Archive for the 'Artists and exhibitions' Category

Rosslynd Piggott -Tremor

Attentive Looking at Rosslynd Piggott: I sense you but I cannot see you, National Gallery of Victoria.

2019-07-12 19.34.04

Rosslynd Piggott
Tremor


Unbalanced
Odd angles
Slice of reflections
Reflections of reflections
Glass bubbles like a spirit level
Weighed down, bolted down
Would / could those wire (?) ties loosen?
The glass bubbles would float
Twisting effect of angles
Looks like sliding around
2019-07-12 19.35.34

Fragmented me

Constantly responding (mirror shaft), not a captured moment of motion
Motion right now – from reflection, from me
Transparency and reflection – glass, high gloss of black
See, hide, reveal
Hard to stand steady – tipping one way or another
Gap could widen and we’d fall through – through the floor of the gallery, through the foundations and earth and mysterious network of pipes. The abyss.
The blackness of the chasm, reflecting but could change, start absorbing, at any moment
Watch my step, don’t want to tip it
Reflecting me and my unsteadiness, instability. Fractured.
Now feels dangerous – edge of the cliff
I’m part of it.
Not trapped, but moving in it, moving it.
Displayed in a quiet corner. Does that amplify the danger?
Is it near a supporting column? Would that feel safer?
But more exciting, exhilarating, than scarey
The maroon colour of one weight, of what I’m wearing. Increases sense of personal involvement
It’s closer to the edge than the other. Is it sliding?

I found this process – standing there, forcing myself to stay with it, think, notice, focus, scribbling away – absorbing and energising.
The link to un-balance is clear. Reflections, making the viewer part of ongoing motion… How can I introduce that?

Later I read the signage. Some correspondence, some significant differences. Harsh to say, but it’s not relevant to my purpose.

Robert Rauschenberg – Dylaby

Attentive Looking involves engaging with a work, unpacking one’s own response. Not external information, not that “answer” on the label on the wall (or at your fingertips with the O device at MONA). Looking. Seeing what is happening, an event where the work meets or affects you. Mining that experience, the points of attraction or impact on you, how you could use those as a new starting point in your own investigations, in your own terrain.

This week I went to AGNSW, to the area in the Contemporary galleries just outside the Duchamp exhibition. What collection works would the curators have chosen to respond to that?

One work in particular called to me straight away.

Robert Rauschenberg
Dylaby

I stood there, trying to figure out why. I scrawled notes.

Robert Rauschenberg
Dylaby (detail)

Scale – not too big. Garage or shed or maybe farmyard detritus.
Found objects with history, materiality.
Echoes of past use, but not loud or forceful.

Timber and rubber. Good, solid, known, functional, familiar, materials. Complement each other. Natural, but formed by human.
Texture – the grain of the wood, the tread and molding of the tyre, the gaps and joins, the runs of paint.
Components match in size as well as complementary material.

Double headed arrow. Asking me questions.
Strong geometric shapes. Circle, rectangle, the triangle of the arrowheads.
Repetition of shapes and levels of detail. Rectangles within and across rectangles. Circular molding on tyre as well as the major edges.

Limited, neutral, colours. Cream paint, brown of timber, black of tyre and paint, deeper black of glimpsed interior.

Interior / external play.
Unified. Balanced. Coherent.
Self-assured. Self-contained, but not trapped.

Chosen to be together. Linked by found status, by random marking in cream paint – but not “matched”. I suspect the doublehead of the arrow was a modification by the artist. Another sign of choice, of the conscious eye and hand of the artist.

Definitely an object (a current area of interest and research).

I think the biggest challenge to me in my own work, the question asked, is in materiality. I’ve been reading in that area. Ruth Hadlow has challenged me in that area. I can feel an internal resistance. Part of that is practical. The found objects most available to me are domestic, and it feels hackneyed. That was the major reason for the “tip of the tongue” theme I haven’t written about yet. There’s a lot of junk in the house, which we’re currently clearing out. None of it is particularly evocative. And if it were, there’s the storage consideration. More thought required.

