Archive for the 'Artists and exhibitions' Category

Exhibition: Tracey Deep Shadow Poem

Tracey Deep Moon river

Tracey Deep
Moon river

The opening of this exhibition last weekend at Sturt Gallery was warm, friendly, beautiful. Sunshine on spring gardens, the large light gallery space full of texture and movement, a particularly relaxed and friendly crowd, works inviting, intriguing, rewarding our attention and thought.

Tracey Deep and Slavica Zivkovic (gallery manager) in front of Shadow song

Tracey Deep and Slavica Zivkovic (gallery manager) in front of Shadow song

Tracey Deep’s background is in floral sculpture and installation. That sensibility is still seen in her eye and the shapes she creates as well as some of her materials, but here she has created less ephemeral but still organic, lively and often visually, if not physically, fragile pieces.

Tracey Deep Exhibition view

Tracey Deep
Exhibition view

The exhibition was opened by Robin Powell, garden columnist. I particularly appreciated her talk as she really did introduce the artist and her work – both new to me. Robin spoke of the way Tracey is able to show us the world, the garden, with new eyes. There is a sense of surprise, of discovery.

Tracey Deep Wind spirit

Tracey Deep
Wind spirit

Tracey Deep Wind spirit (detail)

Tracey Deep Wind spirit (detail)

Tracey gives new life, a double life, to what has outlived its first. Before the opening formalities I had looked carefully at Wind Spirit, admired the liveliness of the lines, what looked like barbed wire but was actually a mass of very carefully wound and finished ends, rusty metal tendrils in a wreath.

How could I have missed the (not so) unmistakeable coils of bed springs?

Tracey Deep Wisdom

Tracey Deep

Not all the materials were so hard to identify – Wisdom, here on a plinth but with potential for wall display, undulates over its base of bra underwires. Other raw materials included an outdoor chair, beaded seat rest, frayed ghost net. Tracey was very friendly, happy to chat with us (I was with Claire of Tactual Textiles), and she confirmed she is always looking, alert to found materials with potential.

Tracey Deep Moonscape

Tracey Deep

As the exhibition title suggests, shadow is a significant concern of the artist. Light falls on and through the works, layered, like shadows in nature. Robin Powell suggested shadows are the spirit of Tracey’s work. The ample light in the gallery, both natural and artificial, made the most of this feature.

Tracey Deep Shadow spirit

Tracey Deep
Shadow spirit

There was a real sense of unity and yet diversity in the works on display. I particularly like the way Tracey revisited ideas in different materials and scales. For example Shadow Spirit used quite a wide wire mesh, formed into a shape, in this case an open-topped box or vessel, and then interlaced with a feathery string. Those light laces created movement, defined the space contained without hiding it, gave an air of fragility.

Tracey Deep Sacred Spirit

Tracey Deep
Sacred Spirit

Visually similar materials at a smaller scale were used to create a series of pouches or bags, Sacred Spirit. That pouch shape was also seen in Bush Spirit, back in a mid-scale and in wooden beads.

Tracey Deep Moon shadow (detail)

Tracey Deep
Moon shadow (detail)

The idea of open metal frame interlaced with feathery yarn was used again at large scale in Moon shadow (seen in the background of the exhibition view photograph above). This work formed a deep relief on the wall, with complex layers and once again those ever-present, ephemeral, shadows.

I found so much to admire, to learn from, in this artist and her work. With my upcoming (in a few months) welded sculpture workshop I am very excited about the possibilities in combining metal forms and textile elements. Many of the pieces used textile techniques, particularly weaving (one example among many Tree Spirit) and wrapping – Woodwind II would make a great case study for one of the Mixed Media for Textiles assignments.

However I think more important is the approach – Tracey Deep’s work displays great care and attention to detail, thoughtfulness laced through with humour and joy.

The exhibition is on until 13 November, a rewarding destination for a springtime drive.

Exhibition: Sally Simpson – Objects for an Unknown Future Museum

Sally Simpson Coral Reliquary with Puffer Fish

Sally Simpson
Coral Reliquary with Puffer Fish

This exhibition opened at the Stanley Street Gallery during the week. Attending the opening, I had hoped to hear the artist speak about her work. Instead I was fortunate to have quite long conversations first with Merilyn Bailey, one of the Gallery directors, and then with Sally Simpson herself. We talked about the work and what it could mean, and Sally also gave me some insights on her work processes.

A room of upright humanoid figures, some masks on the wall. Most of the figures were 70 – 120 cm high, on plinths so often taller than the viewer. Labels were placed low, prompting visitors to stoop before the figures. It took me some time to understand the “reliquary” of the titles – the figures each held encased objects in their navels, a core that was difficult to discern.

Sally Simpson Cephalopoda Reliquary with Stingray Bones

Sally Simpson
Cephalopoda Reliquary with Stingray Bones

As well as this sense of the sacred – looking up, bowing before, holy relics, mysteries – there was the positioning in an unknown future, a museum. How will we be remembered? Sally is careful to open the question without giving her own answers. The use in the work of found materials, a mix of discarded ropes and lines, of animal bones and driftwood, the relics, raises questions of how we treat the planet and what we value.

