Weekly roundup 28 August 2016

Lecture: Michael Hill Cardinal Scipione Borghese (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

A lot of material surrounding this lecture is available online – articles by Michael Hill https://nassydney.academia.edu/MichaelHill, “The Patronage of a Disenfranchised Nephew: Scipione Borghese and San Crisogono, 1618-28”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 2001, 432-449 and “Cardinal Dying: Bernini’s Bust of Scipione Borghese”, Australian Journal of Art, vol. 14, 1998, 9-26. Some great visual material too – 360 panoramas of San Crisogono http://panoramy.zbooy.pl/360/pan/rzym-san-crisogono/e and Santa Maria della Vittoria http://panoramy.zbooy.pl/360/pan/rzym-kosciol-santa-maria-della-vittoria/e. Enough reading and looking for many weeks!

A couple of particular points for me. First ideas of “restoration”. Nowadays we focus on the material of the item, keeping and supporting as much original material as possible, maybe reversing earlier renovations. In Borghese’s time restoration was of the symbolic significance, and a major upgrade or change could enhance that.

Second, Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne. It reveals everything at once but there is still a sequence, a narrative. Poetic.

Almost basketry
I’ve finished the project introduced 14-Aug-2016.

Coiled mulberry paper basket with felted paper rim

Coiled mulberry paper basket with felted paper rim

Coiled baskets, crochet and felted paper rims

Coiled baskets, crochet and felted paper rims

The view to the left shows some of the technical issues. Although wanting a lightly stitched vessel with the paper dominant, I created way too many stitches at the beginning of coiling. I thought I needed more, as I was making a wider vessel, but grossly missed the mark. So no nice spiraling lines. Still, I was able to match sizes and join the paper rim reasonably neatly, and the proportion of rim to coiling looks fine.

Given the initial, smaller vessel missed out on the lacy paper, I gave it a crocheted picot edge using the same cottolin as stitched the coiling.

The end results in the colours chosen are rather too pretty and flowery for my taste. And technically weak. Still, a serviceable proof of concept and some ideas I would like to take further. The current thought is to add in another new technique, some strong, graphic monoprinting on the paper before coiling and felting, and be a bit more adventurous in the shaping.


Mary Delany Poinciana Pulcherrima (Decandria Monogynia) © Trustees of the British Museum

Mary Delany
Poinciana Pulcherrima (Decandria Monogynia)
© Trustees of the British Museum

Molly Peacock The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany [Begins her life’s work] at 72.

I’ve been reading this book over the past few weeks. It’s partly biography, partly autobiography, partly musings on creativity, relationships, life…

Mary Delany (1700 – 1788) lived a life sometimes difficult, sometimes joyful, almost always it seems busy and determined. She drew, designed, stitched, made grottoes of shells, and at the age of 72 started making collages of coloured papers, often adding detail in watercolours. It reminds me of Ruth Hadlow’s strands of investigation (25-Feb-2016), coming together in a moment’s observation of a fallen petal to become something new.

Enjoyable, thought-provoking reading.

In my previous post (27-Aug-2016) I described my renewed excitement in mark-making following a class with Vivien Haley.

A tricky question in found pockets of time is “what to draw?”. I’m not currently working with samples I want to record and explore, looking around my workroom everything seems too familiar, I’m not an outdoorsy person… so I’ve chosen people, faces and bodies, as go-to subject matter. In this I’ve been influenced by some incomplete reading referring to Kevin Connor as a compulsive drawer, the basis of his art (actually in an education kit about David Fairbairn, another influence). I’m not a compulsive drawer, but maybe I can pretend a little and get marginally closer.

So the plan has become Cafe Croquis (http://www.onairvideo.com/home.html) as often as I can, plus a small sketchbook in my bag and trying to fill those odd moments with faces – either live or from photos. So far I’ve used pencil and charcoal as well as the monoprinting, and a couple of PITT artist pens when out. I’ll never be a good draftsman, but I can improve and in any case that’s not the point. A line, a mark, may be all I need.

At some point I may start being more selective, but tonight it feels faster just to do a mosaic dump, warts and all.

Workshop: Vivien Haley The Mono Printed Brushmark: Experimental printing techniques

This one-day masterclass was run at the lovely Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre. Vivien Haley, the tutor, studied sculpture and print-making at Art School. Her varied career has included exhibiting as a sculptor, hand block-printing fabrics, and most recently exploring digital printing of her original work.

In this class Vivien showed us the expressive power of some deceptively simple techniques – mono-printing, block-printing, sgraffito. In one way it was a reminder of what I already knew, given the printing assignment of Mixed Media for Textiles, but with the particular materials and tools and techniques I chose, all the textures and marks I made, none produced a printed brushmark. Incredible in hind-sight!

Print 1

Print 1

After a general introduction of herself and some show-and-tell of some beautiful fabrics (some hand-printed, some digitally printed collages of her hand-printing), Vivien introduced printing in the most simple and direct way – using black acrylic paint, painting onto some xray film or a wooden block, scratching in marks, and printing onto paper. I set off with a wooden block, experimenting with different amounts of paint, scratching, painting on some hessian and printing that by pressing with the wood… a little variety of tones but nothing exciting.

Print 2

Print 2

At one point I started playing with some colour, printing off a scrap of cardboard. There’s a sense of depth in areas, a little movement contained in the structure of the pattern. What started getting my attention was the mark of the brush itself, more than the shape of print or the scratching into the paint.

Print 3

Print 3

Print 3 detail

Print 3 detail

I returned to this print a number of times over the day, adding layers. It started with a glass printing plate, brushed on paint, and some yarn as a resist. At this point I was deliberately choosing brushes which gave a broken mark. The second layer was red paint on hessian, with a border mask of newspaper to give the overall shape. Finally I wanted more lines at a different scale, so covered some yarn with paint, arranged them on the glass, used a circular mask, and took the print.

As a whole it doesn’t work, but I like the detail of the layering, the different scales of mark and the energy in them. We were using primary school grade acrylic paint, not top artist quality stuff, and for this technique it was wonderful. Rich and creamy, just the right consistency for printing without modification, and quite slow to dry – plenty of time for manipulation on the plate or block.

Print 4

Print 4

More experimentation with layers and marks. The printing inks I used in my earlier assignment were transparent, so I got interesting layering and mixing of colour. The acrylic paint is basically opaque, with the layering coming from the broken marks. A very different effect. I wonder what could be done with combining the media, playing the different kinds of layering against each other…

VivienHaleyClass05The last print I’m showing (we all produced a lot of work) brings together the major ideas that had caught my interest. The energy and the lines in the initial layer reminded me of the movement of water in the harbour, so I played on that in my over-printing using pieces of heavy cardboard as a stamp.

Print 5 detail

Print 5 detail

The detail photo shows that the acrylic isn’t fully opaque – the layer below can still be seen. There’s a lot happening with very basic materials and tools.

There were 10 or so in the class, everyone working pretty independently and with a variety of approaches.

One worked on fabric (I didn’t get a good shot of that). Quite a range of different marks and use of colour. There’s more to see in Claire’s post.

A sobering aspect of the class was the reason Vivien has turned to digital work – she developed an allergy to the printing ink. A good reminder to be thoughtful in how we use materials and protect ourselves. Vivien had worked for years with the inks, including quite a lot of spraying backgrounds. The positive is that she has been able to make the move to digital – with all sorts of advantages, such as adjusting colours, changing scale, mixing images of different works to create new designs, and flexibility in print runs (shapes and designs). The results can be seen on her website, vivienhaley.com/, and all the work evidences the original handprinting. Vivien works closely with a printing house and gave quite a detailed explanation of the process from a designer’s point of view, but out of scope here.

During the class Vivien came round a few times and made suggestions, asked questions, pointed out possibilities. One was drawing back into a print, bringing out and developing areas. I wasn’t able to turn my mind to that on the day – I was firmly in printing mode – but it’s something to come back to. Writing up this post reminded me of the collage effects she’s working with. I’m not feeling drawn to a digital approach at the moment (I spend enough time at the computer), but I’d like to print up a range of papers and colours and try working with collage.

Vivien also talked about the nature of printing a brushmark. It becomes a memory, a record of something gone. That could add a nice depth of thought in the right context.

The biggest immediate impact for me has been renewing excitement in making marks. The printing process captures, flattens and makes the painted marks more graphic and I want to keep doing that – especially the broken marks that are so expressive. But the impact I mean here is more general. My sketching has been languishing, but now I’m keen.

I’ll write some more in my regular roundup, but here will show the results of a session printing acrylic ink.

These are based on a video on Croquis Cafe (www.onairvideo.com/croquis-cafe.html), and clearly show the available scope for improvement.

Ignoring that – I see a lot of potential in some of the lines and marks. I also now know that not all cheap acrylic paints are created equal. The one I was using dried much too quickly. Even a two-minute pose had dried too much before I could print it.

The important thing is – I’m working on it.

Weekly roundup 21 August 2016

It’s late in the day and our internet connection is being flaky, so a minimal update.

Lecture: Peter Kohane Rooms for art: Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum and Paul Mellon Centre for British Art (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

An excellent lecture. Kohane gave us a base line and context with Mies van der Rohe’s New National Gallery in Berlin. He then took us through a series of buildings by Kahn, including the First Unitarian Church of Rochester as well as galleries, showing us what Kahn was doing, the questions he was addressing. Kohane’s discussion of the way light enters a building and is modulated by the structure, ideas of how a gallery can support the human activity of studying – viewing and discussing – art, was illuminating (tiny pun).

Basketry: The new base is a work in progress.

Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin (Eds) (2016) Revolution in the Making: Abstract sculpture by women 1947-2016 Hauser & Wirth Publishers. Actually this was looking and thinking. I’d already finished reading the essays. A great book, which I’m sure I’ll be referring to again and again.

