Archive for the 'Artists and exhibitions' Category

Nicole de Mestre: Vessels of Mass Consumption

Nicole de Mestre’s recent exhibition at the Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown was a thought-provoking experience.

Nicole de Mestre
Pods; Urban stalagmites

First, the work itself. I’ve seen and written a little about it before (23-Oct-2016). This time it was seen en masse, in a bright, light, open space. Nicole had hung groupings of similar types of work together, the multiples providing coherence and structure, allowing the viewer to appreciate the variety and interest within a particular group while overarching themes and approaches to material became apparent.

Nicole de Mestre
Tales of the Sea series

Nicole’s process is driven by found materials. Living in NSW’s Central Coast area, tide debris on beaches, kerb-side piles of domestic discards, and social networks are rich sources. The worn and weathered surfaces are treated with care and respect to reveal their beauty.

Nicole de Mestre
left: It’s not easy being green.
right: Where the forest meets the factory

Nicole de Mestre
Ocean Nest series

The smaller upper entry level was a rainbow of colours. Most of these could loosely be called “baskets”, or of course “vessels”, I think generally coiled and stitched. Nicole’s extensive collecting habits are apparent, for example It’s not easy being green incorporates Xmas trees, shadecloth, wire, whippersnipper cord, fishing net and tent fabric as well as the more conventional cotton and rope.

I enjoyed the careful editing of materials so that each piece had its own story and identity, the detail and texture created by Nicole’s handling of materials, the use of found stands which gave baskets more presence and added a pleasing contrast of dark, hard, straight lines of manufactured forms backgrounding the more organic happenstance of the vessels.

Nicole de Mestre
The beach below was deserted

Also on this level were two small, framed collages using textiles and found materials. Nicole told me these had been made at the beach, sketches – a process she is keen to explore further. I found these fresh and exciting. The sense of place, of working quickly and intuitively with materials found to hand gives energy to the work. They come from an entirely different direction to Alberto Burri’s collages (29-Apr-2018), but there is an affinity in the textures and forms created. I’m slowly building a brief for my own investigation based on these, extending my past experiments in collage.

The long wall of the larger lower area of the gallery showed series of assemblages – Foundscapes, effectively landscapes, and Tales of the Sea which had two variants, sailing vessels and the scarcely seaworthy piecemeal improvisations of refugee boats. Two came home with me, although one only briefly.

This sailing boat has a sense of movement and urgency. The sails are full, the flag bends in the stiff breeze. I hope a welcome addition to a friend’s harbour-side home, responding to the views outside, the interests of the family, and the layered, textured, and varied collection of objects within.

Now hanging in my workroom, and catch the early steamer is one of the group of assemblages that reference the experience of refugees, risking everything in the hope of a new life in safety and security.

Nicole de Mestre
and catch the early steamer
(Tales of the Sea series)

It took some careful consideration before deciding that I could live with this day to day. I find it beautiful, full of texture and interest and movement, I love the combination of strange and mysterious oddments, but that aesthetic response must be shadowed by the history behind. There’s still a level of discomfort, but in an undoubtedly self-serving way I find comfort in being uncomfortable, in being reminded, in reflecting on the human ability to find beauty in dreadful circumstance (that last would be much more convincing if it wasn’t others’ circumstances). Nicole told me she tries to walk a fine line, exploring issues and raising awareness in her themes while still retaining the appeal in her work for a wider, potentially purchasing, audience.

Nicole’s assemblages and collages include snippets of text. I think all of Tales of the Sea include phrases from a book, Tales of the Sea. Keith Lo Bue is another artist who uses this sort of idea (for example, The story of a shadow), also using assemblage of found materials. It’s an effective way to provide additional depth and narrative to a work, and I think could provide both challenge and guidance in the many decisions that are made in the process of creating a work. Most of my reading for some years now has been information-based – history, artists, techniques. While not seeking narrative, perhaps I could attempt to add a poetic note… Scary thought, which makes me think I need to try it.

Nicole de Mestre
Totally wired

Totally wired has the energy and exuberance I love in pieces incorporating wire. This work reminded me of Tracey Deep (29-Sep-2016), who also finds inspiration in domestic discards.

