Archive for the 'Out and about' Category

Technology detour

This blog has been quiet a few weeks while I changed up my use of technology. I’ll give a brief outline in case any is of use to others, and so I can compare to actual outcomes later.


  • My existing smart phone was a few generations old. I rarely used the phone functionality and found the screen too small to be comfortable for reading or internet browsing on the go. The battery life was getting shorter and shorter.
  • I’ve been doing heaps of textile-related reading, but with no specific college assignment in mind. Interesting and I will remember major concepts, but my notes were scattered in various notebooks and pieces of paper. I’d never be able to find things again.
  • A minor point that tipped me over the balance point – I have a new wrist fitness tracker (, and my mobile phone was too old to talk to it via bluetooth.
  • Wish list:

  • Ability to take notes on the go – say when reading on the bus.
  • All notes stored in one place.
  • Search facilities for all my notes.
  • Screen large enough to read comfortably – saved pdfs, internet browsing, …
  • Still a phone, with my existing phone number – as a secondary requirement.
  • Stylus.
  • Able to snip internet text and photos, annotate, highlight parts, and include search info for use with other notes.
  • GIMP or other image manipulation software.
  • Camera, possibly with ability to connect to my big camera.
  • Earpiece to listen to podcasts, recorded lectures etc.
  • Ability to sync with fitbit.
  • samsung_noteResult:

  • Samsung Note 10.1″ 4G (2014 Edition) (
    ). This includes a styles that fits neatly in the tablet, and software that integrates its use.
  • BlueAnt bluetooth earpiece (
  • Evernote ( on both my PC and the new tablet. All my notes end in the same place. There are good search facilities. There are download/export options so I can make my own backups without relying on the cloud, or the ongoing availability of the software.
  • GIMP Inkscape ( The basic layout and facilities are familiar, but I’m still getting used to the smaller tablet screen and slightly different implementation.
  • It took some effort, being referred to more and more technical helpdesks, but I was able to transfer my existing phone number to the tablet with a suitable sim only plan.
  • A minor point which rounds it out. Not only will it sync with my fitbit, so I can immediately watch my wiggly heartbeat line, but the fitbit has caller id. It vibrates and displays the name of the incoming caller.
  • After only a few days I’m still learning, but loving it. I’m still experimenting with the mix of apps, but the data input is great – there’s a keyboard form that intelligently suggests words etc, but also handwriting recognition that can cope with my lousy running writing on a bumpy bus. I can sit on the bus, reading Textile ( (paper version), search on the internet for more information about an exhibition or artist mentioned, make notes, snip quotes and photos – all with ease and knowing it will be available on the desktop when I get home. Walking along I have the tablet in my backpack, the earpiece safely in a pouch hanging from the shoulder strap. If a call comes in I get a discreet buzz on the wristband, and can have the earpiece in and call answered faster than I could ever fish out the old phone.

    The next question – is this still the honeymoon period, the rush of new technology toys? I’m hoping it’s the start of much more effective work methods that will support my ongoing studies as a part of general life.

    Exhibition: Pop to Popism

    This huge exhibition is currently on at the Art Gallery of New South Wales – I’m going to focus on some works with textile elements in this post.

    Robert Rauschenberg Dylaby 1962
    This is one of Rauschenberg’s “combines”, with elements from painting and sculpture. According to Wayne Tunnicliffe in the AGNSW catalogue “Rauschenberg often said that he aimed to bridge the gap between art and life” (p. 20). This isn’t slick and consumerist, yet it incorporates found items of consumer culture including a battered coke sign. The flat surface was a focus in abstract expressionism. Here the canvas has escaped to fall away from the underlying frame and to drape down to the floor. Also in the AGNSW catalogue, Chris McAuliffe writes that instead of an expression of the personal, inner life of the artist seen in abstract expressionism, “Rauschenberg proposed … an art premised on engagement with the world, in which ‘the imagery and the material and the meanings of the painting would not be an illustration of my will but more like an unbiased documentation of my observations’. This suggested that what American art required was not wild acts of assertion but a kind of realism that registered the artist’s responses to the everyday world of affluence and consumerism, media and technology. Rauschenberg charted these responses in layered arrays of found media imagery” (p.62)

    The idea of “combines”, including both painting and sculpture, seems very close to some of the ideas in Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – present (see 26-Dec-2014), particularly in the use here of the canvas.

    Tony Tuckson Pyjamas and Herald 1963
    This works seems to contain narrative, the signs of an individual life. The newspaper placard gives a specific place and date – Sydney, March 1963. From a recorded interview with Tuckson’s wife on the NGA website I learnt that the pyjamas were her’s, discarded in a waste bin, and the hessian sacking was some of that roughly sewn by Tuckson to make studio curtains.