Adroitly redirecting attention, going to external sources of information gave a different view. This “combine” is one of very few items still existing from an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1962 of the same name. It’s an abbreviated form of “Dynamic Labyrinth”. I can’t do justice to it here, it sounds totally crazy – see for example https://stedelijkstudies.com/journal/ludic-exhibitions-at-the-stedelijk-museum-die-welt-als-labyrinth-bewogen-beweging-and-dylaby/. A total contrast to the galleries in which I saw the Rauschenberg work. (I was going to write about the cool and calm gallery, but AGNSW has its noisy, colourful, crazy moments too.)

It’s good to have that contrast, that reminder. My experience of the work was very different – quiet, personal, contemplative. A work can be different in every encounter.

Momentary (un)balance

It’s been a while since I posted. This is going to be a bit of a ramble. Glancing to past, present, and future. I chose a title that might give a bit of space for reflection. For exploration. To challenge. To be challenged. Who am I? What am I doing here? That sort of stuff. Well, hopefully not too much of that final stuff – too tedious for anyone, including me, and the answers will be different in a day or hour or next thought.

After all balance, or not, is a moment by moment thing.
And could one say there is more fun in un- ?
fun-balance?

In the interregnum there was the second group session with Ruth Hadlow in Hobart. How to show the activity of my glossary and energizing objects investigations? With just a few days to go I thought of the balancing act of a house of cards, and quickly printed out material from the blog.

Un-balance House of Cards

Results were poor as a presentation device. While talking I was unable to get beyond two cards before the anticipated collapse eventuated.

For communication? Mixed response. People seemed to enjoy passing them around for a look, and it was probably easier than a laptop showing the blog. However to an extent the cards were interpreted as a work in their own right, and from that perspective there was a lot of refinement to be done.

It led to the suggestion of looking at documentation and research as forms of creative practice.

It also led to some discussion of the use of a blog. Not necessarily polished writing and presentation. Not private, unrestrained “thinking writing”. Mine is an uneasy balance – some warts showing, but not all. And I quite see that the viewer of an artwork might not want their response to be directed or narrowed by my titles, and might prefer some mystery and wonder rather than be told the balance was actually easy (15-Apr-2019).

Ready for lift-off
24-Mar-2019

Then there are the actual objects. For me a weaving shuttle plus red chopsticks from a local cafe have meaning beyond the balance. For others those materials are most likely unrecognised, mute. Even more so my trusty annealed tie wire, or threads in resin, or corrugated copper foil, or …

A towering thirst
15-Apr-2019

Can I add to my work in my choice of materials? One point of resistance is that these materials are already meaningful to me. How much to I want to vary my standard, selfish, focus? Plus the obvious thing is to go household/domestic, but I’m wary of being obvious. Which led me to the idea of “on the tip of the tongue”. If I choose to take this path, can I disguise the objects so people have to reach for recognition? To me that stretching, vibrating feeling of trying to pin down a reference is very close to the rapidly variation adjustments trying to keep balance. I need to learn more about material approaches.

Then there was the surprising (to me) realisation that all my samples were very literal illustrations of balance. That was set up in the briefs for each investigation, but still… Over the days of the session there was some mention of my strong literal, analytical, pedantic aspects. Something to challenge?

Growing pondering list:

  • Types or aspects of creative practice: research / documentation / sampling / polished (“worked”) work…
  • Intended audience. Myself / peer group / wider world
  • Materiality. Potential for enrichment, complexity, layers of meaning…
  • Types of writing. Narrative / authoritative / propositional / thinking / notes / poetic articulation. Audience, level of re-working…
  • The analytical etc. Something to challenge? Or aspects to reframe, reposition, harness as strengths, or at least with positive potential.

    The Essential Duchamp exhibition at AGNSW is well timed for me.

    Marcel Duchamp
    Nude descending a staircase (no 2)
    1912

    Nude descending a staircase (no 2) depicts a body in motion. From the catalogue by Matthew Affron: “a marionette-like figure decomposed into repeating linear elements that serve as an abstract, graphical record of its movement.” It mentions the lines and planes of the changing position in space, and also “small dotted lines indicate the swinging motion of the figure’s visible hip and legs”. There was inspiration from motion photography.

    Pendulum
    19-Apr-2019

    An extra step for me could be to work further with my photographs, abstract from them, use them as a base for development, say brush and ink drawing or maybe monoprinting.


