Archive for the 'Artists and exhibitions' Category

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.

Modernist Season at Sydney Living Museums

The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney at Museum of Sydney shows the work of a large, inter-connected group of émigrés working in Sydney in the 1930s to 1960s. Architects, interior designers, furniture makers, photographers, commentators, they brought European modernism, fresh ideas, vitality and some controversy (that last they didn’t necessarily bring).

From the museum website: Discover the vitality of this community, their stories of achievement, loss, adaptation and ingenuity in this celebration of both the richness that migration brings and the diverse history of our city – a timely reminder as history cycles. Writing this I reflect back on Godwin Yidana’s words on circles, connectedness and how all both give and receive (31-Jul-2017).

George Reves
Schwartz House

The exhibition includes plans, photographs and drawing, plus a series of vignettes set up so you can appreciate the whole design in context – furniture, rugs, artwork etc. Often the furniture was designed as an integral part of the architecture.

Rose Seidler House
Photo: NewFormula

Architect Harry Seidler must be one of the best know today of this group. A week ago I went on the SLM Donna & Brian Seidler House tour & talk.

Rose Seidler House
Photo: Marcel Seidler

The talk was in the lounge room of Rose Seidler House, another SLM property. The house is actually one of three built here, all intended for different members of Seidler’s family. The talk was given by Brian Seidler (Harry’s cousin) and focused on the recent (ongoing) restoration of Julian Rose House (originally intended for Harry’s uncle Marcel, who took the photo of Rose Seidler House shown to the right).

The care, attention and challenging choices of the renovation / restoration are amazing. The house had been extended and remodeled by owners over the years, not always sensitively or even soundly in engineering terms. Inappropriate additions, such as thick concrete pad and quarry tiles, have been removed. Damaged structure has as far as possible been repaired. “As far as possible” – there’s the rub. This isn’t a museum, it needs to function as a home. Some of the “modern” materials are no longer available, or aren’t safe, or … For example light plates. Authentic ones from the period may be sourced, but do they meet modern standards? If not, can or should the internal wiring be replaced but the old plate used?

Robert MacPherson
White/black (Arago)

Yesterday I wrote about White/black (Arago) by Robert MacPherson, the theory than can underpin four quadrilaterals in different mixes of white and black. In the small bathroom of Julian Rose House, five different tiles are used. One for the floor, then one on each wall – black, white, grey, ivory. It’s all about light – white tiles on the wall facing the window, to bounce light around. Black on the wall under the window, etc. And tiles of the right size and colours had to be sourced. And each tile needed matching grout… The level of passion and commitment was awe-inspiring.

Harry Seidler
Brian & Donna Seidler House

After the talk Brian led us on a walk – first through the nearly-finished work of Julian Rose House, and then on to what was Marcus Seidler House, and is now the home of Brian Seidler, his wife and their children.

Here again the passion and commitment comes through. It’s not easy living in a 1950s Modern house when you are determined to maintain its heritage. These houses are small. This one has been extended twice, with the involvement of Harry Seidler and later his company, but is still not large by modern standards (you can see some info on the last extension on the website of Harry Seidler & Associates). The main bedroom opens directly from the lounge area. The fridge is limited in size by the fitout of the original kitchen. The colour scheme, walls, curtains, everything, is determined by the architects. It is beautiful. It is a gem. Only very rare and amazing people would be prepared to do it. And on top of this they give talks and occasionally allow strangers to traipse through their home. It was a real privilege to visit.

Soft sculpture Twining and more

Judy Dominic, wrapping up two days of exploration

The highlight of recent days was a workshop with Judy Dominic – Soft Sculpture Twining – organised by Basketry NSW.

Two days, two apparently simple techniques – twining and a ribbing/edging – , two weights of seagrass cord, infinite possibilities.

The combination of material and technique produced a malleable fabric that could be turned, punched, folded, stretched out of shape… Spokes and weavers were moved as needed. As long as you have the length, you have options. And if you need to, you can always add length in different ways.

Judy moved around the class constantly, encouraging, supporting, challenging. One piece-in-progress, and in discussion there were possibilities for a few years’ investigation.

Class work

A general photo doesn’t capture the individuality, the wide range of responses of the participants. A few highlights below (click on a photo for a larger view):

I concentrated on a sampler of options rather than finished work. Two samples in fact, which then were joined, twisted and pummeled, pulled into a possibility for the group display, and since partly dismantled so I can keep playing.


Next will be trying out some ideas using some of my more familiar materials. It will be interesting to see how that changes the performance of the results.

Exhibition
Adman: Warhol before popAGNSW

Andy Warhol
Progressive Piano (hands on piano keys)

The exhibition is huge, lots of photos and ephemera from Warhol’s life as well as his work.

I followed my eye.

