Archive for the 'Techniques' Category

Workshop: Matthew Bromhead – Drawing and Sculpture

This workshop at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre was wonderful and dangerous. Wonderful for all the reasons below. Dangerous, because it could swallow me, instead of me swallowing and making my own from it.

For a start, there was a muddle with dates and at the last minute the workshop was delayed a week. Three of us were lucky – we could manage the date change and Hazlehurst was generous enough to run the class with such a small group. With three people and a generous and responsive tutor the class morphed to respond to us. What did we want/need? Let’s do that!

And for me there were so many resonances and gongs chiming and layers of coincidence and correspondence and a vibration… language still fails me. “Exciting” and “cool” were repeated ad nauseum – I really need to work on my vocabulary! Over the past couple of years I keep loosing and finding myself – and, shockingly, confrontingly, here I found myself in exactly the right place and time.

Deep breath.

Point one. Matt’s a great guy. All he can teach is what he knows – and he is prepared to teach that. It seems no holds barred.

Point two. He uses my wire. Well, let’s keep it honest – Keith Lo Bue‘s wire. And Matt was excited to find someone else who uses it. (I’m talking 1.57mm annealed steel tie wire – get with the program guys!).

Point three. Matt is teaching process. Provisional, play, chance… Make, draw, see

Deep breath.

Are you excited yet? I am.

Throat cleared. Refocused.
I can do this.

Matthew Bromhead’s website is https://www.bromhead.com.au/. He is currently exhibiting at Gallerie pompom in Chippendale. I’ll see you there next Saturday. His practice includes sculpture and drawing.

Matt taught us about elegance and decorum. (I could do with a bit more decorum).
He taught us about intelligent play, chance and intuition.

A limited set of materials. Thick brass wire. Air drying clay. Timber off-cuts. Plaster cast in clay. Steel wire (thump of heart), dental floss and tacks. Just a touch of acrylic colour gives polish, completeness.

Mixed Media Sample p5-11

[Resonance – casting plaster. See work done as part of Mixed Media for Textiles including 23-Feb-2016, 26-Sept-2015 and my “glorious failure” 14-Sept-2015.]

Calder (of course) is an influence. Drawing zooms in. There is counter-balance, leverage. Chance and intent. Work on the precipice.
Danger.
Risk.
Respond as you go.
Play.

Drawing from sculpture. Impetus exists within the sculpture. Texture, tone, values, repetition. Observe, embellish, invent. Multiply viewpoints, softly smudge, be sharp and thin. Begin with building, then change, add, subtract.

I dissolve and emerge.

Who am I? Where am I?
How self-indulgent am I, writing gibberish… ?

Roseanna and Vanessa were both delightful! (that sounds condescending, but I’m just a little drunk on wine and joy and it’s true). It was a pleasure to spend a day with them, to learn with them, to discover and grow with them.

I’m in a state where words release and expand.

Don’t edit.
Expose.

Share.

Let’s all expand.

Some photos.

Matt demonstrating

Roseanna sculpture

Roseanna sculpture + drawings

Vanessa sculpture

Vanessa sculpture + drawings

Vanessa detail

Judy sculpture 1

Judy sculpture 2

Judy drawings


So yes, the day was really fun. Permission to play. Total absorption in process. Growing up in a family of bellringers I recognise a reverberation that’s almost stupefying. So find some points of solidity.

Embracing chance is a key. I’m thinking of Ruth Hadlow of course, of clarity about the beginning because the end is indeterminate. Junctions could be a place to show or find myself. The air-drying clay gives structure without creating a restraint to experimentation. Could I change that up? The plaster casting spoke to my Mixed Media samples. Push that. Then something around austere elegance. It will be interesting to see Matt’s work in person, the level of detail and elaboration. Roseanne, Vanessa and I all brought in extra elements of texture, sparks of interest away from the main focus, rewarding closer attention. What of “my” materials and techniques can be brought in without creating mud?

Happy 90th birthday mum!

Recently my mother celebrated her 90th birthday, with a big party for friends one week and a weekend away with family (four generations, 22 of us) the next. For many years her mantra for a healthy life has been to include physical, mental and social activities in every day. The pace is a little slower now, but the interest in and care for others, her curiosity and keenness to explore the world around her, are constant.