Nicole de Mestre
Cooler basket

This piece include parts from a fan guard, a recurring material in Nicole’s work. It can be seen above in some of the Tales of the Sea series, and in a more restrained way as a rim to a basket form. This year’s Sculpture at Scenic World exhibition includes an installation by Nicole, What lies beneath, a series of spheres constructed from fan guards (https://www.sculptureatscenicworld.com.au
/artwork/nicole-de-mestre/
), and apparently she has hundreds more stashed in her workspace. It’s a testament to the power of social networking (acquiring the material), and fascinating to see the variety of ways in which an rather bland form can be reinvented. (It happens I have one or two squirreled away in my garage, which may surface one day).

at Artisans in the Gardens

Another form and texture Nicole returns to in her work is the base of a tin can. They have been used in banksia-like forms in Artisans in the Gardens (23-Oct-2016), and in the current exhibition as the base of some baskets.

Nicole de Mestre
Some like it hot

On a larger scale is Some like it hot, which uses the base of an old water heater.

Detail

Above are a couple of shots to show the amount of detail that is included in the work, and this same care and attention is apparent throughout the exhibition.

Nicole is addressing serious issues in her work, here particularly environmental concerns and the plight of refugees, but it is done with a light and often quirky touch. Titles of works can be evocative – Ocean nest, The rising tide, Ghost bird – or jokey – Inglorious basket, Enough rope, Rabbit proof basket. Even the title of the exhibition has multiple meanings. Earlier I used the word “intuitive”, but in fact I think her skills in recognising potential in apparent rubbish and in combining materials in beautiful and interesting ways are the result of long and thoughtful practice. I was lucky enough to have a long chat with Nicole in the exhibition space, hearing about her somewhat eccentric and creatively rich childhood, her studies and work in woven textiles, her later training and work as an art and then special ed teacher. I’m hugely impressed by her work ethic and productivity – apparently list-making is key. I was also flattered that she invited me to the exhibition via a comment on this blog, and that she finds my writing inspiring and thought provoking.

In fact I’ve had such a strong and positive reaction to my whole experience of the exhibition that it’s been difficult to write this blog post. One concern was just being too gushing. I’ve had to tease out what exactly speaks to me that I want to bring back to my own work. The use of basketry techniques and metal, particularly wire, the weaving background, was always going to catch my interest. There is texture, variation, delightful details. The work is well done, but there is no attempt towards perfection – both materials and Nicole’s aesthetic sensibilities lead to the pleasure and beauty of imperfection. There is power in responding to materials, seeking out the best and the potential within them rather than just forcing them to your will.

Environmental concerns I find difficult and at the moment I don’t want to go there – or not in a major way. Tricky actually in basketry circles, as many makers are sensitive to environmental issues, harvesting their own materials or recycling. I have lived all my life in cities, I’m employed playing with numbers on a computer in a city office, I might be forced to but at the moment can’t imagine a life without plastic – in so many parts of my life I’m clearly a cost to the environment. Add in that I’m often cynical of claims that something or other is “environmentally friendly” or at least more so than something else. What does that mean exactly? How careful and thorough and complete and non-self-interested was any life-cycle assessment? So respect to those who do, and waste avoidance where I can, but no environmental themes for me.

Nicole asked me about this blog, saw me as a writer. Not the way I see myself. I write here because it helps me think. I write because I want to remember, and computers are better at that than I am. I write because it gives me a sense of progress (nope, I will not go down the rabbit hole of what progress is or whether we should seek it – this post is already long). For quite a while I used it as my learning log for OCA studies, my main means of communication with my tutors.

It turns out this blog is approaching ten years old. My first post was July 2008 and I wanted to record my learning as a beginner weaver (my 2008 posts); this will be post number 636. I’m pleased if my writing is of interest or use to others (a quick check shows my most viewed post by far was on diversified plain weave, back in October 2009, over 10,000 views). I’m mindful that what I post will be read. But really it’s all about me and all for me.

So now I’m faced with a recurring problem – how do I stop writing? (this post, not the blog generally). No grand conclusions. No clear takeouts for the future, although I think there are quite a few ideas scattered above I want to bring forward in a new brief. So for once I’ll lapse into the domestic. It’s my son’s turn to cook, I’m hungry and something smells interesting. Time to investigate.

