an old wheelbarrow, a soldering iron. Nearly all are transformed into weirdly human shapes. Most striking of all is a large blue bird, its outstretched feathers made out of the fine twigs of a tree, touching in their pathos like the withering fingers of an old man.
“I love old things,” he says of the objects he collects. “They have a history,” rather like the building they are in.
“Nature does a lovely job of weathering.”
Though he grew up surrounded by the art his father collected, the 54 -year-old only began painting in his thirties. It was the artists whose work he bought and displayed who encouraged and mentored him.
This generosity has been passed onto others. He has shared his knowledge with many communities – children, the unemployed, underprivileged, and the disabled. That openness shows in the ease with which the spectator can relate to the work. There is no attempt at obfuscation or even sophistication. The art speaks with an honesty and directness that characterise their maker. Perhaps it was the very fact of beginning as an adult that set him free from undue outside influences to be his very own man.
Art from the Heart
Newspaper article in the Australian Jewish News, 27 June 2008.
"For me, art is a spiritual expression of who I am and what I really care about."