Sydney Sculpture Conference

Sydney sculpture conference: a universal language was held in the Sydney Opera House on 5 November. The Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) were joint presenters of the conference together with Sculpture by the Sea. Although there was a focus on education the day was quite diverse and I’m having trouble picking through my notes to create a coherent story.

There was a welcome from the head of China tourism (?if I got that right) plus a number of speakers from CAFA, and it sometimes felt a little careful. Nothing wrong with presenting your best side. There seems to be huge activity, lots of projects and money available, particularly as cities attempt to move up the tiers of importance. Huge scale seems to be a must. Then John McDonald, an Australian art critic, spoke on the topic “A Revolutionary Transformation – The Sculptors of China”, and I wondered how it felt for the Chinese guests, listening to their history from an external perspective.

As mentioned there was a lot of talk about education. I get the impression that many felt that in current Australian degree courses not enough time is spent in the studio, working, making, under the guidance of tutors. Forms, space and light; the manipulation of tools on a material. Presumably the rest of the time is spent with theory and research – perhaps the academic requirements within the university structure have had a high price. CAFA’s course takes five years. It had me wondering about my own goals. I left the Open College of the Arts course after completing first year (taking 5 years 🙂 ) because I wanted to move from a textiles focus. Do I want to do more, perhaps locally, if I could? Am I drifting without structure? Off topic here, at any rate!

Paul S.C. Taçon, amongst other distinctions Chair in Rock Art research at Griffith University in Queensland, spoke on Rock art in the Greater Sydney Region. Paul defined the topic as a mark of the landscape in purposive, symbolic ways. The sites are places where people connect with ancestors.

With over 4,000 individual rock art sites in the greater Sydney region, a current need is conservation and management of rock art landscapes, not site by site. Paul showed us lots of images, and in some a strand of red wool had been put into the groove of a petroglyph as a non-impact way to improve visibility. I mentally shuffled in embarrassment remembering times as a child we drew on them in chalk. The world was different in the 60s.

The oldest art found in this area so far has been dated to around 4 or 5 thousand years. Our sandstone isn’t the greatest for longevity. Paul was excited to give us a tip for news about to break – now published here (and no doubt elsewhere), new analysis dating cave painting in Borneo to at least 40,000 years old – “the oldest figurative cave painting in the world”.

The plan is to include a talk on rock art in each year’s conference program, which I think is a great initiative given Australia is so rich in this.

There was an artist’s focus talk – Hossein Valamanesh: Out of Nothingness. I was surprised by the range of his work, some of which was familiar to me (just not the name). A couple of examples are Longing belonging at AGNSW, and the Gingko Gate in Adelaide Botanic Gardens. I think Hossein described it as an attitude in the work rather than style. He sees it as the work of an artist to throw a little light. His attitude to changes to a work over time was interesting – “The responsibility of a work lingering on is part of their lives, not mine”. Changing materiality is part of the work.

Exhibitions in Canberra

In Canberra for a short visit, mum and I hit exhibitions at some of the big institutions.

Rome: City and Empire at the National Museum of Australia.
With over 200 objects loaned from the British Museum, this exhibition was the main motivation for our visit. It’s a diverse group of things, flitting around place and time. There’s a light touch of some themes, at cross-purposes with chronology. A lot of marble, a lot of coins, some jewellery, domestic and military paraphernalia… Much of the overview information wasn’t new to us, that was mainly in the detail. So for me no earth-shattering insights, but some pleasant hours of looking and thinking.

Javelin head

Dated to mid-1st century CE, found at Hod Hill, Dorset inthe UK, a javelin or pilium head, is softened steel. They were designed to bend on impact, so the enemy couldn’t throw them back. Clever. Dreadful.
Can’t see a way to make that visible and meaningful in a work, but a curious idea.

Military diploma

Bronze plaques, 122 (dated 17th July), Brigetio Hungary, were given to a soldier after 25 years of service. It records Gemellus was granted citizenship on his retirement. The plaques are described as “a four-leaved document” on the British Museum website.
I’ve already been thinking about hammer-punching text into metal tags as inserts to folded books. Was planning to buy a set of alphabet punches, but I should explore other ways of making the marks. And making them directly into a book… possibilities…

Punic funerary stele

Amazing, graphic, lines carved into this burial stone. It’s probably from Carthage, Tunisia, 1st-2nd century CE.
This link might be the right object – the description doesn’t quite fit.

National Library of Australia

Portrait of Abel Tasman, his wife and daughter Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp

Following up some of mum’s recent reading, we visited both the National Gallery and the National Library, to see Cuyp’s Portrait of Abel Tasman, his wife and daughter. A very helpful, knowledgeable and friendly volunteer at the Library took us into the gallery – to the wall where it usually hangs. Just so we know next time where to go, as it had been away on loan and was perhaps now being checked in and checked over before rehanging. The Library website catalogue notes “On loan to the National Gallery of Australia”, but when we asked at the NGA information desk they had no information on it. So a reason for another visit to Canberra in a few months.

While at the Library we took in the Cook and the Pacific exhibition.

Tricky stuff. As the website notes “The exhibition web pages may also contain material with terms and descriptions that may be culturally sensitive or considered inappropriate today.” Delicately put! A lot of thought and effort has gone into giving context, and in making sure First Nations peoples from the places Cook visited were heard and seen in the exhibition. Still, some very uncomfortable reading. Included is a document with ‘hints’ provided to Cook by the president of the Royal Society, James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton. The hints advise ‘the utmost patience and forbearance with respect to the Natives of the several Lands where the Ship may touch’. Cook may have taken this to heart, but further on:

To check the petulance of the Sailors, and restrain the wanton use of Fire Arms.

To have it still in view that sheding the blood of those people is a crime of the highest nature:—They are human creatures, the work of the same omnipotent Author, equally under his care with the most polished European; perhaps being less offensive, more entitled to his favor.

They are the natural, and in the strictest sense of the word, the legal possessors of the several Regions they inhabit.

No European Nation has a right to occupy any part of their country, or settle among them without their voluntary consent. Conquest over such people can give no just title; because they could never be the Aggressors.

No excuses.

National Gallery of Australia
Over a couple of days we got to a few exhibitions here.
Australian art: Earth/Sky

Philip Hunter
Night Wimmera X

This abstracted landscape drew us both in, quietly contemplating. There is a shimmering, unearthly feel. Wheat sways in patterns, making visible the patterns of the wind. Are those the min min lights, dancing across the ancient, slumbering land? There is industry in the tracks of the harvesting equipment, balanced by the calm and unmoving certainty of the infinite horizon.

I can see those fields in textured rows of stitching; those graceful, turning, tangles of line woven in metal in a sculpture. While the painting soothed my mind it had my fingers twitching with an urge to be making.

A view of part of the Sky gallery space

Taking a step back to think about the curation of this exhibition. I love the freshness, the new insights, provided by moving away from the geographic | chronological lockstep in presenting a collection. I first became conscious of an alternative when seeing the New Classical at the Art Gallery of South Australia (5-May-2013). Back then I quoted Director Nick Mitzevich in the press release “Boundaries of geography and time have been collapsed to inspire a new way of looking at the rich diversity of the Gallery’s collections. Objects from different periods and cultures are juxtaposed to reveal how art links the past to the present”. In this current exhibition in Canberra, people from different periods, different cultures, different belief systems, but all within Australia, are shown to have a commonality in looking around themselves at this land, at the southern skies. We all seek to explain, to express, how we come to be here, what this amazing place means to us. Visiting the exhibition, I can get a glimpse of other perspectives and share a moment of delight, wonder, perhaps understanding.

Bronwyn Oliver

I’ve never felt moved to write about Bronwyn Oliver’s work before now. Reading about her work it sounds exactly in my interest area, that should have me buzzing with admiration, inspiration. Wire used to create abstract forms, woven or soldered, sewn with wire. Instead there is a level of calculation, control, perfectionism, closed and ungiving, almost desperately balanced, in the work that I find alienating.

As so often happens, I need to think again, look again. Comet has a delicacy, the trailing tendrils of wire are slightly wayward, not all the personality groomed out. You’ll get a better view of the structure on the gallery website, but my poor photos (especially the general gallery view) give at least a sense of the movement, hung in a corner with shadows at different angles on the two walls. Being connected, in conversation, with the other works here also helps me approach it.

Margel Hinder, Revolving construction.
Sorry about the raw, poor video. Any past small skills in my editing software have vanished. The kinetic nature of the sculpture is important, but again, you’ll get a better photo of it on the gallery website.

I have written about Margel Hinder’s work before – see 13-Jun-2014 for a figure sculpture that was warm and inviting, and 31-Dec-2013 for her Free standing sculpture in copper and steel that manages to be enormous, self-effacing, tactile and inviting, and an expression of the importance and economic might of the Reserve Bank of Australia(!).

The NGA sculpture is serious, scientific, an expression of ideas, while still fun and playful. I see a lightness and sense of adventure. Seeing it move, the shadows drawing on the walls, gave a nice segue to the next NGA exhibition visited.

Performing Drawing
This exhibition “explores how actions can become art. Focusing on chance and change, this exhibition highlights the NGA’s collection of process-based drawing, video and photography.”

Ilka White
Still from Drawing breath

In this video Ilka White draws on the ground using sand that trickles down from a sack resting across her shoulders. It is an intensely physical and meditative process. Ilka moves carefully, thoughtfully; pauses and pivots; stretches and expands then draws back in to herself. When the sack is empty she balances, reaches down, gently brushes the sand with her hand and you can feel its texture, the grating of the grains.

Ilka White Installation view in Group exchange, Tamworth Triennial 2015

Ilka spoke at the Art Textiles conference in Sydney in 2008 (ATASDA, supported by COFA). I have a general memory of someone deeply thoughtful, a weaver interested in exploring her world through her craft. She was also included in GROUP exchange, the 2nd Tamworth Textile Triennial – not in my post (22-May-2015), so I’ve dug through my photo archive to give a view of the range of work she presented then. In that the billabong near her home was her muse, and a central theme the interconnectedness of the world.

That sense of deep and still waters of thought, of reflection of the world around, of stepping lightly on the land, of beautiful traces that will blow away and rejoin the earth, continues though all the different expressions of her work.

Kieran Browne

Kieran Brown
Gallery view

This was so much fun.

Entering this part of the exhibition, on the wall was a screen, blank except for a black mark on the right edge. I looked a while, read the blurb, looked again – and there were grey and black smudges on the screen.

A little thought, a careful scan of the gallery ceiling – and a small black camera or sensor discovered.

I ran to get mum, and we danced together to draw on the screen. Move slowly and a line of grey smudges records your progress. Pause, a little conversation, and that smudge darkens to black. Step away, wait, and the traces gradually lighten and disappear. The viewer creates meaning in the art in a very literal, if transient, way.

David Rosetzky
From memory

Could any maker, weaver, not love, love, love this? In this photomontage portrait of Stephen Phillips the actor plays with a length of string, a metaphor for the act of remembering. The double exposure suggests the passage of time. I think of people telling stories as they make shapes, illustrations, in string between their fingers.

David Moore
Moon writing series

The beautiful lines continue – these works by David Moore seeming so connected to Philip Hunter’s work up near the top of this post. Here the photographer used his camera as a drawing instrument, under the full moon in Tasmania, moving to create shapes. Rhythm, elegance, incredible skill; a flow and a spark.

All this and the long weekend still wasn’t over. We had a spare hour before setting off for Sydney, so returned to the NGA to breeze through American Masters.

American Masters
As I write this post this exhibition is in its final hours, and I am so annoyed with myself. I needed much, much, much more time here.

Alexander Calder
Night and day

Walking up the long, high, dimly lit, hallway to the special exhibition space, this mobile by Calder speeds your pace. Backlit, a series of red ovals can be discerned, with two circles, black and white, moving amongst them. Get closer and look down – a white circle, filled with circular shadows.

It was quite different with the Calder work I saw at NGV this year. The post was 15-Sep-2018, but I didn’t include any photos. Remedying that:

My brain registers everything as circles, even when I concentrate on it.
It’s not just my photography. From the institution websites:

I think there are enough clear circles on the MoMA work that I accept all of them as circles, even those at an angle that makes them just a vertical line. In the NGV version all the red shapes appear oval, with the odd effect that the proportions change as I walk towards them.

Is there something to exploit here? For my own work, don’t know. For the person who designed the NGV presentation, with that white circle on the ground and the shadows – brilliant!

Most of my time was spent visiting old friends:

Eva Hesse
Post 7-Jun-2015

Mark Rothko
1957 # 20
Post 27-Dec-2013

Blue Poles, of course (post 26-Dec-2013). A few more.
Why is that? Is it a comfort thing? I think more that for me they are strong things, works that I continue to think about, that influence in some way the way I see the world and other art, including my own.

So maybe some new friends:

Alan Sonfist
Earth monument to New York

Alan Sonfist
Earth monument to New York

Core samples of stratified stone, drilled from between 1.5 and 40 metres below ground level in different locations across New York City. Monumental. Fascinating in detail. Seeing what is usually hidden – the structure of the land beneath us. Centering. Dare I say, grounding.

There was a quote from Sonfist on the signage: “My feeling is that if we are going to live in a city, we have to create an understanding of the land… We have to come to a better understanding of who we are and how we exist on the planet.”

Hans Hofmann

The energy and excitment! While writing this up, I found a great description on the NGA website – read it there.

This post has taken enormously more time than I intended. My son sensibly pointed out that I enjoyed it. Plus I know that this process of later thinking and relooking helps me retain memories – and the blog acts as a supplementary memory too. So before I move on, time to record just a couple of works in the general NGV collection that caught my eye.

E. Phillips Fox

Stripes! Diagonal lines! Too many posts, too much material, relate to those. My final assignment for the Open College of the Arts course Understanding Western Art is one. I’ve been enjoying analysing the structure of this painting.

Jane Sutherland
A cabbage garden

Why do I like this so much? It seems to trigger a memory that I can’t track down. Something about the composition? That bending figure? In my memory the colours have more purple. Something familiar…

Sculpture by the Sea 2018

Sculpture by the sea at Bondi is always a feast for the eyes – the sculptures of course, the stunning location, and the people. People relaxed and happy, out for a few hours of entertainment and fun in the sun/rain/cloud/buffeting wind/… I’m also watching myself of course – what is drawing my attention, what about it is attracting me?

Sculpture Inside Gallery

The Sculpture Inside gallery is a fascinating place. I think all of the artists showing there also have large works outside (occasionally in a different year). It’s the scale I work at, so there’s a familiarity. There’s often more freedom and a sense of spontaneity. Safety and gravity aren’t such concerns. Cost in effort and resources is less. Some pieces appear to be maquettes, some are simplifications with similar ideas to the large sculptures, some seem to be basically scaled versions (often produced in multiples, at a more approachable price point than the large works), some appear unrelated other than being from the same hands and mind.

Mikaela Castledine’s Feral installation included 15 pieces placed around a wide area in a small gully. The same crocheted polypropylene was used in her small sculptures. There’s a simplification, but on their plinths the inside cats have personality and attitude.

Wassily Kandinsky
Landscape: Dunaberg near Murnau

vanishing cultures by Stephen Hogan I find very exciting. Perhaps not surprising given my ongoing interest in diagonal lines
– for example by Kandinsky (see 15-Oct-2018). Then there’s the recycled steel rod – linking to my welded Germination II (30-Jun-2017). The base of the sculpture is a number of triangles pieces, which together with the poles create a dynamic mood, but the pagoda/gateway effect of recycled forged steel bracket from a horse dray stabilises the work and gives a serenity. Calming and energising. Hogan’s large work outside is much more placid and stable. It frames the constantly moving waves, but doesn’t respond to them. I felt detached, not drawn in.

Barbara Licha

I didn’t photograph Barbara Licha’s inside sculpture. It was a much simplified version of the same idea, and had much less impact than the large sculpture. For me there was a disconnect in the artist’s statement, which refers to the beauty of Sydney and a desire to make us conscious of where we are. Those caged, twisted forms under the city seem more tortured than happily occupying the space.

Itamar Freed
the kiss (study of auguste rodin)

This small work by Itamar Freed was 3D printed. It’s an interesting modern take on a well-known classic. The figures, clothed in modern dress, appear much more energetic to me than the languorous forms of Rodin’s marble. Male and female have swapped positions in a modern twist. Freed has created an edition of 20, plus 5 artists proofs – taking advantage of the modern technology. I find it interesting and a “proper” use of technology – unlike the AI portrait recently sold at Christies (

Moving outside now…

Sandra Pitkin
Wave Within

Sandra Pitkin
Wave Within (detail)

Beautifully detailed and crafted work from Sandra Pitkin. The wave motif is clear, especially in this location. The artist’s statement references an integration of neural activity within the waves, and our inseparable part in nature.

Lucy Barker
Outlet (detail)

Lucy Barker

Lucy Barker provides quite a different kind of detail. The materials listed for this work are bamboo, salvages electrical cables, bronze. The artist sees this as “a means to rewire and decode our problem of mindless waste”.

Sheltered in the shadow of a rocky overhang, the work looks like an unworldly cocoon. Again, beautiful detail and complexity of surface.

Eric Green
Tetrahedron (detail)

Eric Green

Which has me questioning myself about this work by Eric Green. I was attracted to it by the detail. The form seems odd – busy, complex, almost ungainly. The finish close up is so unusual. It looks really rough. Honestly, it looks like my welding. Most of the metal sculptures in the show are beautifully finished, ground down cleanly, often a mirror finish. The artist’s statement is basically about geometric form.

It was curiosity, trying to decipher what I was seeing, that texture, that led me closer to the work. Obviously that “no trace of the maker’s hand” of lots of other works isn’t the point. I feel conflicted. I normally make approving noises about good craftsmanship. Clearly that’s not the point in this work, there’s a different approach, prioritisation, train of thought. I like messy, lively work. Is it the the thick paint that bothers me? Somehow I find this work unsettling. Which makes it interesting.

Leo Loomans
Icarus Rising (detail)

Leo Loomans
Icarus Rising

Back on safe ground here.
Lots of detail and interest, voids and shadow. Even a classical motif. Interesting, powerful, satisfying, I find more each time I look at it.

Andrew Rogers

“Hold closely in one’s arms; form not anchored by weight; motion within, rhythms, lustrous sheen.” (artist’s statement).

Complexity and detail. Polished and precise – a little too perfect and manicured perhaps. Balanced movement.

It’s getting long and late, so a quick slideshow.

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Deborah Halpern
The Face

Finally, simply – joyful and fun.


This is basically an update from my Components and Sampling post a few weeks ago (1-Oct-2018). Little bits of this and that, hopefully not signifying nothing. I’ve decided to go with what’s exciting me most first, rather than chronological.

The Anni Albers book (20-Oct-2018) has me buzzing. I had to put the book down and get something into my hands. How’s this for a potential component?

This was done off-loom, held in my hands for ultimate flexibility. That worked quite well for the twined sections, but the leno got a bit wild.

The detail shot below is on a 1 cm grid, to give an idea of scale. Most of the wire is 28 gauge, with a heavier wire used in the header and the actual cross of the leno.

Yesterday for the first time in a long time, I dressed a loom. Well… I’m using the 4 shaft Robinson loom as a frame, not involving a reed or shafts, not putting great tension on the 28 gauge wire. So far the wire is looped on (a variant of a technique I saw long ago on quick dressing a rigid heddle loom), and held in order with a couple of rows of twining at each end. I carried two wires together, bare copper and silver-coated, with ideas of some colour and weave experimenting. The plan is to do everything using pick-up techniques.

Can I get the structure, the variation and interest I want, with tension sufficient to help me working and keep from tangles while loose enough to keep it dynamic and flowing?

It’s on a brief pause at the moment while I make space on my work table, to move the loom from the side bench which doesn’t have great light (there used to be enough there, but something’s changed over the years 🙂 ).

Looping experiments
Different gauges of wire.
The red is 12 gauge aluminium from Apack. The heavier brass colour 20 gauge (anonymous, from the stash). The finer one is actually brass, 0.5 mm (about 24 gauge), A&E metals. The fine “silver” is 28 gauge coated copper wire from Over the Rainbow (

All of these were very easy to use, with no complaints from the joints (although keeping in mind these are small samples, each using one wingspan of wire).

The resulting “fabric” is quite easy to form and manipulate, and holds shape well in most directions.

Going dimensional.
Beautiful, bouncy, like unintelligible handwriting. In fact this is looping, with each loop upwards pulled through a little, twisted and bent 90 degrees to make it thoroughly three dimensional. The wire is 24 gauge “black reel wire” from Apack. I think it’s annealed steel (from the person who told me about the supplier), but can’t be sure. No signs of rust. Soft and easy to use. The fabric created holds shape very well, and all those projecting loops look full of potential for building further or embellishing.

This is more of the 0.5 mm brass, using crochet. It’s a denser fabric. There’s a sort of dimensional corrugation with the rows worked back and forward, but overall it looks a little heavy and stable – not dynamic and lively. The killer is that I got some thumb joint pain even in this small piece. Not something I’m likely return to – certainly not with this gauge wire.

In wire.
The beginning of some twining, working in 28 gauge wire.

In structure and in technique (the thumb flip) just what Mary Hettmansperger taught using waxed linen (17-Sep-2018). This is much more open, and of course holds shape well without reinforcement with mod podge.

It’s meant to be semi-mindless work to cope with TV-watching (I’m no good with tension – if the music changes to a buildup, I dutifully get scared). However I’m finding it a little fine for that – I need good light (hmm… a connection with earlier comments???).

For painting.
The first of these little pots was seen 1-Oct-2018. My technique has definitely improved with the second, larger pot. The lid is domed because I made it a bit big 🙂 . It’s been languishing a few weeks now. I’m hoping the alteration of proportions will let me do more of a slice down the height of the inspiration painting.

Pretty much on a whim, I recently bought The Art of the Fold: How to make innovative books and paper structures by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol. I have lots of paper around, sketches and prints and experiments that have piled up. Perhaps I could fold them, transform them into something more satisfactory. Lovely book – good instructions and diagrams, techniques and structures that get reused, elaborated, extended, as the projects progress. Lots of great inspiration photographs.

My first attempt (apart from familiarisation bits on plain paper): a pocket accordion with separate cover.

So small and pretty! About 10 cm high, 5.5 or so wide. Very satisfying. While not apparent to others, I particularly like the refreshing and encapsulating of memories. The cover is leftovers from a class with Adele Outteridge (25-Jul-2014). The inside pages are from a large sheet of cartridge paper. I went back through months of photos to identify it – from a printmaking session back in 2016 (24-Jul-2016). That detective side excursion on a side excursion was a pleasure and revelation in itself – so many exhibitions, and travels, and classes, and so, so much making! Even the little inserts capture memory. I don’t know if you can see in the photo the inserts are paint cards, and one colour has been selected for the bathroom wall – but not my bathroom. In a class with Keith Lo Bue last year (23-Apr-2017), there was an exercise where we each put three things we’d brought onto a table, and we each selected three things from other people to use as raw material. My final choice, with not much left on the table – the rather uninspiring paint cards. A fairly random moment resurfaced, memorialised, made special.

Book: Anni Albers

Anni Albers, edited by Ann Coxon, Briony Fer and Maria Müller–Schareck, has been published by Tate Publishing on the occasion of the current Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern.

All the reviews I’ve read of the exhibition are glowing. The book is much more than a catalogue, with a series of strong essays delving into different aspects of Albers and her work. I found each of the essays fascinating, enlightening, thought provoking.

dimensional weave sample 20160708

Brenda Danilowitz writes of the paradox of the linear grid of weaving and Alber’s non-linear surfaces. “Her work captures her determination … to undermine the grid, to make it virtually disappear by twisting and looping its threads.” (p 87) Different, but this resonated with my past explorations of the grid, depth in weaving and the orthogonal (gathered together in the page orthogonal).

When discussing Albers as a collector, Jennifer Reynolds-Kaye concludes “When considering the objects she collected alongside the art that she produced, the distinctions between ancient and modern, thread and clay, art and artefact, are productively dismantled.” (p. 109) That breadth of interest and vision, the ability not just to find connections but to take ideas from one domain to another and enrich all, seems very important to me.

Previously I only knew of Albers in the context of weaving. Nicholas Fox Weber’s essay introduced me to the printmaking Albers did later in life. “Albers was perpetually on the watch for processes she did not yet know, for unprecendented ways of utilising known techniques for new purposes.” (p. 153) The words Process, Transformation, Universal, Timeless, vibrate. Albers had a love of making, and I’d add a curiosity, that led to remarkable innovation and achievement. Ann Coxon provided the final essay, discussing Alber’s artistic legacy, and quotes Albers’ own words: “Experimental – that is, searching for new ways of conveying meaning – these attempts to conquer new territory even trespass at times into that of sculpture.” (p. 167) A path I would love to follow.

For me this book, Albers’ work, is exciting, inspiring, invigorating. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of her in the past.

Only last month I had the chance to examine two of her free-hanging room dividers in the MoMA at NGV exhibition (15-Sep-2018). I didn’t include my blurry photos then, but now I am emboldened by seeing what appear to be the same two works pictured in the new book (p.39) – my brush with fame! Innovative materials, a twist on familiar weave structures.

lace & finger manipulated sampler

My own student sample of spanish lace from ten years ago (24-Aug-2008) has none of Albers’ grace and precision, but in combination has me hankering to experiment in wire.

An aside: I do love having this blog to refer back to. While writing this post I’ve gone back to a previous book review – Bauhaus weaving theory: From feminine craft to mode of design by T’ai Smith (31-Jan-2015). I obviously had a struggle back then, but I’ve just got the book out and hope to give it another go. Smith also has a contribution in the new book.

I posted about Albers’ own book On Weaving 13-October-2012. (That book too is now in the pile on my work table). “Excited” is one of my favourite words (and sensations), and clearly I felt it then. I like my venture into unconventional “drawing media”!

One major impact of the new book is from the comprehensive, high-quality photographs. Smith’s book has some small colour plates, the copy I have of Albers’ book has a decent page size, a few colour plates, but most of the photos are in black and white on rather soft, fuzzy paper. The new book shows some of the same works, and many more, in photographs that are larger, crisper, and all colour. They are thrilling. I had no idea the range and inventiveness of her work.

I’ve already begun some new experiments – still working with components, still in my current palette of materials – inspired by this book. Albers work of course is key, but it’s an extension of that and a real pleasure to have such interesting writing to accompany it.

Exhibition: Masters of Modern Art from The Hermitage

A first peek at this exhibition at AGNSW. It opened on Saturday, mum and I just happened to be at the gallery (an excellent lecture by Susannah Fullerton), so we went for a quick reconnoitre.

It’s an interesting comparison and companion to the recent MoMA at NGV (15-Sep-2018). Both exhibitions start in the 1880s, but only a few at AGNSW go beyond the First World War compared to the up-to-the-minute NGV. I think all the works at AGNSW are wall-based paintings and drawings, while the NGV included sculpture, textiles, film, furniture and industrial products. The NGV felt like an illustrated book on the History of Modern Western Art, with very few artists represented more than once. The AGNSW exhibition is much more focused, and my initial impression is that it is more idiosyncratic as many of the works were originally selected by a small number of private collectors. And that, I think, could be this new exhibition’s strength – that it isn’t scholarly and balanced and broad, that there is passion and partisanship, that it has space and material for eight works by Matisse, eight by Picasso, four each by Kandinsky, Derain and I think Cezanne (with the inclusion of “our” painting). More visits will test my theories.

For now, a taster with a few works that particularly caught me.

Georges Dupuis
Notre Dame embankment, Le Havre

Wassily Kandinsky
Landscape: Dunaberg near Murnau

Henri Matisse
Woman on a terrace

The images above are from, and like all images are pale and dull imitations of the originals. The texture, the play of light, the sense of scale, the feeling of sharing space with the artists… for those, get yourself to Sydney (it closes 3 March 2019).

The selection in this post shows my current passion and partisanship. Colour, contour, drawing. The energy and excitement of diagonal lines. From the website on the work by Matisse: “Like colour, drawing is an important element in the painting and plays an active role in the rhythmic organisation of the picture surface.
“Giving an energetic outline to the horizontal balustrade, the yachts on the water, the soft hills and comfortable figure of his wife, Matisse creates a world in which we feel both the beat of the pulse of life, and majestic calm.”

Somehow that, and Jane’s “drawing” of a shirt (14-Oct-2018), and all my recent experiments and components… there’s something there pulling me…

Exhibition: Make Your Mark

This is the inaugural exhibition at the new White Rhino Artspace. The exhibition “celebrates creative expression as a valuable tool in promoting wellbeing and community spirit.” There are works by 13 contemporary female artists, mediums including sculpture, textiles, installation, and paintings.

The team behind White Rhino consists of three women, all of them showing works in the exhibition. On the opening night the rooms were packed and there was a great buzz and positive atmosphere. It was exciting and inspiring to see the support and energy they have generated.

Caroline Kronenberg: Shadows
Caroline presented three works – a bamboo sculpture and two A2 sized framed photographs. The sculpture was one of a series created in collaboration with a bamboo master during a residency in Thailand. The seed-pod form was inspired by local fish traps. I was very interested in the photographs shown, and especially Caroline’s statement that this documentation was of the shadows, the cast mark of the form.

This idea of documenting and extending work was also seen in Matthew Bromhead’s drawing (22-Jul-2018). I thought I’d documented a lot of shadows in my own work, but a quick search of the blog didn’t turn up any evidence on that. Something to bring to the fore in the future.

Jane Bodnaruk: Holding by the seams

Jane’s work here references the roles of women sustaining and maintaining their families – the repetition, the joys, the tedium, the traces we leave of our voyage. I’ve shown some of Jane’s work before (13-Nov-2016) which explored the journey of women convicts on the first fleet. It’s interesting to see the themes of women, the domestic, tedium, responsibilities, developed in different ways.

Chatting with Jane at the opening I was particularly taken with her comments on the highly deconstructed shirt. She thought about how to make it a drawing of a shirt. Fascinating.

Christine Wiltshire: Strung, not unravelling mistakes

Christine “works with, and at times subverts, the traditional rule based conventions of hand knitting, whilst considering the generative potential of unintentional made mistakes. These mistakes occur randomly and often mark the site of an internal or external distraction of the maker.” In the exhibited pieces, rather than going back to a mistake and fixing it, Christine changed material (cotton and nylon threads), improvised any adjustments (for example to get the number of stitches the pattern expected), and continued knitting.

Christine explained to me that she deliberately chooses to use techniques in which she is not highly proficient, that she finds awkward or difficult. Some of that is an interest in the development of muscle memory, but there is also opening up oneself to making mistakes, to see what happens. In an earlier work Christine used cross stitch. At first she unravelled the piece entirely whenever she made a mistake in the pattern and started again. Realising this could leave her with very little to exhibit, Christine adjusted her brief so that she stopped working on a piece and began fresh with each mistake. Some attempts were abandoned quickly, one or two advanced much further, but I don’t think any were “completed”. There is so much to think about here – the nature of work, particularly repetitive (women’s) work, perfection, learning, “finished”, enough…

Ruth Hadlow (mentioned many times in this blog) has been a significant influence on Christine. I think this can be seen in the clarity Christine shows about her focus and interest, the rules or briefs which she sets herself, the open-ended outcomes she welcomes.

Tracy Stirzaker: Double wedding rings: something blue
Tracy is one of the three partners in White Rhino. I wrote about her solo exhibition in Lane Cove earlier this year (25-Mar-2018).

Tracy’s artist statement references Irish philosopher and poet David Whyte who writes of Three Marriages – to another, to work, to self. The wedding rings here refer to the marriage to oneself, the importance of commitment to oneself, and Tracy’s research into anxiety, depression, and self-worth.

The idea of the Three Marriages is new to me, but it’s an interesting experiment to try to declare “I am enough”. It’s about on a par with “I am an artist”.

Calendar of Posts

November 2018
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