Another busy week, including a long weekend in the Blue Mountains an hour or two west of Sydney.
Mixed Media for Textiles
A little sorting of samples and sketching to send, but virtually nothing.
Paper yarn project
That’s the end of the month so the end of the project under the original brief. I’m going to take an extra day or two to “finish”.
Dr Molly Duggins “Prince Albert: Appying Industry to Art”. Part of the Collectors & Collections lecture series at AGNSW. Interesting to think about the different roles a person can take in making and responding to art. Albert was trained in the then new discipline of art history. He was active as an amateur artist, a collector, advisor to artists (actively suggesting improvments they could make!), commissioner of works, patron. Then there was the functional use of art – the application of art and design to science and new industrial production. The Great Exhibition used art, displaying colonial materials and expertise, the wealth of the empire, the imperial aspirations on the sub-continent. So we have the political side of art. Then there was education, public access to art and design, in what eventually became the V&A and in the series of buildings of “Albertopolis”. An eclectic and a functional approach to art.
When Silence Falls. In its last days at AGNSW, I’ve already written about some of the works – Fiona Hall and Doris Salcedo, 30-Jan-2016. Overall the exhibition “considers the work of artists from across the world who contemplate, investigate and respond to the violence of often unacknowledged events – massacres, ethnic cleansing, cultural displacement, political force – and provide a voice for those who have been silenced.” Difficult.
Some works that took my eye:
Daniel Boyd. Untitled. The idea of a veiled, partial history really speaks to me. Different readings, different recollections, so much lost, re-interpreted… Is there a nostalgia? Is the loss that of the partial story, the faulty recollection, or the story itself – “controversial recruitment processes” as the gallery signage terms it? I’ve been re-reading some of the posts of fellow OCA student Julie, and she’s identified in her research a push against the golden glow of nostalgia. Boyd’s work is not soft – in itself and certainly not in the context of this exhibition. I want to think more around that – remembrance, nostalgia, what they can be in “art” – but not right now.
I realise I didn’t include Boyd’s work in my discussion of Biennale works at the MCA. They use a similar technique, a kind of lens, but again the message is not soft. We try to contain, categorise, label, control.
Judy Watson a picnic with the natives – the gulf (link). There is a stain on this land, a stain denied by some, the stain of massacres, violence, deliberate attempts to exterminate indigeneous peoples. The British, among others, ‘discovered’, mapped the land, its boundaries. There is some partial mapping of the massacres, memories passed down. “A picnic with the natives” was one of the euphonisms.
I’ve spent part of the week in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney. A few photos of the changing view from the balcony of our room.
While here we went to the Sculpture at Scenic World 2016 exhibition. Works by 33 artists have been installed in the rainforest.
It made a great circuit – a ride down on the Scenic Railway, the steepest in the world. A walk along the boardwalk through the forest, discovering the sculptures, then a ride up the Scenic Cableway – the steepest in the world. Going across the Scenic Skyway was not world-breaking, but still fun. I remember coming here many, many times over the years, but I think it is better than ever. The place is great but the staff we interacted with were extraordinary. No commercial affiliation of course – just a particularly great experience with multiple helpful, friendly people going above and beyond.
Many of the installations expressed environmental concerns, used recycled materials etc. Art as politics. I responded more to a few others.Elyssa Sykes-Smith Refracted Self. Link
According to the plaque this work “shows a paused moment in the process of an intricate and also tedious journey of self-reflection”. Two figures – a mirrored figure? – tumble towards the ground in the rainforest. They are fragments of recycled wood, the forms around twice the size of a person. There is text at the link above, poetry. How do we see our self, view our self, catch our self?
Suzy Bleach and Andy Townsend Alicanto Link
Much of this area was mined for coal – the steep railway was original built for that industry. There are various pieces of rusting industrial waste strewn across the area, and at first this works looks like one more. A closer look shows the delicate wings, the crouching body. I was reminded of the myth of Icarus, but actually this work refers to a bird in Chilean mythology, bringing luck to miners but guiding the greedy to the precipice and their death.
A commentary on human greed for wealth and its perils, with incredible sensitivity to the location of the installation and without any lecturing.
This “vending machine” had me snorting with laughter and other visitors puzzled – perhaps more at my reaction than anything.
Need some more time in your busy day? Insert coin here. There was so much detail and there were many double-takes as people realised this was one of the artworks. One helpful lady thought I was having trouble extending my carpark time.
Coins inserted were returned, time might have been lightened but was not extended, and when I pushed the “Don’t push” button an ominous sounding mechanical voice scolded that I was told not to push that.
A little insight on life, a lot of humor.
I almost subheaded this roundup “What is art”. Too hard, and oftentimes not the point, plus there are all the issues of labeling something as if the label is real, not just a convenient and clumsy handle.
Some inputs to the discussion:
Jones, J. (2016) “T-shirts with Myra Hindley on them? Modern art has forgotten how to care” In The Guardian [online] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/26/myra-hindley-t-shirt-modern-art.
Towards the end Jones writes “Modern art has got too tough. It has forgotten how to cry and how to care. Sentimentality is so feared that compassion is self-censored.” Sometimes being shocking forces us to think, but Jones’s example seems to be shock for the sake of it, to get attention. Commercial interests rule – in this case a little slap, product withdrawn.
Art that gets a lot of attention, but not what I’m looking for.
Next reading / conversation about art I am interested in:
Lottie – Research and reflection https://thecuriosityoflottiecontinues.com/2016/04/24/t1-mmt-pt3-pj-1-further-research-reflection/. Lottie wants to be at the progressive edge of textiles, wants to materialise rich inner meaning. Lottie quotes another student who has a view of “art” which I find narrow and derivative. There’s a bit of conversation in the comments, including a rant by me.
The conversation continued on Julie’s blog – https://mixedmediafortextiles.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/thoughts-1/
I was reminded of my recent reading of Briony Fer, which I remembered as the dangers and her (Fer’s) careful avoidance of conflating biography with meaning in work. A quick flip through the book has found one passage – not from memory the strongest, but gives the idea. Discussing the work of Eva Hesse, Fer writes:
“Biographies of Hesse often see the blow of her father’s death as echoing the loss of her mother when she was three years old. There is no doubt that the sense of loss experienced by Hesse was extreme at this point, as her diaries bear witness, but the problem remains how far the biographical account can explain the complex effects of the work. I am more interested in how the work embodies an economy of loss in the very procedures it uses. This is first and foremost a question of effect, which may or may not correspond with Hesse’s actual experience of loss and mourning that we cannot know.” (Fer, p. 120).
Then there’s the work of Judith Scott (17-Jul-2015). We can’t know what she was expressing, but we respond.
Some may follow a slick formula, check out what’s currently being shown, produce a pastiche. I’m interested in art that is deeply thought, and or deeply felt, and or exploring our world, materials, process, and or makes me laugh or cry or think or feel or nod in recognition. It may be (currently) popular or (currently) successful. I’m sure there is lots more I haven’t included, and I expect to keep changing my mind and refining my position.
Fer, B. (1997) On abstract art New Haven and London: Yale University Press