Archive for May, 2016

Weekly roundup 29 May 2016

Followups: From 22-May-2016

  • Ephemeral art – my thanks to Jane for the link to Shona Wilson. The video on the Impossibility of Nature is a great insight on Shona’s approach, including the quest for small things; the imperfect, fragile, time and history; the reinvention of objects and transformational use of materials; archetypal versus individual; becoming present; transience and resilience…
  • Chiharu Shiota’s Conscious Sleep. After writing about Shiota and Duchamp’s Sixteen Miles of String I’ve found a lot more about the use of string in contemporary art at Fascinating.
  • Façade Exhibition – see post 22-May-2016.

    Lecture: Mark Ledbury, The Wallace Collection (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
    I have clear if disjointed memories of visiting the Wallace Collection a number of times in the early 1980s – 25 January 1983 was one visit, evidenced by a note in the catalogue of ceramics still on my bookshelves. Then it was a jewel hidden behind the bustle and lights of Oxford Street, slightly dusty, in memory full of delights but empty of people, my own little secret, a mix of elaborate decorative arts, corridors of armour, and amazing paintings, some straying into chocolate box territory.

    Apparently now it is beautifully refurbished, entirely polished, a darling venue of fashionistas, still full of amazing works, still a jewel but altogether Discovered. So memory and time betray us.

    In compensation, Mark Ledbury is an entertaining speaker and it was fascinating to learn about the complex non-dynasty and the accidents of fortune which led to this collection – works which shall always be together, unmixed with other works of art.

    Markus Brüderlin (2013) “Introduction to the Exhibition: The birth of abstraction from the spirit of the textile and the conquest of the fabric space” In Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Art & Textiles Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag.

    This book was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name 2013-2014. I’d love to have seen the exhibition. The book is challenging reading so far, reinforcing some concepts for me, introducing a lot more new. My thinking is all fragments.

    One thing that struck me – a topological view of weaving. The impact on space of folding fabric was illustrated with Matisse, Liseuse au gueridon. Folding. Inside and outside. Form following material. What could be done with that idea?

    I pulled out some 190 gsm kraft paper and some decorated paper. Quick weaving, but still followed “rules” – plain weave, the same side of the paper showing.
    22/5 Flat, then an initial attempt at dimension.

    23/5 Wove through plastic horsehair, then accentuated the folding.

    Then later there was mention of the orthogonal structure of fabric, and a link to work by Agnes Martin amongst others. This seems at odds to the folding point, the rigidity of right angles. Rosalind Krauss and her paper on the grid was mentioned – I tracked it down (link) but need to do more than a skim read. She claims the grid “incapable of development”, but even if it were true that seems to me limited to a grid fixed – stretched on a frame or otherwise. Plain weave, the complete grid, is the strongest and least flexible of weave structures, all else being equal, but it can still drape, the orthogonal structure moving in three dimensions.

    “Contact relics” is a term I hadn’t used before. In the book an example was the veil of Veronica. This made me think of the power of old clothes – smell, shape, memory trigger – the advantage of the almost automatic human connection/dimension of textile.

    1&20 project
    Claire’s post is here.

    This week she brought in a small, beautifully observed and shaded pencil sketch of a pearl ring. I brought in an A4 felt-tip pen oddity based on a potato masher.

    Late on Sunday: Another exhibition and lecture today – more on that next post.

    Exhibition – Façade

    Façade – ATASDA Exhibition

    The NSW branch of the Australian Textile Arts & Surface Design Association recently presented its bi-annual exhibition at the Palm House in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. (Links: ATASDA, and NSW blog FibreTribe).

    The theme was Façade and I was impressed by individual works and the exhibition as a whole.

    Kay Murray The Garden Palace

    Kay Murray
    The Garden Palace

    Kay Murray used free machine stitching on rust-dyed cotton to show the façade of the Garden Palace, an exhibition building built in the Gardens in 1879, based on London’s Crystal Palace. It was destroyed by arson in 1882. Some sandstone gateposts and wrought iron gates remain, the destruction and the remains symbolised in the rusted fabric.
    Gloria Muddle

    Gloria Muddle
    I Blue Print and Instructions
    II Supports and Structures
    III Scaffolding

    Gloria Muddle

    Gloria Muddle
    II Supports and Structures

    Gloria Muddle took ideas from building sites in responding to “façade”. A variety of materials and techniques were used in this hanging triptych. I like the strong rhythms created with repeated geometric forms.
    Claire Brach

    Claire Brach

    Claire Brach developed an architectural motif, apartment blocks under construction, to consider the networks between apparent strangers in society. We often focus on our individuality, overlooking our close links, our interdependence on those around us.

