Weekly roundup 1 May 2016

Another busy week, including a long weekend in the Blue Mountains an hour or two west of Sydney.

Mixed Media for Textiles
A little sorting of samples and sketching to send, but virtually nothing.

Paper yarn project

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  • 24/4 Sliced some paper from the edges of today’s sketching.
  • 25/4 Sorted through MMT Part 1 samples today, deciding what to send. Some torn strips of indigo-dyed cartridge paper used in samples were re-purposed in today’s yarn project.
  • 26/4 A little more sample sorting. An A3 page of sample thumbnail photos (used to keep track of things before I stated using pinterest) was today’s input.
  • 27/4 Wandering around the house looking for “random” paper, my sons found me a very old road rules booklet. The paper proved quite brittle and challenging.
  • 28/4 A few days away in the Blue Mountains. A local newspaper was my source material.
  • 29/4 Still in the mountains, I tried using a brochure for a local art exhibition, but th glossy printed paper kept breaking. I resoughted to the morning’s newspaper.
  • 30/4 We went out for our last evening in Katoomba. Nothing to report.
  • That’s the end of the month so the end of the project under the original brief. I’m going to take an extra day or two to “finish”.

    Dr Molly Duggins “Prince Albert: Appying Industry to Art”. Part of the Collectors & Collections lecture series at AGNSW. Interesting to think about the different roles a person can take in making and responding to art. Albert was trained in the then new discipline of art history. He was active as an amateur artist, a collector, advisor to artists (actively suggesting improvments they could make!), commissioner of works, patron. Then there was the functional use of art – the application of art and design to science and new industrial production. The Great Exhibition used art, displaying colonial materials and expertise, the wealth of the empire, the imperial aspirations on the sub-continent. So we have the political side of art. Then there was education, public access to art and design, in what eventually became the V&A and in the series of buildings of “Albertopolis”. An eclectic and a functional approach to art.

    When Silence Falls. In its last days at AGNSW, I’ve already written about some of the works – Fiona Hall and Doris Salcedo, 30-Jan-2016. Overall the exhibition “considers the work of artists from across the world who contemplate, investigate and respond to the violence of often unacknowledged events – massacres, ethnic cleansing, cultural displacement, political force – and provide a voice for those who have been silenced.” Difficult.

    Some works that took my eye:

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge Second-hand reading. This was a film of an altered book. There is a video at https://www.youtube.com/
    . The book itself could not have the same impact – the presentation was an integral part of the work, and in any case the artist changes his drawings using charcoal and eraser, each modification filmed. Kentridge breaks the book and creates his own narrative. Words, images, sounds, he explores what being South African is. The way images changed as you watched, the suggestions and directions of the words, built into a moving and disturbing experience. As well as the narrative, we watch the process of drawing, of re-drawing.

    Daniel Boyd

    Daniel Boyd

    Daniel Boyd. Untitled. The idea of a veiled, partial history really speaks to me. Different readings, different recollections, so much lost, re-interpreted… Is there a nostalgia? Is the loss that of the partial story, the faulty recollection, or the story itself – “controversial recruitment processes” as the gallery signage terms it? I’ve been re-reading some of the posts of fellow OCA student Julie, and she’s identified in her research a push against the golden glow of nostalgia. Boyd’s work is not soft – in itself and certainly not in the context of this exhibition. I want to think more around that – remembrance, nostalgia, what they can be in “art” – but not right now.

    I realise I didn’t include Boyd’s work in my discussion of Biennale works at the MCA. They use a similar technique, a kind of lens, but again the message is not soft. We try to contain, categorise, label, control.

    Daniel Boyd

    Daniel Boyd

    Judy Watson

    Judy Watson

    Judy Watson a picnic with the natives – the gulf (link). There is a stain on this land, a stain denied by some, the stain of massacres, violence, deliberate attempts to exterminate indigeneous peoples. The British, among others, ‘discovered’, mapped the land, its boundaries. There is some partial mapping of the massacres, memories passed down. “A picnic with the natives” was one of the euphonisms.

    No words.
    I’ve spent part of the week in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney. A few photos of the changing view from the balcony of our room.

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    While here we went to the Sculpture at Scenic World 2016 exhibition. Works by 33 artists have been installed in the rainforest.
    It made a great circuit – a ride down on the Scenic Railway, the steepest in the world. A walk along the boardwalk through the forest, discovering the sculptures, then a ride up the Scenic Cableway – the steepest in the world. Going across the Scenic Skyway was not world-breaking, but still fun. I remember coming here many, many times over the years, but I think it is better than ever. The place is great but the staff we interacted with were extraordinary. No commercial affiliation of course – just a particularly great experience with multiple helpful, friendly people going above and beyond.

    Many of the installations expressed environmental concerns, used recycled materials etc. Art as politics. I responded more to a few others.

    Elyssa Sykes-Smith

    Elyssa Sykes-Smith

    Elyssa Sykes-Smith Refracted Self. Link
    According to the plaque this work “shows a paused moment in the process of an intricate and also tedious journey of self-reflection”. Two figures – a mirrored figure? – tumble towards the ground in the rainforest. They are fragments of recycled wood, the forms around twice the size of a person. There is text at the link above, poetry. How do we see our self, view our self, catch our self?


    Suzy Bleach and Andy Townsend

    Suzy Bleach and Andy Townsend

    Suzy Bleach and Andy Townsend Alicanto Link
    Much of this area was mined for coal – the steep railway was original built for that industry. There are various pieces of rusting industrial waste strewn across the area, and at first this works looks like one more. A closer look shows the delicate wings, the crouching body. I was reminded of the myth of Icarus, but actually this work refers to a bird in Chilean mythology, bringing luck to miners but guiding the greedy to the precipice and their death.

    A commentary on human greed for wealth and its perils, with incredible sensitivity to the location of the installation and without any lecturing.

    Heartbreakingly beautiful.

    Graeme Pattison

    Graeme Pattison

    Graeme Pattison Buying time. Link
    This “vending machine” had me snorting with laughter and other visitors puzzled – perhaps more at my reaction than anything.

    Need some more time in your busy day? Insert coin here. There was so much detail and there were many double-takes as people realised this was one of the artworks. One helpful lady thought I was having trouble extending my carpark time.

    Coins inserted were returned, time might have been lightened but was not extended, and when I pushed the “Don’t push” button an ominous sounding mechanical voice scolded that I was told not to push that.

    A little insight on life, a lot of humor.

    I almost subheaded this roundup “What is art”. Too hard, and oftentimes not the point, plus there are all the issues of labeling something as if the label is real, not just a convenient and clumsy handle.

    Some inputs to the discussion:
    Jones, J. (2016) “T-shirts with Myra Hindley on them? Modern art has forgotten how to care” In The Guardian [online] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/26/myra-hindley-t-shirt-modern-art.
    Towards the end Jones writes “Modern art has got too tough. It has forgotten how to cry and how to care. Sentimentality is so feared that compassion is self-censored.” Sometimes being shocking forces us to think, but Jones’s example seems to be shock for the sake of it, to get attention. Commercial interests rule – in this case a little slap, product withdrawn.

    Art that gets a lot of attention, but not what I’m looking for.

    Next reading / conversation about art I am interested in:
    Lottie – Research and reflection https://thecuriosityoflottiecontinues.com/2016/04/24/t1-mmt-pt3-pj-1-further-research-reflection/. Lottie wants to be at the progressive edge of textiles, wants to materialise rich inner meaning. Lottie quotes another student who has a view of “art” which I find narrow and derivative. There’s a bit of conversation in the comments, including a rant by me.

    The conversation continued on Julie’s blog – https://mixedmediafortextiles.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/thoughts-1/

    I was reminded of my recent reading of Briony Fer, which I remembered as the dangers and her (Fer’s) careful avoidance of conflating biography with meaning in work. A quick flip through the book has found one passage – not from memory the strongest, but gives the idea. Discussing the work of Eva Hesse, Fer writes:
    “Biographies of Hesse often see the blow of her father’s death as echoing the loss of her mother when she was three years old. There is no doubt that the sense of loss experienced by Hesse was extreme at this point, as her diaries bear witness, but the problem remains how far the biographical account can explain the complex effects of the work. I am more interested in how the work embodies an economy of loss in the very procedures it uses. This is first and foremost a question of effect, which may or may not correspond with Hesse’s actual experience of loss and mourning that we cannot know.” (Fer, p. 120).

    Then there’s the work of Judith Scott (17-Jul-2015). We can’t know what she was expressing, but we respond.

    Some may follow a slick formula, check out what’s currently being shown, produce a pastiche. I’m interested in art that is deeply thought, and or deeply felt, and or exploring our world, materials, process, and or makes me laugh or cry or think or feel or nod in recognition. It may be (currently) popular or (currently) successful. I’m sure there is lots more I haven’t included, and I expect to keep changing my mind and refining my position.

    Fer, B. (1997) On abstract art New Haven and London: Yale University Press

    Weekly roundup 24 April 2016

    Mixed Media for Textiles
    A big step forward this week was finalising the Part 5 sketchbook (17-Apr-2016) which will be included in my box of goodies for assessment.

    I’m also finally clear on what my final piece is – a group of objects installed in a space. Only some of the objects are post-able, and the space isn’t, so I am documenting the final piece in video and photographs.

    That shift of the video from “final piece” to “documentation of final piece” makes me much more comfortable. I’ve done lots of re-filming with the new video camera, then piecing half-way decent fragments together, but the result is still shakey and unevenly paced – not “final piece” quality. I’ve got the length down to a hair under five minutes, which I see as the upper limit for a thing like this.

    Paper yarn project

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    • 17/4 Working with a property flier did not go well. I cut it thinner (2cm strips instead of 3) and worked it to be more solid than flat before beginning. It just kept breaking plus I couldn’t decide which direction to go Plus it doesn’t balance and sit properly. Time out.
    • 18/4 Cutting collage pieces for the sketchbook cover, I cut some strips for spinning. Bulky, soft, uneven – quick and fun to work with. Joined in yesterday’s unsatisfying end and all set to swoop down to earth.
    • 19/4 I so enjoyed the work yesterday – paper soft yet strong, growing quickly, gentle on the wrists – that I decided to bend my rules and use it again. I’m still working on the cover collage, so there is a link to today.
    • 20/4 Some tissue paper from the collage was sitting on the worktable, and became today’s paper source. I spun it loosely. The waxed thread provides a lot of support and the work from the last few days is easy to shape into slightly different forms. Fast and easy on the wrists. It might be interesting to make a large tissue piece then form it into a shape. Could plaster or resin be used on it???
    • 21/4 The sketchbook took longer than anticipated, so no progress here.
    • 22/4 A piece of newspaper that had been used for packaging took my eye. Pleasant to work with. I’ve started spacing out my stitches more. I find them quite distracting on the piece. It could be the relatively thick thread, originally purchased for book-binding.
    • 23/4 Some crumpled paper left from the sketchbook cover was used today. Tried going back and forward in a zigzag rather than in circles.


