Wednesday, February 10, 2016

'Step by Step'

On open days almost every visitor to my studio asks what my process of painting is. While the 'step by step' of each painting varies, I suppose, just like other artists, I've developed my own technical process over the years...
.... which I'm more than happy to share :)

This is the process in painting a commissioned work for a couple with a beautiful 'Lemon Scented Gum' in their yard. After visiting their home to view their colour scheme and furniture, chatting about what they would like, I arrived at a design of a horizontal painting with a silver metallic boarder and featuring leaved and the colouring of the beautiful tree from their garden. 

Step 1

The first layer on this painting was to paste down several sheets of tissue paper. This is a way of covering over the textured weave in the canvas, but also, the wrinkles in the tissue assist to create an aged and vintage surface to begin painting on.
Layers of acrylic paint have then been applied, between which I have painted a number of coats of 'Crackle Medium'.  This also assists in portraying an aged affect and I am able to get a really loose dribble and crackled under-layer. Most of this texture will be lost as I continue, although sections of each layer will be visible in the final product. The first layers on this work were darker and have gradually become lighter as I proceed. This too gives the viewer a sense that time has passed and that possibly layers of dust have softened the once bright and highly contrasting colours beneath.  

Step 2

Masking tape has allowed me to paste down silver foil to create a boarder on both the top and the bottom of the painting. I have cut a circle into the foil before pasting it to the canvas to create a silver moon. 
The beautiful Lemon Scented Gum has so many beautiful warm and dusty colours in its bark. From mushroom to dusty pink and mauve and a beautiful almost powdery off-white on some parts of its trunk.  The blossom and gum-nuts of this tree are so beautiful. Strips of Japanese paper featuring the hexagonal 'Kikko Hanabashi' pattern echoes the experience of looking into the open end of gum-nuts and the application of the  'Asanoha' via a gold silk screen pattern mimics the delicate 'star-like' flowers when the gum is in bloom.

Step 3

Now its time to apply more silver leaf and foil.  The little squares of silver leaf in the background give the sense of a  Japanese folding screen or sliding shrine door that would have been traditionally decorated with images from the natural world.  I have made another screen featuring the same 'Kikko Hanabashi' pattern that featured on the paper used earlier.  The layering of silkscreen pattern allows one to see the layers beneath as well as adding a new dimension to the foreground.  
My application of the silver leaf and pattern in a diagonal arrangement also stems from traditional Japanese influences.... as does the area of 'mist' which appear to move across and into the composition above the moon.

Step 4

Waves of mist are also represented through the use of some vintage Chinese wallpaper I found some years ago.  The trees and landscape scenes on this wallpaper offer us a sense that we're in nature.... and when the gum leaves are applied in the next step - that place in nature has become more specifically, Australia.

Step 5

What I always find incredibly magical is that while my body, mind and spirit are so immersed in the colour and imagery of the painting I am working on, nature or life seems to also give me 'hints' of what colour to apply next or how to achieve a desired affect. Sometimes I'll find the answer to a problem I have had in the studio that night in my dreams. Sometimes in the middle of a yoga practise  or sometimes while walking. In this case, I was on a bushwalk when from high up above the canopy of shorter trees a cockatoo broke off a sprig of Lemon Scented Gum leaves and blossom. They landed right at my very feet!  
After scanning these leaves, I have printed them in pigmented inks on archival paper and arranged them onto the painting.
This process often reminds me of the art of 'Ikebana' the Japanese art of flower arranging.

Lemon Scented Gum Collage
76cm x 122cm
Mixed Media on Canvas

And finally, the details and a fine spray of paint are applied to the canvas, followed by a combination of encaustic wax and damar varnish as a means of protecting the layers within the painting and also creating a uniform surface over the entire work.

Here is the painting, "Lemon Scented Gum Collage" featured in it's new home. 
......And thankfully it's new owners are simply thrilled!   :)
(Photo thanks to Barry Plant real estate)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Here’s hoping you're managing to keep warm on these wintery, wet days here in ole Melbourne town. 

As mentioned in my last post, ‘Karisome – Transience’ is running at Yering Station until May 17th so there's still heaps of time to pop out for a look,and possibly a taste of the beautiful wine on offer, if you're in the vicinity.