    Claire use paint, pencil and stitch on paper, and it was interesting to see a new mix ideas, materials and techniques emerging following her OCA work. (More on Claire’s blog, including

    Nancy Conboy

    Nancy Conboy
    Public Façade, Private Despair

    Other artists explored ideas around the personal façades or faces we show to those around us.

    Nancy Conboy shared a difficult personal story, a loved relative who presented a beautiful, controlled persona, hiding ill-health and solitude. The layering of this wearable art reflected the layering of the individual, elegant clothes covering the fragile person. Nancy used a wide range of textile techniques, beautiful construction, thoughtful choice of materials and colours, to represent, celebrate and mourn.

    Debbie Morrison

    Debbie Morrison
    Dress of Apparent Happiness

    In Dress of Apparent Happiness Debbie Morrison showed a more positive aspect of the façades we use to disguise inner turmoil.

    While maintaining connections and sharing our difficulties with those close to us, there is often still the need to maintain a composed, deflecting persona in professional and social situations. The façade protects our vulnerabilities at such times.

    This hanging was skillfully felted wool and silk, with machine and hand embroidery, beads and gems. I like the use of scale, pattern and line. There can be no doubting the sorrow and anxiety in the face and stance of the woman depicted, but from a distance the colours and exuberant flow of her dress dominate.

    Cathie Griffith

    Cathie Griffith
    Excuse me….have I taken you for someone else?

    A still more colourful and cheerful view was presented by Cathie Griffith in Excuse me….have I taken you for someone else?. This self-portrait shows all the different facets of a life, environments, relationships, experiences, coming together in an individual. Rather than a barrier, mask or defence, this is a joyful fusing of self, showing openness and pleasure in integrating with the wider world.
    Kelcie Bryant-Duguid

    Kelcie Bryant-Duguid
    Yellow Protest Dress

    Kelcie Bryant-Duguid took a political stance, highlighting the deceptive façade of government – in this case penalties, fines and jail, on peaceful protest against mining operations. Whose interests are being protected with these laws?

    Kelcie references the “established history of feminist activism using thread as ink” – particularly interesting to me given last week’s musing on text in art (22-May-2016)

    The dress is striking, direct, purposeful. This is a protest banner with the person fully involved.

    Diana Booth

    Diana Booth

    I was first attracted to Diana Booth’s work Hidden by the shape and colour. There’s a quirky, independent elegance which appeals. At the time I took it to be felted – later reading my reference photo I see the artist’s statement mentions felt, wool and silk, but also the felt-like Koomchi paper, so I’m not sure.

    Another thing I didn’t appreciate at the time was that the object displayed is a cover – a façade. Inside is a milky white glass vase, revealed in the surface design of holes. I really enjoy this literal response to the theme of the exhibition, especially given that literalness is obscured by the beauty of the mask/disguise.
    Overall I thought this one of the most successful ATASDA exhibitions I have seen. There was a good mix of traditional materials and techniques with strong moves into mixed media and more conceptual work. There is clear depth of talent, skill, ambition and creativity among ATASDA members. My only hesitation is that all of the works were domestic in scale – suitable for the venue, in fact the exhibition felt crowded, but it would be good to see what could be done with more space.

    Weekly roundup 22 May 2016

    submission in box

    submission in box

    The big news: Mixed Media for Textiles parcel is posted, paperwork and advisory emails completed, a couple of past provisional blog posts finalised, video with narration, stills and identifying subtitles uploaded.

    Packing boxes within box was like a 3D jigsaw with no ‘right’ solution. I think the additions to the video give extra information plus make it clearer that the video is documentation, not the final work itself. Still, the most important word is “Done”!!! Below is a lower resolution version.

    There’s a break before I can begin my next OCA course, with the new level 2 course due to be released in September. Now the challenge is to live that time richly, productively, a trial of beyond the structure of studies.

    The plan is to live the life I aspire to. Follow various strands of inquiry, look, think, interact. I don’t have a particular target, other than not to drift. These round ups are part of that, part of living consciously, being accountable to myself.

    Paper Yarn project
    The last update was May 1 and since then it’s been promises.
    The final additions:

    30/4 & 1/5 How quick to fall out of habits!
    2/5 Some ribbon from a mountain gift, combined with more of the newspaper. Getting close I think.
    3/5 A bit more of the Darley’s ribbon, a bit more newspaper, and I’m calling it done.
    A fast review:

    In the Collectors series Louise Marshall talked about Art and the Renaissance court: the d’Este of Ferrara. Some beautiful Renaissance images. I’d love to spend some time at the Palazzo Schifanoia. A reminder of the very calculating way art and the symbolism contained can be a political tool.

    1&20 sketching project
    Claire ( and I have undertaken a shared project. We meet pretty much every week at the AGNSW lectures and we’ve decided to bring in a new sketch each week to discuss and critique, and help keep our sketching fresh and moving. No grand plans, we’ll see where it can take us. We’ve chosen an initial task of going into an environment, deciding on a focus in one minute, then 20 minutes drawing.

    So far I’ve chosen items in my workroom – where I’ve been spending most of my time, tying up MMT. Week 1 was one of my MMT wrapping samples. Some paper with traces of indigo on it, oil pastels, quite lively. Claire brought in a very polished drawing in pencil on cartridge paper. In week 2 I took up the challenge of drawing something and trying to make it look like the actual object (usually I’m concentrating on observing, or lines, or whatever, not so much on producing an image as such). So hopefully you can tell what the object was.


    sketch 20160519 - based on Gordon Baldwin's stoneware form (1971)

    sketch 20160519 – based on Gordon Baldwin’s stoneware form (1971)

    Julie recently wrote about seeing work by Gordon Baldwin in the Antony Shaw collection now housed in York ( There are works by Gillian Lowndes in Shaw’s collection too. I’ve been looking at Baldwin’s work, trying to see what really catches my attention, thinking about how that could feed into the materials and processes I’ve been using recently.

    Looks like a potential research strand, but I’m wary of starting up too many strands at once.

    Ephemeral art
    Suzanne Davey ( left a comment about the Ruth Hadlow workshop. After visiting Suzanne’s website there was still more grinding of teeth about missing the class – Suzanne’s work really draws me, and I would have loved to have spent time with her. The term “ephemeral art installation” came up within her work. It was only last week I learned the term, when Michael Hill used it talking about Andy Goldsworthy (who apparently makes them almost daily, a kind of warm up or sketching practice). There’s an idea somewhere in there for building my sculptural sensibilities. Not working in nature and letting weather do its thing. Perhaps it fits back into the MMT approach, lots of samples and the wrapping ones especially soon dismantled. Make, record, reflect, repeat.
    And depending on your time scale, isn’t everything ephemeral? Is the difference a matter of how much we treat something as precious, that we take pains to maintain, or that we try to control?

    sketch 20160522

    sketch 20160522

    These thoughts have fed into some other recent thoughts/discussions, leading to the “ephemeral sketch” on the right. The crumbling nature of the kinetic sand took over, but I really like the feeling of constructing a line, thinking in three dimensions.

    Text / writing
    Very interested in some of the work Lottie has been doing with a 3D pen and text (eg Love the animation and the idea of not-quite-readable.

    Preparatory readings for Ruth Hadlow’s class (sob) included a number related to Simryn Gill. I remember seeing her Forest photographs at AGNSW ( and a particular example Strips of text from books torn and arrange in nature, say in the bark grooves of a palm. And we’re back at ephemeral art.

    I tripped over the Voynich manuscript ( this week – a mysterious text that hasn’t been deciphered. That mystery obviously is very effective at engaging people as the ongoing attempts to find meaning show.

    What is important about something that appears to be text above other expressive marks? I don’t accept that there is such an “above”, just all sort of differences between many, many forms of mark. Expressing one’s self, finding meaning, connecting – words are among the options.

    All this was definitely on my mind when I visited the Biennale on Cockatoo Island this week.

    Biennale – Cockatoo Island

    Willing to be vulnerable (detail!) Lee Bul

    Willing to be vulnerable (detail!)
    Lee Bul

    Lee Bul’s monumental installation in the Turbine Hall felt like wandering through a slightly futuristic, slightly shabby fairground. Views through patterned plastic banners drew you in. A tufted foil blimp reflected. I liked the references to the location – a trapeze artist balanced on the hook of a large crane.

    Willing to be vulnerable Lee Bul

    Willing to be vulnerable
    Lee Bul

    Lights twinkled. It was only at the end, reading the information sign, that I discovered the lights outlined text. Can you read what’s on that balloon? I can’t – not when there, not on a detail photo at full resolution. I’ve tried to figure it out by matching to the written list of texts on the sign, without success. ‘silentspring’ perhaps. Not ‘agreatsocialregressionintoinfantalism’, or ‘ananthologyofvoices’. If I had been able to read the text I may have seen the installation differently. But perhaps being illegible, reinforcing that point by listing in detail on the signage, is the point. My child-like wonderment turned baffled. Then in the catalogue I read “… the concept that the ideal is always there, just beyond our grasp, and so we are fated to continue yearning and striving for that which is essentially unattainable”. Ow.

    Camille Henrot Grosse Fatigue

    Camille Henrot
    Grosse Fatigue

    Camille Henrot presented a video and a number of bronze sculptural works.

    The video took the form of a large computer screen, presenting the story of the creation of the universe, full of all the jotted notes, snips of text and videos, images and graphics that clutter our screens and minds. A warm male voice spoke poetry, creation myths from different cultures. I’d like to go back and quietly watch it all. The catalogue text includes “challenges the traditional categorisation of art history”. I didn’t see that, but was a bit distracted at the time.

    The sculptural works reminded us of Henry Moore with their voluptuous curves, but were even more explicit. The room was dark and my photos blurred unfortunately.

    Emma McNally

    Emma McNally

    Emma McNally showed twelve enormous drawings, graphite and carbon on paper. Some looked like maps. Some were dark and light masses that reminded us of Turner. The detail above shows the meticulous, detailed work.

    And then you find this.

    Emma McNally

    Emma McNally

    Chaos. In other places the surface appears sanded away, the paper almost rubbed through. It’s violent.

    There is a sense of the physical effort, the time, the stretch of muscles, the artist responding to her work in front of her. There is a terrain we try to read. Is this an abstraction of land, of our lives?

    Chiharu Shiota Conscious Sleep

    Chiharu Shiota
    Conscious Sleep

    This installation by Chiharu Shiota is in the prisoners’ barracks in the convict precinct. It looks like a tangled dream of a hospital. Filaments of mind and nerve? A network of connections? My first reaction upon entering was constriction. I thought of my mother-in-law, trapped, bed-ridden, years of living death in a nursing home. Her mind has outlasted her body. My personal overwhelmed the voice of the artist.

    The same evening I came across a photo of Duchamp’s Sixteen Miles of String installation. Some very different ideas. More reading required.

    Weekly roundup 15 May 2016

    Last week’s critical path (8-May-2016) took some unexpected turns. My lower back decided it needed care, attention and rest. The back is much better, but the cost was…

    I don’t have a week-long class with Ruth Hadlow to report 😦 . I did a mind-opening weekend class with Ruth earlier this year (25-Feb-2016) and was really looking forward to the luxury and stimulation of a five day class. Early in the week the back said “no”, and later in the week I realised that rather than some loose ends I had a mountain of work to finish Mixed Media for Textiles, all at back-slowing pace.

    A smaller “didn’t happen” was the final wrap-up of the paper yarn project.

    No exhibition viewing.

    I did get to Michael Hill’s lecture on the Gibbs Farm collection. Follow the link – amazing place with amazing sculptures. The lecture was amazing too. I have lots of scribbled notes to decipher, I felt I was seeing things differently, learning about new considerations. There were proportions in landscape, “site specific” – the work shaped in reference to the land or the land to the work?, counterpoint, ephemeral sculptures, the sky as ground (canvas?), scale and ratio, animating the landscape, how a work could be a complete descriptor of the wind… One general comment was that works have to be developed and tested in series. If an artist produces a lot of series of 1, you get a lot of sloppy dishes.

    Looking up Michael Hill later I came across his exhibition essay Harrie Fasher: Drawing in Space (at Hill’s description of Fasher exploring “the reverse effects of negative spaces: instead of being unlocked and agile, they are trapped and sluggish.” The work he was discussing looks … I don’t want to write “amazing” again so I’ll just be lost for words. I also like his comments about Fasher’s need to make with her hands, slowing down her engagement with the world. Some textile metaphors too.

    The MMT mountain is almost conquered. My submission will be in the post Thursday (paid work intervenes).

    The new 1&20 sketching project with Claire is underway. More next week (that promise is beginning to get a bit old).

    Reading about Antony Gormley and interested in his comments about what his work is for or about (or other misdirected question). “This isn’t about illustrating either the look of a body or a particular emotion; it’s to give rise to thoughts and feelings that wouldn’t otherwise exist.” Another comment about sculpture helping us slow down. Sayej, N. (2016) “Sculptor Antony Gormley: ‘the selfie is charming’ but it’s a modern paradox” In The Guardian [online]

    And what about this regarding his works for the Landmark trust: “catalysts for retrospection.” and “It’s simply about people looking at something and it changing the way they feel.” Ellis-Petersen, H. (2015) “Antony Gormley: ‘I am beginning to learn how to make sculpture'” In The Guardian [online]


    Mixed Media for Textiles – Submission for Assessment

    Electronic submission:

  • Learning log.
  • Video documentation of final work. In my OCA personal assessment folder, Final Assignments sub-folder.
  • Copies of all tutor reports. In my OCA personal assessment folder, Tutor Reports sub-folder.
  • Physical submission:

    submission in box

    submission in box

    6 handbound books
    1 folder
    6 boxes
    1 cardboard wrapped object

    Ready for packing

    Ready for packing

    My submission for assessment is en route to the UK. In her final formative feedback my tutor expressed an interest in seeing as much actual work as possible. All my assignment submissions have been electronic, via this blog. I have therefore attempted to include as many samples as possible in the package, within the normal constraints of international post.

  • Part 1 book. Link to pdf (for ease of access to referenced blog posts).
    Samples included: p1-25, p1-31, p1-49, p1-55, p1-62, p1-104, p1-114, p1-140, p1-141, p1-142.
  • Part 1 – bag of samples.
    Samples included: p1-1, p1-12, personal extension photo 10.
  • Part 2 book. Link to pdf
    Samples included: p2-2, p2-3, p2-4, p2-9, p2-15, p2-19, p2-21, p2-23, p2-27.
  • Part 2, packed individually: p2-73.
  • Part 3 book. Link to pdf
  • Part 3 – bag of samples
    Samples included: p3-6, p3-10 (adjusted for p3-26, p3-12 (in 2 parts), p3-13, p3-14, p3-32, p3-33 (2 items – duplicated number), plastic sketch of p3-47.
  • Part 3, packed individually: p3-46, p3-47, p3-51.
  • Part 4 book. Link to pdf
    Prints included: p4-8, p4-15, p4-17, p4-22, p4-23, p4-29, p4-34, p4-36, p4-37, p4-45, p4-46, p4-60, p4-70, p4-72, p4-75, p4-76, p4-77, p4-81, p4-85, p4-89, p4-97, p4-104, p4-109, p4-126, p4-128, p4-137, p4-145, p4-146, p4-150, p4-152, p4-160, p4-162, p4-163.
  • Part 5 book. Link to pdf
  • Part 5 sketchbook.
  • Part 5, packed individually: p5-3, p5-4, p5-10, p5-12.
  • Part 5, folder of printed photographs.
    Photos included:
    Trial photographs (4): Samples p5-38 (12 March 2016, black and white), p5-52 (15 March 2016), p5-53 (15 March 2016, watercolour paper), p5-54 (18 March 2016).

    Presentation photographs (6): Most similar to previous samples, but re-cropped and some backgrounds adjusted (to remove gaps and breaks at edges)

  • T1-MMT-P5-s6 Final photo shoot

    Following Formative Feedback from my tutor (8 April 2016) I knew I had to be clearer about my Final Work for Mixed Media for Textiles.

    My final work is an installation of a collection of vessels, documented for assessment purposes in video and photographs.

    Given I felt I was close to the limits of my tablet video technology, Rebecca’s comments about the growing importance of film in distance learning plus a clearer learning path with OCA, I chose to invest in a new video camera and editing software (details 17 April 2016). A final risk in a risk-embracing course.

    Final recording setup

    Final recording setup

    The arrangement of the objects was close to that seen in my earlier video documentation (15 March 2016). The purpose was to improve the documentation of my final work, not the work itself.

    The orientation of the group to the source of daylight was changed, and additional lighting from each side used.

    Sample p5-55

    Sample p5-55

    The plaster samples near the front look a little washed out in the new still photographs. I’m in the process of selecting and printing my final choice of photographs and will probably use some from the earlier session and update this post then.

    Sample photographs have been printed on A3 glossy photo paper – one each of black and white, the wrapping photo session and the third photo session – plus one more from the third photo session printed onto a heavy watercolour paper (Stonehenge I think). All the images look better printed than on the computer and I’ll include them in my submission pack as samples. The watercolour version looks softer, a bit less sharp, a bit more textured than the glossy paper. I’ve decided to use the crisper, clearer glossy paper for my formal documentation set.

    The video is much clearer, but very jerky as I learn to manage the controls. I’ve spliced together small sections to create the video and it gets rather repetitive. Despite these drawbacks I think it provides improved documentation of my final work, especially as I will be able to upload a higher resolution version to the OCA drive for the assessors.

    In addition to the general views there are lots of detail shots, as requested by Rebecca. I hope this provides a clearer record of my installation.

    There’s a narration in which I’ve tried to highlight aspects of the installation and the collection. With the detail sections I’ve included inset photos in the corner showing the full sample and its identification.

    A larger, higher resolution version has been loaded into my OCA folder for assessment. The smaller version is below.

    T1-MMT-P5-s6 Final photo shoot
    Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
    Part 5: A final piece
    Stage 6: Prototype/maquette-making
    Final photo shoot

    Weekly roundup 8 May 2016

    An abbreviated post this week. My major focus this weekend has been work on presentation of Mixed Media for Textiles for assessment. There will be summary documents to blog, but all at the moment is Work In Progress.

    Paper yarn project
    This is “complete” (such a challenging, subjective and subject-to-change term), but a full presentation will have to wait. My eye is on the critical path.

    1&20 project
    A new weekly sketching project has been planned, but nothing to see yet. This involves Claire (link), sketching and a weekly challenge. I suspect this will be a Tuesday night scramble in the coming week 🙂

    Two this week.

    First Collectors and Collections, this week Craig Judd talking on “Charles Saatchi a Modern Medici?”. Mr Judd stood in for an unwell presenter and I have to admit to the danger of becoming a stalker – he is a very engaging, entertaining, erudite speaker. We started on the human desire to collect, the comfort, sense of order, the stories told, Gertrude Stein and Peggy Guggenheim, and arrived at a hard-nosed businessman who as an advertiser knew how to change our consciousness of art.

    I remain unconverted to the ethos of Young British Art – and Mr Judd seemed ambivalent. Being sensational for the sake of sensation (or profit) remains for me, ultimately, tedious. Still, one has to admit the success.

    I choose to take a shaky high-ground.

    The second talk was Susannah Fullerton – “Artistic authors or literary artists?”. This was a whirl-wind tour of William Blake, Hans Christian Anderson, Thackeray, the Brontës and more, and left me unsatisfied. Ms Fullerton is an experienced and polished speaker, and I have enjoyed her lectures in the past, but this was a quick, unbalanced overview. I think all of the authors/artists mentioned were long dead and primarily authors. William Blake could be seen as regarding text and image as an integrated whole, but for most text was primary.

    My personal interest is the use of language or text by artists, and as it happens I’ve seen a few examples this week.

    fuse_plastic_48Particularly exciting is fellow student Lottie’s use of a 3D pen – see here. When I wanted text from a 3D pen I focused on drawing in 3D, resulting in a lot of structure to maintain the form (10-Apr-2015). Lottie writes on a flat surface then lifts the text. Beautiful. Poetic. I want to try it now, then dribble with resin then … But it has to wait.

    Also this week I’ve been reading about Simryn Gill, in preparation for a week-long workshop with Ruth Hadlow. As it happens I have a clear memory of looking at Gill’s photographs Forest at the Art Gallery of NSW (link). In these Gill tore up books and attached the shreds, integrated them, into the environment. So in the spiral markings of a palm tree, fragments of classic texts can be read – fragments that gradually deteriorate. In Pearls text torn from very specific books are formed into beads on a necklace (see tate_link).