    On the left above, a view within the gallery. Various readymades, most of them replicas of the originals. The choice of the objects was (allegedly?) made with visual indifference, although the first, Fountain, was definitely provocative. An alternative perspective on materiality. What currently particularly interests me is on the right, effectively a display case compendium of around 69 works. Miniature replicas, print reproductions, all in a case that closes to 40.6 x 37.5 x 10.8 cm. Lots of different ways to see this, but to me one is to regard it as documentation.

    Marcel Duchamp
    The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Batchelors, Even (The Green Box)

    It becomes clearer in The Green Box, containing 94 facsimile documents – manuscript notes, drawings, photographs. An accompaniment to The Large Glass, objects in their own right, artefacts of Duchamps process, a guidebook, a literary form… and documentation.

    Tentative conclusions so far:

  • I want to keep Un-balance as a focus. Without going into complexities of a multitude of recent resonances, a simple example of how un-balance is pursuing me. One of the recently weekly lectures at AGNSW was given by Mark Ledbury, on Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. Towards the end Mark showed us a couple of Géricault’s portraits of the insane – The Monomania of Envy and Portrait of a Man Suffering from Delusions of Military Command. The very next day a book purchase arrived, recommended by Ruth as an example of a creative practice in documentation and research – Fiona Tan’s 10 Madnesses. Focused on the same portraits by Géricault.
  • I want to learn more about research and documentation as forms of creative practice. So far it feels like a good fit for me.
  • I’m attempting to bring some of my day-job analytical skills and data visualisation techniques into play. So far that means building up some data. It will take some time to develop.
  • I’m back here blogging. Not everything. Watching what works for me, how it fits with other aspects of what I’m doing. But it’s just too valuable to give up. It’s an index; an archive; an opportunity for communication, interaction; a means of organising thoughts; a reminder to look back, maybe synthesize, not keep rushing on to the next experiment; showing research and work in progress, rarely if ever polished presentation of finished work.
  • In practice all this means I’m am reading up a storm and producing copious notes. Not much in the way of making, but I’m confident that will come.

    I’m sure there was more I was going to include. If it’s important it will come back to me. I hope 🙂

    Exhibition: Noŋgirrŋa Marawili – from my heart and mind

    Lightning
    2017
    enamel paint on aluminium board
    150 x 100 cm
    https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/191.2017/


    Yathikpa
    2014
    natural pigments on bark
    diptych:
    left: 150 x 56 cm
    right: 150 x 60 cm


    Wandawuy
    2012
    natural pigments on bark
    153.5 x 82.2 cm
    https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/107107/


    Images are the only possible way to begin this post. Go back and look again, follow any links to the holding institution which may have a better photo. Note the dimensions – these aren’t small works, and the impact in person, plus the impact of having so many works together in the gallery space, is huge.

    This exhibition is at the Art Gallery of NSW until 24 Feb 2019. I find it hard to move around AGNSW at the moment, since this exhibition keeps calling me in (although Tuckson: the abstract sublime has opened in the next gallery. Recently I was standing in the space between the two, vibrating as I tried to decide in which direction to walk).

    At first the formal aspects caught me. Stripes, grids breaking out of rigid structure, dynamic diagonals? These are deeply embedded in my visual system, autonomic reflexes are triggered, and it is a visceral reaction as my heart races, my breathing quickens, as I stand, swaying – just barely not dancing – in front of the works.

    After the first couple of visits I read the exhibition catalogue. Highly recommended, it starts with a very descriptive, almost lyrical, essay by Cara Pinchbeck, followed by two more essays that further ground the work in Noŋgirrŋa’s culture and experiences. For me the liberating thing is that while these works are deeply embedded in tradition, deeply thought and felt and lived, they do not contain the sacred. I find it gives me permission to connect, to think my own stories, in front of the works.

    This year’s Art appreciation lecture series 2018 was themed The hidden language of art: symbol and allusion and Cara Pinchbeck gave one of the first lectures, but that was focused on Macassan connections and I don’t think Noŋgirrŋa was mentioned. However using the catalogue and internet sites one can build up a kind of dictionary.

    Wandawuy

    “The grid refers to the landscape of Wandawuy, a network of billabongs surrounded by ridges and high banks, its structure also reminiscent of woven fish traps” (from the NGV website link). Variations in colour evoke calm or still, silty or clear waters. There is movement, flickering sunlight, rippling waters.

