Visual artists have espied a lot about the Duff, in their visuo-intelligent ways. Like that portrait greeting goers-down to The Basement, once bled for delight and goodwill, to see him in silken blouse, against a warm cabaret drop, coolly fitted against a soporific wall of blue – now here before it in striking creams, with a watch about his otherwise nubile left-wrist, his right-arm in frozen salute to rest his countenance upon; and a winking eye where once eye-fulls of reflection did floweth. All as he art-masters the situation. But who these artists?
Justin Pearson – painter-most-prized of Australian opera – gives Duff in angelic mode – brushing him down on wood in oil with wings – about the time (1994) of Duff’s Angels and Rascals album. Is this not the most transliminal of Pearson’s subjects? By setting Duff against a wood grain, Pearson accentuates Duff’s über-naturalness – whorls-n-whirls well setting off the Duff without containing his wonderousness. Maybe this painting recoups but surpasses a theme of that Wim Wenders movie “Wings of Desire” (Himmel über Berlin, 1987); that amongst us, there are angels with human biographies, in our very own necks of the wood. Yep, proving the point, here’s a pic of Duff like a Wenders angel, but smiling over human traffic, and smiling back to any kid rising over it.
The painter, Justin Pearson, has kindly informed us of the following inspiral thoughts, with more pix from the Duff-Pearson Experience:
"In 1994, Surry Hills, I meet Jeff at an art exhibition in Sydney. At that time i was looking for a good subject to portray at the Archibald. He said yes and i was thrilled to paint such a great singer and charismatic figure. I did two portraits of him in oils. One small one on wood (i thought the grain of the wood was a bit psychedelic and so matched him). He asked me if I could put Angel wings on him (angels were the thing at that time, like vampires are now) so wings it was. The other painting oil’s on canvas was very big, so big I had to do it in two parts (not a good thing to do for an art comp), one on top of the other, portrait size.
Art-photographer Catherine Hourihan shows Duff amid a series of Phantastical Portraits that featured in many of Duff’s 2013 publicities. The collection was exhibited recently at m2 gallery in Surry Hills. Ms Hourihan kindly writes the following for us Duffophiles …
Hourihan's photos remind of Bowie on the escalators of "Ricochet," to the tune of doubt and dog-howled "Heroes"; and the "hours ..." shoots, as below. But as opposed to Bowie's exhaustion, and invitation, Duff's stance is, in part, puppet-like, inspiring by bald curiosity as he goes into a Frankenstein walk, still wanting back his brain; a frozen-momented street-mime; a rabbit at the end of a shot-gun, caught out for being curious; a neo-über mainman in a late Space Odyssey.
Penelope Beveridge's photos for Duff's Fragile Spaceman give off, momentarily, a gasp; and then a reverie, and then a storm. Babes just think of the morbid; those who've walked some miles are mystiqued, walk its wharf, fall off its plank, and enter its world; dance not with death but tear off their skirts to excite Querelle, the man who kills the thing he loves, lost at the precipice of human touch, in love with Duff songs, submitted to heavenly ends. Da-ti-dah, l'art de Duff. Beveridge's Duff could be the antithesis of Fassbinder's Querelle, but strip away lust and loss, and we end up with similar eyes upon the seas, meditating over the waves of the world in blind wonder.
"Jeff is a most entertaining donkey, singing and dancing to 20's vaudeville and 80's music! Jeff would make a lovely addition for collectors of vintage dolls and toys. Jeff a wears a red and white polka-dot pair of britches detailed with vintage cloth covered buttons. He also sports a racy little red checked scarf and a little rusty pin and bell. ... His eyes are made from two vintage chocolate brown buttons. Jeff has been distressed using coffee to give him a vintage look [but he has] a warm layer of varnish to protect him from the elements. He measures 9 inches high and 6 inches wide from ear to ear." – Grace Garton
This doll was a featured work in the Spring 2013 edition of Stampington and Company's Prims magazine, a deluxe publication of contemporary doll-art rivalling painting itself, and older than photography. Still, if this is Duff, it is a non-representational, impressionistic, take on the artist; us 'philes don't remember Duffo ever appearing in polka-dot pants. (We understand that the artist might be working on a more associative representation of the Duff, in a doll; let's keep our buttons peeled.)
Meanwhile, let's look over, again, how an artist of the moving (and still) image, Lew Keilar, has captured The Mighty Duff: