Swirling

The swirling coalescence of matter forming galaxies in the universe, or the swirling vortex of the plughole?
Or at a local level, a swirl of creation of components that will combine into sculpture through intelligent play, chance and intuition (à la Matt Bromhead, 10-Jul-2018), or a frittering of time making miscellaneous oddments that will lurk in corners and piles until turfed?
Or maybe just the standard of life, stuff happens.

Scarey music twining


I like to spend some time quietly watching TV with my husband at the end of each day, but I’m such a scaredy-cat. Hence the need for some simple distraction at tense moments. This is some 5-ply waxed hemp twine, and paper twine for the spokes. Practicing colour play from the Mary Hettmansperger class (17-Sep-2018).

Book folding
More using techniques from The Art of the Fold: How to make innovative books and paper structures by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol (an earlier attempt shown 21-Oct-2018).

Heating metal
This is a followup to one of the days with Mary Hettsmanperger (17-Sep-2018). I also now have a couple of her books.

This is all using copper, a torch, and sometimes flux. The pieces were photographed on a 1 cm grid mat which can often be seen at the edges, which gives an idea of scale.

Quite a few of the samples went through multiple failed versions, then cleaned and re-worked. Although the fine wire looks very fragile, I’ve tried a bit of twisting and pulling and it’s held so far.

Sample D woven

There’s jewellery potential but at the moment I’m interested in sculpture-component potential. Or possibly base-of-woven-basket potential. In the photo Sample D has been woven with some anonymous metal, possibly previously used in print-making. Balling up wire ends gives an excellent option for creating a feature of what could otherwise be annoying and scratching.

Exhibition reaction
I recently viewed an exhibition – I’m not going to identify it or any of the artists. Instead I want to explore my reactions to it. I didn’t enjoy it – in fact I intensely disliked it. I walked around with my arms tightly folded, sometimes making a few not-so-sotto voce comments. So not bored or disengaged. Closer to enraged. Why?

This was a group show by quite a large group who have been exhibiting together for a few years. I think they are all women and most if not all with a textile background. In fact I suspect quite a few of them would fall into a similar demographic to me in age and general background. Is that relevant to my reaction?

The exhibition had a theme, a short phrase that could be interpreted in many ways. One or two used word play, a couple used a light hand, a clever twist, an unexpected insight. Many went in for Raising Issues, telling the viewer about what is wrong in our world. Domestic violence. Pedophilia. Marital breakdown. Mental health. War and famine. People behaving badly in all sorts of ways. All important, but such a cacophony. Preaching. “This is bad.” Quite a few works basically drew literal pictures, making sure I couldn’t miss the bad thing that concerns the artist.

It seems the group is quite disciplined and controlled. They all provided extensive descriptions of what I was looking at. Materials and techniques were detailed. In one room there was a cabinet of sketchbooks and samples, while a video provided views of work in progress. These people were out to educate me.

There was no space left for me as a viewer. The problem was identified, they told me how bad it is, they told me how they were telling me. As it happens, as an adult member of Australian society, I was already aware of every problem raised. There was nothing I didn’t agree with – these are all bad things. I didn’t get new insights. There were no solutions. No real calls to action. Worthy but ineffectual, both as instruments of social change and as art.

I should do a reality check: is it because I feel a lack in my own art? Not focused, not working to a deadline in a supportive group, not lifting my game with shared access to a mentor and professional photography. Not producing exhibition-worthy material. After careful consideration I can say with absolute certainty that’s not it. I don’t want the compromises, the shared goals, of a group.

There are many reasons for making and for looking at art. On the day this just didn’t work for me.

Moving on to a much, much, much, more satisfying experience:

Lecture: Dr Lisa Slade, A present past
This was intended to be the final in this year’s series The hidden language of art: symbol and allusion, the AGNSW’s Art appreciation lecture series. (As it happens, we have a catchup lecture next week.)

It was a breath-taking and exciting whirl through contemporary art in dialogue with historical Australian and International Art. Dr Slade was engaging and energetic, quite formal at times, with occasional quirky or cheeky asides. She made me feel knowledgeable – so many allusions to things I know (or have a passing familiarity with) – and showed how very, very much more there is for me to learn and think about. I now have a word for the installations I enjoy so much – anachronistic! (See for example 5-May-2013).

There was heaps more, but a swirl of fragments in my mind, and my scribbled notes are focused on links I want to follow up rather than a coherent summary of the lecture. Since the lecture I have been reading all I can find by or about Lisa Slade. I’ve taken out a subscription to Artlink (she’s chair of the board of directors). The mental link is hazy, but “for balance” I’ve taken out a subscription to Garland.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been questioning and rechecking my path. For a while at least I’m comfortable. There’s information coming in, there’s a sense of purpose and energy, there’s a path forward. Maybe one day more formal study, or a group, but not for now.