 I have just finished a short video interview about the background to the exhibition title and paintings so you can get a sense of what is on show. (click on the video below to view)

Karisome Video Interview on YouTube

May I extend an enormous thank you to everyone who made out to Yering Station for the exhibition opening and a huge thank you also to both Jeanette Davison and Ewan Jarvis for their heartfelt, eloquent and insightful speeches.

Here is an excerpt from Ewan Jarvis's wonderful speech...... with some images of paintings in the show nestled between his words. An enormous thank you again Ewan xxxx

Beneath the Blossom 84cm x 152cm, 2015

"Good evening and welcome to the Yering Station Gallery. My name is Ewen Jarvis. I run the cellar door here at Yering Station and will be standing in for our curator Savaad Felich while he is on leave. So on his behalf and on behalf of the Yering Station Gallery, I’m delighted to be welcoming you to the opening of Nerina Lascelles’ exhibition ‘Karisome’ or ‘Transience’: a collection of works that take as their subject the transient nature of all things and the beauty inherent in transience itself.

The Japanese word Karisome denotes the inevitable dissolution of all form through the passage of time.

Karisome can be translated into English as transient or temporary. Translation is however something of a haphazard affair, and these English words don’t quite convey the nuanced meaning of the Japanese word.

Maigure-shon - Migration 84cm x 152cm, 2015

Nerina has observed on one of her blogs that an awareness of karisome involves joy, an intense appreciation of things, and also a gentle sadness at their passing.

Now yesterday, with all of this in mind, I decided to ask a few Japanese visitors to the gallery for their personal definition of Karisome. My favourite response was from a lady called Michiko from Kobe, who was on holiday with her mother and grandmother. Michiko said that Karisome is ‘like a love affair that is all the more moving and beautiful for being short’.

The chrysanthemum flowers, cherry blossoms, honey bees and migrating cranes of this exhibition ask us to reflect on love affairs that are all the more beautiful for being short, and in doing so they induce a Zen-like calm.

Karisome III 2 84cm x 152cm, 2015

Nerina’s works, I think you will agree, have an immediately calming effect. They encourage tranquillity and induce in us a sensitivity to the subtle movements of human life and the workings of nature: and experience that deepens with patient observation. Giving these works our attention involves becoming lost in their many layers of texture, colour and symbol.

Shihyou – Pattern, 122cm x 122cm, 2015

In Nerina’s works the layering of Japanese Kimono embroidery, Chinese silk, Washi paper, Joss and encaustic wax invites the viewer to step through the textured surface into imagined worlds, while the disparate vintages of the carefully chosen material invite us to become lost in the passing of time. Viewing these works, we are often jointly aware of the eternal and the transient. For example, in Japanese mythology the crane lives for 1,000 years, but for a human observer the spectacle of its migration is all the more beautiful for being fleeting.

Another element of Nerina’s exhibition that endears me to her work are the titles taken from the Japanese poetry. I always enjoy an exhibition a little more if the titles of the works are working as hard as the works themselves. Nerina certainly doesn’t disappoint. Take for instance the title of the following piece:

The sun covered
By clouds for a while
Migrating birds

Basho 1644-1694

For me, haiku like this has the effect of someone walking into a room and playing a few exquisite notes on a flute and then leaving.

These words, written in seventeenth century feudal Japan by Matsuo Basho (and for those of you unfamiliar with Matsuo Basho, he is the Japanese equivalent of Shakespeare) these words introduce us to a work in which migrating-silk-kimono cranes are seen traversing an airy skyscape of precipitous paper mountains, gold gilt clouds, crooked trees clinging to crevasses, while delicately penned Japanese words fall like rain into low valleys.

The overall effect is of entering a tranquil, complex and dreamlike space....."

Photos thanks to Kerry Cross

"Karisome - Transience" Runs April 2 - 17 May 2015

Opening Drinks Friday April 10th 6pm - 7.45
Admission Free

Contact details
Exhibition Coordinator - Savaad Felich
T 03 9730 0102

38 Melba Hwy Yarra Glen 3775 
Victoria, Australia 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Karisome - Transience

The title of my next exhibition is ‘Karisome’ (Ka-ri-so-me) which is Japanese for ‘Transience’. It embodies the ancient Zen Buddhist concept that all form – be that material, thought or emotion - will inevitably dissolve through the passage of time. The contemplation of the transient nature of all things is nothing new, philosophers have ruminated with this concept since the dawn of time.  The ancient Japanese monks, seers, artists and poets not only acknowledged and embraced this idea but also perceived the transient and ever-changing element of life to hold incredible beauty. A beauty which does not last and cannot be grasped, bought or owned.