    Exhibition and half a talk
    Thread + colour exhibition http://www.kpcyarn.com/thread-and-colour-sydney-exhibition

    Jacqui Fink Knitted and Knotted (detail)

    Jacqui Fink
    Knitted and Knotted (detail)

    I went to the opening night of this exhibition, but unfortunately arrived late for the talk by Jacqui Fink. The part I heard was more a conversation, with different members of the fairly small group sharing stories about their work, the balancing act but necessity of maintaining their art/craft practice, how to make a living, their inspiration and process, their challenges. It was a very supportive atmosphere, but also overall upbeat, positive, confident. Unapologetic.

    Instagram was seen as a basic, an essential. Get your name, your work, out there. Craft is great, art is great, call it what you like. It’s hard, but I (the speaker) can make this work, can make a living with my hands and my eye and my body and my energy. Listen to yourself, listen to the divine force, keep working.

    It was very personal, very heartfelt.

    thread+colour opening

    thread+colour opening

    Then time for the opening. Drinks and canapes arrived. People arrived. It’s a narrow but very long shop, and it was packed. Moving was a matter of negotiation. Some people were actually managing to shop (really lovely yarns) – it hardly seems possible in that crush.

    A highlight was catching up with Jane Bodnaruk (http://epocktextiles.blogspot.com.au/). She’s currently doing a graduate certificate in textiles at ANU, with a fascinating project in progress looking at the experience of women convicts sent to Australia in the first fleet. Jane’s creating a rope, twining with 11 strips of torn fabric, working over 289 days (the time the ships took) and documenting with a sketch each week, mindful of the progress of the original journey. A very big sister to my little paper yarn project!

    It’s quite a time since I’ve been to a textile-focused exhibition, and this one was different – not museum-like, not academic, not traditional guild. I was amazed at the amount of weaving – I’ve been used to weaving being the poor, aged cousin, one or two pieces tucked in the corner. Here weaving was dominant. Just some are shown below (it wasn’t an ideal situation for photography:) )

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    Two artists I found particularly interesting.

    Maryanne Moodie made great use of scale and texture, used an attractive and slightly unusual colour palette, and a technique that was new to me. A very effective dimensional move.

    Genevieve Griffiths creates geometrically complex designs very accurately. Her work reminded me of Gunta Stölzl. I find Griffiths’s work impressive.

    However I felt a strange disconnect. Nothing there made me want to rush back to my looms. Instead the works had me asking “what else is there?”. I want to weave, or include weaving elements in my work… but nothing had that gut pull for me. I’m following a different path.

    I finished On abstract art. Some of the material, particularly around Eva Hesse, I want to keep to one side. There’s surely a future research piece that will need it. The thing of most interest to me at the moment is the use of collage, which Fer discusses in connection with a series of artists right from the early days of abstract art up to recent. I took a small idea from there when creating the cover for my sketchbook (21-Apr-2016). I’d like to go back through the book in association with sketchbook work, trying to bring more collage approaches into it.
    Fer, B. (1997) On abstract art New Haven and London: Yale University Press

    I’ve put Eva Hesse 1965 to one side for the moment. I’ve read the text and was looking through images, then realised I wasn’t paying enough attention. I’ve been reading and thinking fairly intensively about Hesse and her work recently, and it needs some time to settle and develop internally. A final (for now) note: I find the idea of a pivotal year seductive. A year that connects everything that came before with everything that came after.
    Rosen, B (ed) (2013) Eva Hesse 1965 New Haven and London: Yale University Press

    Grishin, S. (2015) John Wolseley: Land Marks III Melbourne: Thames & Hudson Australia. I’ve been leafing through this book, sticking to images rather than words. Graham Marchant suggested I look up Wolseley, and this book in particular, during the class I took with Graham earlier this year (24-Jan-2016). I need to spend some quality time with it, perhaps create some sketchbook challenges related to it.

    Sketchbook day
    Today Claire came round for a day of sketching. The plan was to loosen up – maybe work with non-dominant hands, maybe with long sticks… Full disclosure – I think we spent more time talking. There was show and tell from Claire’s recent book binding class – I covet the pamphlet stitch book using her own handmade paper, the original paper coming from the offcuts from her OCA printing module. We then went through my submission preparations and Claire gave some really pertinent advice based on her recent tutor and assessment feedback.

    After lunch we did get out to the garage, experimenting with liquid graphite and some inks Claire brought. I worked on quite large cartridge paper – all around 63 x 83 cm – messily.

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    Sketch 2, Left hand garage, Sunday afternoon, is my favourite, some interesting lines in places and not my standard motif. Really the point was to be out and doing.

    Claire’s writeup of the day is here.

