My friend and fellow student Claire wrote about this exhibition on her blog – tactualtextiles.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/ruark-lewis-survey-1982-2012-exhibition. I followed her link to the Hazelhurst Gallery, and to cut the story short, we met up last Sunday for an artist talk and performance in the gallery (plus bonus of wandering through the Gymea street fair together).
Photos were permitted during the performance, so on the left you get a glimpse of a small part of the exhibition. Ruark talked about the importance of process and pattern in his work. A recurring process has been making, fairly quickly, a series of marks – notations to music, positions of cities, skewed perspective lying in a hospital bed etc. He then refines the marks, meticulously working in graphite or other materials to make thickened lines or visual bars, creating a patterned surface that is not representational but still often captures the original moment or thought.
One thing that struck me was the long gestation of ideas and projects. Ruark would talk about conversations and possibilities that could swirl around for years before there was finally the opportunity to create the work – or recreate, with materials being reused and repurposed. I like the sense of awareness of the world and openness. For example the frames in the back of the photo above were used in a previous performance and installation. While dismantling the exhibition the packers stacked the frames together – and now, here they are.
Ruark’s work often has a philosophical and/or political as well as collaborative element. The second photo shows his fellow performer (unfortunately I haven’t been able to find her name), who moved around the gallery creating connections with yarn while Ruark spoke in performance – sometimes quotes from politicians or others (“I’m not a racist but…”), sometimes what I think is called glossalia – a waterfall of non-words and trills and syllables. It seemed to cover a huge range of recent political issues, and there was clearly a plan and structure in what they were doing, but although sympathetic to or sharing many of what I gleaned to be Ruark’s politics, there was just too much I didn’t understand. You probably can’t see in the photo that the performer was holding a shell in her mouth. I missed the significance and was just left bewildered.
The work that has remained in my mind was based on points and connections between cities. Thinking of my theme work on ageing and the contraction of space and choice moving from one’s house to a room in a nursing home, I wonder if it would be possible to create two maps, showing the scope of Nancy’s movements over a day pottering around her home and garden, and now virtually bed-bound in the nursing home.
This brings me back to Dion Horstmans’ work which I saw this weekend in sculpture by the sea (blog post 2-Nov-2012). That is obviously in three dimensions, and according to the catalogue “map time and space to reference the landing on earth’s moon”. I don’t know how I could take these ideas into the theme work, how to show the very different scales of movement and also how to make the textile element important.
While doing a little research for this post I discovered that some earlier work by Ruark is very relevant. In My Empty House was an installation in 2010 which followed the process of the emptying of a house, a home, due to the ageing and changing needs of the occupants. A very helpful essay by Melissa Laing comments on the importance of the home as a repository, the possessions that help to create and preserve identity. Destructive forces such as ageing can be followed by liberation – but not for Nancy, the focus of my work. Nancy has been denied choice, denied the capacity to act. Yet another line of research I need to follow up.
There’s quite a bit of information around at the moment that’s relevant to my theme. Euthanasia and the availability and cost of palliative care are both current topics in State Parliament, with a Dying with Dignity Parliament forum on 19th November (unfortunately clashing with work times). On a personal level Nancy, the initial focus and emotional centre of my work, has been very unwell and we think had another stroke (she has refused medical attention). It seems very possible that Nancy will die while I am working on this theme for the final Assignment. I rather dread the thought, but I would not delay her liberation for a moment. It’s now over three years since she was forcibly denied her right to die. I will be sad for myself, but so very happy for her when the time finally comes.
http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/Arts_Entertainment/Hazelhurst/Exhibitions/Ruark_Lewis_Survey_1982_-2012 Accessed 4-Nov-2012.
Dying with Dignity NSW , http://www.dwdnsw.org.au/
Laing, M. “In My Empty House — Ruark Lewis with Loma Bridge” In Studies in Material Thinking, http://www.materialthinking.org Vol. 5 (December 2011), ISSN 1177-6234, AUT University. http://www.materialthinking.org/sites/default/files/papers/In%20My%20Empty%20House.pdf Accessed 4-Nov-2012
Paull, J. (2012) Ruark Lewis: Survey 1982 – 2012 exhibition brochure, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre
sculpture by the sea: sixteenth annual exhibition Bondi 2012 Catalogue and site map. Sculpture by the Sea Incorporated. www.sculpturebythesea.com