I’m the middle one of five children, and we worked together to organise the celebratory Festival of Margaret. Among many other activities, mum used to run a Friday afternoon Craft Club, not just for the five of us but for all our friends around the neighbourhood. That’s the genesis of my joy in making, and I really wanted to bring one or two elements of that into the party.

First, how to identify the hosts – the children? Matching nametags, a photo of the five of us, modified to highlight who was who. Below is mine, plus me in full flight giving a response to mum’s speech.

Second, how to help people mix given they were such a diverse crowd? Make-your-own nametags, with lots of coloured pens, pencils and stickers to play with. Some were more elaborate than others, and only a couple were left behind for me to photograph.

Next, my sister suggested a wishing tree. One thing led to another.

Instead of simple tags, something big enough to write a little story about shared times? So everything got a little bigger and it became a message tree.

Instead of a plain or generic back, why not personalize it and bring in some colour? Mum has always been a keen traveler. I used the background of photos of her on her journeys and printed them onto the message cards – 88 different images. The example on the right is from a beach on King Island, a wonderful and eventful weekend together back in 2012 (7-Oct-2012).


For the tree I used straightened 2.0mm galvanised wire, twining with 0.7mm wire. Given the number and size of cards it needed to accommodate it had to be fairly large – around 85 cm tall and 69 cm diameter. It’s very stable on the wide base.

You can see a bit of the tree in action behind mum in the top photo. Shown here is a mockup before the party when I was testing the idea.

The tree and basket of cards were on the same long table as the gear for making nametags, and there was a real buzz around them. People shared some funny and happy memories, and wishes for the future.

It was a great party, a really positive and friendly vibe. Other siblings were responsible for organising an extensive slideshow of mum from baby to now (my goodness she’s traveled far and wide!), some yummy afternoon tea, a beautiful cake, colourful decorations, set up and smoothing things along on the day… everything to make sure that mum could relax and enjoy her day. I felt so proud and happy for her, and also so lucky to have such a family.

The next day I used the hanging loops and some more ribbon to join the cards into a book-like form. It’s sitting on mum’s kitchen table, a momento of a happy day.

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The second, family only weekend was great too. More talking, laughing, eating, and a lot of activity enjoying time together. There will be a little making coming out from it, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Jane Tadrist: Silver Jewellery Etching

This class at Sydney Community College was held on two Tuesday evenings. Going straight from work it made long days, but I’m pleased with my results and learning so definitely worth the effort.

Very broadly the steps followed were:

1. Preparation of images (done prior to class).
These needed to be black and white, printed in specific dimensions to fit the metal pieces we would be using.

I spent a fun afternoon going through images of old sketchbook pages, looking for possibilities. For example some pen and ink scribble from 2011 (A Creative Approach sketchbook 1), already interpreted multiple times including in print on cotton (22-Mar-2012), was the base for both square and strip designs. Not sure what designs would work best, I created quite a few, all printed out in both positive and negative forms.

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2. Selection of images and transfer onto PNP Blue

Copied images on PNP

It was a multi-step process to get a photocopy of selected images onto PNP Blue (Press N Peel PCB Film, sold at some electronics stores to make Printed Circuit Boards). The film is expensive, so you want to get the most from each sheet, it has to be toner not inkjet, pros and cons of different designs were discussed, not-quite-right images were carefully doctored manually…

3. Preparation of metal
The constant, awful, truth of jewellery and small scale metalwork, in particular my nemesis – soldering (30-Apr-2018). Flat, to size, filed, no plastic coating, sanded, scrubbed, rinsed, carried tenderly and gingerly lest fingerprints should be left on its pristine surface…

4. Transfer of design onto metal and protection of areas not to be etched.
The toner on the PNP film is transferred onto the metal using heat – domestic irons. The toner will act as a resist, protecting selected areas while any bare parts are eaten away. Nail polish and tape were used to protect sides and back.

This was as far as I got the first night. The actual etching takes time, at least 30 minutes and considerably more depending on a range of variables.

5. Etching metal
The prepared metal is put in a chemical bath – ferric chloride for base metals and ferric nitrate for silver. These chemicals need to be treated seriously, carefully – after all, they dissolve metal. Fumes, safe materials for holding the chemicals, proper personal protection, all had to be considered. Work with care and attention, and there won’t be a problem. As well as the safety procedures, Jane gave us lots of tips on correct temperatures, agitation (of the bath, not the users 🙂 ), methods and angle of suspension and more.