Links
Council media release for exhibition https://www.innerwest.nsw.gov.au/news-hot-topics/media/media-releases/vessels-of-mass-consumption-at-chrissie-cotter-gallery
Nicole’s website: http://nicoledemestre.com/
Nicole on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nicole-de-Mestre-artist-228097140561051/

Walking in circles

It’s a good thing I have this blog to remind me of where I’ve been. Today’s path: have just re-started reading of Part Object Part Sculpture by Helen Molesworth (recommended by Ruth Hadlow, and which I had been reading back on 27-Mar-2016); have read and re-read a page about Alberto Burri (more on that later); which reminded me of Elwyn Lynn’s work (2-Oct-2016); in a post which expressed a theme of interest to me – “Expressing a sense of place (and time). Catching a moment”; which circles back to Confluence and my goal to “Capture that moment of coherence and balance…” (14-Apr-2018).

Back to Part Object Part Sculpture and Burri.
Texture of torn fabrics – cut, torn, stitched, sutured. Craters and holes, glimpses of layers. Encrusted, congealing, punctured. Colour – “Burri works with color as if it were a collage material like hessian, which he can cut up into pieces and stitch together again… Burri explores the color of touch in the thick, haptic surface of collage.” Palpable materiality.

Thrilling stuff, and a quick duckduckgo search provided mouthwatering images.

Then a bit of sobering up. From a wealth of material relating to Alberto Burri: The trauma of painting at the Guggenheim in 2015/2016 https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/alberto-burri-the-trauma-of-painting I learnt of Burri’s experiences as a doctor and then prisoner of war in WWII. Those sutures and slashes in his works seem less benign. (Yet another aside – the horrors of all wars. Burri; ANZAC day; at the MCA Chia-Wei Hsu in a deeply saddening video artwork telling the forgotten story of Chinese nationalist fighters become Cold War confidential informants for the CIA, trapped in space and time in Thailand).

A level of dissonance, looking at objects linked to violence and damage, then responding to the beauty. I found an exhibition review by Chloe Nelkin who describes Burri’s works as “aggressive but romantic and protective”, and also writes “Burri dismissed analysis that gave the works symbolic value. For him, it was about the simple integrity of material and the work’s formal quality; he said its meaning was to be found within the composition and nowhere else.” It goes back to the dangers and sometimes laziness of interpreting an artist’s work based on their biography.

I don’t know where this is going, but felt the need to mark the place so I can recognise it next time around.

Some more links
http://www.fondazioneburri.org/en/
https://chloenelkin.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/worth-the-walk-down-upper-street-burri-at-the-estorick/

Diversion talk

Today seven of the artists showing in Diversion gave talks in the gallery space. There was a very positive and energetic vibe to the event. I continue to enjoy very much the experience of exhibiting and it gave me a real buzz to have people interested in my work. I had some great conversations both before and after the actual talks.

Artist talk
Photo: Nicole Robins

My contribution (or a variant of it):
Our curator Meri chose a wonderful theme with “Diversion”. From many possible interpretations I quickly focused on ideas around distracted attention and departing from your “true” or “proper” path.

I love going to classes, mixing with people as a change from the quiet hours in the studio, the inspiration, the new techniques and materials. For many years I was fairly focused, working with textiles although using a range of techniques. A few years ago I did a course in Mixed Media for Textiles and my creative world exploded – suddenly a wide range of media and techniques, plastics, plaster, resin, printmaking… – and away from two dimensions into space. I could definitely be off “the path”.

Happily some of the classes were with Australian artist and academic Ruth Hadlow. Her model or way of understanding a creative practice or indeed life provided a structure or framework for what could have been chaos.

In Ruth’s model there aren’t discrete bubbles of projects, each a separate series of steps: research and develop idea; plan outcome; produce outcome; deliver or display; full-stop. Instead there are series of strands of investigation co-existing, like the many currents in a river. A particular strand may start, fade, grow, join with other strands, resurface… It isn’t a progression to a Goal. You go where-ever most engaged at the moment.

There are no diversions! Anything could lead anywhere, at some future time. You never know the end point when you start – there aren’t real end points in this ongoing process.

Given you don’t know the end, you need to be very careful and clear about the beginning. What are your points of reference, what interests you, what attracts (not distracts) your attention? Analyse inputs and influences – be very specific about exactly what is drawing you.