    Yathikpa
    2014

    In Yathikpa a web or trail of diamonds can refer to flames, tongues of fire. Jagged parallel lines spear lightening across the sky.

    Lightning and sea spray
    2014
    natural pigments on bark
    243 x 70 cm
    Photo: AGNSW
    https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/118.2015/

    In Lightning and sea spray there are large rock formations top and bottom. The diamond net relates to the clan designs for the saltwater estate of Yathikpa, breaking down in the water to trails of sea spray as the ocean crashes onto them. Or that could be sea-grass. I think the dots on the rock are barnacles.

    That explanation sounds so dry and clear-cut. Referring to a different painting Cara Pinchbeck writes “They may be barnacles on the rock, or a dilly bag full of the day’s harvest. The uncertainty is in the duality, and Noŋgirrŋa plays with this with intent.” So a level of ambiguity, a level of challenging convention at the same time as diligently and decorously observing protocol. Noŋgirrŋa has created a space from the sacred, while still relating to clan designs, to tradition, to her own personal experience. She has created space for herself, and I feel she has given me space. There is ambiguity – that means I can have my own interpretation. It is the expression of one woman, not a statement of what is sacred to a clan – so I feel able to experience a sense of connection to an individual, which would feel improper to a belief system not my own.

    Lightning in the rock
    2015
    natural pigments on bark
    310.6 x 110 cm
    sideways?
    https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/118975/

    The great increase in scale of design, the use of space, less repetition, an absence of rigidity – all of these seem on a continuum with wider movements of contemporary art as well as on a continuum with more traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander works in the collection.

    In one of the catalogue essays Henry F. Skerritt writes “[Noŋgirrŋa] takes the ‘data-sets’ of Yolŋu art and uses them to create new contexts, to literally shape a new present. This is not to suggest that Noŋgirrŋa’s work is some kind of ‘hybrid’ form, caught between the traditional and the modern. Rather, it pictures the presence of coexisting worlds that resist assimilation.”

    One thing I find odd. There is an absolutely enormous bark painting – in my undoctored photo here it hangs… well, portrait orientation. In the photo on the NGV website it is in landscape orientation.

    Is the idea of “right way up” not relevant? The orientation means it fits nicely on the piece of wall, but surely that shouldn’t be a consideration.

    Yathikpa
    2013
    natural pigments on bark
    199 x 86 cm
    upside down?


    There’s another example. Yathikpa (2013) took me ages to find the in the catalogue – the photo there is upside-down compared to the hanging in the gallery.

    Maybe I’ve been too used to reading things in a particular way, making it a cultural habit that I’ve turned into an unconscious, unexamined rule. Curious.

    Do we look at art to understand others or ourselves? Reflecting on this exhibition, for me it’s both. In large part, I want art to be personal. I look for me. I make for me. I write here for me. But for me the most powerful art brings connection, even if that connection is standing companionably, looking across the world and thinking our own thoughts. A friend remarked that I was “scathing” in a recent about an exhibition (18-Nov-2018), then some thought-provoking comments from Jane have sent me researching and writing page after page in my workbook, exploring the many types and purposes of “art”. It’s not my intention to consider those wider questions here, although it’s clearly related.

    I recently read Kathleen O’Connor of Paris, by Amanda Curtin. From Perth, Australia, O’Connor went in 1906 to Europe, to make her life as a painter. She spent over forty years in Paris, with focus, determination, drive, obsession. Uncompromising? Close to it, it seems, but life is always more complicated. There are a couple of works by O’Connor in the AGNSW collection, but I don’t recall ever seeing one in person. (links: Still life, Paris, Nursemaids in the Luxembourg Gardens). O’Connor hasn’t been entirely forgotten – the biography of course, also the inspiration behind an exhibition by Jo Darvall in Busselton – but she’s not well known. Is that her time and her gender? An east-coast-centric art establishment in Australia? Whatever, the idea of strong, determined, not-exactly non-compromising but finding her own path with determination – there’s a link I see to Noŋgirrŋa and a link I’d like to see to myself. And in writing that I have a connection, something of an anchor. From my workbook “I seek connections, but I won’t compromise to connect. I don’t insist on my terms if yours are compatible.” Is that modern individualism, the death of community? Perhaps a different kind of community.

    Now to finish as I started.

    Lightning
    2017
    enamel paint on aluminium board
    200 x 122 cm
    https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/190.2017/

    Baratjala
    2014
    natural pigments on board
    240 x 122

    Exhibitions in Canberra

    In Canberra for a short visit, mum and I hit exhibitions at some of the big institutions.

    Rome: City and Empire at the National Museum of Australia.
    With over 200 objects loaned from the British Museum, this exhibition was the main motivation for our visit. It’s a diverse group of things, flitting around place and time. There’s a light touch of some themes, at cross-purposes with chronology. A lot of marble, a lot of coins, some jewellery, domestic and military paraphernalia… Much of the overview information wasn’t new to us, that was mainly in the detail. So for me no earth-shattering insights, but some pleasant hours of looking and thinking.

    Javelin head

    Dated to mid-1st century CE, found at Hod Hill, Dorset inthe UK, a javelin or pilium head, is softened steel. They were designed to bend on impact, so the enemy couldn’t throw them back. Clever. Dreadful.
    Can’t see a way to make that visible and meaningful in a work, but a curious idea.

    Military diploma

    Bronze plaques, 122 (dated 17th July), Brigetio Hungary, were given to a soldier after 25 years of service. It records Gemellus was granted citizenship on his retirement. The plaques are described as “a four-leaved document” on the British Museum website.
    I’ve already been thinking about hammer-punching text into metal tags as inserts to folded books. Was planning to buy a set of alphabet punches, but I should explore other ways of making the marks. And making them directly into a book… possibilities…

    Punic funerary stele

    Amazing, graphic, lines carved into this burial stone. It’s probably from Carthage, Tunisia, 1st-2nd century CE.
    This link might be the right object – the description doesn’t quite fit.

    National Library of Australia

    Portrait of Abel Tasman, his wife and daughter Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp
    1637

    Following up some of mum’s recent reading, we visited both the National Gallery and the National Library, to see Cuyp’s Portrait of Abel Tasman, his wife and daughter. A very helpful, knowledgeable and friendly volunteer at the Library took us into the gallery – to the wall where it usually hangs. Just so we know next time where to go, as it had been away on loan and was perhaps now being checked in and checked over before rehanging. The Library website catalogue notes “On loan to the National Gallery of Australia”, but when we asked at the NGA information desk they had no information on it. So a reason for another visit to Canberra in a few months.

    While at the Library we took in the Cook and the Pacific exhibition.

    Tricky stuff. As the website notes “The exhibition web pages may also contain material with terms and descriptions that may be culturally sensitive or considered inappropriate today.” Delicately put! A lot of thought and effort has gone into giving context, and in making sure First Nations peoples from the places Cook visited were heard and seen in the exhibition. Still, some very uncomfortable reading. Included is a document with ‘hints’ provided to Cook by the president of the Royal Society, James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton. The hints advise ‘the utmost patience and forbearance with respect to the Natives of the several Lands where the Ship may touch’. Cook may have taken this to heart, but further on:

    To check the petulance of the Sailors, and restrain the wanton use of Fire Arms.

    To have it still in view that sheding the blood of those people is a crime of the highest nature:—They are human creatures, the work of the same omnipotent Author, equally under his care with the most polished European; perhaps being less offensive, more entitled to his favor.

    They are the natural, and in the strictest sense of the word, the legal possessors of the several Regions they inhabit.

    No European Nation has a right to occupy any part of their country, or settle among them without their voluntary consent. Conquest over such people can give no just title; because they could never be the Aggressors.

    No excuses.

    National Gallery of Australia
    Over a couple of days we got to a few exhibitions here.
    Australian art: Earth/Sky

    Philip Hunter
    Night Wimmera X


    This abstracted landscape drew us both in, quietly contemplating. There is a shimmering, unearthly feel. Wheat sways in patterns, making visible the patterns of the wind. Are those the min min lights, dancing across the ancient, slumbering land? There is industry in the tracks of the harvesting equipment, balanced by the calm and unmoving certainty of the infinite horizon.

    I can see those fields in textured rows of stitching; those graceful, turning, tangles of line woven in metal in a sculpture. While the painting soothed my mind it had my fingers twitching with an urge to be making.