Other bits of reading, but none blog-worthy at this point.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes at AGNSW. Lots of fun, lots of people. I spent a fair proportion of my time crowd-watching, very conscious of the works which attracted my attention and those with a crowd around them. I’ve come home with a couple of artist name’s I want to research more before writing.

The Australian Aboriginal Collection at the Australian Museum. The first time I’ve visited this with a basketry focus. Some really beautiful work.

Workshop: Vivien Haley The Mono Printed Brushmark: Experimental printing techniques
A one day masterclass today. A separate report will follow in a day or two.

2 weekly roundup 14 August 2016

Time passed. Such is life.

Lecture: Denise Mimmocchi Tony Tuckson and Stuart Scougall: Building the Australian collection (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

From the period of “discovery” and invasion Aboriginal art was considered in scientific, anthropological and ethnographic terms. For many years works were objects of curiosity, relics of a “dying” culture. During the 20th century the aesthetic value of indigenous art came to be appreciated.

In the late 1950s Tony Tuckson, then deputy director of AGNSW and himself an abstract expressionist painter, and Dr Stuart Scougall, an orthopaedic surgeon, made two expeditions to Australia’s north to commission significant bodies of works – Tutini (Pukamani grave posts) and bark paintings. This marked a shift in thinking, seeing through the lens of art history rather than ethnography. The expeditions were part of longer term relationships, and involved close communication with the artists and communities, documenting cultural context, processes of production, significance of associated rituals etc.

As well as giving background to the expeditions and the works involved Mimmocchi briefly considered the influence of Aboriginal works on Margaret Preston and the issues of appropriation of the works into a modernist framework. There wasn’t a lot of discussion on the cultural meaning of the works, but mention was made of the work as a political act, an assertion of connection to country.

Lecture: Wayne Tunnicliffe Bring the world to Australia: The John Kaldor Family Collection (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

A wonderful story of a man with vision, deeply interested in the art of his generation and time. Instead of joining the long list of expats in 60s London, fleeing the “cultural desert” of Australia, Kaldor brought the art of the world here.

He bought/brought art of everyday materials, breaking down barriers between art and life (Robert Rauschenberg Dylaby); transformative art (Christo and Jeanne Claude Wrapped coast, one million square feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Austalia); art with systems, removing the artist’s hand (Sol Lewitt); seriality and repetition (Carl Andre Steel-copper plain); art with an element of chance (Richard Long Stone line); kitsch (Jeff Koons White terrior).

The works seem purchased on gut reaction rather than an intellectual pursuit, to live with (in a classic wooden home, not a modernist white cube), or to share, in the many Kaldor Public Art Projects http://kaldorartprojects.org.au/.

Almost basketry
I was hoping to get to my first meeting of Basketry NSW this week – didn’t happen, as sharing a cold seemed a bad way of introducing myself. Anyway, in preparation I needed a work in progress to take along.

This was based on coiled baskets introduced in Lissa de Sailles’s workshop (19-Mar-2016), combined with paper felting learnt in Angela Liddy’s workshop (10-Jul-2016).

Lissa de Sailles class

Lissa de Sailles class

The stitching on my class sample is very static – partly due to the straight sides and more the way I placed the stitches, but there’s also that extra horizontal of the thread which I found too heavy for current purposes.

An internet search found the Native American Basketry, with interlocking stitching of coiled baskets and a way of starting.

Coiled interlocking stitch

Coiled interlocking stitch

First a quick attempt in large scale materials to work through the instructions. This is thick polypropylene cord, the spiral around 8.5 cm across.

201608_felted_paper_basket_trimWhile considering that I made a ring of felted paper to form the rim of the basket. There are some opportunities for fine-tuning, but I’m happy with the lacey edge and cutouts.

The idea is to make a coiled basket, using some of the same papers plus some more co-ordinating colours, with the final round of stitching used to attached the basket to the felted rim.

Coiled paper basket begun

Coiled paper basket begun

Next working with the mulberry paper, stitching with waxed cottolin.

The general look is what I wanted, but I quickly became aware of problems. I have a lot to learn about shape and proportion.

The coiling is meant to be the star, the felted paper collar important but a trim. I wanted the lines of the basket to work with the lines of the collar. So I started curving from a small base to have enough space.

Coiled paper basket pieces

Coiled paper basket pieces

These are never going to fit together in a stable object.


Perhaps I’m making a series of baskets!

To be continued.

Yes! That’s a surprise.

This started thinking about folds, discovering depths and dimensions, breaking through…

The top layer of some corrugated cardboard was stripped away unevenly and roughly painted with white gesso.



20160813_01The board was propped vertically and running paint used in lines of folds. Difficult to take a photo of the result as the board has curved. Obviously the photo shows it rotated from the position when painting, but I get a sense of movement and rhythm which could have potential.

There’s also some interesting detail, particularly where I sprayed water to encourage movement and where the folded interior of the cardboard is exposed.

An idea to keep exploring.

Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin (Eds) (2016) Revolution in the Making: Abstract sculpture by women 1947-2016 Hauser & Wirth Publishers.

Continuing with this – slowly, given the one-thing-leads-to-another phenomenon.

Going back to the essay by Elizabeth Smith, “‘What can be done,what I must learn, what there is to do…’: Process, Materials, and Narrative in the 1950s” and ignoring that daunted feeling, I’ve been wondering about narrative. Sampling materials and musing about ideas are fascinating. Narrative makes me nervous, so perhaps I should be exploring that.

Have I noted before how the work I’m most attracted to is very often by women? “The objects and environments they created spoke not just to the mythic or heroic but rather to the essential properties of the body/the self in relationship to others or to ideas of known and unknown worlds” (p. 31) Smith shows the wide range of work made by women, while also suggesting connections or qualities that go beyond specific works. An engagement with materials, a “commingling of form and content”, an emphasis on process, on the hand of the artist.

Anne M Wagner “What women do, or The poetics of sculpture”
“Sculpture is no longer ‘itself:’ it is no single thing, no necessarily even an object, nothing more (or less) than the inflection of material, place, and space.” (pp 80-81) The possibilities of sculpture have been transformed, broken open. I want, need, to find a space within that where all these swirling thoughts coalesce, my textile sensibilities, interests in space and light and layering and boundaries.

There are so many choices raised here. The importance of context – or not. A resonance with tradition; the physicality of production; performative; poetics – “the terms in which any sculpture tries to extend and transform the world of things” (p. 85); work with both sculptural and typographical forms…

This essay makes so clear the power of words interpreting work. Of Michelle Stuart’s work: “handpolished… subtly stony glow… effect of countless feet on hard stone paving. In a cathedral this happens over centuries; Stuart somehow managed to speed up the passage of time.” (p. 87) How loaded is that word, cathedral! And later, of the same artist, “[Stuart’s] books, scrolls and codices seem selected as vehicles to figure something as elusive as the opacity of narrative and the intransigence of time.” There’s also “”…the physical presence of women’s sculpture so often served to conjure absence: its materiality is haunted by ghosts.” (p. 88)

Wonderful reading.

Jenni Sorkin “Five propositions on abstract sculpture”

My notes on this essay are even longer, so the snippets here even more disjointed.

“But art is not just about telling a story. Through object making, an artist invites a viewer not necessarily into her inner, conceptual world, but into its consequences, and its material gestures.” (p. 141) Material gestures – it sounds exciting. A statement that I am here, seeing, touching, changing (I noted a link to Wagner’s earlier essay, p 84, and Abakanowicz’s view of rope. “What was missing, she declared, was her own contribution, ‘moving it, touching, changing its position and arrangement…’.” To claim such a thing, to own one’s work and its value!

A lot of the material reminded me of MMT work, for example “Bundling, in particular, is a formal strategy used by artists from a previous generation to invoke conditions of displacement, nomadism, concealment, and memory. It is reminiscent of ancient mummy bundles, the cloths encasing ritual objects found buried at ancient grave sites…” (p. 145). I did those exercises with a fixed focus on material possibilities. At this point, rather than daunted I felt energised, excited by opening possibilities. Why not more layers?

Of Cristina Iglesias: “the viewer experiences the liminal threshold of both inside and out-side simultaneously.” “[Her] sculptures are ignited by their relationship to light and shadow, which grants them interiority, thereby creating a larger metaphor for reflection, self-possession, and the richness of perceptual experience.” “Mediating discovery of the interior space” (p.153).

So many artists to follow up. Liz Larner is one – “an empty interior space that vibrates, visible only through the chinks in its armor.” “The sly presence of the linear” “drawing on the continuous interest in reconfiguring the grid, which spans several generations of postwar sculptors.” (p. 152), but so far my focus has been Jessica Stockholder: “Stockholder’s work is less a conversation about accumulation in the sense of owning or having, instead she is interested in the abstract nature of space and how the body experiences the interstitial: moments of entering and exiting, under and over, behind and between.” (p.150)

There is a lot more reading on Jessica Stockholder’s website, http://jessicastockholder.info/. Reading as well as looking, as there is rich documentation not just of her work but of her writing about her work and about the work of others.

More reading
Conor Wilson Sloppy Discipline
This essay gives a quick run through theory of art and craft, for me making the discussion currently relevant and evolving/emerging, rather than tired old arguments trundled out. Instead of squabbling over definitions, it becomes a question of what am I interested in paying attention to, in doing, and how to write about and describe that.

Wilson writes about the negation of much modern art – being radical, oppositional, transformative – and an alternative lens of “the artist’s practice as a way of life” – and a deskilling (that is, a distinction from craft). Not exclusively – “art can be anything, but, obviously, craft will only be accepted as art if it is framed according to the rules of contemporary art practice.”

Conor comments on teaching and assessment in the UK and the emphasis placed on concept, context, and quality of finished work, depending upon the discipline. He is interested in a new approach – “three distinct but intertwining disciplines – Art, Craft and Design”, extending even further to mix with other areas of study and practice.

