Archive for the 'Workshop' Category

Daughters of the Dragon – exhibition and workshop

This exhibition is on at Gallery Lane Cove until 27 February 2020. It “contemplates contemporary Chinese cultural heritage and identity in an Australian context from a female perspective”, and features work by three artists.

Mimi Tong
Script

Mimi Tong used ink dyed bamboo cotton yarn in her installation. It appeared to be finger-knitted to create more body and texture, with more texture from the uneven ink. It was effective in bringing energy and volume to the space allocated to her, which would otherwise have been sparse, while still at least in my eyes remaining domestic in scale.

Some of my reading lately has been around lines, writing, drawing (Tim Ingold and Michael Taussig) – both overlaps and differences. I don’t know the significance of Mimi Tong’s title, but it made me wonder if there was more there than I understood.

Chun Yin Rainbow Chan
Rubble

More clearly script-based was Chun Yin Rainbow Chan’s installation Rubble. Made of unglazed salt dough, the fairly roughly made characters were distributed on low plinths around the space. A three part video installation, Hands, appeared to show the making and cooking of dumplings.

Why “rubble”? It didn’t appear to be broken. Unable to connect, instead I wondered about the stamp making possibilities of salt dough in print-making.

The central part of the gallery space, where the visitor enters, held Tianli Zu’s immersive installation Shen Long. It was a beautiful experience.

Tianli Zu
Shen Long


Tianli Zu
Shen Long


I had the opportunity to chat in a group with Tianli Zu during a break in a workshop with her. She explained that the work was based in thinking about the water dragon. No one has ever seen this, so it is her impression of it.

There are so many elements to this. Hand cut mulberry paper, painted with many layers of Chinese ink. It was hung from the walls, and from the ceiling using a multitude of threads (representing the wind). Painted and heat distorted acetate suggest water. The projection onto walls and across the ceiling was based on stop motion photography of the cut paper. It also included text – poetry (in english) by Tianli Zu. Recorded music, composed and performed by her son Andrew Zu, played in the background. Strong currents from the gallery air conditioner kept everything in motion.

The workshop was two very enjoyable hours on paper cutting. Tianli Zu began by giving us some background and an appreciation of the philosophical basis of paper cutting. The balance of positive and negative, the duality of two cut lines needed to reveal the shape, the combination of deconstruction and reconstruction, letting the paper drop away without forcing or tearing it, were all important. We tried to find a smooth rhythm – Tianli Zu finds paper cutting a meditative process, a means of problem solving. There is a care and thoughtfulness built in. And how do you repair it if you make a mistake? Don’t repair – Make another cut!

The gallery provided A4 paper that was a little heavier than Tianli Zu would have preferred, so she reduced the number of folds for our first attempt. While she demonstrated, she was very keen for everyone to make their own choices in the cuts made.

Next up was cutting using images provided by Tianli Zu as templates. She explained the symbology of some of them (suitable as a gift for an older person as it included the character for long life, or suitable for a woman to give to a man to show love – a frog shape, suggesting fertility – as in “I’d like to have your baby”). I’m not sure about this one, but it was definitely a challenge – with the advantage of additional pleasure in finishing 🙂 We were encouraged to work fluidly, not sticking rigidly to the design of the template.

Now we were encouraged to draw our own designs – based on a teapot shape provided, but creating our own designs internally. That was actually one of the key takeaways for me: don’t just cut a shape, make it beautiful with flowers or other forms inside.

Finally I went back to one of Tianli Zu’s designs.

Cutting stencils for use in print-making was my main motivation for taking the class. As well as the cut forms I have kept the negatives – the outside frame and many of the smaller bits removed. I’ll have a session soon trying out these paper ones. Some thoughts for the future:

* Not just the outline. Add internal shapes to create beauty and interest – always with awareness of the positive and negative shapes being formed.
* Cut rhythmically, fluidly. Cut from above or below, supporting the point where the cut is being made.
* Select the tool – large or small scissors, knives… – suited to the shape you want.
* Cut small pieces first. Reward yourself with the longer cuts later.
* Develop shapes with additional meaning, even if it’s not apparent to all.
* Don’t repair. Cut.

Mono printing and text

Attentive reading, complete with careful note-taking, isn’t enough. Heresy? A simple recognition of my truth – which has taken me a while.