8 Responses to “Swirling”


  1. 1 fibresofbeing November 20, 2018 at 11:44 am

    “But I’m much better trying to find something than I am knowing something and executing and explaining it. …I think it’s the difference between a craftsman and an artist. I aspire to be an artist.” Willem Dafoe https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/19/willem-dafoe-at-eternitys-gate-vincent-van-gogh
    Maybe that was my issue with the exhibition. I usually try not to buy into the art v craft thing, but this fits.

  2. 2 Jane Bodnaruk November 21, 2018 at 6:03 am

    balling up the ends of the wire (and then flattening) ‘a-la-mary’ is such a beautiful way of dealing with ends. Sally Blake uses it also (and I’m sure there are many others). You are making little full stops at the ends. does the flattening then lead to a feeling of ‘not a full stop’? Is it a natural and automatic thing to make aesthetic pieces, to get rid of the sharp and nasty? so many options for endy bits. will you explore others do you think? sampling sampling sampling. always an engaging creative past time

    • 3 fibresofbeing November 21, 2018 at 11:33 am

      Deliberate choice, intention. What are the significant things, the indicators of meaning or shade of meaning? For earrings (never far from my mind when working at this scale) there is simple practicality. When does considering detail become getting lost in the trees rather than adding richness (visual or metaphorical)?

  3. 4 Jane Bodnaruk November 22, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Perhaps considering detail never gets lost – it may be that your detail is to not have the visual details at all, but it will always be considered. Consideration of metaphorical detail will always add depth, but will not be available to all viewers – will it depend on how invested and knowledgeable the viewer is in the artists personal language? of the subject, of the techniques, of the resolution of the work?
    Deliberate choice and intention – is that art or craft in your view? earrings as an end point? Not all of a creative practice is endpoint based, not all of a practice is driven by the hand/mind interaction. Not all end points are endpoints at all. They may be transitory. a pause, significant in their own right, but still moving on? still trying to find an essence, a meaning? is all of a creative practice one thing or another?
    Indicators and shades of meaning? always interesting in and of itself/themselves – subtle, lambasting, meanings can be different things to different people,
    closing in and opening out, where in the creative process do these come in. To a creative mind, will resolution bring up more questions than answers? Does art bring more questions than answers? Does art sit comfortably with the viewer, with some viewers, with all viewers? or does it engage and bring about a visceral reaction?
    Is there only one answer to any of these questions?
    Why does an artist make art? Why do I make art? Because I enjoy the processes involved – the making, extending the materials, the research/reading, personal satisfaction in process and outcome – like your earrings? like your samples? and then? yes keep going. always trying to find something.
    Why do you make art? I read that personal satisfaction certainly comes into it. How do you find your practice with earring making? is 1 pair enough? or does it lead onto something more? do you reflect on your outcome?
    so many questions

    • 5 fibresofbeing November 22, 2018 at 9:59 am

      Oh Jane, thank you.
      I’m going to have to go through this slowly and think about it. It’s a perennial topic, so many aspects, no such thing as “the answer”, and I think worth continuing to question oneself.

      I was already collecting some bits this morning.
      Mervyn Levy: “The true work of art continues to unfold and create within the personality of the spectator. It is a continuous coming into being.”

      Henry Moore as to what aliens would make of his sculpture. “I hope they would find them potently inscrutable and as unyielding in their secrets as life itself. All creation is a mystery, no less to the artist who creates. lt would be a poor artist who fully understood the meaning of his art !”

      An article in the Guardian today Nathan Dunne How life drawing helped me rediscover my capacity for empathy
      https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/nov/22/how-life-drawing-helped-me-rediscover-my-capacity-for-empathy
      “But even as I struggled with my drawings, I began to feel for that body and person not my own.”

      From an article on the different but related Why is modern leisure so competitive “One reason I like it [swimming] is that getting into the right rhythm leaves room for almost no other thoughts. ” https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/nov/21/triathlons-ultramarathons-and-ambitious-baking-why-is-modern-leisure-so-competitive

      And my current thoughts on why I have hands itching to be making. My way of connecting to the world. Of trying to stop and take time, see, stop making assumptions. Find a place in the world that is me. Take control, make my choices and live with the results. And sometimes it leads to real conversations, real connections, exploring how another sees and thinks about something – the similarities and differences. The joy of discovery, of curiosity. Declare myself – to the world if anyone is listening, but probably just as much to myself. Also that soothing rhythm, being absorbed.

      “Craft” and “art” can be useful labels, but the words can become constraints, narrow and hinder thought and revelation. There are many and deep dimensions.


  1. 1 Exhibition: Noŋgirrŋa Marawili – from my heart and mind | Fibres of Being Trackback on December 7, 2018 at 2:40 pm
  2. 2 Quickly taking stock | Fibres of Being Trackback on December 11, 2018 at 6:56 am
  3. 3 Items of interest | Fibres of Being Trackback on January 1, 2019 at 5:45 pm

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