Some interesting ideas, which feel very relevant to me as I ponder how to approach Level 2 studies, and if indeed that’s the direction I want to take.

Weekly roundup 31 July 2016

Lecture: Dr Jaime Tsai Marcel Duchamp and the Arensbergs (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

Lots about what art might be, how it is received. There is the idea the artist could choose what was art, what was valuable. With that choice and the recontextualised object, originality, craft, authenticity and singularity were no longer given characteristics of art.

The artist’s personality and intention shouldn’t define the meaning of the work.

How do those two ideas fit? The artist’s choice and action define an object as art, but not its meaning. Perhaps only part of its meanings.

NGA Textiles collection Behind the scenes tour
Nine fortunate people were on this tour, led by Debbie Ward, NGA’s Head of Conservation, and (I think – didn’t quite catch it) Micheline Ford, responsible for the textile collection.

First we went into the storage area (there is also off-site storage). A large area, not originally intended for textiles, a complex warren of mezannine levels, rows of drawers and roll-holders.

Huari band 600 - 1000 AD

Huari band
600 – 1000 AD

I’d seen this piece in 2014, in the Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru exhibition. What a privilege to be able to see it closely, directly. The catalogue describes it as warp-faced double-cloth, woven as a tube with four warps (apparently warp ends not on the surface in a pick are loose inside).

Ballet Russes

Ballet Russes costume

In a sub-group of four there was plenty of opportunity to ask all our questions as we were shown various treasures. NGA has a large collection of Ballet Russes costumes and documentation. On the left is a costume that has been conserved, showing the original blue fabric on top which has been stabilised, and modern supporting fabric below. In this instance the conservators decided to replicate the original hemline of the costume, as an important element of the design.

India For Indonesian market

For Indonesian market

Then up in the huge artworks lift to the conservation area right at the top of the building.

The long cotton length shown on the right has been in conservation around 6 months, around half way through the task. We were shown the multiple swatches of modern fabric that had been dyed to match different areas (using modern dyes so no possibility of colour running). Treatment of the many stripes showed the multiple aesthetic judgments made during the process. The modern fabric patching one hole had been painted with stripes to avoid visual jarring. In another hole the cloth was left plain – drawn outlines still in the original were sufficient to maintain continuity.

Walking carefully past Pollock’s Blue Poles (undergoing a condition report prior to its trip to London – link), we went to the newly refurbished members lounge for wine, cheese, and some more questions including Eva Hesse’s Contingent (in its current state conserved as an object rather than a textile) and Robert Morris’s felt work (how to support the areas taking that enormous weight).

I actually joined as a Member of NGA for this tour (previously relying on reciprocal rights as a member of AGNSW) and made a special visit to Canberra for it. Thoroughly worthwhile.

Seen in Canberra

  • Agnes Martin. For some time now I’ve been wanting to see a work by Agnes Martin. Her name keeps cropping up – in the context of orthogonal structures (29-May-2016), in reading on Abstraction and Process (2-Nov-2014), in my final essay The Stripe for Understanding Western Art… Three of Martin’s works are currently on display at NGA, and I finally got to spend some time with them. The NGA now allows photography but the ones I took aren’t worth showing.

    Martin said “I don’t have any ideas myself. I have a vacant mind” (Martin, 1997, 1:03). I arrived at the works with an agitated mind – just before we’d arrived at our Canberra accommodation to discover some issues that eventually led to our extra-long weekend becoming an overnight stay. Twenty minutes with Martin’s works, looking and thinking, moving back and forward, trying to take a decent photo, examining the ways her lines interact with the subtle variation in the paint beneath, how they always end before the edge of the canvas… I was calm, glowing.

  • brancusi

  • Constantin Brancusi Bird in Space. These works used to be downstairs in what was an indoor sculpture area, a very high gallery with some external light. They were in a square pond. Now they are upstairs, up on a platform. The ceiling is lower, you can get a little closer, and the works are much more imposing. Instead of reflections in the water they are surrounded by intricate and rather beautiful shadows.

    Very interesting the different effect this placement has. The works looked more massive, heavier, less likely to spring into the air.

    In recent reading related to my grids and folds interest, I’ve come across Brancusi’s Endless Column – one example at Moma (link). The pedestal is an independent form, a rhythmic line that could extend vertically to infinity.

  • Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus

    Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus

  • Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus, seen at Questacon. A sandtable is shaped by a moving ball, controlled below the table using magnets. Mesmerising to watch. You can see more on his website – http://www.taomc.com/sisyphus/. Look for the time lapse video. Not as calming as watching the real thing unfold, but still amazing.

    Mixed Media for Textiles results. MMT Marksheet I wasn’t expecting these for a few more weeks, and to be honest at first was a little disappointed with 65. Most of the comments (the personal overall ones on the second page, not the boilerplate on page 1) were generally positive, but clearly the assessors are looking for more. It was a bit of a bump from the last one (85 for Understanding Western Art) and a hair under 66 for A Creative Approach, and I think I’ve grown enormously since then.

