Posts Tagged ‘Desiderius Orban’

Teaching and the obstinate Shetland pony ( Auto-biography).

August 14, 2015


We all know that Shetland ponies are escape artists. When you see them looking down, they are actually thinking. “How the hell can I get out of this joint?”. Our Shetland was a Houdini. I would get a phone call; “Hey Gerard your horse is in town.” I would jump on my bike with the lead in hand. I would cycle back, Shetland on rope, give her a stern talking to and put her back in with the sheep and chickens. I would again fix the wire fence but also knew she would soon figure a way out again. When the foal was born she stopped escaping.

There are so many memories fondly embedded in that period that I am at risk of never finishing what I set out to do. The aim is to meander from the beginning of my family’s migration in 1956 till my present state of blissful dotage. Still, words at times seem to have a will of their own, like a Shetland, and lead to unexpected and totally arbitrary directions. My apologies.

The job of teaching came about though a friend named Jan Muller who was doing the salt glazed pottery and lived in the museum village of Orvelte, and who was teaching at a collage for adults. After a short interview I started teaching at the same college. That was the best time of our stay in Holland. The first day of teaching was somewhat nerve-wrecking. Who was I to teach anything? I wasn’t taught anything. Failed even the Phyllis Bates ‘academy of dance’ of Fox trot and the Rumba. And that was with the dance steps painted on the floor!

Of course I had a good grounding from Desiderius Orban, the Hungarian master teacher at The Rocks in Sydney. He lived till 101 years and at the time we were in Holland I was still in contact with him. Fear is what prevents many from employing what we are all born with. The ability to express and give form to some creativity, no matter how humble or grandiose. The first lesson, if I remember correctly, was to try and get all the adults to put charcoal or pencil to paper. Now, if you had a group of toddlers, they would instantly without exception start to doodle furiously and with great joy! Not so with many adults. It is sad. They lost this spontaneity and joy. Many would as a first option say; ‘I can’t draw.’ They say that before any attempt was made to put a single dot on the paper. How do you know?  You don’t know if you don’t try!  ‘Go on, put the charcoal on the paper just draw a line or just a single dot’!

My first day was to try and make the students approach the paper without fear. Somehow the enthusiasm of the toddler had to be regained. That is what my aim of teacher was. I could not teach just skill or things like shading or making portrait eyes follow you around the room, photo-like images of apples or strawberries so real that the paper or canvas was almost bitten into by the ambitious but starving student while wearing a beret and dirty pants.


The good years 1966-1973. (Auto biography)

July 30, 2015
Gertrude's Cottage.

Gertrude’s Cottage.

With the birth of our two daughters, life in Gertrude’s cottage was enjoyed on a steady forward path. I remember it mainly as a very bright sunny yellow reflection on the timber floor with a shimmering expanse of water in the distance. A  few years of uninterrupted family bliss. I had my own business. The painting of pictures was done in between shooting out to deliver material or organise meetings with builders, clerk of works or quoting for new contracts.  I can’t remember if I had an easel or  just painted on the floor. Most of my work was entered into municipal competitions and I had a list of dates and places of when and where to send the paintings. I do remember that the size of the paintings became larger and larger perhaps in tandem with the growing of our little family. An expression of exuberance? The paintings also became braver.

It was one of those inexplicable fates of lucky circumstance that I met a Hungarian painter who taught art in the very heart of Sydney. It was at Sydney’s Rocks, just metres away from the Harbour bridge. His name was Desiderius Orban.  He had established himself as a modern and successful painter. He had also published a book on art and was a well-known  teacher. He did not really teach in the sense that he showed you a skill or technique. He encouraged rather than taught and very much pushed the students in expressing whatever was in them and did not care if you painted with a brush, a stick or your fingers. He was already very old but even so, lived on forever. Some people when getting old seem to get a new burst of live when already well past the age when most people are happy to take a permanent rest in the urn or the reserved plot of no return. He died aged 101.!

Another of those artists that seem to deny or defy the welcoming (but icy embrace) of the dearly departed is John Olsen. Readers might remember I took art lessons at the Mary White school of art  where he and Robert Klippel were doing some teaching. This was before my marriage while still living at home.  Both were free spirits and  indeed used to go to the local pub and imbibe a couple, only to return rather jovial and praising all students no matter what they had cobbled together.

John Olsen is still alive today ( 30/7/2015) and one of the only too rare an instance where his paintings are selling for millions and the artist able to enjoy it. How Vincent would turn is his grave?

With the continuation of entering my paintings in competition it would be outside the law of averages, if sooner or later, I would not hit the jack-pot. Hitting the jackpot might be a bit exaggerated  seeing the prices were rather within the limits of the Shire’s income forever struggling with keeping rates low. It was more of a way to climb the ladder to getting known and even more important, able to sell the work. I did win a couple of prices and more importantly had a painting accepted in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

It was also in that year that Helvi visited her family in Finland with both our daughters. I stayed behind to continue the decorating business. I had promised to look after the eldest daughter’s teddy bear by giving it porridge. The KLM flight included a photo taken of Helvi carrying the youngest in the Papoose which at the time was a novel way of traveling with very young children. This photo went world wide in the KLM’s magazine. It was a great shot and just wished I could find it. Alas it is ‘somewhere’ in our apartment but hidden in either boxes, linen- drawers or even albums, …