    Wang Lei  Armour of Triumph

    Wang Lei
    Armour of Triumph

    While going back through my Mixed Media work I came to Between the Lines by Ariana Boussard-Reifel (link). All the words are carefully excised from a cheaply printed white supremacist book. Austin Kleon blacks out words to transform meaning ( Liza Green ( does beautiful, thoughtful work with text and books. I’ve recently mentioned Wang Lei’s work with Chinese-English dictionaries, seen at White Rabbit gallery. In a very small way, my own paper yarn project.

    Given these are just examples I’ve noticed recently, clearly the field is huge. The meanings, the processes – huge. Just as clearly it attracts my notice. I think I need to stay alert, consciously note examples. Another strand of investigation.

    I haven’t been to an exhibition as such this week, but both lectures were at AGNSW, and every time I go there I try to arrive a bit early to look around at what’s happening. This week I decided to face up to unfinished business.

    Sheila Hicks  Installation in progress

    Sheila Hicks
    Installation in progress

    A couple of months ago I mentioned Sheila Hicks’s work in installation (18-Mar-2016). I was excited to see Hicks’s work in real life. I was even more excited when she was scheduled to speak during the Biennale, but that was cancelled.

    Very disappointing, but worse is being completely underwhelmed by the work itself. It’s installed in the entrance court, so I look at it every visit and try to figure what is going on. Bluntly, as a whole I find The Embassy of Chromatic Delegates dull.

    Sheila Hicks

    Sheila Hicks

    I can identify a few reasons. I think the lighting is poor. It’s better in the day with the high windows, but it’s still just a sliver of light and not enough. The work feels cramped, crowded into the space between two entry arches leading to side galleries. The installation itself is static, too evenly distributed (one of my own classic failings). Finally if you’re going to have “Chromatic” in the title, the work had better be full of colour. There are some lovely rich colours, but overall and at a distance – dull. I think in Australia, in our light, with many of our artists, we’re not afraid of colour. Walk around AGNSW and, while of course not universal, you are not going to go short of a big colour fix.

    Sheila Hicks

    Sheila Hicks

    Looking at the photos now there is a lot of colour and texture. Should I rethink? Does one have to be slammed with colour? A wider view may show better how restrained / constrained the work looks, all huddled together. I’d like to see it installed in 2 or 3 subgroups, spread over more wall-space. Perhaps then it would be more imposing. The cropping of the photograph flatters it.

    Weekly roundup 1 May 2016

    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

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • 24/4 Sliced some paper from the edges of today’s sketching.
  • 25/4 Sorted through MMT Part 1 samples today, deciding what to send. Some torn strips of indigo-dyed cartridge paper used in samples were re-purposed in today’s yarn project.
  • 26/4 A little more sample sorting. An A3 page of sample thumbnail photos (used to keep track of things before I stated using pinterest) was today’s input.
  • 27/4 Wandering around the house looking for “random” paper, my sons found me a very old road rules booklet. The paper proved quite brittle and challenging.
  • 28/4 A few days away in the Blue Mountains. A local newspaper was my source material.
  • 29/4 Still in the mountains, I tried using a brochure for a local art exhibition, but th glossy printed paper kept breaking. I resoughted to the morning’s newspaper.
  • 30/4 We went out for our last evening in Katoomba. Nothing to report.
  • 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:

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge

    William Kentridge Second-hand reading. This was a film of an altered book. There is a video at
    . The book itself could not have the same impact – the presentation was an integral part of the work, and in any case the artist changes his drawings using charcoal and eraser, each modification filmed. Kentridge breaks the book and creates his own narrative. Words, images, sounds, he explores what being South African is. The way images changed as you watched, the suggestions and directions of the words, built into a moving and disturbing experience. As well as the narrative, we watch the process of drawing, of re-drawing.

    Daniel Boyd

    Daniel Boyd

    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.

    Daniel Boyd

    Daniel Boyd

    Judy Watson

    Judy Watson

    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.

    No words.
    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.

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    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

    Elyssa Sykes-Smith

    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

    Suzy Bleach and Andy Townsend

    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.

    Heartbreakingly beautiful.

    Graeme Pattison

    Graeme Pattison

    Graeme Pattison Buying time. Link
    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]
    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 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 –

    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


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