    Quite quickly that final phrase came to the fore – I have grown enormously since then. My goals for MMT had nothing to do with marks (they were Make the course my own; Take risks and challenge myself; Surprise myself; Enjoy myself). Indeed I quite often chose to ignore or vary course requirements to follow my own interests, consciously putting my own purposes over academic requirements. There were also all the small choices I made to move on, to stick to my timetable. There are places where the research was less rigorous, where I could have pushed for a little more resolution of some exciting experiment, and I chose not to. I always claim the mark doesn’t matter, it’s the learning and growth I want. I learnt heaps, I had a great time doing it, I’m proud of what I’ve done. I feel fine about the mark because it’s not the point. It’s rather nice to discover that, having caught my breath, my response lives up to my ideals.

    Reading and thinking
    Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin (Eds) (2016) Revolution in the Making: Abstract sculpture by women 1947-2016 Hauser & Wirth Publishers.
    This book accompanies an exhibition of the same name, still on in Los Angeles. Wish I could get there.

    So far I’ve read the foreword and first essay – “‘What can be done, what I must learn, what there is to do…’: Process, materials, and narrative in the 1950s” by Elizabeth Smith. The essay focuses on Ruth Asawa, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Claire Falkenstein and Louise Nevelson. I can’t summarise the points that particularly spoke to me. It would be the whole thing. It will have to appear in bits and pieces, inspiring and influencing further work.

    I’ve been feeling daunted quite often over the past few months. Looking up from my studies, beginning to follow my own interests, the world is suddenly a much larger place. So many leads to follow – and without the focus and timetable of assignments.

    Thinking about grids, folds, dimensions and infinity, so I noticed a little explanation of a wormhole and folding space in a movie. Which led to some internet searching on topology and suddenly bumping into Leibniz again (see reading of Gilles Deleuze 24-Jul-2016). It also led to set theory – another bump because we were talking about that at work this week (in the context of data visualisation software we use). Then Brancusi came at me from a couple of directions. And it seemed every second sentence of Elizabeth Smith’s essay, and almost every endnote, was to be a new lead to be followed up. And none of that has led into new actual work, an actual thing (yet).

    Any advice on how to deal with this would be very welcome. At the moment I’m trying to focus on enjoying the ride, the process, and not ask “Are we there yet?”.

    Martin, A. (1997) “Interview with Agnes Martin done in Taos, N.M. Nov 1997 by Chuck Smith and Sono Kuwayama” [online] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_-JfYjmo5OA Accessed 28 September 2014

  • Weekly roundup 24 July 2016

    The grid?
    Another approach to dimensional weaving, following on from 11-Jul-2016. Aluminium insect mesh, corrugated (thinking this gives additional stability and flexibility). The technique was inspired by Flora Friedmann’s basket, seen in Basketry NSW’s Fibre Stories exhibition (10-Jul-2016) – or at least my imperfect understanding of it.

    sample -aluminium mesh with twining in progress

    sample -aluminium mesh with twining in progress

    The base is a plain weave square, the X of corner ribs added later. To move into 3D I used twining – at least that’s what I think it is, subject to correction. I used thin black cord for the twining weavers, enough to have a presence without dominating the transparency of the mesh.

    Initially the ribs of mesh were kept straight, but the mesh just visually disappeared – I really wanted overlaps and differing densities. I initially thought of bulges and irregular shaping, but I don’t have the skills to do that deliberately nor to manage the rough edges of the ribs catching on each other and generally being awkward.

    So every second circuit I started swapping the positions of ribs, twining around two together, then each rib separately in the next round.

    Sample with curled top

    Sample with curled top

    When I ran out of length on a couple of the ribs I tied off and curled the top of ribs with excess length. Not a great result – there’s just too much mass, curling down and obscuring the weaving below.

    So I straightened things up, gave it all a pull around, and cut down the longer ends.

    Finished sample

    Finished sample

    There’s a lot of energy in the result. Inside and outside connect. I particularly like the dynamic lines of the weavers, pulled and bent by the strength of the mesh ribs. I’ve suddenly remembered the pretend writing I used to do as a small child, before starting school. Those lines contrast well with the almost-ordered interlacing of the ribs.

    I’d like to try something similar using perhaps a fine red leather cord for the weavers – about the same weight but more assertive. With experience I might be able to get folds and more movement in the ribs, but if doing that I might need more regularity in the weavers to maintain contrast. It would have the advantage of further confusing interior and exterior, again pushing for that extra dimension.

    Front view

    Front view

    I’ve also tried rearranging my earlier depth weaving (first seen 11-Jul-2016).



    Sample in earlier arrangement

    Sample in earlier arrangement

    Instead of overall chaos, in two corners I’ve taken out the extra folding lengths so the weave of the elements is more obvious. The non-tightened corners have become even wilder, accommodating the excess length.