    T1-MMT-P5 Sketchbook completed

    All the sketching work of Part 5 is now bound into a book ready to send for assessment. Before showing that I want to show the final few pages, not previously posted.

    p5-sketchpage 077; 20160320

    p5-sketchpage 077; 20160320

    At the top, manipulation of a photo inspired by Dryden Goodwin’s mould prints (http://www.drydengoodwin.com/mould_prints_2011.htm and http://www.drydengoodwin.com/Mould_2011.htm). At first look these seemed like plaster or perhaps clay masks, but they are actually photographs that have been pierced and torn and moulded to become three dimensional.

    I wondered if this could be another way of presenting my photographs of objects – so many links to exercises in the course! The result wasn’t encouraging. I was working at small size and the vessels aren’t a common shape so there is no assist from the human visual system. The final straw was that my photo paper has the manufacturer’s name on the back – very distracting.

    Below that is a printout of shape play. I’ve spent some time playing with photos to create simplified shapes, thinking of using them to experiment with compositions, or perhaps as stencils.

    p5-sketchpage 078; 20160326

    p5-sketchpage 078; 20160326

    Random jottings, including trying to get my head around time zone differences with various changes to and from summer time.

    p5-sketchpage 079 20160326

    p5-sketchpage 079 20160326

    This shows a photo printed on watercolour paper and put into the sketchbook.

    photo on sketchpage 079; 20160326

    photo on sketchpage 079; 20160326

    Above is the actual photo, using my simplified shapes and putting them into a space – Flinders Island. It’s very flat, the shapes sitting on top, as if a sheet of glass separates them from the environment.

    p5-sketchpage 080; 20160406

    p5-sketchpage 080; 20160406

    In another attempt I used actual photos of the vessels, most of them with opacity reduced trying to get them to fit in better. Not worth pursuing.

    p5-sketchpage 081; 20160401

    p5-sketchpage 081; 20160401

    I was taken by Briony Fer’s comments about Hans Arps use of line, so experimented making forms buckle with different scales of line.

    p5-sketchpage 082; 20160330

    p5-sketchpage 082; 20160330

    I was dissatisfied with the photographs I took of my vessels wrapped in brown paper (18-Mar-2016). One of many problems was the flat lighting, so I tried drawing on a printout of a photo to see if some highlights and shadows would improve matters. A great improvement, as is simplifying the floor and wall patterning. Definite lessons there.

    The plan was always to bind my Part 5 sketch work into a book. I’ve tried to bring together a few ideas from the course.

    Sketchbook front

    Sketchbook front

    The front and back covers were first covered in crumpled brown paper – echoes of Part 1, and also of various wrapping exercises.

    Shapes on the front and back are based on samples in Part 5. I haven’t used paints or collage very much, and was intrigued by Briony Fer’s discussion of Jackson Pollock, in particular Cut Out and Shadows: Number 2. Contradictory patterns of drips of the paint surface and cut-out shapes lead to all sorts of considerations about representation, figuration, abstraction, the nature of painting…

    Out of that complex academic treatment I extracted simple ideas of dribbling paint and collage.

    Sketchbook binding

    Sketchbook binding

    For the binding I used a packed cords technique from Exposed Spine Sewings by Keith Smith. I like the use of wrapping, travelling up the cords on the spine, and designed the spiky black attachment to echo the zigzag stitching on sample p5-4.

    Sketchbook front and back

    Sketchbook front and back

    One of the useful features of p5-4 is the plumes of black, which arch over space and link areas in my compositions. Here they arch across front and back of the book, sheltering sample p5-8.

    I think the end result is attractive, appropriate, not particularly robust but sufficient for the journey ahead.

    Fer, B. (1997) On abstract art New Haven and London: Yale University Press
    Smith, K (1995) Exposed Spine Sewings: Non-adhesive binding volume III Rochester NY: Keith Smith Books.

    T1-MMT-P5 Sketchbook completed
    Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
    Part 5: A final piece
    Sketchbook completed

    Weekly roundup 17 April 2016

    Mixed Media for Textiles
    After my tutorial (8-Apr-2016) I knew I had to be clearer about the “final work”. It is the group of vessels, an installation documented in video and photographs. I’d created a video as part of the third photo shoot (15-Mar-2016) and identified then that the quality was poor, but the limit of my current expertise, my tablet as camera, domestic lighting, and free software. Add to this Rebecca’s comments about the growing importance of film in distance learning plus a clearer learning path with OCA.

    The upshot was investment in a video camera (Sony FDR-AX53). Attempting to edit the videos led to multiple trial downloads of software, and eventually purchase of PowerDirector 14 (link). Early days on the learning curve, but I’m confident I’ll be able to upload an improved if not exactly good version for the assessors.

    Covers to bind the sketchbook are in progress. I’ve also tried my idea of printing photos onto good quality watercolour paper. It looks pretty good, kind of “arty”, but not as crisp as the glossy A3 photographs. No decision yet.

    Still a lot to be done, so I need to keep my eye on the clock/calendar.