Then you can develop a brief – a question or challenge. Explore, not committing to a single direction early. Sample constantly – often sampling becomes the work. Sampling avoids predetermining the work.

Ruth’s ideas have stayed with me. I haven’t applied her rigour, but my general approach is framed in those terms.

The Diversion theme – distracted attention and straying from one true path – felt a challenge. Could I work using the model and have an outcome bringing many paths together for the exhibition?

My brief for work towards Confluence:
o Use elements of the river – currents and eddies and flashes of sunlight
o Reflect my diverse interests
o Keep sampling as long as possible, keeping it provisional
o Capture that moment of coherence and balance when everything comes together just before it all flows apart.

Confluence as exhibited in Diversion:
o in my eyes elements of water or river or channel in each part
o There are textiles, including my hand-dyed threads from my weaving days, metalwork and cold forging, resin, making mobiles, virtually a beginner’s sampler of basketry techniques
o I’m disappointed there’s no welding or printmaking or cast plaster, or broken ceramics, or drawing, or …
o There’s a literal approach to the idea of momentary balance, using my recent and ongoing experimentation with mobile forms.
o There was lots of sampling (I took a sample-bag of the samples to illustrate the talk!). Some “samples” are incorporated in the exhibition work, some led to elements in the exhibition , some stay in the bag and may resurface in the future
o As for keeping work provisional, my misreading of exhibition deadlines meant I didn’t have the mobile element ready and fully documented in time. Fortunately for me curator Meri was very accommodating. After the deadline the flow of work continued as I kept sampling and experimenting. Somewhat bizarrely it was a surprise to me when I suddenly recognised it – the basin element – was a finished object, really not at all the form I was thinking of at the start. It was the day before installation that I emailed Meri and she so kindly agreed to the addition. Other than sitting in the exhibition space working, I don’t think I could have pushed provisional and sampling further.

At the end of the talk I briefly mentioned Waymarker, a sentinel of a stream of enquiry, of possibility, that I want to return to one day. An alternate stream that I’m hoping will allow me to experiment with some similar ideas albeit on a different scale has been progressing in the background. Fingers crossed, more on that soon.

—–
Most of what I spoke about has been recorded in this blog.
* Mixed media for textiles course – see Categories listed on the right of this page.
* 25-Feb-2016 has the main information about Ruth Hadlow’s workshop Articulating Practice, but do a search on the blog for lots more references.
* Keith Lo Bue’s dvd workshop Poetry in motion: making marvelous mobiles (http://www.keithlobue.com/) teaches all about creating mobile forms. I wrote about some classes I took with Keith 23-Apr-2017, and a blog search will turn up lots more references to him.
* Summer school in Welded Sculpture with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017) taught me all I know about welding. Waymarker was made there, although named more recently.

Diversion

At the opening
Photo: Desdemona Foster

The latest Basketry NSW exhibition opened last Wednesday. It’s the first time work of mine has been shown in a formal gallery space, my first evening with drinks and nibbles opening, and I had a great time. There were lots of other artists to chat with (I think there are 21 artists being shown), plus I had family and friends who continued the evening with me later with dinner at the local pub.

The exhibition looked great. A team of us had worked hard on the installation the previous day under the leadership of curator and president Meri Peach. One of the strengths of our group is the wide range of materials and techniques, the different perspectives and focus of members, resulting in a showcase of current trends in contemporary basketry.

Most of the umbrellas from Shades of Red (9-Mar-2018) were reunited, installed lining the outside terrace of the gallery. Gallery Lane Cove is up a flight of stairs from the street, and it’s great to have such a statement visible from below.

Shades of Red installation

Waymarker

As well as my two umbrellas I contributed two works to the exhibition.

Waymarker has been seen before in this blog, but looks a bit different with the gallery lighting and hanging system. It was made in the Welded Sculpture summer school with Paul Hopmeier at the National Art School last year (22-Jan-2017).

Confluence had a last minute addition which really pleased me. When I last photographed it just a couple of weeks ago it was a mobile (19-Mar-2018). In the installation it was joined by a second element, which given the watery theme I’ll call a basin (some ambivalence here – “eddy” could work as well).