    A view of part of the Sky gallery space


    Taking a step back to think about the curation of this exhibition. I love the freshness, the new insights, provided by moving away from the geographic | chronological lockstep in presenting a collection. I first became conscious of an alternative when seeing the New Classical at the Art Gallery of South Australia (5-May-2013). Back then I quoted Director Nick Mitzevich in the press release “Boundaries of geography and time have been collapsed to inspire a new way of looking at the rich diversity of the Gallery’s collections. Objects from different periods and cultures are juxtaposed to reveal how art links the past to the present”. In this current exhibition in Canberra, people from different periods, different cultures, different belief systems, but all within Australia, are shown to have a commonality in looking around themselves at this land, at the southern skies. We all seek to explain, to express, how we come to be here, what this amazing place means to us. Visiting the exhibition, I can get a glimpse of other perspectives and share a moment of delight, wonder, perhaps understanding.

    Bronwyn Oliver
    Comet

    I’ve never felt moved to write about Bronwyn Oliver’s work before now. Reading about her work it sounds exactly in my interest area, that should have me buzzing with admiration, inspiration. Wire used to create abstract forms, woven or soldered, sewn with wire. Instead there is a level of calculation, control, perfectionism, closed and ungiving, almost desperately balanced, in the work that I find alienating.

    As so often happens, I need to think again, look again. Comet has a delicacy, the trailing tendrils of wire are slightly wayward, not all the personality groomed out. You’ll get a better view of the structure on the gallery website, but my poor photos (especially the general gallery view) give at least a sense of the movement, hung in a corner with shadows at different angles on the two walls. Being connected, in conversation, with the other works here also helps me approach it.


    Margel Hinder, Revolving construction.
    Sorry about the raw, poor video. Any past small skills in my editing software have vanished. The kinetic nature of the sculpture is important, but again, you’ll get a better photo of it on the gallery website.

    I have written about Margel Hinder’s work before – see 13-Jun-2014 for a figure sculpture that was warm and inviting, and 31-Dec-2013 for her Free standing sculpture in copper and steel that manages to be enormous, self-effacing, tactile and inviting, and an expression of the importance and economic might of the Reserve Bank of Australia(!).

    The NGA sculpture is serious, scientific, an expression of ideas, while still fun and playful. I see a lightness and sense of adventure. Seeing it move, the shadows drawing on the walls, gave a nice segue to the next NGA exhibition visited.

    Performing Drawing
    This exhibition “explores how actions can become art. Focusing on chance and change, this exhibition highlights the NGA’s collection of process-based drawing, video and photography.”

    Ilka White
    Still from Drawing breath


    In this video Ilka White draws on the ground using sand that trickles down from a sack resting across her shoulders. It is an intensely physical and meditative process. Ilka moves carefully, thoughtfully; pauses and pivots; stretches and expands then draws back in to herself. When the sack is empty she balances, reaches down, gently brushes the sand with her hand and you can feel its texture, the grating of the grains.

    Ilka White Installation view in Group exchange, Tamworth Triennial 2015

    Ilka spoke at the Art Textiles conference in Sydney in 2008 (ATASDA, supported by COFA). I have a general memory of someone deeply thoughtful, a weaver interested in exploring her world through her craft. She was also included in GROUP exchange, the 2nd Tamworth Textile Triennial – not in my post (22-May-2015), so I’ve dug through my photo archive to give a view of the range of work she presented then. In that the billabong near her home was her muse, and a central theme the interconnectedness of the world.

    That sense of deep and still waters of thought, of reflection of the world around, of stepping lightly on the land, of beautiful traces that will blow away and rejoin the earth, continues though all the different expressions of her work.

    Kieran Browne
    Trace


    Kieran Brown
    Gallery view

    This was so much fun.

    Entering this part of the exhibition, on the wall was a screen, blank except for a black mark on the right edge. I looked a while, read the blurb, looked again – and there were grey and black smudges on the screen.

    A little thought, a careful scan of the gallery ceiling – and a small black camera or sensor discovered.

    I ran to get mum, and we danced together to draw on the screen. Move slowly and a line of grey smudges records your progress. Pause, a little conversation, and that smudge darkens to black. Step away, wait, and the traces gradually lighten and disappear. The viewer creates meaning in the art in a very literal, if transient, way.