I was very conscious of an ethnographic vibe, representing our culture to future study. This led to an interesting article on ethnographic museums today (Thomas, 2016) and ideas beyond appropriation to cultural diversity, history, creativity. Sally Simpson’s works seen as communication, encounter, dialogue with present and future feels more hopeful than judgments of our failures as custodians.

The figures incorporate found fish, bird and animal bones as well as driftwood, which as well as giving an atavistic feel provided detail and visual complexity. Collected rope had been transformed using a wide array of techniques – unravelling, coiling, binding, stitching… – and is closely and smoothly integrated with the found objects. At first the human form seemed broadly suggested, but I started finding details – the curve of a muscled calf, defined knees ready to spring upwards, the indented line of a spine. There was energy but not movement, perhaps poised to leap upwards rather than forwards.

Sally explained that she worked for a year or more, playing with her collected materials, sampling, grouping key objects. It took time to find the techniques and forms that were successful, then work went more quickly. Apparently having recent visitors to her studio made Sally aware of the “mess” that had accumulated, and it seems the process of clearing up and revisiting early samples both revealed the development done and suggested more possibilities. For example the works exhibited were neutral, blue and turquoise, in keeping with an ocean-side theme (I thought I could smell the sea still on some pieces). In the studio is a bag of warm colours, waiting for future possibilities.

Sally Simpson The moment in-between (detail)

Sally Simpson
The moment in between (detail)

At one end of the gallery space three kneeling figures were displayed – The moment in-between. Supplicants or worshipers? The kneeling form has been seen in earlier work, Precipice, but those seem bound in bandages while these seem naked, perhaps vulnerable, in wax. But not vulnerable, not supplicants. Their strong boney features and upright stance seemed more challenging and self-possessed. I try to find narrative – figures of the future both revering and judging their history – but don’t feel satisfied with this.

As a student and given this is my learning log, I need to think critically about what I have learnt, what I can use from this experience.

The value of going to an opening. Arrive early and there’s the chance to see the works before the room gets too crowded. It’s interesting to watch how others respond to the the exhibition, perhaps catch some snippets of conversations. A talk or opening address. Then if I’m lucky there’s the opportunities for being part of conversations, learning more about the works and also trying to learn to make some sensible or relevant remarks myself.

sally_simpson_04The value of networking in all sorts of ways. I found out about Sally Simpson and her work through the learning log/blog another OCA student, How lucky to hear about an opportunity a week before the show opens, rather than a week after it closes šŸ™‚ . It also made a great story to start a conversation.

Reminders of the value of sketchbook work (see Sally’s website), of working in series, of sampling, exploration and experimentation.

This work is very much in that watershed or liminal space that interests me, where a textile sensibility can speak in a fine arts world (the press release quotes Sally’s comments on the “labour-intensive, devotional process” of her grandmother’s dress-making, “that the domestic and the devotional could exist in the same space, in the same process”).

I need to learn and think a lot more about scale, the display height of the objects, works seen from all angles and works seen in the context of other works.

Taking the time to play with materials, sampling, moving on. Questing.

Disparate materials combined. Found materials transformed. The common scale and complexity of mark of the materials as well as careful combinations and joining methods made coherent wholes, not a jumble.

Artist’s website:
Gallery and exhibition:
Media release:

Nicholas Thomas (2016) “We need ethnographic museums today – whatever you think of their history” In Apollo: the international art magazine [online]

Exhibition – FaƧade

FaƧade – 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 FaƧade 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 faƧade 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 “faƧade”. 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 FaƧade, Private Despair

Other artists explored ideas around the personal faƧades 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 faƧades 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 faƧade 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 faƧade 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 faƧade. 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.

Joyce Fleming – Cultures Interwoven

I recently expressed disquiet about “Cultural Fusion” being more “Cultural Appropriation” (12-Dec-2014). Joyce Fleming shows another way, with respect, a willingness to learn, a meeting and combining without imposition or loss of identity.

“My work involves bringing together fibre arts from two cultures and by showing the origin of the material in the finished work I honour Māori knowledge and customs. I weave the muka into patterns using bobbin lace techniques from my European heritage. My intention is to create an object that explores the creative potential of using knowledge from two different cultures without submerging the identity of either” (Fleming, 2014).

Fleming was prepared to invest time in learning about the material, the traditional methods used, and its meaning, undertaking three 12-week courses. Part of the leaf remains whole, celebrating the works origins.

The image of Cultures Interwoven 2: Changing Perspectives immediately made me think of Constantin Brancusiā€™s Lā€™Oiseau dans lā€™espace [Bird in space] c.1931-36 ( Presumably the scales are quite different. I’m also always very interested in shadows, overlaying patterns, and visual changes as the viewer moves around a work. I would love to see it in person.

See Fleming’s work at

Fleming, J. (2014) “A journey with harakeke…” In Textile Fibre Forum Magazine Issue 116, Summer/December 2014.


Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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