6. Check, remove, neutralise, clean
We all worked on preparing more metal and samples as soon as the first strips were in the etching bath, which helped with the waiting and anticipation. A check every 15 minutes or so, and eventually we decided the etching was deep enough. Each piece of metal had to be neutralised in a baking soda solution, then lots of cleaning to remove toner, tape, nail polish.

7. Further enhance and use your metal
I think everyone in the class etched three pieces – strips of brass and copper, a square of silver. Unfortunately we all ran short of time on the etching of our second strips, and they were less deeply etched. Some had time to create a jewellery piece during the class, but it was getting late and I chose to wait for the weekend.

Some of us decided to use liver of sulphur on at least some of our pieces. It creates colour, a patina, on the metal and can be buffed back to bring out highlights and make the etched pattern more obvious. I thought it was always black, but a couple of us got other colours.

I was able to get a few photos of other people’s work, plus permission to use them here.

Vicki’s silver square, with liver of sulphur colouring

The silver we used was 3 x 3 cm. Vicki’s design came out really well. I’m not sure of the source of her design, it’s quite a formal pattern, but there’s still a lot of movement. The amount of detail is effective, and I like the variation in size or boldness of line. The colouring from liver of sulphur works really well to suggest a peacock display.

Dilkie’s silver square

Dilkie chose to keep her silver natural, not adding any patina. The clean lines of the floral pattern stand out well and the eye is easily able to follow the lines with no additional contrast needed.

The photos were a surprise, as the slight pitting and irregularity isn’t visible to the naked eye. I think if anything it gives a little extra life to the piece, an extra variation in the way light is reflected, and it shows the history of its making, the hand of the maker.

Dilkie’s cuff, in brass

Dilkie’s cuff uses a simple, formal, and very effective pattern. It catches the light beautifully.

I need to think some more about the kinds of pattern that work best with this technique. I’d taken a few more formal or rigid patterns, but was interested in seeing how “expressive mark making” would work. I think it makes it harder for the eye to follow, so the patterning is more muddled.

The scribble design shown at the top was used on a brass strip. It was long enough to make a cuff, with offcuts that I used in pair of earrings. The original design is quite bold, but I used the low-res blog version rather than the original photo, and the result is clearly pixelated.

Cuff and earrings. Brass


There’s no deliberate patination or colouring of the metal. Somehow in the etching process the unetched areas took on a coppery look. No idea how to reproduce it, but I really like the effect.

The pattern I used on the silver square was less successful in terms of being easy to interpret, but I like the abstract nature of it.

Sketch 20150815

Black and white square design

The source material was a print made in August 2015 while researching for molding and casting (21-Aug-2015). I used gimp for the image manipulation, which was as simple as selecting an area and changing colour mode to indexed using a black and white (1-bit) palette.

Liver of sulphur was definitely needed to provide some extra contrast, and I got some areas of colour as a bonus. I think the others were planning to use their squares as pendants, but for me it’s always about the earrings.

There are flaws – a few scratches, holes a bit off centre – and the ear-wires may well be changed. But I wore them out to dinner over the weekend, got some nice compliments from my well-trained family, and am happy.

My final strip of copper just didn’t work. It needed longer in the etching solution, but the design is quite bitty and was always going to be a challenge.


Sample p2-20 b

The original photo was of a sample of joining with overlapping edges, using cork and insect screen (22-Jun-2015). Originally I thought the black and white design had a flow that would guide the eye along, but it’s really just scrappy. Back home I tried using liver of sulphur to bring out contrast, but there really wasn’t anything there.

A detail of the “good” end.

The class is being run again later in the year. It will be the same number of hours on a single Saturday. It would mean a longer stretch of time to get work into the etching bath (most of us ran out of time on the first evening), but you don’t have time to process, reflect and plan before the second half of the class. Tempting, especially if there’s opportunity to experiment with other forms of resist, alternatives to PNP (wax, different forms of marker…).

Finished tealight from previous class.

I’ve enjoyed two classes with Jane, who is very knowledgeable and happy to share ideas and tips, plus prepared to go a little off topic if asked. I realised during the class that I’ve never shown the finished tea-light holder from her workshop earlier this year. It was seen soldered but still needing the base resolved and of course all that pesky cleaning still to go (18-Feb-2018).

