Sufi and Harmonium, 2015-17
Each signed print is one of a limited edition of just 150, and printed using the highest quality inks on archival-quality paper, which allows for a life of more than 100 years if cared for properly. Prints are accompanied by a certificate signed by the Editors of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times.
“After I heard the Old Sufi had been murdered by Daesh, I began the painting of him in the fields with his harmonium almost immediately as a way of remembering the best moments we had together. On 2nd October 2015, a Kuchi woman in a faded red dress came to let me know he was dead. He had been murdered by Daesh fanatics in another province. She told how he was playing his harmonium in a park to an enthusiastic audience when they came up and smashed his instrument. Then, in front of everyone, one man held his shoulders while another cut out his tongue. They denounced his songs as blasphemy and then beheaded him. I was in a state of instant shock and grief. The Old Sufi and I had often gone to the river to watch the eagles catching fish. He had a song about the eagles and would play it to them on his harmonium. I wanted some way to express this through art and decided to take our drone camera down to the river and let it fly with the eagles. This would, I thought, be like setting the Sufi’s spirit free.”
“I love design, especially when it’s based on pure geometry. This love of repeating patterns lead me to begin collecting hand-carved wooden stamps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. All of them are centuries old, the oldest being Buddhist and dating back to before Islam spread across the region. When making watercolours, I can use the wooden stamps as they are and simply wash the colour off, but with oils, I have to paint latex over the stamps to protect their delicate surfaces.
I have always wanted to create the illusion of 3D in my painting, which can take months with a brush and paint. Most of the paintings have been either started or completed at the Yellow House in Jalalabad. My oil paintings can take years to complete as there are so many layers. My latest works come closer to achieving 3D effects because I am mixing in lacquers to get transparency. Seeing through shapes to other shapes behind them creates a wonderful illusion, like looking into a pond and seeing fish and underwater plants.”
Gittoes returns to the Sydney Yellow House, September 9 to September 29, exhibiting works from his Yellow House in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Standard: 63cm x 40cm
Large: 88cm x 56cm
Frames - Crafted by Amarisco Picture Framing, Sydney. Ph 02 9439 3133, amarisco.com.au.
Box frames are sourced from sustainable plantation timber
Frame dimensions are 20mm face and 37mm depth
Available in Classic White, Matte Black, Tasmanian Oak and Dark Timber
2mm clear acrylic with 80% UV protection rating
Artworks are mounted to acid-free foam core
Artworks are set to the rear of the frame with a 20mm space to the acrylic.
The high quality of the paper and inks should ensure a life of more than 100 years if cared for properly.
A museum-quality, smooth cotton high white is used. It is 315 gsm with 100% cotton linters and a silky smooth matte surface.
It is acid and lignin free with an excellent colour gamut.
The surface has a special matte coating, designed for high-quality fine art and photographic reproduction.
Images are printed with archival quality Ultrachrome pigment-based K3 inks onto smooth fine art paper.
The term 'giclée print' (pronounced zhee-clay) refers to an elevation in printmaking technology.
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“I have never been able to experience darkness the way most other people seem to do. At night in my dark bedroom, as a child, the space would fill with animated coloured shapes like thousands of butterflies darting between larger slower moving and luminous paisley patterns. My original mission as an artist was to paint the visions of a mystic, to open doorways to the reality of ‘the other side’. But instead, for most of my life I have gone to war.”
In 1968, at the age of 18, artist and aspiring photojournalist George Gittoes travelled to New York. where he experienced firsthand the social revolution unfolding in the US. He met the Black Panthers, shot experimental film for Andy Warhol and photographed anti-Vietnam protesters in the streets. These experiences set his course to place himself “where history was happening”, working in film, photojournalism, painting and drawing.
His work has taken him to Nicaragua, Somalia, The Philippines, Gaza, Lebanon, Western Sahara, Cambodia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Congo, South Africa, Tibet, China, East Timor, Bougainville, Syria, Iraq, the tribal belt of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Speaking of his darkest experience in Kibeho, Rwanda, he writes: “I’ve witnessed too much to remember and more than anyone should.”
It has also seen him awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2015, “For exposing injustice for over 45 years as a humanist artist, activist and filmmaker, for his courage to witness and confront violence in the war zones of the world, for enlisting the arts to subdue aggression and for enlivening the creative spirit to promote tolerance, respect and peace with justice.”
The original Yellow House in Potts Point, Sydney, was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's hope to establish a collective for artists at his own Yellow House in Arles. So, too, William Morris’s Red House in England – an artist-designer collective set up in the late 19th century that included the likes of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. But while Van Gogh was Gittoes’ “artistic saint and hero”, it was Morris’s Red House that was the model for his and his compatriots’ Sydney vision in 1971.
There were also similarities between their ambitions and Andy Warhol’s Factory project in New York – the multimedia nature of combining filmmaking with painting, and the promotion of music. But the aesthetic was very different. While Warhol saw it as a strength to eschew any trace of hand-applied techniques, the Yellow House collective set out to rebel against the mass-produced, the slick, the banality of mass-consumption.
And so, too, at the Yellow House Jalalabad (YHJ), where the aim is to make it as total in its beauty as any of the houses Morris & Co. designed and decorated. A place to showcase local design and craftsmanship – marble floor tiles, ceramic wall tiles in the best tradition of mosque decoration, handwoven carpets, objects forged in blacksmiths’ workshops , embroidered fabrics, carved furniture and ceramics. “In this way we can preserve this sanctuary of medieval skills lost from most of the industrialised world.”
For the past eight years, Gittoes has been funding the YHJ from the sales of his works, which he paints in its Secret Garden, before transporting them back to Australia. The proceeds from Gittoes’ Return to the Yellow House exhibition in September will go towards funding the purchase of the building in Jalalabad, to make it YHJ a permanent enterprise.
“My use of art as a weapon against war fills all the art books on Gittoes with images of humanity’s struggle and suffering. Therefore, at 68, I feel like I am cheating to have been able to go back to this original ambition and be painting mystical paintings which my 21 year-old-self would be pleased with. This 2017 exhibition leaps over the 46 years between 1971 and 2017 as if they never happened. I cannot wait to put the paintings up on the walls and know they will ‘sing’ with joy. Some of the joy will be my surprise that I have survived all the wars to bring this vision full circle, back to the Yellow House.”
He is represented by Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary (nandahobbs.com) in Sydney
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Standard: 63cm x 40cm
Large: 88cm x 56cm