    There seems to be the gestures and dramatic sweeps of paint of abstract expressism combined with these found domestic objects. Denise Mimmocchi notes in the catalogue that this work “has clear affinities with Robert Rauschenberg’s combines, the hybrid form of painting and sculpture” and “Tuckson may also have intended a personal narrative through his collaged objects, yet of greater significance was his use of the canvas as an experimental ground for investing the painted gestures of abstract expressionism with the impact of real-life objects” (p. 152)

    As well as occupying an interesting place in art historical movements, this work has an impact, it holds the viewer’s gaze. For me the textile elements are particularly effective in evoking the domestic, the personal, the story, as well as in helping the artist break away from the flat surface.

    Enrico Baj General 1961 and Le Baron Robert Olive de Plassey, Gouverneur de Bengale 1966 (I couldn’t find an online image)
    In the AGNSW catalogue Anneke Jaspers writes “Baj noted that his creative agenda was not explicitly political, but had long been engaged in debunking ‘official stupidity'” (p. 128). Both the works in the exhibition are collages or assemblages of found items, including a lot of textiles (fabric, braids, tassels…). The General is posed like a child jumping from behind a door and shouting “boo”. His body is made of ineffective “camouflage” fabric, a visually noisy mix of cream, red and green, his chest is covered in sash and medals, his hair a mess of twisted fibres. The General is overtly masculine, apparently powerful, and yet quite ridiculous.

    The Governor of Bengal is happy in his bubble of power, also clearly masculine, with the trappings of power in medals and braids, backed by fabrics that are everything traditional, and apparently dazzled by the modern and hip with eyes of Beatles badges. A ridiculous figure, a puppet – and to me quite sinister, a potential petty dictator blind or indifferent to his misuse of power.

    In both works the textiles used are more than random found objects. They bring layers of history and meaning, showing the pomp and military/political power of these dangerous, stupid, limited men who fill the frame with their self-importance.

    Colin Lanceley Love me stripper 1963
    The textile elements of this work are small in area, but very effective in the information they give. Lacy stockings and holed undergarments leave no doubt about the profession of the women shown.

    Claes Oldenburg Giant Soft Fan—Ghost Version 1967
    This is a very large sculpture of a desk fan – made of canvas, wood and polyurethane foam. Suspended from the ceiling it droops, deflated, casting grotesque shadows. It is shaped by gravity – Oldenburg’s “favourite form creator”. From Alexandra Gregg in the AGNSW catalogue: “With its oversized scale, lumps, bumps and crevices, the sculpture takes on an anthropomorphic guise and reminds us of the not-so flattering parts of our bodies. Its droopy limpness gives it a feeling of being tired or bored”. Also “By making us pay attention to these familiar objects in such unexpected ways, Oldenburg’s art is more an acceptance of the everyday world than a critique of consumer society” (p. 106).

    I find humour and a wonderful clear-eyed observation of the world in this work. It’s also exciting to see one of the major (potential) qualities of a textile, its drape or response to gravity, used to such good effect as an integral part of the work.

    As a group these works had me thinking again about all the different qualities and associations textiles can bring to an artwork.

    Tunnicliffe, W. and Jaspers, A. (eds) (2014) Pop to Popism Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales

    OCA textile student get-together in Sydney

    Kath, Eva, Claire, Judy

    Kath, Eva, Claire, Judy

    Today the stars aligned and four of the five Sydney based OCA students were in Sydney, and in the Art Gallery. It was great to meet up, to share stories and support, and to show each other a bit of what we’ve been doing.

    OCA_Sydney_201501_04Kath has recently done an online workshop with Dionne Swift – Developing Sketchbooks

    OCA_Sydney_201501_03Her results were really exciting. What had started life as a standard A5 spiral bound book of cartridge paper had been transformed. Pages were added, moved, larger foldouts inserted (changing dimensions and orientation), cutouts, mini-flips, plus there was development of a theme with lots of ideas to explore, extract, combine, change… There was a real sense of energy, the book now bulging with ideas.

    OCA_Sydney_201501_05Kath also showed us some stitching in progress, including a microprocessor and stitches in conductive thread. Apparently there is a light that will flash. A very interesting area to become involved in.

    Eva described some of her recent work, sketching and also stitching on her mapping theme. No photos – her kayaking on the harbour in the morning had run late, and she didn’t have time to pick up her bag of goodies. What a very Sydney problem 🙂

    OCA_Sydney_201501_02Claire brought some examples of her printing-stitching combinations. The photo on the right shows paper that has been marbled and then stitched. Other examples are in her blog here. She also gave me a goody bag of samples from our indigo dye day – a range of different fabrics, with matching swatches dyed and undyed. A great addition to the resource folder.