This isn’t cramming for an exam without a care for the info drop-out in the following week. It’s not skimming around, pulling together some facts and figures, some quotes and ideas, for an assignment. I’m reading to produce knowledge in me. It takes time – new ideas need to be tried out, connections made, existing knowledge reconsidered.

Making – moving from thought to materiality with knitting, weaving, paper, … – gives space and time for a different sort thinking. Critically, I have found that making which in some way responds to my reading becomes a form of knowledge production in its own right. It’s not just a distraction or filling in the time or simply another part of life – each project has allowed me deeper understanding of what I am reading, and to discover more about how I work and what is attracting my interest. However those earlier projects were all quite time and labour intensive. I wanted to mix it up with something a bit quicker, a bit more responsive to the moment.

Project outline
Monoprinting. It’s quick, versatile, responsive. Plus it’s something I’ve done a fair amount of before (blog search results), so building on skills.

Imagery – build on reading, so glyphs, experiment with what a humanist data viz could look with, plus continue to mine my history with stamps, stencils etc from previous work.

Text – the new element. A curiosity about “poetic” has been growing (see for example the reading scarf project (7-Jan-2020) and recent threads (18-Jan-2020)). I’ve been attempting to write poetic snippets, based on a reference in Jane Hirshfield. All very cringe-worthy, but I feel attempting it myself might make it easier to see and understand what people who know what they are doing are actually doing. I’ve never been successful with getting text into a monoprint.

Session 1: cobweb removal, first text idea
* Akua liquid pigments
* gelatin plate
* glyph stencils cut in paper
* general approach based on Linda Germain video (this link goes to a page on her website, with a mini-course for the price of your contact details).
* computer printed text on monoprint

Results: Space made, tools and materials found, cobwebs disturbed.
A selection:

First text attempt: chose one of the lighter monoprints, scanned it, and opened in gimp. Used image to decide size, font, colour and placement of text. Using the text layer only, printed the result onto the original monoprint.

I’m quite happy with this result – quick and accurate. However I’m not convinced by the regularity of the font on a very informal print.

Second text attempt: Scanned in a monoprint. Hand wrote one of my snippets and scanned that in. In an attempt to integrate text and print I added a faint extra layer, an enlarged and distorted version of the text. I printed the full image – the scan of the monoprint and both layers of text. This means the original monoprint is unchanged.

The result is … alright. I don’t have strong feelings about it. Perhaps the approach could be useful in some future application.

Session 2: Introduction to monoprinting workshop with Kirtika Kain
This workshop was in the studio of Gallery Lane Cove – Kirtika’s work was on exhibit upstairs at the time (20-Jan-2020). Kirtika was very ambitious for a three hour course. To help us build concepts and ideas, we started with 20 minutes of stream of consciousness writing, then some time mind-mapping, exploring words and themes that resonated. We all made monoprints using an A5 piece of acetate as a plate, backdrawing, and printing using barren and press. Next came making and use of stencils, plus other objects as a mask. Running short of time, Kirtika demonstrated drypoint etching on the acetate, and both intaglio and relief printing, then a final burst attempting chine-collé. It was full-on, and I don’t know how the other four students, all I think quite new to print-making, coped. For me it was great as a refresher and energizer.

My “designs” were based on thoughts of humanist data viz and the distorted grid. Messy and unclear, but there’s an energy I like.
A selection:

My first backdrawing included some overall scratching with fingers, and produced a cloudy jumble. The second attempt I tried hard to keep clean, pressing only with the pencil while backdrawing. I love that line! Of course the y-axis is wrong, I need to mirror that… and so,

I needed to try mirror writing!

Session 3: mirror writing on acetate
* Akua intaglio ink
* acetate and gelatin plates
* mirror writing (mostly)

Outcomes:
Backwriting with biro (that had run out of ink), acetate plate

Ghost print

Akua intaglio on acetate; writing into inked surface with wooden skewer (direct, not mirror writing); stamped onto gelatin plate; printed off onto paper using brayer

I made the gelatin plate over four years ago. It has been used repeatedly, and between times sat in the garage with minimal protection. The clearer white dots above are pocks on the plate, not a product of the method. I think there’s some potential here (assuming I melt and reset the plate) – especially given the freedom of being able to write directly.

Not shown: Mirror backwriting, gelatin plate. Did not work.

Acetate plate, mirror writing into ink using a wooden skewer.