    David Rosetzky
    From memory

    Could any maker, weaver, not love, love, love this? In this photomontage portrait of Stephen Phillips the actor plays with a length of string, a metaphor for the act of remembering. The double exposure suggests the passage of time. I think of people telling stories as they make shapes, illustrations, in string between their fingers.

    David Moore
    Moon writing series

    The beautiful lines continue – these works by David Moore seeming so connected to Philip Hunter’s work up near the top of this post. Here the photographer used his camera as a drawing instrument, under the full moon in Tasmania, moving to create shapes. Rhythm, elegance, incredible skill; a flow and a spark.

    All this and the long weekend still wasn’t over. We had a spare hour before setting off for Sydney, so returned to the NGA to breeze through American Masters.

    American Masters
    As I write this post this exhibition is in its final hours, and I am so annoyed with myself. I needed much, much, much more time here.

    Alexander Calder
    Night and day


    Walking up the long, high, dimly lit, hallway to the special exhibition space, this mobile by Calder speeds your pace. Backlit, a series of red ovals can be discerned, with two circles, black and white, moving amongst them. Get closer and look down – a white circle, filled with circular shadows.

    It was quite different with the Calder work I saw at NGV this year. The post was 15-Sep-2018, but I didn’t include any photos. Remedying that:


    My brain registers everything as circles, even when I concentrate on it.
    It’s not just my photography. From the institution websites:

    I think there are enough clear circles on the MoMA work that I accept all of them as circles, even those at an angle that makes them just a vertical line. In the NGV version all the red shapes appear oval, with the odd effect that the proportions change as I walk towards them.

    Is there something to exploit here? For my own work, don’t know. For the person who designed the NGV presentation, with that white circle on the ground and the shadows – brilliant!

    Most of my time was spent visiting old friends:

    Eva Hesse
    Contingent
    Post 7-Jun-2015


    Mark Rothko
    1957 # 20
    Post 27-Dec-2013


    Blue Poles, of course (post 26-Dec-2013). A few more.
    Why is that? Is it a comfort thing? I think more that for me they are strong things, works that I continue to think about, that influence in some way the way I see the world and other art, including my own.

    So maybe some new friends:

    Alan Sonfist
    Earth monument to New York

    Alan Sonfist
    Earth monument to New York

    Core samples of stratified stone, drilled from between 1.5 and 40 metres below ground level in different locations across New York City. Monumental. Fascinating in detail. Seeing what is usually hidden – the structure of the land beneath us. Centering. Dare I say, grounding.

    There was a quote from Sonfist on the signage: “My feeling is that if we are going to live in a city, we have to create an understanding of the land… We have to come to a better understanding of who we are and how we exist on the planet.”

    Hans Hofmann
    Untitled
    (1943)

    The energy and excitment! While writing this up, I found a great description on the NGA website – read it there.

    This post has taken enormously more time than I intended. My son sensibly pointed out that I enjoyed it. Plus I know that this process of later thinking and relooking helps me retain memories – and the blog acts as a supplementary memory too. So before I move on, time to record just a couple of works in the general NGV collection that caught my eye.

    E. Phillips Fox
    Promenade

    Stripes! Diagonal lines! Too many posts, too much material, relate to those. My final assignment for the Open College of the Arts course Understanding Western Art is one. I’ve been enjoying analysing the structure of this painting.

    Jane Sutherland
    A cabbage garden

    Why do I like this so much? It seems to trigger a memory that I can’t track down. Something about the composition? That bending figure? In my memory the colours have more purple. Something familiar…

    Exhibition: John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new

    Installation view Milmilngkan
    John Mawurndjul

    Mardayin at Milmilngkan (2006)
    John Mawurndjul

    Recently opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, this exhibition, a comprehensive survey of the artist’s work, is huge.

    Just after it opened I was lucky enough to go to a day of events at the MCA – first a discussion between the artist and curatorial advisor Keith Munro with interpreter Murray Garde, then a panel discussion including curators of the exhibition, Mawurndjul and Garde.

    The presence and charisma of John Mawurndjul was commanding, mesmerizing. He could sit quite small and quiet, sometimes watching what was going on, sometimes apparently far away in thought, but when he was active, listening or speaking, and especially when he stood up and moved around as he spoke, there was an energy, force, strength. He communicated with his whole body. His hands were beautiful to watch.

