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Forest of Stone
Strasbourg Cathedral, France
(watercolour)
71x47cm
My European trip of 2001 was one of the most seminal of my life. I’d been there earlier, as a 17 year old, and then as a 21 year old, but in the first year of the new millennium I was 31, and my growth both as an artist and personally through my twenties was enormous. These great ancient buildings of Europe were no longer just for sightseeing and ticking off on a list, by then I was absolutely mesmerised by their stories and their layers of history, and above all, their beauty. This painting of Strasbourg Cathedral is a reaction to that, an expression of my growing fascination, indeed awe, for centuries past.

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Nijo Castle
Kyoto, Japan
(watercolour)
36x50cm
One of the things I love so much about traditional Japanese architecture, besides it’s elegant lines and lovely ornament, is the fact that there is always a tree. Not just one, many, and they’re ancient themselves, serving to anchor the buildings firmly in the landscape. This is Nijo Castle, a great and near legendary seat of power in one of the largest cities, Kyoto, and from every vantage point there are beautiful trees. Such a lovely Japanese trait, Shinto in particular, to be in harmony with nature.

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LaTrobe Reading Room
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
(watercolour)
71x47cm
Collection of the State Library of Victoria
I’ve not painted many interiors, but I do love the challenge of capturing an entirely man-made space, and the glorious LaTrobe reading room in Melbourne’s State Library was an absolute pleasure to lose myself in for the weeks and weeks I spent painting it. As always the painting began as a series of sketches on the spot, working out the best viewpoint, and in this case expanding that viewpoint so I could depict every level from floor to sun-filled dome. I have a particular soft spot for this painting, I’d been collected by corporations and universities before, but this was my first painting to be bought by a Public Institution – the State Library itself. Very happily, for much of 2013 it is gracing a banner that hangs on their Russell Street façade(shameless plug below…)

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Lunchbreak
New York Public Library
(watercolour)
25x17cm
private collection, Brisbane
I quite like that this entire scene is the architecture of the NY Public Library, from the gorgeous stone lions that straddle the entrance, to the beaux arts façade in the distance. And the bloke on his lunchbreak. My very first architectural studio painting was from New York, a view of Grand Central Station’s flamboyant Mercury clock, and this scene too derives from my one visit there in 1998 attending the opening of a group show I was in at the Spanierman Gallery. I’m keen to return with so much more experience painting and sketching architecture now, aesthetically speaking, it really is the showcase 20th century city.

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The Grand Canal
Venice
(watercolour)
46x69cm
private collection, Australia
Another painting from my travels of 2001, and in fact my first visit to Venice. It’s certainly not an original view of the city, indeed it’s one of the more popular vistas over the centuries, and versions hang on many salon walls of Grand Tour alumni throughout Europe. But that’s the point, as a realist painter I revel in being part of a tradition that stretches back centuries, and one of the joys – and challenges – is to ‘throw my hat into the ring’ and paint my own impression of Venice, or Paris, or Rome. Ultimately though, the simple truth is that these are just exquisitely beautiful places to paint.

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Amiens
France
(watercolour)
42x28cm
Another great cathedral of Europe from my 2001 travels, this particular gothic leviathan sits in a sea of 20th century modernity, miraculously surviving both World Wars. There’s a point at which architecture in Europe begins taking on an organic, almost geological form, and these great expanses of stone start to resemble cliff faces and rocky outcrops, complete with mosses, lichen, even trees sprouting from them, and animals abounding. Amiens Cathedral is good example, it rises like a mountain in the heart of the city, a geographical feature from a distance, and then sublimely beautiful and ordered the closer you get.

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Valletta
Malta
(watercolour)
44x88cm
private collection, London
Valletta is a stunning city, a baroque gem in the middle of the Mediterranean, unified by the golden sandstone used over the centuries to create the fabric of the Maltese capital. Over the course of a long weekend I filled a sketchbook with little watercolour and ink sketches, watery vistas, secluded bays and churches dripping in Baroque splendour. On my return to my London studio I distilled my thoughts and composed this panoramic view of the city from across the fabulously named Marsamxett Harbour.

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Taj Mahal
India
(watercolour)
40x62cm
Private Collection, Melbourne
Where do you start with one of the most celebrated views in the world? Well like any painting I do I just wanted an honest depiction of something I find beautiful, and so In my Melbourne studio I collected my reference material – multiple sketches and photos from my first visit to Agra in 1991, and set about composing the scene. I chose an evening view, when the pale marble of the gorgeous mausoleum shimmers and melts into the sky, and things fell into place from there. I planned to bring this with me to my Indian exhibition(Rajasthan, 2010), but it sold on the opening of my ‘Near and Far’ exhibition here in Melbourne.

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