Session 4: extending
* Attempt longer text
* Think about page placement
* Combine text and other effects – some in this print session, some by using pages from previous sessions
* An additional method for monoprinted text
* Using yupo paper stencils as both stencil and as pre-inked stamp
* Acetate and gelatin plates

Some results:
Mirror backwriting on acetate plate.

In the print above, the ink of the biro used in backwriting shows through the paper and the transparent yellow plate ink. It assists legibility. However the ghost below is basically unreadable. The only point of interest is that I printed on what was intended to be the back of the page. Excluding the workshop prints, all of the work in this post is on paper originally used in the life drawing workshop with David Briggs last year (16-Feb-2019). Odd here, but could be something to play with… And now I look at the ghost again, it might work to write or paint (watercolour) the text into the blanks of the yellow…

A more complete attempt. More legible. Plus improving on placement (I’m edging towards an A5 booklet idea). The text is based on childhood memories of storms at the end of hot summer days. The infinity shape is my glyph for memory, the stamping is intended to suggest storms.

Experimenting with another text method – writing in printing ink onto acetate. Stamping that onto the gelatin plate, then printing off. Squelchy. I’d need to find a better way of managing the amount of ink in the writing.

Finally some general play.

I’m pretty happy with my results overall – not the individual pages, but in the options I now have to work responsively and relatively intuitively as a support to and extension of my other creative activity.

Reference
Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows, page 41

Workshop: David Briggs – Anatomy for Life Drawing

The first large chunk of this post was drafted a month ago, before all sorts of events in family and work. It feels distant and strange now, as I try to pick up and regroup. Still, no point throwing things away, so my chatty intro remains…

This week-long class was part of summer school at the National Art School. It was absorbing – both the focus on the work which was intense, and also soaking up every skerrick, every shred of strength of mind and body. At the end of each day I knew I had learnt, but pretty much all I felt was exhausted.

A little scene-setting. NAS is housed in what was once the Darlinghurst Goal, a complex of buildings built in the 1800s using huge blocks of sandstone cut using convict labour. Two years ago I went to the second week of summer school, attempting Welded Sculptures with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017). Week 2 was small and quiet then. The welding area was in a newish block, tucked into a corner. I went back and forward, focused on the class, not the place.

NAS ex-chapel

The drawing class was in the centre of the complex, in the old goal chapel. It’s a barrel-shaped building, with the drawing studio a large room taking up the top two thirds.

There were lunchtime talks in the Cell Block theatre, once the women’s wing of the goal. Another talk and exhibition was in the NAS Gallery, the old “A” wing completed in 1841. I borrowed from the library, formerly I believe the goal hospital.

With all that, by my calculations the site has been used for education, particularly art education, for longer than as a prison. Although the site was pegged out in 1821, delays in work meant the first prisoners were marched in in 1841. Over time other goals were built, prisoners moved, the goal closed in 1914 and the site became an internment camp during World War I. So about 80 years confining people. In 1921 the buildings were converted into the East Sydney Technical College, and in 1922 the Department of Art was moved in. The specifics of institution and courses have changed over time, but it’s getting close to 100 years of expanding and enriching people.

My view of the world

While conscious of a sense of history and of all the other activities of summer school. my major focus for the week was this little slice of the world. We moved around a bit, but basically this was it.

chapel ceiling

The roof, and ceiling, of the studio is a cone ending in a cupola and the many high windows create an even light, but unfortunately are fixed closed reducing air flow.

The even light would have been a problem if wanting to explore shadows and shading in our drawings. We didn’t. We focused on the first minute, then two minutes, of a drawing. Get the overall shape, claim the space on your page. Look to get particular information – a flat shape, alignments, proportion, line of action. Use an alternate three dimensional view – a series of masses, related, overlapping. Find lines; rehearse; keep light; adjust. Research the shape. Explain as an arrangement of the masses of the body – head, ribcage, pelvis.

Over the week David gradually introduced more signposts to help us. Using a skeleton David showed the structure of the body, then pointed to the indications of those bones on the body of the live model. The thoracic arch was an early, easy example. Use those signposts to explain, to check, to adjust, your drawing. For instance the position of heel bone and ankle bone gives you more information about the direction of the leg, where weight is held.