    Paper yarn project

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  • 10/4 A good quality envelope that contained a very nice card (thanks mum). I like the traces of writing I can see. Very stiff and difficult to use, but I quite like the uneven quirky strength of the result. Beginning to shape a narrowing.
  • 11/4 Pages from the Chinese language instruction book for my new video camera. The pages were small, so I cut into long strips with turns.
  • 12/4 Wandering around the house looking for scrap paper, my son offered a clothing catalogue. Tricky soft paper!
  • 13/4 Long work day, so a day off
  • 14/4 A tiny accident (no one hurt, no glass broken) left our car written off. Today we bought a new car, and today’s input was an insignificant part of the paper collateral.
  • 15/4 A page of pencil doodling done during a long and satisfying phone call. Trying to get a narrow length, and found a curved needle very helpful.
  • 16/4 An A4 flier about the council e-waste collection was the paper source – quite a bit of recycling today. I found yesterday’s addition ungainly, so started off in a new direction trying to meld in.
  • Exhibitions
    Normally I don’t go into the surrounding circumstances, but I want to record that this was a magical day spent with my mother. Warm and sunny autumn weather, interesting venues and art, lovely lunch in a laneway cafe, lots of chat and somewhat less of companionable silences. A wonderful, memorable day – we both felt the glow of it.

    Mortuary Station

    Mortuary Station

    Back on topic, the first venue was new to me – Mortuary Station. The station was built in the nineteenth century on a rail line that transported coffins and mourners to burial grounds. Part of the Biennale, the exhibition was themed as the Embassy of Transition.

    Along the platform and in passageways Charwei Tsai had hung huge coils of incense, text running around the coils of each. Some were burning, ash falling on the tiled floor, keying in to our sense of smell, calming, slowing.

    Charwei Tsai Spiral Incense - Hundred Syllable Mantra

    Charwei Tsai
    Spiral Incense – Hundred Syllable Mantra

    Charwei Tsai inh collaboration with Tsering   Tashi Gyalthang The transitional state of becoming

    Charwei Tsai inh collaboration with Tsering Tashi Gyalthang
    The transitional state of becoming

    In the two small waiting rooms video was projected onto the floor, reflecting or instructing on the transition from life to death.

    It was a gentle, contemplative experience, involving multiple senses and invoking a thoughtful attitude.

    Marco Chiandetti

    Marco Chiandetti

    Marco Chiandetti showed an installation including figurative sculptures of human parts in diverse materials such as bronze, what looked like plaster, and birdseed. Most of these were placed inside large aviaries, which to me were reminiscent of coffins in shape.
    Marco Chiandetti

    Marco Chiandetti

    I didn’t see any, but apparently Indian Mynas, a bird species regarded as a pest in Australia, were meant to be in the aviaries, consuming and dropping seeds from the sculptures, with new grass growing on the floor over the duration of the exhibition.

    There are tensions in the attitudes different cultures have to these birds, tensions in the relationship of birds and humans, reference to the transitions and cycle of life in the consumption of food and eventual new growth.

    Work by a third artist was shown in the old ticket office, although it seems to have been an unanticipated inclusion, based on friendship between artists.

    Oscar Murillo has had large books printed and bound. There are family photos but many more blank pages. He has travelled with the book shown, recording emotions, energy, and the sense of transition that he has after a life of immigration and constant travel.

    Oscar Murillo

    Oscar Murillo

    I found this fascinating as a variant of the sketchbook we all aim to keep, made deeply personal by the inclusion of so many family memories.

    We strolled in the sunshine to the nearby White Rabbit Gallery. Lots to see in the new Heavy Artillery exhibition. I’ve picked out just a few.

    He Xiangyu Tank Project

    He Xiangyu
    Tank Project

    The entire top floor was painted glossy black and given over to Tank Project by He Xiangyu.

    Stitched from luxury Italian leather this full size replica is also in a sense a handbag. It’s a comment on the booming consumer economy of China. Of course it brings to mind Tiananmen Square. The smell of the leather was quite strong, and an attendant spoke of the hundreds of cattle slaughtered for their hides. A sculpture of hard, industrial objects in soft materials also brings Claes Oldenburg to mind, although there is no play with scale here. Being (deflated) full scale seems part of the point.

    Workmanship seemed impeccable and the object was fascinating in itself, the way the leather had been fashioned into such an unlikely form.

    Hsu Yung-Hsu 2011-27

    Hsu Yung-Hsu

    Hsu_Yung-Hsu  2011-27 (detail)

    2011-27 (detail)

    This porcelain work by Hsu Yung-Hsu is enormous – 220 x 512 x 30 cm. The delicate vessels are a little bigger than a tea-cup, each individual formed and folded by the artist. It takes the idea of a collection of vessels to new heights. The mass of them, the play of light on the undulating surfaces, is fascinating and beautiful.

    The creation of this work was physically brutal, involving long hours of hard labour. The vessels are a direct personal expression, and in them I see honesty, determination, and obsession.

    Wang Lei  A Ribbon of Dictionary

    Wang Lei
    A Ribbon of Dictionary

    I have seen Wang Lei’s work before at the White Rabbit, knitted “imperial robes” made with yarn spun from Chinese-English dictionaries. The work above uses the same paper source, again knitted. These are powerful languages, laid out in the form of a scroll, any meaning lost.

    Wang Lei  Armour of Triumph

    Wang Lei
    Armour of Triumph

    Armour of Triumph is made from newspapers into the form of the armour of th Qing Emperor Kangxi, a long-reigning formidable man. Here his armour seems to be unraveling, and the faces of people can be seen in the trailing strands. People power and the media are forces to be reckoned with today.