    Claire has recently done a two-day masterclass in printing, which has revolutionized her work. Some of the drawbacks of distance study with OCA – no demonstrations, no immediate feedback and advice from tutors, and instructions that can be rather vague and brief to keep options open for students with access to different tools and materials. Frustrating, but on the other hand we’re building self-reliance, experience in our own toolsets – and it’s said you learn a lot from your mistakes! Still, with so many short courses available, including many online, there are ways to supplement our learning as required.

    OCA_Sydney_201501_06I was wearing my show-and-tell – a light summery top from indigo dyed cotton.

    Getting together like this is another way of supplementing our learning. Fun, informative, invigorating – a real boost.

    Annette Messager: motion / emotion

    Recently Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) showed the first retrospective exhibition in Australia of Annette Messager’s work. There were pieces created from the early 1970s to the present, including large kinetic installations.

    A lot of the works referenced the human body – its presence or absence, movement or stillness. There was often a duality, sometimes a rather sinister note, or at least observations of things we might prefer not to notice.

    Les Gants-Grimaces The Gloves-Grimaces 1999

    Les Gants-Grimaces
    The Gloves-Grimaces


    messager_04Empty gloves had sharpened pencil inserts like long claws. Photographs with glimpses of grimacing faces were framed by the wrist band. Is it a visual play, creating a weird character from discarded clothing? Has the defence/protection of the warm glove been perverted into a means of attack? Is it simply an absurd, perhaps amusing, combination of everyday domestic items?

    Gants-Tête Gloves-Head 1999



    Signage at the MCA suggests these pencil-gloves symbolise the artistic process. The empty glove evokes the human presence. But here the gloves mass to form a human head – or skull.

    Les Dépouilles Skins 1997

    Les Dépouilles


    I found the work shown to the right even more sinister and unsettling.

    messager_12This is a series of children’s clothes and soft toys, unstitched and opened out. Gallery information suggested they resemble carcasses or targets, but they reminded me of photographs of the aftermath of some terrible explosion or bomb. There is a sense of viciousness, of wanton destruction.

    Looking at it now reminds me of butterfly and insect specimens that have been pinned out for display, presented for the cool eyes of the collector. Really horrid.

     Pénétration Penetration (1993–94)



    In contrast, walking around a display of the products of a disembowelment was more intriguing than disturbing to me. What were all those soft fabric organs? Lungs were easy to pick, along with other more obvious items, but much was quite anonymous to me.

    messager_10On the walls around were small sketches and watercolours of body organs, connected by a maze of yarn. Small items of knitted clothing such as socks joined their unravelling extremities to the exercise.

    messager_09The hanging organs swayed slightly with the movement of the air, and a few strategically placed light bulbs created a mass of shadows on the walls. Both movement and shadows recurred frequently in the works included in the exhibition. One that seemed a particular joy, but difficult to photograph, was Le Tutu dansant (The Dancing Tutu), 2012. A froth of tulle was suspended from the ceiling, while on the floor below a strong fan sent up blasts of air. The tutu danced and spun in the absence of the ballerina.

    Chance 2011-12


    Language and text were also seen in a number of works. Sometimes they were repeated over and over, losing meaning.

    Désir Desire Detail 2009



    In Chance (above) and Désir (detail on the right), the single words were wrapped in a knotted net and cast their shadows on the wall. Enigmatic and rather beautiful.

    Ma collection de proverbes My collection of proverbs)  1974-2012

    Ma collection de proverbes
    My collection of proverbs


    Ma collection de proverbes included both a book and individual stitched and framed texts of proverbs, “received wisdom” about women. The one shown here translates as “When a woman is born, even the walls cry”. Messager doesn’t seem to be a feminist as such, and doesn’t appear to be reflecting on her personal experience. The chauvinistic views are abhorrent, the stitching a clear reference to domesticity and traditional woman’s work, but it felt more like a calm presentation than a denunciation.

    Obviously I brought my textile orientation to the exhibition, and there was a lot of work involving textiles. However Ma collection de proverbes was the only one which seemed to involve Messager in the actual use of textile techniques.

    messager_03A resource area off the side of the gallery included copies of catalogues and books about Messager, as well as these samples of materials available for touching. So some of the things I find most important about the textiles, the hand and drape, were seen by the curator at least as of interest. But overall I would say that Messager finds the connotations of textiles of interest, as well as the absence of the body that is apparent in old clothing – not anything purely about the textiles themselves. If there was something else that had similar associations she could just as well use that.