There isn’t an actual tealight in the photo, just a desk lamp shone down into it. I think the treatment of the bottom edge works well with the theme, and it had the advantage of not being too precise so very suitable to my beginner skills 🙂 .

I see in the post on the earlier class linked above that I was thinking of a home soldering area “before the end of the year”. Obviously I’ve brought that forward (30-Apr-2018), and with some extra tips from Jane, today I tried cutting and shaping some copper to make a cylinder with a tight fit that I could solder. It took some time, but I got my best-ever fitting seam. Haven’t actually soldered it yet – I could feel that I was both tired and impatient, so I walked away – but I have renewed hope.

Cuff – resin offcut from Confluence basin

Finally, as part of tooling-up to finish different things I bought an oval bracelet mandrel during the week. (an aside – it’s rather dangerous for me that Australian Jewellers Supplies is just over the road from my workplace.). As mentioned above, in jewellery terms I’m all about the earrings… but I’ve recently been thinking of extending out to cuffs, bracelets and bangles. This is an offcut from the basin element of Confluence (8-Apr-2018), softened in the work-room microwave and formed. Possibilities!

Soldering simple???

Maybe for some.

I’ve made a few attempts to learn to solder.

Last year was a one day class on soldering electronics. At that time I didn’t know it was a different thing to soldering metal. It was disappointing in other ways, the organiser agreed and refunded the cost, so all will remain unblogged and unidentified.

In January this year was a week with Christian Hall (7-Jan-2018). I was out of my depth, nervous of the torch, and the one soldered join I brought back was basically the tutor demonstrating and me watching.

In February I tried a metal smithing class with Jane Tadrist (18-Feb-2018). That time my little tealight was soldered, but I now admit sadly that Jane did the first seam as a demonstration to the class, and the second so at least the thing would be done before we ran out of time.

The time spent with Christian and Jane was certainly not wasted nor without learning. It was just without me, hands-on, soldering.

So over the weeks of March I bought a soldering kit, a heap of associated paraphernalia including air extractor and fire extinguisher, and rearranged the garage to create a safe soldering station. Finally in April, I’ve spent time with me, hands-on, soldering.

There has been sawing and filing. There has been butt, T and even a little sweat soldering. There has been melting and balling of silver. There have been many hours finding and watching videos, and more hours reading library books – the excellently named Simple Soldering by Kate Ferrant Richbourg and Soldering Made Simple by Joe Silvera. There has been some wastage, and some metal repeatedly and brutally cut, soldered, recut, resoldered… There have been many failures and somewhat fewer not-exactly-successes.

Towards the end of the month there has been a hint of what I was originally aiming towards. The attempted sweat soldering didn’t work. Everything slipped around. Much of the solder became a “decorative element” rather than providing any structure.

But I like the way it cleaned up.

Germination II


It’s reminiscent of Germination II, at a much smaller scale. Importantly, it’s something I’m comfortable exploring in a domestic environment. Plus it’s a good reminder that the soldering is a means to an end. “Good enough” is enough.

Diversion talk

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

Artist talk
Photo: Nicole Robins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diversion

At the opening
Photo: Desdemona Foster

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

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

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

Shades of Red installation

Waymarker

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

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

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

Confluence -basin element

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

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

Confluence installed


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

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

Exhibitions: Steel for now; Recalibrate; Arcadia

Caroline Duffy and Ellenore Griffith Steel for now
This exhibition by sculptors Caroline Duffy and Ellenore Griffith is in its final week at Gallery Lane Cove. I’ve been fortunate to spend some quiet time with the exhibition, plus hear the artists speak about their work and their creative paths. The works felt familiar and exciting, inspirational… aspirational.

The two artists met at a National Art School class in welded sculpture around 11 years ago – basically the same class I took last year (22-Jan-2017). They have since worked independently and collaboratively. In the talks they went into quite a bit of detail about the methods and challenges of welding, with some really helpful discussion and generous tips about managing safety concerns. Their assessment was the same as mine – welding, grinding etc are serious things with clear dangers, not something you can do casually in a domestic environment. However they had a few suggestions about how to create other possibilities, find other environments, which gives me a bit more optimism for the future.