    It would seem that this should link with my current small project, different papers spun and manipulated using traditional textile techniques. However this work is so precise, so massive, and with additional layers of meaning that any connection seems moot.


    I continue to battle with Briony Fer – Fer, B. (1997) On abstract art New Haven and London: Yale University Press. I’d like to know and understand much of what she is writing (although as previously mentioned “psycho babble” does not appeal). There is a lot of value in here.

    Rosen, B (ed) (2013) Eva Hesse 1965 New Haven and London: Yale University Press. This was published on the occasion of an exhibition. Some interesting essays and lots of good images of Hesse’s work.

    Most of my reading this week has been documentation of PowerDirector 14. Lots to learn, although I only intend to use a small fraction of the functions in my current project. Incremental improvement is all I have time for.

    Weekly roundup 10 April 2016

    The big thing this week was my video tutorial with Rebecca (8-Apr-2016). Very helpful. A lot of thinking time on it since, including realising that there is still a lot of unfinished business for MMT. I need wind back a bit on the transitioning and keep some focus on the immediate tasks.

    So I’ve been trying to research current Australia Post rules, done some shopping research and have a new toy tool hopefully to be delivered tomorrow, and have stalled on drawing while I finish up the sketchbook.

    Paper yarn project

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  • 4/4 Newspaper used by Rachel to wrap art deco cup & saucer
  • 5/4 (actually 3 am next day) Very tired, went to sleep early, but woke in night. Grocery shopping docket. Liked the feel and effect so went and found another. Could be an interesting project and commentary on consumerism – all shopping (? only grocery) dockets for a period.
  • 6/4 No paper came to hand, but I was able to use the (textile) braided handles of a paper carry bag (new supply of French Earl Grey). I expected the orange to shout, but the linen thread calmed it slightly and there are hints of orange in earlier sections. I like the shaping at this point.
  • 7/4 Finally unwrapped my MMT samples, preparing for the video tutorial. Used some of the brown paper, and tried some more adventurous shaping.
  • 8/4 Express Post envelope
  • 9/4 Local newspaper – mostly property advertising. The paper was very soft, easily torn and hard to work with. I’d started excited by the colour – lots of green and blue – but I wouldn’t be keen to do a larger project with it.
  • This week there are better quality photos – definitely worth getting out the camera, not just using my tablet which has trouble with my workroom lighting.
    I’m enjoying this little gathering point in each day, a minor meditation.

    Lectures, exhibitions, performances
    There should have been a lecture, part of the Collectors and Collections series at AGNSW, but I mixed up dates and missed it😦

    I visited the MCA for a second look at some works which I felt rushed on first time round.

    GRAYSON PERRY – My Pretty Little Art Career
    There’s a lot to see in this exhibition and I’ll only touch on a few points that particularly struck me.

    One was how foreign an apparently similar culture can be. There’s a lot of linked history and the base of colonial Australia, the same woman as queen, I have an English mother, have lived in the UK a few times for a few years in total, watch lots of TV and so on, but many of the references were totally unfamiliar and not particularly meaningful to me.

    It was interesting to be able to see a few of Grayson Perry’s sketchbooks. I was particularly taken with the translation of a work from sketchbook page to massive tapestry.

    Grayson Perry sketchbook

    Grayson Perry sketchbook

    Grayson Perry The Upper Class at Bay

    Grayson Perry
    The Upper Class at Bay

    One is a double page spread in an A4-ish sized sketchbook. The other is 200 x 400 cm.

    I’ve wondered before about the use of tapestry by contemporary artists. In an exhibition of Chuck Close I found the tapestry lacking in emotion, not adding anything new (25-Mar-2015). It seemed an easy way to get scale. Not exciting to a textile person.

    Grayson Perry Walthamstow Tapestry (section)

    Grayson Perry
    Walthamstow Tapestry (section)

    The photo above shows just over half of The Walthamstow Tapestry. The work is 300 x 1500 cm.

    In a way this makes more sense to me. It is packed with allusions to all sorts of aspects of British culture. It is huge – and yet it has the connotations of domestic textile. I suppose in other works Perry’s pottery works in the same way. Skewering a society at the same time as being a close part of it. All the awful details of suburbia and domesticity uncovered and displayed in appalling detail and scale.

    Artists in the 20th Biennale
    Noa Eshkol
    I’m fairly confident a large reason for the inclusion of this artist is her movement notation – performance is a significant strand in this Biennale. However the “wall carpets” are interesting in their own right.

    Noa Eshkol  The First Flower

    Noa Eshkol
    The First Flower

    The work on the left “The First Flower” could well be the first work in the series. It is from 1973, and it was during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 that Eshkol began making the carpets. The only male member of her dance group was conscripted, and Eshkol decided it was no time to dance. The assemblages use found and scrounged fabrics and Eshkol never cut them. Instead she would layer and fold, and her dancers would stitch the work together.

    Noa Eshkol  The First Flower (detail)

    Noa Eshkol
    The First Flower (detail)

    Apart from the date, my reasoning for believing it is the first is the fairly traditional use of a blanket base with much of it uncovered by collaged material, and the nature of the stitching. Click on the photo on the right to see a better detail. A single, highly visible colour is used and as well as blanket stitch there are variants which approach the herringbone which seems to be used consistently in later works.

    Noa Eshkol

    Noa Eshkol

    Later works had greater coverage of the base and more complex composition. On the left above is Window to the Sea (1975), on the right Window to the Night (1981).