Live in simple faith
Just as this trusting cherry
Flowers, fades and falls – Basho 

The words of this beautiful Basho poem eloquently capture the wisdom and grace of being aware of and applying the concept of transience. Western culture appears to identify so heavily with the permanence of material form, thought and emotion, and could perhaps live in a more balanced way through acceptance of the popular Buddhist concept that “This too shall pass.” Rather than becoming lost in the world of things, emotions and events we should flow with grace and trust life and its experiences.

Mono No Aware (pronounced - “moh-noh noh ah-wah-ray”) is a Japanese term which arose from the Buddhist culture of the Heian Period (794-1185). This term describes the awareness of the transience of things, and both a joy and intense appreciation as well as a gentle sadness at their passing. Poet and artist Motoori Norinaga (1730 -1801), describes the term as “sensitive, exquisite feelings experienced when encountering the subtle workings of human life or the changing seasons.” In Norinaga’s interpretation, the phrase speaks of a refined sensitivity toward the sorrowful and transient nature of beauty. According to mono no aware, a falling or wilting autumn flower is more beautiful than one in full bloom; a fading sound more beautiful than one clearly heard. The Sakura or cherry blossom tree is the epitome of this conception of beauty. They explode in beauty after winter’s doldrums, trumpeting life for only a few days before they die.  

Beauty is a subjective rather than objective experience, a state of being ultimately internal rather than external. Based largely upon classical Greek ideals, beauty in the West is sought in the ultimate perfection of an external object: a sublime painting, perfect sculpture or intricate musical composition; a beauty that could be said to be only skin deep. The Japanese ideal sees beauty instead as an experience of the heart and soul, a feeling for and appreciation of objects or artwork—most commonly nature or the depiction of—in a pristine, untouched state.

The paintings in this exhibition combine the influences of the ancient artwork from Japan, an understanding of Zen Buddhist philosophy and a contemplation of the transient nature of life. 
This body of work contains floral imagery such as the cherry blossom as well as bees and birds which again symbolise the transient life of the natural world.  Materials used in these paintings incorporate a collection of vintage Japanese fabrics, wallpapers and metallic leaf and foil; combined onto the canvas with screen printed patterns, paint and encaustic wax.  As when Japanese golden screens first appeared in the fourteenth century they functioned as a background on which to paste painted fans or square poem cards. Similarly, these paintings are a combination of both paper and material collage and painted areas. 
Pattern is also an important element in this collection of paintings. I am contemplating both the pattern of the life cycle and seasons, pattern within sound, music and the written language, patterns in nature (honeycomb, petals of a blossom, waves etc) and the deeper, more geometric patterns that man has recognized in nature including the Fibonacci sequence, Mandelbrot set and Golden Mean.

Segments of the paintings appear as though they have aged over time. Tarnish, wear and decay also represent the transient nature of passing time.  Areas of space represent that which has passed before or that which is yet to come into form. They suggest a magical, ‘alive’ dimension of true beauty beyond the 3D form that we, as humans so heavily identify with.
The paintings are material objects that depict an image which arose from the essence and which, at their highest function, will offer the viewer a window to their own eternal essence within.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A 'Pastiche' of Materials

Pastiche (noun) -  An artistic work consisting of a medley of pieces taken from various sources

Many visitors to my studio inquire about the vast array of materials used in my paintings. As mentioned briefly in my last post, materials used in my paintings incorporate a collection of vintage Japanese fabrics, wallpapers and metallic leaf and foil; combined onto the canvas with screen printed patterns, paint and encaustic wax.

Precious obi and kimono fragments included in these works have been hand selected from travels to Asian markets and antique bazaars. There is nothing quite like rummaging through a box of second hand material at a Japanese Shrine Sale. It is not uncommon for me to return to Australia with 'excess baggage'.... nothing to do with personal objects or souvenirs, instead,  bags of materials that I simply couldn't leave behind!

