Lecture: Glenn Barkley The Laverty and Ann Lewis Collections (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
This was a heart-felt and very personal lecture, as much about people and relationships as the art. Some staggering images of homes filled with mainly Australian art. Glenn Barkley’s musings as a curator about the combinations of works were particularly fascinating.
Exhibition: Jonathan Jones barrangal dyara (skin and bones)
This Kaldor public art program provides an amazing and varied experience. It’s impossible to sum up, I don’t have words – yet language is one of the most moving parts.
Jonathan Jones has reminded Sydney of its history – the 19th century Garden Palace building in our Royal Botanic Garden, built to house the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879, burnt to the ground in just a few hours in 1882. Among the losses was a huge collection of indigenous artifacts as well as early records of European Australians.
Jones has recreated the physical footprint of the building. Aerial photographs here show the massive scale of the project. At the heart of the space, where the dome once soared, is a circular garden now planted with kangaroo grass. A soundscape suggests the grinding of seeds into flour, voices of women teaching children, then a whoosh of fire. Most of the artifacts lost were related to men, presenting an image of savages overcome. Here women are the core of the community, peoples who cultivated land, made bread, used controlled fire as a means of rebirth of plant-life.
The perimeter of the building is marked by thousands of white shields. Made of gypsum they suggest ceremony as well as war. There are a variety of shapes, reflecting many clans, but they don’t have individual markings.
I particularly liked areas where the shields had grass growing up around them, and where they balanced at all angles on enormous tree roots, becoming an integral part of the land. It was such a powerful statement of place – this exhibition could only ever be here. There was also a powerful sense of being welcomed – by the elders of the Gadigal clan to Gadigal land, Aboriginal land, and also by the many invigilators and volunteers, some of whom share that heritage.
With one young man with a personal connection we discussed the importance of language. He was so proud and happy to share with us. There are eight soundscapes within the area, and Jones collaborated with various language groups, contemporary Aboriginal voices in the landscape.
There is an extensive range of talks and events included in the project. The breadth and depth of thought and attention is impressive. Also impressive is the positive vision shared. While traumatic, the devastating fire can be seen as a cultural burn, cleansing, providing space for regeneration of a more complex, inclusive culture.
Other art I’ve been seeing lately I’ve ended by looking for learning for my own work. This event is so far beyond that. My lesson is not to always analyse, glean, plan, take inspiration. Experience, feel, live.
While exploring barrangal dyara (skin and bones) I collected some pieces of dried kangaroo grass that had fallen on the path, thinking they could be used in the printing.Thinking of the dilly-bags that might have been used to collect seed heads, I wanted to try knotless netting again as another texturing device for mono-printing. The net would have to be quite open to ensure the pattern printed and didn’t create a total resist. It would also need to be flat. A recent experiment with that didn’t go so well (11-Sep-2016). This time, rather than trying to modify the stitch to go backwards and forwards across the work I attached the centre of a new length of thread every second row and worked in my natural left-to-right direction for every row. The ends of the thread were worked into a thick braid down the right-hand side, although perhaps in a future attempt I will try creating a fringe. I used a commercial waxed linen thread, which is very obedient and easy to use.
Mono-printing, all sorts of oddments of paper were used – paper bags, tissue, coloured card, various weights… I used the gelatin plate, akua pigments, the kangaroo grass, netting, a couple of texturing things. Ink colours were lamp black, red oxide and burnt umber – they seemed to fit with the fire and earth of the Garden Palace.
The prints are still drying, but the next and very big question is will I be able to make sense of it all in a collage???
A few closeups:
Reading: Laura Breede “ArchiTextile: Clothed walls from the middle ages to today” In Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Art & Textiles Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag.
There is reference to Gottfried Semper in 1860, placing textile art as a primeval art, a source for all other arts. Yurts, tapestry wall coverings, curtain walls of glass.
Most of the modern examples are use by artists of Jacquard weaving. I always have trouble with this – what does weaving bring to the artwork beyond the original source painting or photograph? Here at least part appears to be the deception or surprise at close examination. Still, I want textiles to have some unique edge or reason, not just a double-take by the viewer. It shouldn’t be a simple translation – and from the photos it’s hard to tell what transformation the weave ha provided.
Collage: Not mine. Some wonderful examples of digital collage with a surreal edge at https://lemanshots.wordpress.com/.
Finally I went to the opening of another exhibition today, Tracey Deep’s Shadow Poem at Sturt Gallery. A wonderful exhibition and experience which needs its own post.