    Noa Eshkol  stitch details

    Noa Eshkol
    stitch details

    Details of the same two works are shown above. Herringbone stitch seemed to be used throughout. In the earlier work thread colours changed to blend into the fabric below, and my observation was that this seemed to be the standard approach in most works. However on the right both blending burgundy and contrasting green have been used in different areas of the piece, making the line a more active component in the work. I’m not sure if these decisions were made by Eshkol or by individual stitchers.

    All of the works shown above were human in scale, less than my height, narrower than my outstretched arms. Two works shown, both from 1995, were much larger.

    Noa Eshkol  The Four Seasons

    Noa Eshkol
    The Four Seasons

    The fabrics used in the works were found around homes or offcuts collected from factories. There is a huge variety, from some that could be from uniforms, other from summer dresses or occasionally something more luxurious. They show a picture of the place and time they were made, even the designs of the clothing given the use of uncut pieces.

    Noa Eshkol  Bush at Night

    Noa Eshkol
    Bush at Night

    My favourite work was the latest in date, Bush at Night from 2002, which is back at human scale. The use of stripes, the shape of the fabric pieces, the way a frame has been created, all combine to create a very pleasing picture.

    Helen Marten

    Helen Marten Smoke Description (2015)

    Helen Marten
    Smoke Description (2015)

    The more I looked at this work the more I found. It was probably about the same level of bewilderment throughout.

    The descriptive information includes words like eclectic, ambitious, readymade, hand crafted, found… I am flummoxed and intrigued. I would like to learn and see more.

    Shahryar Nashat, Parade. A video of a performance, this was based on an original work from early last century that has gone through two processes of translation. The result is hard to describe but fascinating to watch.

    Finished the Claire Falkenstein book. My original research on this artist was posted 11-Mar-2016. The best thing about this book was the many large, clear photographs. There were some interesting essays too. I continue to find Falkenstein very exciting both in her work and in her work processes. Risk taking, following her own ideas, experimenting in many media… There are ideas around exploding the volume – no longer a solid mass; kinetic, with the potential for viewer involvement (this suggests to me engaging haptic as well as optic senses, unlike much 20th century art, and could be part of what attracts me to her work); the combination of scultural and graphic processes. Drawing in three dimensions… I could benefit from spending some time developing drawing techniques based on her work (similar to exercise done with Ruth Hadlow based on John Bokor (25-Feb-2016).
    The Falkenstein Foundation (2012) Claire Falkenstein Los Angeles: The Falkenstein Foundation

    Ongoing: Fer, B. (1997) On abstract art New Haven and London: Yale University Press. This is turning into a rocky road. A lot of Freudian analysis, to which I react with impatience. Now on to a section on Eva Hesse, which I find more engaging.

    T1-MMT-P5 Tutorial summary/formative feedback

    Earlier this week I had my final tutorial for the Mixed Media course – for the first time a video call with Rebecca followed by a brief summary document. It was very helpful to hear her feedback, to be able to ask questions, get clarification, and I think she found it useful to understand more about me as a student, my interests and responses to the samples and the course. There was a price. The connection got quite choppy towards the end, making it hard to hear everything. Also when I spoke there was a strong delayed echo which made it difficult to keep focused and coherent. Even a slight murmur of agreement as Rebecca was speaking could cause a glitch. It worked better when we each spoke in blocks, rather than a fluid conversation. Rebecca quickly followed up the call with a brief written report, and I took my own notes, but I miss the more extended reports of purely written feedback. Still, a very valuable experience and a contact method I’d use again in the future – but not every time.

    Click here to read the written report.

    Overall Rebecca was very positive about my work and more especially my work process, noting I am clearly engaged and have made the course my own. I can only agree – the process given in the MMT course is a wonderful fit to my natural way of working and I feel empowered by it, equipped for my ongoing creative explorations. The course gave a level of structure combined with openness to interpretation, both supporting and freeing. I’ve had a wonderful time!

    Rebecca commented that I was thorough, probably too thorough, in the initial Review stage. She wondered if I would be able to emerge and go on to new work. I can see that, and I may have commented in this blog that at times I felt almost overwhelmed by the number of ideas and potential avenues generated. My natural methodical approach and a desire to both tick boxes and demonstrate process to tutor and assessors probably accounts for it. I can’t regret having created an amazing resource that I can return to for material in the future, but it would be worth being open to a more instinctual, flowing approach.

    Research has been an integral part of my work throughout the course and I was pleased that Rebecca saw how it has influenced and shaped my work. I think taking Understanding Western Art as my second OCA course was a good choice for me, providing research skills and a basic framework of knowledge which I can build on. Rebecca suggested I keep looking for the way people develop ideas. I think if I keep reading, keep looking, keep curious, that should happen. I quite often go to lectures etc, but it could be worth doing more to seek out the voice of artists themselves, not just commentators. For example I found it fascinating to listen to oral history interviews with Claire Falkenstein (11-Mar-2016), and a panel discussion including artist Dane Mitchell entirely changed my understanding of his work (20-Mar-2016).

