Setting a new course (15-Sep-2016) has been a major preoccupation this week. [I typed “course” thinking of direction, but nice that it’s also a program of study]. It’s early days and I’m still feeling my way. Managing time and a sense of progress will need ongoing attention. In the structure of a formal college course I could see what was coming, tick off an exercise as “good enough”, choose to deviate from requirements… I could wrap up something with a comment about maybe coming back to it later. Now I need to take a breath, focus not only on the journey but the way in which I journey, work meaningfully at what seems right to me. Hold my nerve.
Lecture Jane Clark Mona: Art, experiment, advocacy. (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
Mona is the Museum of Old and New Art. What an amazing place. A group of us have been vaguely talking about a visit, but now it’s Must Go Soon.
Jane Clark, Senior Research Curator, has been involved from the early days and gave us an overview without too many spoilers (her term). The collection is fluid, exciting, personal. David Walsh, the owner, works with what he’s excited by, he wants to keep learning. He aims to change peoples’ minds – not what to think, but to think. To visit is to experience sensory shock, disequilibrium, art that is visceral, intellectual, playful.
Opening soon is On the origin of art, and it sounds like a must-experience event.
Catherine Speck (ed.) (2011) Selected letters of Hans Heysen and Nora Heysen Canberra: National Library of Australia
My mother and I are sharing this book prior to a visit to Adelaide (home of Hans Heysen) next month. Lots about the Australian art scene from the 1930s to 1960s – the exhibitions, personalities, associations, the traditionalists and the abstract painters, the challenges of making a living and finding time to paint as a woman with domestic responsibilities (more letters have survived from Nora to her parents than vice versa). An interesting, gentle insight on the family life of artists.
No major insights for my own work, other than to maintain confidence and to continue questioning and challenging oneself, to keep working, to keep finding time.
Laura Breede “Spiderwomen: Bourgeois-Trockel-Hatoum-Amer” In Brüderlin, M (ed) (2013) Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz Verlag.
This short essay touched on negative associations around textiles and femininity. Women’s work. And the ways in which this has been challenged, subverted, by artists including those mentioned in the title.
Some interesting ideas around duality, contrasts, clashes. Break || Repair – with fear behind both. Absence || Presence – simultaneously. That last led to ideas around layering and hiding, the angles of view of a sculpture. How can one surprise, with first impressions deceiving?
Stepping back to think about working methods: I like many aspects of this book. The section I am currently reading has a series of short essays, each followed by pages of photographs of related works. Being primed by the reading material really changes the viewing experience. I also tried to slow down, make associations, note ideas – a number of which could be relevant when I get on to practical collage work.
Markus Brüderlin “Fabrics between material and spirit: The preserving, healing, and maltreated canvas” In Brüderlin, M (ed) (2013) Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz Verlag.
More dualities – Destruction || Transcendency. Material || Immaterial. Banality || Transcendency. Injury || Healing. Exposing || Concealing (noting the difference a word makes – expose or reveal).
Lucio Fontana slashed the canvas, “painting’s sacred surface”. The act questions value, sacredness. A link made between the stretched canvas and crucifixion seems a little extreme. But I wonder – many weavers find it difficult to cut into their cloth. I’ve carefully kept small offcuts. What would it be like to sacrifice that, to paint over it?
The intention this weekend was to finish the small printed mulberry paper vessel I began last week (11-Sep-2016). Progress has been made, work continues. I will distract attention from this by pointing out my new/revived working method of having paper and pencils by me as I work. Some notes about the work in hand such as slowly varying strength of colour by manipulating which side of the print is showing. Some ideas for future projects, such as painting a gradation on the paper before cutting and coiling. And finally notes trying to be aware of the world around, such as the seeds in my apple.
Exhibition: Suzanne Archer the alchemy of the studio
Thursday was the opening of this exhibition at the Macquarie University Art Gallery.
Coalesce (not quite full view)
I found it hard to take in – many of the works are large, there is so much detail and patterning and colour, it’s often dark (in many senses, including emotion). I found it repellent and fascinating. I felt rather immature and shallow before the weight of emotion. The opening speeches didn’t help me towards understanding – they seemed somewhat marginal to Archer (who didn’t speak), and more about how much one might remember of the sixties and speculation on an uncertain future.
Basically I can’t comment on the work because I can’t see it as a whole. I can’t comprehend it. But even without understanding I’m convinced there is a huge amount I can learn from. I walked around looking at details and kept finding more and more.
There’s a great video of Archer talking about her drawing process here
. The layering and revision – ink wash, compressed charcoal, white pastel, acrylic (not in the work in the video), the changing, dropping and adding of elements – the works show a journey, sometimes battle, a process of discovery.
Archer has developed an arsenal of motifs and marks that she uses again and again. Animal skulls, her own face, that pattern of crosses which isn’t cross-hatching but might work similarly. Many of them are loaded with meaning – Archer’s own, the objects she has collected, but also the viewer’s.
As well as the hung paintings and drawings there were two vitrines holding concertina books. These showed most clearly the collage elements which are so relevant to my current investigation. Archer’s early work used a lot of collaged text from newspapers and posters. The collage is less apparent in Radiating Memories
which appears to have hessian collaged in areas under the oil paint. The texture and slight emphasis it gave really appealed to me.
Shelf VI – Mask (detail)
What I found most fascinating were the assemblages almost hidden in one corner of the room. Quite large, in integrated perspex (?) boxes, back-wall and floor patterned, populated with wrapped figures and objects.
Shelf VI – Mask is dramatic in red and black. At the back a bird plummeting, bound, an upside-down crucifix. A figure presents… what? Is that the mask. Another large bird seems to look out quizzically at the viewer. I was bewildered by it, but attracted by the strong patterns and colour.
Shelf II – Angel
Shelf II – Angel (detail)
includes newspaper, jute string, pva, acrylic paint, timber, steel, canvas, hessian. There was another plummeting bird, a figure, a fish gasping for air, all camouflaged in a grid of hessian and broken white paint. The texture was amazing, so striking as to be almost aggressive.
Archer apparently works intuitively. Should one even look for a message? Do we each bring or find our own?
Libretto of Lunacy (detail)