    Mardayin at Milmilngkan (2006)
    detail of rarrk
    John Mawurndjul

    In that description above I’m sure there are cultural assumptions that I’ve made, interpretations of expression that are unfounded. At this point knowing my ignorance and having an intention to listen deeply seems the best I can do.

    Language was a major focus of the day, and is in the exhibition. Translation is difficult – see https://www.creativespirits.info
    /aboriginalculture/language/why-translating-english-to-aboriginal-languages-is-so-hard
    for some of the reasons. Murray Garde did an amazing job as interpreter, including stepping out of that role at times to give the audience some context, then back into Mawurndjul’s words. In the exhibition most of the signage is in Mawurndjul’s words together with a translation into english.

    Thylacine (c. 1995)
    John Mawurndjul

    There are untranslateable concepts and entire contexts. Plus there is the responsibility to look after special places. The paintings have layers – a surface which I can see and appreciate, the aesthetics, but more layers that remain hidden, that relate to cultural knowledge that can only be shared with a restricted group – based on age or gender or participation in particular ceremonies or kinship… Painting these works has been dangerous, and has taken a toll on Mawurndjul and his health.

    Place is the other strong element of the exhibition. Focal places for spiritual essence. The artist directed placement in both exhibition and catalogue, “with works grouped by kunred (places), then animals and spirits, mimih spirits followed by lorrkkon and etchings” (from catalogue). And known place can be very specific – for example a photo of a fish trap fence, in the particular place in a creek where the zones of brackish/salt and fresh water mix, where tides and flow and water levels combine.

    Birlmu Barramundi (1996)
    John Mawurndjul

    Mardayin is a special, secret ceremony, held in special places. There is a gravitas, a weightiness, power. There are emblems, such as dilly bags with tassels. There are protocols. Public and private knowledge must be maintained. Mawurndjul wonders who will take on stories after him. And he has to balance the secret nature of topics, the toll they take, with the pressure on an artist to make work to request, churning it out.

    Mawurndjul’s father taught him it was OK to teach non-aboriginal people, to facilitate communication, to share the great intellectual achievements of aboriginal culture. But coming from my culture it’s hard to listen properly. I think of the binary abstract | figurative. But something can be wholistic (be careful of the spelling), not abstract but hard to see, involving ideas, people, relationships. Garde explained learning about this culture as being like walking towards the horizon. You see something interesting you want to learn about and walk towards it, and when you reach it you are still far from the horizon. There’s always further to go.

    Birlmu Barramundi (1996)
    detail
    John Mawurndjul

    The Breaking Ground panel discussion was more focused on the current exhibition. The curators didn’t have an idea or plan of the show before setting out. They followed the artist’s leadership. He wanted to give a legacy of understanding of his paintings. Here is his language, his words, his thoughts.

    The different curators spoke of the arc of a practice, deep time, here and now. The innovative style, breaking ground, showing multiple hierarchies of time in one narrative. The contemporary in conversation with the past.

    Mawurndjul was asking us to listen deeply, just as in his culture he listens to their old people, their ancestors. Listen and learn. Plus the concern to do his best to make sure his own people, children, learn the stories about who they are.

    The process of building the exhibition wasn’t easy. The artist and curators wanted to show to a western audience, through the eyes of the people who live the culture. There were politics. There’s always the need to make money – Mawurndjul talked about the hard work and travel making and sharing his art, and then his pockets are empty.

    Mimih Spirits installation view
    John Mawurndjul

    It was an inspiring, thoughtful day. Mawurndjul and the curators were so positive, emotional, about what had been achieved. So when I actually visited the exhibition a week later I was taken aback. I couldn’t find that sense of the personal, the voice. When I saw signs in two languages I just read the english. The original words didn’t seem to register with me, get beyond my eyeballs. I knew the ordering and placement of the works was deeply considered and significant, but I couldn’t see it. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work. I saw a sameness instead of appreciating difference. I wanted maps at the beginning of each section, to get a better sense of place. I wanted to hear the sound of language, not just in the resource space. I wanted …

    After leaving the exhibition I realised I hadn’t listened. I hadn’t given time. I hadn’t let go of expectations.

    I wanted him / them to make it easy for me. I demanded.

    I’m not happy with myself.

    Time to start over.

    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/


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