What was considered absolute 'trash' to the previous owner evokes excitement and inspiration within me as I imagine this precious off-cut incorporated into a new painting. The definition of 'Wabi-Sabi' definitely applies to this aspect of my art making. Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent and incomplete". Fragments of  what was once a complete piece of fabric capture snippets of the world of their former glory. Another Japanese concept "Kintsukuroi" hold a similar value. Kintsukuroi is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer. It is understood that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. The beautiful and rare treasures that I collect on my travels ignite a fascination of a time when life was perhaps more simple than in this modern day. These fabrics in themselves spark a sense of Yūgen. (a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe)

In memory of my Grandmother

On a more personal note, vintage wallpapers and other elements are also included to represent the influence of my dear grandmother. Even into her 100th year, grandmother saw beauty and the positive in absolutely everyone and everything she experienced. Her abundant garden appeared to respond as she would peer into the face of her beloved flowers and remark on their beauty.

As a child I would be swept away with the beauty of both Grandmother’s garden, and also her presence. I often wondered why grandmother didn’t appear to be overwhelmed by the stresses and struggles of this modern day. Perhaps it was because she did indeed come from a much simpler time (even before electricity) or maybe as the years passed she recognised the futility of being drawn into the anxiety and fear that is perpetuated through the minds of others. Instead Grandmother exhibited patience and grace. She appeared to hold a silent wisdom of what was important and what would bring balance and harmony. While being of this world, she preferred to sit and observe small plants grow and the seasons pass.

The wisdom I have gleaned from both my observation of my grandmother and a study of the ancient arts of Japan, is a reminder to hold a perception of the 'bigger picture' with me always. For me this is a meditation in opening and expanding my perception of life as a whole; to sense separate individuals as a 'one', and to know of the vibrational connection running through the entire universe.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yūgen - An Exhibition of New Paintings

Yugen (幽玄): (Japanese noun) - an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and mysterious to be described.  Yūgen is said to mean “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe…”

There is nothing you can see that is not a flower;
there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.
Matsuo Basho (1644 ~ 1694)

Yūgen is at the core of the appreciation of beauty and art in Japan and is an important concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics.
It values the power to evoke, rather than the ability to state directly. Yūgen is a Japanese word that has no English counterpart. It has been described as “strictly speaking an untranslatable word’. Further to this, it is essentially an indescribable word, at least in the context of other words. Yūgen suggests the beyond thatwhich can be said but is not an allusion to another world. It is about this world, this experience. It describes the profound grace and subtlety inherent in all things. These ideals, and others, underpin much of Japanese cultural and aesthetic norms on what is considered tasteful or beautiful. Thus, while seen as a philosophy in Western societies, the concept of aesthetics in Japan is seen as an integral part of daily life.

In Japanese waka poetry, the word Yūgen was used to describe the subtle profundity of things that are only vaguely suggested by the poems, and was also the name of a style of poetry. Japanese Haiku poetry also contains a strong element of Yūgen. The haiku offers a direct intuitive penetration into nature, and life, which offers insight, joy and truth to readers. A simple verse captures a multi-sensory experience of the profound beauty of life. 

How reluctantly 
the bee emerges from the deep 
within the peony
Matsuo Basho (1644 ~ 1694)

 Over the past decade, my work has been inspired by the sacred arts of a number of Asian countries and particularly the arts of Japan. Be it a scroll painting, a monk’s calligraphy koan or a beautifully woven kimono, these ancient objects capture the essence of timeless simplicity and beauty inherent in all things. Such a concept offers a welcomed reprieve from the stress, noise and hustle-bustle of this modern day.

The paintings in this exhibition combine the influences of: The ancient artwork from Japan, an understanding of Yūgen, the contemplation of traditional Japanese Haiku and a contemplation of the natural beauty of the natural environment.  With a poetic reverence, monks and artists of ancient Japan painted beautiful depictions of their natural world, the seasons, flora and fauna.
It is with the same sensitivity and with the influence of the Japanese aesthetic that I have chosen to depict the Yūgen in the flight of a bird, flowering blossom or the perfection of pattern of the honeycomb in a bee hive.