Steel for now installation view
Caroline Duffy


As well as her work in steel Caroline Duffy showed a number of collage works. I had an immediate and very strong positive response. At a deep level these works resonated with me. It’s a response to material and form, which seems to be the way in which Duffy herself views her work. In her talk she explained that the material leads. She adds material – “stuff” – then takes away stuff. Process, the sheer fun of the work, is the thing and it’s never outsourced.

Caroline Duffy
KYLIX

Duffy’s work is named with meaningless groupings of letters. There is no narrative in her work. In fact if by chance something literal is suggested, say a bird, then she will remove or change that area.

Germination II


I felt like a fellow traveler, maybe a younger sibling. More resonance or suggestion than specific. For example the general form, the repeated elements, the material of KYLIX had me thinking of Germination II (30-Jun-2017). Mine looks fussy by comparison, but that textile sensibility, the threadlike basketry elements, is important to me and something I feel I should focus on.

Ellenore Griffith
Paper Plane

Ellenore Griffith discussed the experimental approach she takes with her work, putting elements together then taking days or weeks looking at them, adjusting in minor or major ways, until she is satisfied and proceeds to welding.

Like Duffy, Griffith is not narrative in her work. She states “My hope is that these sculptures can be appreciated on an aesthetic and imaginative level rather than allowing environmental or social issues to take over the narrative.” However she is happy to accept titles suggested by others, accepting to some level the seeking for meaning or known points of reference that we often bring when looking at an artwork.

Ellenore Griffith
Sheer Red

I find it refreshing, perhaps liberating, to hear such strong statements treating material, form, aesthetic response as the purpose and reason for art. So many people choose to use their art as a means of bringing attention to social, environmental or other issues that concern them. I don’t in any way reject or question that meaning and purpose. If an artist has strongly held beliefs or wants to bring attention to a cause then using their art to publicise and express that can be an important contribution to social discourse. It’s more that I personally don’t have such drivers, and it feels good, validating, to be reminded that that is one option among many, none more nor less legitimate than others.

Tracy Stirzaker Recalibrate
Tracy Stirzaker’s exhibition Recalibrate is also in its last week at Gallery Lane Cove.

Stirzaker uses textile collage, embroidery, installation and soft sculpture in this exhibition, which stems from a recent 3-month artist residency.

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The themes of the work revolve around mental health, the emotional body, and the concept of being overwhelmed in the everyday. I thought the works were very effective in expressing these ideas.

One more technical aspect I particularly appreciated was the coherence of the works. A limited palette of fabrics was used, basically a blue and white kitchen towel material and a number of black and white fabrics. Forms and images were repeated – the straight jacket in different materials; a series of silhouettes in collage and stitch; the straight jacket presented as an installation, in a series of photographs taken in the streets nearby, in a video of a silhouetted, straight-jacketed body struggling for freedom. The repetition made for a more compelling exhibition, but also was expressive of the themes being explored.

Ewa Pachucka Arcadia: landscape and bodies
This installation can currently be seen at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Ewa Pachucka

Ewa Pachucka

It is fascinating on a number of levels to see this multi-part installation Arcadia: landscape and bodies (1972-77). It was created within the context of 1970s fibre art, and first exhibited at the Gallery in 1978.

There are references to classical art (and world) history, notions of collectivism, feminism and environmentalism. Most importantly there is the elevation of textile traditions and craft into the privileged realm of fine art.

What’s had me thinking is a recent incident in a group installation, part of a larger exhibition. It’s not one I’ve written about, and I won’t go into detail because quite possibly the story has been distorted in the telling (something that could be interesting in its own right). In any case, the story I’ve heard is that the group, all women, prepared a number of elements as part of the installation. Included was a large piece that deliberately evoked the look of a patchwork quilt. That element was rejected by the curator of the exhibition as “too crafty”. It was displayed, folded up, partially covered by other material, in a way to minimize its presence.

Was the curator simply exercising her (note gender) role, effectively excluding work she didn’t see as appropriate in some quality? Given it was a very conscious, deliberate evocation of the domestic by the artists, does it show a lack of understanding by the curator? Do we need to fight yet again for the place of the domestic, the place of textile traditions and craft, in the realm of art? Does it make a difference that it wasn’t actually a textile in traditional terms?


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