    I think the weaverly nature is more apparent, and an unanticipated advantage is a diagonal movement in the long looping lengths, moving up from left to right in the front view shown above. The price is perhaps a little less sense of exuberance, the folds not moving so much into a new dimension but just looking a bit untidy in ordinary 3D.

    Sketching / printing
    This started with some “calligraphy” paper from last week’s shopping. I wanted to try writing with pen and ink on this paper, but I’m currently finding plain text less interesting than almost-text.

    1846 letter by John Chester Jervis

    1846 letter by John Chester Jervis

    I’ve been helping my mother with a family history website, and a letter written by a great-great(etc) uncle suggested an approach.

    Next some text was needed. Recent research led me to The Fold by Gilles Deleuze (pdf from http://www.elimeyerhoff.com/books/Deleuze/Deleuze%20-%20The%20Fold.pdf).

    Deleuze text, crossed

    Deleuze text, crossed

    Apparently “In The Fold, Gilles Deleuze argues that Leibniz’s writings constitute the grounding elements of a Baroque philosophy and of theories for analyzing contemporary arts and science. A model for expression in contemporary aesthetics, the concept of the monad is viewed in terms of folds of space, movement, and time.” (http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/the-fold).

    Deleuze text continued

    Deleuze text continued

    I’ve read as much as filled one crossed page and one plain page. I have no idea of what the text means. I’m planning to continue reading, just to see if I can catch any meaning but that’s for another day (I strongly suspect there’s a lot more other reading that would need to be done to make sense of this work).

    Back to the “sketching”. In the page with crossed lines the text as written works as non-text, with the bonus of orthogonal lines. I wanted to add more layers, so did some printing with the gelatin plate – the first since project 4 of MMT (7-Dec-2015). The plate has been sitting, covered, on a bench in the garage. There was a tiny spot of mould on one corner, easily wiped away. Impressive.

    My printing approach was inspired by the look of yarn works by Mike Kelley (for example http://www.skarstedt.com/exhibitions/2002-03-15_mike-kelley/#/images/5/). I’ve only read a little of the artist, and don’t know how he conceived of these works. In my printing I decided to drop some lengths of yarn and a bit of plastic netting onto the inked gelatin plate, to act as a resist.

    Deleuze text, overprinted

    Deleuze text, overprinted



    Above is the crossed writing and a ghost print from the gelatin plate. There may have been some additional ghosts of ghosts.

    I like both the idea of folds of colour on the text of The Fold, and the unreadability of a text I found unreadable (or at least un-understandable). The text and its meaning are opaque, while illustrated by a trace of folds on a page with no folds.

    Second page of text, overprinted

    Second page of text, overprinted

    The second page is less obscured and less interesting. It doesn’t excite me as the first page does.

    I’m not sure where this experiment may lead. The process seemed a nice flow of one idea leading to and informing another, perhaps of different strands of investigation coming briefly together. Possibly I’ll put it to one side for the moment, but it is tugging on me. I think there could be something there. Could more layers, something entirely different, work? Should I fold the pages?

    The printing was enjoyable, and I made some additional ghost prints on the same light calligraphy paper. It might be interesting to try to write on these. I wonder if it would be harder to keep on line. Or perhaps I should try to write following the lines of those folds.

    I like the level of detail that the ghost prints give, but of course there needs to be a print first. A large piece of cartridge paper was sitting nearby, and it received all the bits and pieces.

    A couple of levels of detail shown here. The full page is about 64 x 76 cm, too big to photograph meaningfully. I intended this as a possible base for later sketches, but the colour is a bit strong. Perhaps a light gesso or some collaged tissue paper could be tried. I definitely want to start moving beyond blank white in my sketching.

    This experiment was based on the recent Joomchi workshop with Angela Liddy (10-Jul-2016). In my earlier post I wondered about “molding a very light paper around plaster vessels, looking perhaps like a discarded skin when displayed together, a contrast in solidity.”

    This weekend I attempted it – a single layer of unryu (mulberry paper). I tried using an orbital sander on the dampened paper which was protected by thin plastic. I was looking for a lacey effect but it really didn’t work, just a few holes. Cling film was used to protect sample p5-11 from MMT project 5 (23-Feb-2016). The damp and fragile paper was also encased in cling film, to keep it together while I molded it over the plaster vessel.

    Paper and plaster samples

    Paper and plaster samples

    The result is underwhelming. The paper wasn’t as airy as I wanted, plus I hadn’t reckoned on the multiple layers formed in the molding. The result is heavy, pedestrian, not delicate. Much of the delightful detail of the original plaster is lost. The general shape of the plaster is captured, but the protruding corners of the paper make it look like a lumpy skirt for Morticia.

    Paper with internal lighting

    Paper with internal lighting

    A small LED inside the paper vessel lifts it a little. In this photo the shapes of the two vessels show the beginnings of a correspondence – the paper shell seems to offer something extra, there is some shadow interest in the uneven blocking of light. In fairness I think the glow of the plaster is wonderful, so it’s a hard ask for something else to add to it.