    Rebecca was very positive about my sketchbook and my use of drawing as a tool. Frequent and varied drawing was a major goal for me in this assignment. I might freeze up if asked to do a drawing where the end result is the drawing itself, but I enjoy functional drawing – to see, learn, understand, to record not a picture of an object but what I see or feel about an object. There’s no right or wrong result in that, so it’s easy to be loose and exploratory. Rebecca cautioned me not to stop – a good reminder as my drawing has fallen away a bit during this transition period.

    We discussed presentation and what to send for assessment. Great news is that Rebecca is not fussed about mounting work etc – she’d be happy with large photos rolled in a tube. The assessors quite happily rummage through work and it’s important to send a variety that they can handle.

    However I need to be very specific about what exactly is my Final Piece. Good call, given at the moment I don’t know myself. Rebecca was encouraging about my videos, and suggested a film – something that could be viewed on a largish computer screen. She sees film as increasing in importance in distance learning, and given my interest in installation it makes a lot of sense. Photographs are another possibility, large (say A3). I’ve already printed out a few that size on glossy paper. I’d like to go for film as the most effective way of showing what most interests me, but want to find a way to step up the quality. Wheels are turning.

    Interaction with other students was another topic in our conversation. It’s been directly influential for me, with research into other students’ work (7-Feb-2016). In addition I’ve been helped by research suggestions, general support and of course inspiration. All of this was of interest to Rebecca. It’s a little way towards the sharing that happens at a bricks and mortar university and shows that distance learning is much less solitary these days.

    One great thing about the direct conversation was being able to discuss future options. I’ve thrived in MMT and want to grow in that exploratory, sampling approach. There’s an update coming soon to one of the existing level 2 courses, making it closer in approach to the new level 1 courses. A brand new level 2 course is coming out in September. The apparent catch is that the new course fits better done before the revamped one, which would mean taking a break from study until the new is ready. I think this will suit me very well. I have unfinished business, research strands I want to follow up, some learning to do on lighting and photography, plenty to keep me busy, engaged, learning. I had a similar wait when I transferred from Exploring Ideas to Mixed Media for Textiles, and with hindsight that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. So “what next?” seems to be answered.

    But that’s getting ahead of myself. First I need to clarify my Final Piece, bind the sketchbook, check the Assessment guidelines, research postal rules, select samples to send (focus on those mixing media), develop a packaged presentation telling the story behind the outcomes…

    Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
    Part 5: A final piece
    Tutorial summary/formative feedback
    T1-MMT-P5 Tutorial summary/formative feedback

    Weekly roundup – a new rhythm?

    It’s a time of transition for me. Mixed Media for Textiles is in the wrap up stage. I don’t want to rush choices about medium term goals. In the interim I’ve decided to experiment with a life of following different strands, going to what interests me most at any time. However I like structure and want to hold myself to account. A weekly review of where I am, what I’ve been doing, feels a good discipline. It might make for boring blog posts, but it (potentially) suits my needs – so feel free to move on:)

    Paper yarn project.
    This idea comes from Ruth Hadlow’s workshop – trying an exercise for a month (25-Feb-2016). My brief to myself:
    * use a piece of paper that comes to hand during the day;
    * make yarn and incorporate into coiling;
    * record – photograph, paper type.

    No idea where if anywhere this will take me. The first two days were a simple flat round, with a little shaping beginning on day 3.

    Lectures, exhibitions, performances

  • Contemporary philosphers discuss contemporary art. AGNSW. Damien Freeman, Derek Matravers, Simon Longstaff. Lots of notes, but nothing to fit into a brief paragraph.
  • Biennale floor talk. AGNSW.
  • Performance in Dogwalk, by Mella Jaarsma. AGNSW. Part of Biennale.
  • Mella Jaarsma Dogwalk (in performance)

    Mella Jaarsma
    Dogwalk (in performance)

  • Performance – Benoît Lachambre, part of ghost telephone, a month long chain performance at AGNSW for the Biennale. For ten days Lachambre will perform, responding to Doris Salcedo’s Atrabiliarios (mentioned in post 30-Jan-2016). Lachambre moved (inadequate word) around the space, sometimes using masking tape to form a pattern or record something known only to him. After the performance the tape was removed, as will be done each day. Fascinating to watch, and in review it recalls my wrapping of space to record shadows (31-Jul-2015).
  • Benoit Lachambre

    Benoît Lachambre

  • Biennale exhibition at MCA and AGNSW (see 3-Apr-2016)
  • Exhibition – The Charged Object: soft sculpture and the aesthetics of touch at Gallery Lane Cove (1-Apr-2016)
  • Reading
    Multiple books on the go, depending on where I am.

  • The Falkenstein Foundation (2012) Claire Falkenstein Los Angeles: The Falkenstein Foundation
  • Fer, B. (1997) On abstract art New Haven and London: Yale University Press
  • Plus looking rather than reading – a new acquisition, on sale at MCA bookstore but still an indulgence –
    Petzinger, R. and Rosen, B. (2006) EVA HESSE: CATALOGUE RAISONNE New Haven and London: Yale University Press
    This is in two volumes, one painting, one sculpture. Very exciting to leaf through, watching development over time, the explorations with particular materials…

    Limited. Some bits and pieces related to Mixed Media for Textiles, so I’ll do a separate post on that.

    It’s taken longer than I expected to write this up. Now I have a framework, it should go more easily once I settle into a rhythm. Most weeks aren’t so active.

    Calendar of Posts

    May 2016
    M T W T F S S
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