Bee Collage (detail)

Areas of empty space rest beside the magnification of leaves and flowers, allowing the viewer to experience both a focus the shapes and also the space to contemplate the details of these forms.  The voids of space within these works suggest a magical, ‘alive’ dimension beyond the material. ‘Form’ and the ‘formless’combine to create a sense of harmonious balance.

Materials used in these paintings incorporate a collection of vintage Japanese fabrics, wallpapers and metallic leaf and foil; combined onto the canvas with screen printed patterns, paint and encaustic wax. 
Precious Obi and kimono fragments included in these works have been hand selected from travels to Japan and antique bazaars. These beautiful and rare treasures ignite a fascination of a time when life was perhaps more simple than in this modern day. These fabrics in themselves spark a sense of Yūgen. The haiku poems chosen also evoke a quiet contemplation of the simplicity yet incredible beauty of life on earth. 

Bee Collage 3

The paintings are material objects that depict an image which arose from the essence and which, at their highest function, will offer the viewer a window to their own invisible essence of Yūgen within.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

From the Studio

Bee Collage 1 (detail)

Over recent months, my paintings have been inspired by the humble honey bee :)
The importance of the bee has featured highly in the media of recent.  As Einstein said,
"If the Bee Disappeared Off the Face of the Earth, Man Would Only Have Four Years Left To Live".
In addition to this, my beautiful brother James, who has been living and keeping bees in the UK, has recently returned home to Australia. He is quite the bee expert and is kindly teaching me beekeeping as we tend to the new hive in Panton Hill.

The Bee Hive - Complete with Gold Leaf!

While the bush honey this region is quite delicious, I'm much more excited about the bee's wax! A melted concoction of bee's wax and damar varnish makes Encaustic Wax which is a surface that I have applied to almost every work I've painted over the last 15 years.  :)

In celebration of the first wax extracted from the hive, I have used it on the paintings below.

Bee Collage 1 (76cm x 60cm)

Bee Collage 3 (76cm x 76cm)

These collages contain photographs of some local Bee's collecting nectar from flowering plum blossom.
They're printed with Pigmented Ink on Archival Paper and are combined with other collage materials including washi paper, gold leaf, foil, acrylic and silk screen on canvas.

Screen printing is a relatively new addition in my work. Each of these Bee Collages also contain areas of silk screened pattern.  The hexagonal lattice pattern called 'Kikko' was used with great frequency after the beginning of the Heian Period in Japan. While the original design replicated the pattern of a tortise shell, I have used it here to mimic the hexagonal pattern of honeycomb.

Silk-screened Bees have also been printed onto the paintings.

Bee Collage 2 (76cm x 60cm)

Bee Collage 4 (76cm x 76cm)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Japonism on You Tube

A big thank you to Kerry Cross also, for his assistance in editing a short YouTube video about 'JAPONISM'.  If you haven't been in to see the exhibition as yet, here's an interview in my art studio interspersed with images of the paintings on display at Montsalvat.

My the year has certainly flown! It's really hard to believe that Spring is just around the corner.... and also that 'JAPONISM' is exhibiting at Montsalvat for just another week or so!
If you haven't been down as yet, here's a little reminder that the last opportunity will be Sunday 24th August. The gallery is open daily from 9am until 5pm.

Manuka - (detail)

Exhibition Opening

I'd dearly love to thank all of you for your wonderful response, support, and feed back regarding 'JAPONISM'  which has been showing since June 19.
The opening evening was simply delightful and despite the chill of a mid winter night, so many made it to the opening to help celebrate this new body of paintings. A heartfelt thank you to Jeannette Davison, the Arts Manager at Montsalvat, and Amanda Gibson, Manager of the 'Tree Project' for your incredible opening speeches.

photos thank you to Kerry Cross

Montsalvat Exterior on Opening Night
photo - Kerry Cross

Meet the Artist

I'll be down at Montsalvat on Saturday 24th August between 1-3pm for the final session in the 'Meet the Artist' series accompanying JAPONISM.

Love to see you there!

Photo - Kerry Cross

"The paintings are material objects that depict an image which arose from the essence and which, at their highest function, will offer the viewer a window to their own invisible essence within."