By the end of the week I had over 150 different full body poses sketched to varying levels of detail, plus sketches of hands, feet, eyes, face… All were graphite, lightly drawn on white cartridge paper. Hard to photograph and quite boring. While trying to improve contrast I got some wilder results. Here are a few pages.




One afternoon we had two models. The main purpose was to let us break into two groups and get close for some detail drawings, but we also had a few poses with the two working together. So much fun!

Click for a larger view


The final image above shows three attempts at a single pose. On the far left, my very stiff and awkward first attempt. To its right, David’s demonstration – so much more movement and grace! Next my second attempt, which shows some improvement and scope for so much more. The figure on the right doesn’t seem impressed.

I certainly improved over the week. The big thing would be regular practice to consolidate and improve further, but I can’t see a way to fit that in at the moment. Working from a photo in a book or on the internet isn’t the same. There’s the size in the eyes, but I think binocular vision – a single three dimensional image – is critical.

Workshop: Maori basket weaving with Alice Spittle

This workshop at the Australian Museum was an absorbing, centering and very satisfying day, with Alice as a warm and generous guide.

Observing protocols, respecting tradition, was an important part of the day. There was a sequence of ceremony – acknowledgement of traditional owners and custodians of the country where we met, and also the country where the New Zealand harakeke (flax) we would use was harvested; Karakia (perhaps incantations or prayers) invoking the spiritual guidance and protection of Earth Mother and Sky Father; each introducing ourselves, if we chose with our connections to family and place. To me this was a reminder that what we do can have wider ramifications, it gave a deeper sense of purpose, a calm focus.

Alice took us through the nurturing and harvesting of the harakeke. Every step considers the health and sustainability of the plant. Which leaves to take, how to cut them to enable water run off and avoid disease, when to harvest… There is also a spirit of generosity, the belief that sharing is a way to abundance. And integral with the spiritual, the philosophical, there is the practical – the integrity and ongoing availability of the fibre. I’ve been an urbanite all my life, am happy to use plastics and synthetics and metals, try to be mindful of my footprint on the earth without actually changing anything I particularly want to do. Although it’s not a path I follow, being reminded of another way… well, I’m not sure what that means to me yet. (For more on harakeke, see my.christchurchcitylibraries.com/harakeke/.)

The project for the day was a two cornered basket. Alice had the material already prepared, so we could go straight into softening the strips, weaving the initial square, starting a second layer and the magical moment when it pops into 3D. All the way through Alice would explain and show traditional ways and alternatives.

I think everyone in the class was able to finish their basket by the end of the day. Later at home I made some cord with the flax for a handle and closure, incorporating a little paua shell and silver pendant by Margaret Jordan in Paihia, Bay of Islands – a gift from my father.

At the end of the day Alice shared out remaining materials. I was keen to show respect in my use of the harakeke, given it is highly prized and in some sense sacred. I also wanted to both consolidate learning and push a bit by trying for a four cornered basket. It turned into a bit of a scramble, improvised rather than traditional, and rather gappy and loose.

In theory the jagged tie-off at the top is easier than the “flat” of the first basket. I made it difficult because I wanted to try tucking the ends to the inside rather than outside, so that only the shiny top surface of the leaf is visible. I suspect that structurally this is weaker, but I like the look.

computer wire, neoprene, whipper snipper
My response to the class with Frances Djulibing

In the morning while we were waiting for the final couple of participants Alice showed us a few extras, including spinning fibres from the harakeke. She used her arm, pretty much from the elbow down to the palm of the hand, rolling down and up the length of her thigh, to create a two ply thread. At a broad level it was very similar to what I saw demonstrated by Frances Djulibing from Ramingining, in the east of Arnhem Land, at a workshop at the MCA in 2013 (see 31-Aug-2013, which includes a long, wordy description of what I could see/understand of the process). The fascinating part is the difference, which I think is due to the different materials being used – an expression of location. The banyan fibres were shorter, more chaotic, and Frances was constantly adding more. Alice was working with a long, regular, bundle of fibres, the length of the leaf. She started holding in the middle, spun one side, then turned to do the other. The final length of the yarn is a reflection of the size of the plant. Another element I want to remember is a change in the position, the angle, of the hand holding the growing length of spun fibre. Without changing grip it allowed Alice to bring the two strands together for the upward plying movement.