Confluence -basin element

The idea for this element came up during experimentation and development for the mobile. One Sunday, just three days before the entry deadline and feeling the time pressure, I made the resin section – and it didn’t work. Threads clumped every which-way, the simple form I intended became a misshapen mess… A total disaster and waste of materials. Confluence the mobile was entered into the exhibition.

A week or so later I decided I might as well try the wire looping edge experiment, just to get some value from the thing. As work continued I planned all sorts of extra elaboration, piercing the internal mass with more metal and perhaps voids … but suddenly, quite unexpectedly, over the Easter long weekend it was finished. And I liked it. All those extra plans seemed busy and pointless. The accidental form was way better than my original intention would have been. It sat for a couple of days under the mobile and in my eyes the whole was more than the sum of the parts. So the morning before installation day I emailed Meri, no expectations, thinking it was an unprofessional thing to do, but feeling I owed it to the work to at least ask the question. With incredible generosity, Meri said yes. Right from the start (21-Jan-2018) my thinking was of Ruth Hadlow’s model of practice, and keeping experimental and open as long as possible. I feel very fortunate to be supported in pushing that to the absolute limit.

Confluence installed


Finding the right position to hang Confluence was tricky, and in the end fortune continued to favour me – the air-conditioning vent nearby keeps the work in almost constant gentle motion.

Eight or so of us will be giving brief talks in the exhibition on Saturday 14 April starting at 11 am. The exhibition continues at Gallery Lane Cove to 28 April 2018.

Hobart

In November I spent an extra-long weekend in Hobart with my mother and sister.

MONA
Museum of Old and New Art. Hard to describe if you haven’t heard of it, so quoting from the website: Mona is one man’s ‘megaphone’ as he put it at the outset: and what he wants to say almost invariably revolves around the place of art and creativity within the definition of humanity. I found it fascinating, frustrating, annoying, amazing, pretentious… Certainly not bland. There is just so much stuff that it is overwhelming – something you could say about many galleries and museums and places of entertainment, but here sometimes excess seems to be an end in itself. I think it is quite deliberate about unsettling people. At times I felt crassly manipulated, it was a bit obvious. At other times I wasn’t aware of it, but pretty sure it was still happening. Some very clever and very professional people at work here.

I think my hard-won and still limited knowledge of art and art history was both put to the test and at times shown to be irrelevant. And it’s pretty human not to enjoy that feeling. So I’ll focus here on the spots where interests overlapped.

Julia Krause-Harder
(detail)

There were a number of dinosaurs by Julia Krause-Harder. I didn’t get a good photo, but the detail shows what I responded to – weaving using cable ties, plastic and other probably repurposed materials. Here some of the frustration comes in. MONA doesn’t have labels on walls. They provide lots of information on “the O” – iOS only. In many ways great when you’re there – they have devices for you to carry around if you don’t worship at that particular temple. Not so good for me, as usually I take a photo of the wall info whenever I photograph an artwork, making it easy to refer back. So incomplete information here.

bit.fall, 2001–06, Julius Popp

A waterfall, with words derived from news and other feeds, processed through some clever algorithm then fed into mechanism like a hybrid of inkjet printer and sprinkler system. Fascinating to watch and wonder about the news stories the words are derived from. Some words I thought I could place from current events, others remain a mystery.

MONA is very low profile from the outside. Most of it is down within the cliff of a peninsula on the Derwent River. Many large public buildings have a big atrium opening out above you after a narrow or relatively low entry point, to inspire a sense of awe and wonder in those entering. MONA does it upside down – you enter an apparently single storied building, lots of light, the shop and cafe, then descend into the depths by spiral stairs or lift where the subterranean atrium is indeed awe-inspiring. Julius Popp’s work dominates that space, and as you work your way up through the galleries you come to it again and again at different levels.

Judith Scott – detail


Judith Scott

Wandering rather listlessly through a labyrinth of small rooms and corridors, this caught the corner of my eye and I raced (I’m hoping there was no pushing involved, but couldn’t swear to it). Unmistakable. Fascinating and complex and engrossing and for me a moment of peace and absorption in a strident environment. I’ve written in this blog many times about Scott’s work – just do a search top right. No more to say and words aren’t the point.