Warhol’s blotted line technique results in some fascinating lines, sometimes strong, sometimes tentative, with rhythms and hesitations that had me holding my breath as I followed them across the page.
The use of collage, especially in blocks of colour that draw the eye and emphasize areas without directly responding the the lines, is particularly exciting.

Andy Warhol
Marbleized paper (detail)

The AGNSW website has videos demonstrating a number of Warhol’s techniques, including blotted-line and marbleizing. Definitely techniques I would like to explore myself. I’ve challenged myself with collage in the past (see for example 22-Sep-2016 and 31-Dec-2016 – it doesn’t come naturally to me), and combining it with a monotype-ish technique would be an interesting extension.

Andy Warhol, Julia Warhola
‘It’s a real genuine fake’

Text is another excitement in many of the displayed works, most the work of Warhol’s mother Julia Warhola. It brings a level of detail, intricacy, and draws the viewer in to read and see more. There’s more of the quirky individuality, like the blotted lines, where smooth flowing progression is replaced by a fragmenting rhythm, syncopated, stretching, bending, crowding unevenly down the page. (OK, so the example shown isn’t the most extreme on a number of those counts).

Andy Warhol
Cosmetics

Cosmetics combines lines and dynamic forms brought together with transparent colours, some duller, following the drawn line, others brighter, linking and framing.

I wasn’t expecting to like this exhibition, not “serious” enough perhaps, but I’ve been back a couple of times and felt invigorated, energized by it. It’s in its last days, so you’ll need to hurry.

Dance
Orb Sydney Dance Company

Two newly commissioned dance pieces, one with beautiful costumes and flowing, rippling movement, the other more street gritty, confined, with an amazing sequence of bodies weaving in space.

Had me thinking about what “rhythm” means.

Talks
All part of the AGNSW lecture series Site Specific: The power of place.

Jane Messenger: “Soap suds and white wash: JMW Turner and the Sea”
Turner’s innovation and his influence on other artists such as Monet and Pissaro were interesting, but what has stayed with me are the closing two paintings, one from early in Turner’s career, one late, both showing a vortex of ships, water, spray.

Dr Ruth Pullin: “Eugene von Guérard and Cape Schanck”
Von Guérard was a traveller with an ability to quickly discerne the essence of a place, and an eye for seeing the picture in nature. He was also a man of his time, interested in geology and other science, a convergence of the romantic (the enormity of space) and the scientific (accurate topology). Seeing sketchbook and finished works is always illuminating, especially the open air painting in the German tradition, oil studies rather than a standard sketchbook.

Von Guérard spent just 30 of his 90 years in Australia, 1852 – 1882. I knew him as a painter of Australia and New Zealand. It was odd to see early work, from his extensive training in Germany and Italy, showing his intimate knowledge of the Neander Valley.

While writing this post I came across the abstract of Ruth Pullin’s PhD thesis (link). Impossible to follow up everything 😦

Dr Alison Inglis: “Sir John Everett Millais – the allure of Scotland”
The paintings we looked at showed an emotional sincerity, psychological spaces, collapsing perspective, slightly flattened space and emphasis of silhouettes.

Sometimes. The paintings also showed a journey of technique and style, to a much lesser extent of subject, over the course of a lifetime’s work. That doesn’t make it less sincere, a young man controversial and anti-establishment, the older man president of the Royal Academy of Arts – the establishment. A sell-out or bolder? Does it matter? – focus on the work.

Dr Chiara O’Reilly: “Barbizon and Jean François Millet”
Something noble can be made of the humblest of life.

O’Reilly argued that in Millet’s works, even those apparently empty of human figures, there is a theme of labour, of the shaping and defining of the land by humans. In many pictures of course the figure(s) are strong, powerful, dominating – The Sower, in ways The Gleaners. The figures of the poorest are given dignity by the attention Millet gives, the scale, layering the real with memory and inspiration.

As a textile person I need to point out the knitting – much knitting. We’ve lost touch with the cost, the effort, of clothing ourselves.

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
Wisdom

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
Moonscape

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, https://thecuriosityoflottiecontinues.com/. How lucky to hear about an opportunity a week before the show opens, rather than a week after it closes 🙂 . 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.

Links:
Artist’s website: http://www.sallysimpson.com.au/
Gallery and exhibition: http://stanleystreetgallery.com.au/exhibition/sally-simpsonrelics-and-reliquaries7th-september-1st-october-2016/
Media release: http://stanleystreetgallery.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PRESS-RELEASE-Sally-Simpson_ObjectsForAnUnknownFutureMuseum2016.pdf

Nicholas Thomas (2016) “We need ethnographic museums today – whatever you think of their history” In Apollo: the international art magazine [online] http://www.apollo-magazine.com/we-need-ethnographic-museums-today-whatever-you-think-of-their-past/


Instagram

Something about me and directions. Class sample on the left, my version on the right.

Calendar of Posts

February 2018
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728  

Archives

Categories