    My interest in using textiles goes beyond that, in a way that I ponder about but which is not clear to me. Working with textiles gives me a pleasure and interest which I think goes beyond the associations I see used by Messager and I think Hiromi Tango (see 30-Oct-2014). This is all mixed up in my mind with “art” and “textile art” and “craft”. At the moment I want textiles and/or textile techniques to be predominant in my work, but somehow I want them to be part of answering or responding to wider questions and concerns. I don’t really know what I mean by that… I’ll keep pondering.

    Hiromi Tango

    hiromi_tango_01In May I went to hear Hiromi Tango speak at her exhibition Dust Storm at the Australian Centre for Photography ( Hiromi describes herself as a performance artist, but there were many aspects to the work she presented.

    hiromi_tango_02The entire gallery space was painted in a carefully chosen colour, a yellow-orange reminiscent of a dust storm that enveloped Sydney and other parts of NSW and Queensland in 2009. I remember that eerie, suffocating light very well, especially a visit to an elderly lady “voluntarily” locked in a psych hospital. Hiromi Tango’s strong memory is of wrapping herself in the tendrils of soft, wrapped sculptures she had made, and performing a slow, almost static, dance in a rose garden.

    hiromi_tango_03For Hiromi this was the beginning of a process of healing and self-exploration. This exhibition was her reflection on that cathartic process. I’m not going to go into any of the information she shared with the small audience at the gallery. I want to focus on the range of work and the immersive experience she provided. There were layers and layers, almost obsessively repeating the events of the dust storm from different angles and using different senses.

    hiromi_tango_04A high definition video of her performance in the rose garden was on a loop in a side room. The sound track filled the gallery with the muffled noise of the wind that day. On another wall was a series of stills, printed and framed.

    hiromi_tango_05Neon lights gave pointers to the theme in colour and text.
    hiromi_tango_06In the centre of the larger gallery space was another light installation, surrounded by a heap of soft sculptures and hand-made books. Hiromi sat in the pile, clambered over it, pulled up items, yarn balls trailing, and demonstrated her wrapping. She was so intent on immersing us and herself in the experience, in engaging every sense, that she sprinkled mandarin oil over the mound and around the rooms before beginning her performance. She painted her face with yellow-orange as she spoke.

    hiromi_tango_07Many of the items around had been included in earlier exhibitions and performances, or created as part of them. For example I think she once spent time in a shop window, and communicated with passers-by through shared notes. All of these she collected, saved, stored – and now she was finding new meaning and purpose in them.

    hiromi_tango_08I thought Hiromi was brave and thoughtful. She shared herself and her experiences, risked herself, but often paused in thought before speaking to make sure she protected others in her life. Hiromi wanted to honour the gifts of others and her own past – the notes, old photographs, memorabilia – and she had finally found a way by binding some, and by tearing some into small pieces that became part of this new experience, this performance.

    hiromi_tango_09My thoughts have returned to Hiromi’s performance and exhibition many times since. It forms part of my musing about what art is, and what I want my art to be. Hiromi’s work obviously includes textiles, drawing on their layers of meaning including the domestic, protection, containers of memories… The materiality of the textile is important – but it becomes one part of a whole, and of an ongoing journey.

    Broome to Perth holiday

    DetailMapI’ve been away – 16 days and almost 12,000 km (6,820 by air, 4,990 by road, and miscellaneous extras by boat). My mother and I flew direct from Sydney to Broome, a day trip up the Dampier Peninsula to Cape Leveque (Chomley’s Tours – highly recommended), wandered down to Perth (Outback Spirit – very highly recommended), then flew back to Sydney via Melbourne. This is a Big country.

    We travelled with Outback Spirit last year too, exploring Arnhem Land and the Cobourg Peninsula, and I found that impossible to describe in a simple post (see my attempt 29-Aug-2013). This post will be just as incomplete – even more so as I’m saving some items for OCA course-related posts. For now a few photographs will have to suffice.

    Overwhelmingly we saw land.

    We saw water.

    Lots of plants and animals,

    and the traces of mankind.

    James Turrell Within without 2010

    These photos have been sitting on my PC since last November while I tried to fit them into a post about modern art and movements and labels and what is art and … Really, this is Art to be experienced. I don’t want to dissect it or label it.

    James Turrell
    Within without 2010
    lighting installation, concrete and basalt stupa, water, earth and landscaping
    National Gallery of Australia
    More information:;

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    Germination II
In Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition Sunday 2 July. More info

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