Fat Car, 2006 Erwin Wurm

One of the more popular exhibits I suspect, Fat Car is just that. A sleek sportscar has been modified and is now corpulent, with rolls of shiny duco flab. Even the black leather seats bulge. A neat critique of our culture.

Brett Whitely

Tucked away in a corner was a mass of “traditional” artworks – oil on canvas type things. The photo above shows a very large and I think overall lovely work by Brett Whitely. He’s not one of my favourite artists – the self promotion is a bit thick and I start feeling suffocated. Here it comes as a disembodied hand and, from memory, eyeball (not a believer in subtlety), but there’s so much else I can still breathe and think my own thoughts.

The MONA excess can just be glimpsed at the edges of the photo above. Lots by Sidney Nolan and various others hung salon style. (There was a huge, HUGE work by Nolan in another area.)

Altogether a challenging and interesting day. I’d love to go back by myself, immerse and challenge myself.

In and around Hobart
We spent some time walking around Hobart. Salamanca Markets have a very good name, and we spent a hot and sunny Saturday there. Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum brought the temperature down. The museum is a replica of the huts built in 1911 in Cape Denison, Antarctica. The central living area has been reproduced with great detail, the bunks, stove, tables used by the men of the expedition. Fascinating.

At the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery we focused on historical exhibitions. First was Our land: parrawa, parrawa! Go away!, a sobering and painful telling of the story of the invasion of the island and the Black War. Just one level down in the historic Bond Store building was Our changing land: Creating Tasmania. On its website the museum invites the visitor to “investigate the making of Tasmania, and explore how the state has become a place of environmental change and complexities, of creativity and of a particular social identity”. It was hard to enter the spirit of that, seeing all the domestic treasures accumulated by the colonists, all the time hearing through the ceiling above the audio of the Black War exhibition.

One of the major reasons for visiting Hobart was to seek out places visited by a great-great… uncle who came out to Hobart in the early 1840s (mum’s research is at https://megshistory.wordpress.com/john-chester-jervis/). A decade after the period of the Black War, but the visit to the Museum certainly gave some perspective and context to the opportunities young John Chester Jervis was seeking.

Richmond Bridge

A short drive out from Hobart took us to Richmond and the bridge which was constructed by convict labour 1823-1825 – the oldest stone span bridge in Australia. To complete the sunny picture a couple of boys in red came running down to fish and be reflected in the waters, while ducks thoughtfully paddled their way into the shot.

While in Richmond we also visited the Old Hobart Town model village, again showing a period a bit before John Chester’s arrival. Together with a drive-by of the only Hobart address we know related to him (the house where he was married, long since over-built), this rounded out our “research”.

Tahune AirWalk

Tahune AirWalk
View of cantilever section, taken from early part of the walk


Huon River from Tahune AirWalk

A longer day trip was to Tahune AirWalk, a suspended walkway above the forest canopy next to the Huon River. It was another hot day and somewhat airless in the valley, but beautiful in the dappled light of the trees. The Huon River is dark, its waters coloured by tannins. Birds and insects flew around us. Even the length of the walk – across the river and through the trees, then 600 metres of the walkway itself – was pretty much perfect for our party. There are other adventures available here, and you could stay longer or overnight if you wish, but we were happy and satisfied without.

Mount Wellington
Finally, given this has turned into a family travel blog rather than strictly art and creative practice (although I’ll maintain each part of life feeds and supports the other), a snapshot from the top of Mount Wellington

Top of Mount Wellington

Still glancing back

Continuing from 21-Dec-2017, looking back as I move forward…

There’s been a little making over this time.

A matter of balance
Overall it’s not what I intended to make and it’s just not right. On the hand there’s lots I like, lots I learnt, lots I brought forward in this.

Good points include:

Sample p3-40 sand molded side

* Use of sample p3-40 from Mixed Media for Textiles (23-Sept-2015). This started life as a heat distortion sample of silver lamé, which was later encased in resin.
* an element of basketry – neolithic twining in wire for a couple of elements.
* I like the little dangle of shards and chain.

Class with Marion Gaemers

Marion Gaemers at workshop

This two day workshop was organised by Basketry NSW.

My class samples

In one sense Sculptural Basketry was pretty simple – cutting and distorting different sizes of chicken wire, wrapping it, coiling from it, covering with and removing paper. Repeat over two days.

