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  • Seeing Through 4-28 October 2017

    During my recent exhibition Seeing Through I gave a short talk. A few people asked for a copy so here it is with added images of the paintings I was talking about. The title of the show is Seeing Through. This in part references my interest in psychoanalytic and feminist theory, both of which are of course “seeing through” or behind the contemporary everyday world. Originally I depicted this by using an excerpt of the wallpaper from one of Sydney Nolan’s Kelly paintings to serve as curtains in my book page works.


    Perhaps (Mixed media on Linen) 82 cm x 122 cm

    I originally titled this work (Perhaps) Ring of Bright Water but changed it to the more relevant Perhaps. This word allowing for ambiguity is a good description of my mind but the minds of others too. When competing views for example in bits of different books battle in our heads.

    Bon Voyage (Oil on Linen) 182 cm x 122 cm

    In Bon Voyage my artist son, William Mackinnon, packing up his life to go to live with his girlfriend in Ibiza, offered me this beautiful and big stretcher. It had the beginnings of a painting by him; an almost three-dimensional tree, a smear of purple and a speckled road at the bottom. This painting best shows my belief in Eva Hesse’s statement that “ Desire comes first” so I continued the table and landscape on the basis of my intuition. I have since refined and developed my desire theory to include the next step, that of decisions. You can see this through my employment of curtains and veils to frame and signify the inner and outer worlds. I see these pictures as a result of a mixture of intention and very conscious making.

    In Coastal Garden Thinking of William Buckley (Oil on Linen) 127cm x 167 cm

     Sometimes I surprise myself, as in “In a Coastal Garden Thinking of William Buckley”. I can see formally where and why the unrealistically and brightly coloured boats fit, but I’m not sure from where they have appeared. In 1980 the very early days of Gertrude Street, Memory Holloway curated Shipwrecked. On our way to the opening Jim (my husband) said, “ That looks like someone impersonating Brett Whitely”, as a skinny wiry haired man in a black T-shirt and jeans headed through the gallery. It was of course Whitely, who spoke to me intensely, intelligently at length about my large black and white drawing of a single, empty floating dingy. Sadly I can’t recall what he said, but have a clear picture in my head.

    Thinking of boats, my father Hal Hattam once made a moving and powerful painting of 3 girls afloat in the front of a boat. He swapped it with Fred Williams. In the late 1950’s my father in full flight as an obstetrician and gynaecologist went painting each Sunday with a group of (all male) painters. The artists’ included John Perceval, Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd and Fred Williams and they would all go down to Williamstown. Boats were the central subject. The women and children (lots of them) followed later in the day with the picnic lunches, my mother with me my two sisters and brother John (a new baby). 

    So these 1950’s boat paintings take me back to that formative time in my life. I was struck by a conversation in my friend and writer Drusilla Modjeska’s memoir Second Half First where she quotes a friend saying boats are like old friends bumping along together.

    Friends Are Like Good Old Boats (Oil Paint on Linen) 92 cm x 122 cm

    Bluet No 2 ( Oil on Linen) 32cmx 47 cm


    I’m interested in that fragile and often porous line between the inner and outer worlds. In this exhibition that border is defined by the black window


    My First Phone Number (Mixed Media on Paper) 121 cm x 86 cm

     I’m not the only person who in this age of mobile phones, remembers one number only, their first phone number. Mine was WF4570. The particular circumstances of my father being an obstetrician in the 1950’s enforced this memory. On the weekends if he had a woman in labour, he would stay at home waiting for the call. When asked (what a question) what would you take would the home burn down, we all said the telephone. Here the veil is lace, rather than paint. This is a different mean of saying the same thing and connects to that childhood house.


    My Pantheon (mixed media on linen) 108 cm x 108 cm 

    As both a feminist and admirer of artist Phillip Guston, I rewrote in a critical homage his painting My Pantheon. Artists top of his list are Masaccio, Peiro Dello, Giotto, Tiepolo , de Chirico, all really great artists’ whose work survived centuries. Nevertheless, I recalled they are not the artists I carry in my studio head. These are more recent times and in my list are women who influence me. Hence in my Pantheon rewriting Guston are Julliet Mitchell, Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, Rose Wylie, Hilma Af Klint and Carmen Herera.

    A sign of the times, my sister Victoria Hattam a professor at the New School in N.Y wrote to me very interestingly on Whatts App about where this show sits in my overall career.

     I think you have done interplay of landscape and interior for a long time. Its your connections of psychoanalysis and feminism which both revalue the domestic. You also do that in a third way by blurring the boundary between landscape and interior/ domestic. In the painterly world that is a challenge to masculinist authority. A specific instance is you re writing the pantheon.


    Artist and friend Ellen Koshland emailed after seeing the show to give me her very perceptive insights on the works. 

    This new phase of your work is very exciting. A number of elements (change in palette, spatial planes, windows, filmy paint overlays) combine to add a significant new dimension to the work.

     I love the way they speak to the thinking moment, the thinking woman. In particular, the filmy portions provide a manifestation of the thinker, dreamer, musing person, which sits at times in contrast to the objects, which manifest the do-er, the responsible.

     Often before I have relished your table scenes as the overlooked reality of the collective life of the house. A reality you honour with proper attention. But you have added the single person perspective to the scenes in a way that adds the dual kinds of consciousness we inhabit.


    This seems like a good note on which to end.