    Paper trimmed

    Paper trimmed

    Trimming those odd, leaden feet of the paper have lifted it further. There is now some movement, a sense of a twirl of dance, in the vessel. The plaster remains beautiful and serene while the paper provides movement and life.

    It could be worth trying this again with white paper. I saw a beautiful fine white mulberry paper while shopping last week – but at the first store visited, so didn’t buy it. Perhaps worth another trip. An alternative could be a light open-weave fabric, perhaps cheesecloth, using CMC to mold and then stiffen it.

    I’m continuing to work through the essays in Brüderlin, M (ed) (2013) Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz Verlag. I’m getting so much from it, so many leads (see Mike Kelley, Gilles Deleuze, ideas of threads liberated from the surface but not in my prints, confusion of interior and exterior etc above). I get impatient, conscious of the ever-growing book pile, but there is just so much meat for me in this very large volume. There’s no point rushing on to something else. Given the ever present time constraints I’ve chosen today to write about the actions leading from the reading, rather than the actual reading points.

    Last week I mentioned Textile: Cloth and Culture Volume 14 Issue 1 March 2016. Just noting here that it’s a great resource for ideas about modern craft, collaboration, performance.

    This week’s lecturer was Kendrah Morgan, the topic “Movers and shakers: John and Sunday Reed at Heide”. I had some basic knowledge of the topic, but this took it much further. It was a solid, information-filled hour. Main outcome – must visit Heide Museum of Modern Art (https://www.heide.com.au/).

    Weekly roundup 17 July 2016

    It’s been a week of more activity than thinking / processing / writing. Lots of unfinished threads still being followed.

    A dot list will have to do, some to be fleshed out when I have time or progress to a better review point.

  • Lecture: Craig Judd Chalk and cheese: Dr Albert C Barnes and Gertrude Vanderbuilt Whitney (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
  • Exhibition: Julian Rosefeldt Manifesto, AGNSW (link).

    I’m watching this film installation in small bites, a little each time I’m at the gallery. Plus reading the catalogue/book.

  • Exhibition: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, AGNSW (link).

    Very popular and busy. I’ve only heard people talk about the “Frida” or “Frida Kahlo” exhibition, no mention of Rivera. Apart from the work itself, leaves me thinking about “Art” and fame and purpose and history (Manifesto coming into this strongly too).

  • Exhibition: New Romance: Art and the posthuman, MCA (link).

    Fun with dystopian futures?

  • Exhibition: Telling tales: Excursions in narrative form, MCA. (link)
  • Reading: Emmanuel Petis “Architecture in the age of disentangled authorship: Textile impulses since the sixties” In Brüderlin, M (ed) (2013) Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz Verlag
  • Reading: Juhani Pallasmaa (2011) The embodied image: Imagination and imagery in architecture Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd

    Ongoing. I’ve been working on this a couple of weeks now and it is challenging – physically as well as intellectually, given the size of the print and the occasional use of mid-green on white.

    Slow reading as I keep drifting into an internal debate. The author writes about art generally, but with a particular focus on architecture and a particular point of view about aesthetics. Not sure I want my art to fit within this art. (see Manifesto above)

  • Reading: Textile: Cloth and Culture. Volume 14 Issue 1. Dated March 2016 but arrived in the mail this week.
    I subscribe to this journal and it’s great for different perspectives and for finding whole different areas of textiles I’m unaware of (endless quantity of those🙂 ).

    This issue has the particular theme Crafting Community, leading to yet more musing on “Art”. I usually try to avoid quite so much thinking about all these labels and power struggles (meaning over the definition of a word), but it’s coming up everywhere I look.

  • Reading: Anthony Doerr All the light we cannot see
    A novel, so wouldn’t normally reach this blog. Perhaps I can pretend it’s relevant given the non-linear narrative structure, which connects to the MCA exhibition, but in honesty it’s a wonderful and appalling read – no further justification required.

    My mother was 11 and living in an industrial city of Englands’s north when WWII was declared. She’s given a copy of Doerr’s book to each of her children because it’s meant so much to her.

  • Basketry NSW (link).
    I wrote about their current exhibition last week (10-Jul-2016).

    I’m now a member, having just enough experience to qualify. I’m excited – basketry techniques seem to offer some of the structural and sculptural properties I’m looking for. Plus there are monthly gatherings, each person working on their own projects. A possible counterweight to the isolation of distance learning.

  • Shopping Another thing I wouldn’t normally mention, but there is a link. I now have a stock of beautiful colours of mulberry paper – as used in Joomchi felting (10-Jul-2016) and paper coiled baskets (19-Mar-2016). I’m hoping to be able to combine ideas from these two workshops in a personal project, ready for my first Basketry meet.
  • Grid / depth weaving. Work continues. I’ve been trying a couple of different arrangements of the warp and weft of the metal sample (11-Jul-2016). The shopping expedition included acquiring some fairly open steel mesh, which could work in this project.

    Not enough to show yet.

  • Calendar of Posts

    August 2016
    M T W T F S S
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