Of course there was more. Marion didn’t stop, coming round to each person, asking questions… – and listening to our answers. Then more questions, encouraging us to see, to think about possibilities, to challenge our unconscious, limiting assumptions. With structure taken care of by the wire you can go anywhere with basketry. Cut some out to create voids, or add, or twist. Build in any direction, experiment with materials, use familiar techniques in new ways.


Marion also has lots of expertise in group installations, and while in Sydney she was helping with an upcoming project. It’s too soon to share any details, but here is a glimpse of some work in progress.

Art gallery talks
An embarrassment of riches really. The AGNSW weekly lecture series Site Specific: The power of place, shorter series and one-off lectures on Tolstoy, 17th century dutch doll houses, archaeology in Khotan and Dunhuang… I go and in the darkness scribble phrases and images that catch my mind. Too much to sift through right now unfortunately, but filed away as a resource for the future.

There was a whole day of lectures at the Sydney sculpture conference: in public space. Speakers touched on sculpture as a carrier of time – beyond time, space, reality; the language of a particular place, of Sydney; facilitating transformations; propositional and ephemeral work. There was a lot about the funding of work, challenges to the artist that push them. Maaretta Jaukkuir commented that a work can address the whole of society and public sculpture more ideology than art.

Statue of Richard Bourke
Attribution: DO’Neil at the English language Wikipedia

What has particularly stayed with me is Michael Hill’s comments on public sculpture helping you to understand a place and its history. He talked about a monument to Governor Richard Bourke. This was the first public statue erected in Australia. It is by Edward Hodges Baily, who was also responsible for the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square. It shows a prominent governor of the young colony who worked to change it from military to civil government, to reduce the number of lashes a magistrate could order to a low 50, who declared each religious denomination on equal footing before the law, who was the first governor to publish the colony accounts. So a great, modern, guy. Except that he was the one who proclaimed the doctrine of terra nullius, that the land was nobody’s, dispossessing the indigenous Australians. And the statue stands high, looking over usurped land, on a plinth which lists this achievement.

Now the proclamation seems to have been triggered by concerns about European squatters on the land and a particular “treaty” that was claimed to be have been made and has all sorts of complications and issues. So maybe more establishing a pecking order in the plundering. But coming back to Michael Hill’s lecture, you can see why some in our community find the statue of Bourke offensive, and I don’t agree with Hill’s repeated laments about calls for the statue’s removal and that only sculptures and artworks are subject to such calls, while buildings and other works remain standing. To me the statue has limited modern artistic merit – if it was part of the AGNSW’s collection, would it be guaranteed constant display in perpetuity? It is there because of its historical interest, and that history is disputed and painful. So let’s get the statue down and display it somewhere with context, with other points of view given equal weight, where there can be discussions that take us to a better future that includes facing and redressing as far as possible past wrongs, rather than celebrating and continuing them.

Rant over. And catchup almost over, as much as it ever will be.

Looking back, moving forward

There’s no sugar-coating it. My creative work was overtaken by other priorities for a good part of this year. There is now some time and energy, but where to begin? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Beginning, one action then another. Repeat.

But I don’t want to lose sight of things that have happened, have been seen and done. A light touch, with a little more detail where part-written posts captured some thought behind…

Victorian watercolours
https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/victorian-watercolours/
One of the old court galleries at the AGNSW has been redecorated in Victorian style, including dark red walls, double swag curtains and antique seating (too fragile for actual use). The pictures are a mixture, Some rather saccharine and bland, many enjoyable.
I appreciated the hanging of two in particular, either side of a draped archway, both similar and contrasting in theme and staging. Publio de Tommasi’s cardinal shows sly satisfaction, anticipating triumph in the game of chess. Two other men debate the news of the day in a work by Charles Robertson. A world away, or sharing a love of rich tapestries and good conversation?

Victorian Watercolours exhibiton


Publio de Tommasi
The game of chess (detail)
1882


Charles Robertson
Bazaar gossip (detail)
c1886

Passion and Procession: art of the Philippines
https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/passion-and-procession/
An enormous canvas at the entry to this exhibition initially intimidated me. So much happening, so much war and death. Rodel Tapaya combines multiple mythologies, a mix of symbols, to present views of a recent violent event. My companion and I took our time, examined the detail, made connections and discoveries, and ultimately I felt rewarded by the effort. This is a country and history I don’t know, but have since felt drawn to learn about.