Finished bolga basket from class with Godwin Yidana

Godwin Yidana from northern Ghana taught another variant on this spinning (31-Jul-2017). The materials again reflected local environment – plastic water bags, recycled and scrap fabric, plastic shopping bags. An old rubber thong (flip-flop) was used to protect the leg and improve grip.

At the top of this post I mentioned our personal introductions. As part of my connections, my explanation of who I am in the world and my place in community, I talked about the three examples of spinning, using local materials and one’s body, different but the same. A community of makers across cultures. Making thread, weaving – basics for survival, and capable of supporting expressions of self and aesthetics. Powerful stuff.

Workshop: Kintsugi for Modern Life with Naomi Taplin

This four hour workshop was held in the calm beauty of Studio Enti in Darlinghurst, where ceramicist Naomi Taplin sells her porcelain tableware, lighting and home decor – functional and beautiful.

Kintsugi is a traditional Japanese art, repairing broken ceramics with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold or silver. It’s a philosophy that treats the breakage and repair as part of the history of the object, valuing these signs of use, celebrating them, finding a new level of beauty.

Angela’s Bowl
Repaired by Naomi Taplin

Pictured here is work by Naomi for the Object Therapy exhibition.

After a brief introduction to the technique and its history Naomi demonstrated her modern take, using today’s glues and metallic powders. There were lots of options to think about. My personal leaning is towards raised, scar-like veins, others were drawn to fine, smooth traceries.

We all started with small, low, white dishes that Naomi had pre-broken into 3 or 4 pieces. There’s some delicate timing involved, waiting for the precise moment when the glue’s consistency is “right”, moving quickly to apply it, then some more waiting, holding steady.

Some people had brought their own broken objects to work on. Most of us selected from a table of possibilities provided by Naomi. In a burst of bravado I chose a large, quite thick plate that had come out of the kiln in three pieces. The pieces were a bit warped, and would never fit together neatly. Naomi brainstormed with me on possible approaches that treated the gaps as an opportunity.

Two batches of glue later – both set on the work surface before I could apply glue to plate – and I was ready to admit defeat. Instead Naomi came and assisted, we each worked on one side of the first join, then brought them together. I chose to limit the amount of finishing and cleaning. The final piece has in my eyes a robust, unabashed, quirky character, and refinement would be misplaced. It’s unusual, not obvious, but satisfying. So far people look at it, have a little think, then decide they like it.

And a comparison photo to see the different sizes.

This class was a step away from my main areas of interest, but I think there are definite possibilities to integrate some of the techniques and ideas into other work I’m doing.

Naomi has more classes scheduled, and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re nearby.

Workshops with Mary Hettmansperger

Three days, two workshops back to back, spent in the company of fellow NSW Basketry Association members, inspired and led by Mary Hettmansperger – what a fabulous experience! The first two days were Sculptural Basketry – soft materials, the third Sculpture, Surfaces & alternative designs in Baskets & Vessels.

In physical terms there isn’t much to show for it:
There is some waxed linen thread, coloured with acrylic paints. This is the only thing you could term “finished” – and it’s a potential input into other projects.

Painted linen thread


A small, unfinished sample of twining. Lots of ideas here including the shaping, internal stiffening with modpodge, three rod wale, the painted linen, a bridge to create two tubes…

Twining wip


A barely started form in aviary wire, with three rows of knotting and the intended twining yet to begin.

Knotting wip


A complex form created with wire, pantyhose, glue and dress-making patterns, full of potential.

Bizarre form wip


Looping on a twisted and hammered wire form, progressing quite well.

Looping wip


All exciting in their own way and with their own potential, but the most exciting thing is my notebook, filled with ideas and lists and diagrams with arrows.

Mary’s underlying approach is just what I’ve been working on – creating components over time, ready as input to a faster, intuitive construction process. There were periods of quiet work throughout the days, punctuated with demonstrations by Mary when she threw out ideas, techniques, possibilities, alternatives… We all chose different things to experiment with over the time – I don’t think it would be possible to do it all. There was lots of metal play which I haven’t tried yet. I have lots of notes and photos, and plan to do my experimenting at home with the tools, materials and setup I already have.

A final photo – of Mary’s work with my own twist. Mary brought with her a lot of the jewellery she makes – but no earrings! Unacceptable!!! So two neckpieces came home with me and have since been appropriately modified. 🙂

Mary Hettmansperger neckpieces earrings

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?


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