Inside the exhibition it was surprising to find many works of a human, domestic, scale and theme – although on reflection I think that surprise was misplaced – Tapaya’s work was full of humanity and the personal price of conflict.

Rodel Tapaya
Do you have a rooster, Pedro?


Norberto Roldan
Detail of domestic altars series. 2005


Marina Cruz
Blush fibres and bed sores

A long weekend in Melbourne in July was packed with interest.

Greater Together
https://acca.melbourne/exhibition/greater-together/

ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) is an exciting venue and the exhibition was full of ideas and risk-taking – and somewhat hit and miss.
Letters to the Land (2017) by Bik Van der Pol (Liesbeth Bik and Jos Vaqn der Pol) was the biggest hit for me. A large space filled with voice and colour.

Bik Van Der Pol
Letters to the land

Van Gogh and the Seasons
https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/van-gogh-and-the-seasons/

A blockbuster at the NGV. It was always going to be crowded. Long queues to get in (hurrah for pre-booked tickets and reciprocal memberships, so walked right past), great gatherings around the later, more familiar works. But it was a happy and generally considerate crowd, people enjoying themselves, looking at art and talking about it. Most also moved through quite quickly, so with a bit of patience you could spend some quality time with whatever caught your interest.

Van Gogh_
A Wheatfield, with cypresses
1889


The exhibition was also cleverly hung – lots of Japanese prints in the hallways leading in, giving context and getting eyes in tune, then paintings arranged by season rather than chronologically so the works that many viewers gravitated towards were spaced throughout the gallery, generally with a little extra room around them. So clusters formed, parts spun away and reformed, children wriggled through – I can imagine a beautiful film taken from high above, using a thermographic camera for glowing colours of massed heat, like watching a colony of tiny organic forms under a microscope. My husband suggested an Esther Williams movie, much less formal but with explosions of movement and sprays of water at key points.

What caught my interest?
The movement and weight of a field-worker.

Van Gogh
Reaper (1885)


Thick wedges of colour and line in tree trunks.

Van Gogh
Tree trunks in the grass (1890)


Full of detail and flickering colour, a path to follow but for the moment lost in the depths of the bark. It was fascinating to see the man returning to ideas, to seasons, throughout his short career. On a less sublime note, I found myself seeing the detail of the world around me with clearer eyes, the lines of colour and depth in my teabag glistening…

Blocks of colour piled up, strong shapes and line.

Van Gogh
View of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (1888)

NGV
On another day we roamed through the NGV, more or less at random.

Ross Coulter
Audience

In the Festival of Photography I saw a solitary viewer fascinated by Ross Coulter’s Audience – photographic documentation of audiences of performances that may or may not have been taking place. Another large gallery was dark, luminous, with works by Bill Henson.

Turning a corner I was excited to see Spatial Concept by Lucio Fontana.

Lucio Fontana
Spatial Concept

Last year I did quite a bit of reading about Fontana’s work and ideas (12-Jun-2016), and returned to his ideas of infinite dimension numerous times in my exploration of the grid. To see an example of the pierced canvas, to experience the ruptured sacred surface, the glimpse of the worlds beyond, had more impact – a visceral impact – than I would have expected.

Creating the Contemporary Chair was an unexpected delight.
Tracey Deep’s She Chair was an exuberant transformation of a classic. (see 29-Sep-2016 for other works by Deep.)

Tracey Deep
She Chair

Shadowy armchair, designed by Tord Boontje and manufactured by Moroso was an extravagance, something that would have suited the cat in a hat, handwoven in plastic threads. The chair was one of a series designed in collaboration with traditional craftspeople of Senegal and Mali, and the same plastic threads are used in fishing nets. I loved the clever weave, the beautifully resolved edges.

Tord Boontje (designer)
Moroso (manufacturer)
Shadowy armchair


There were many more beautiful, fascinating and just plain weird chairs. And there is still more catching up to be done. But this post has been building over a few days and is long enough. And in tandem I have started making again. It feels good.


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