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Process and play

A good week, but not a lot I can show. Still it seems to be an important thing for me to pause and review on a regular basis.

The unmentionable object first glimpsed 26-Dec-2017 has been completed. The project is still under embargo, so no details (except for the photo above, which is all details). It follows that the second object I’m making for this project must also remain in the shadows.

Thinking about another potential project has begun, but that isn’t confirmed yet so… nothing to see here 😦

Instead a little general musing about process and play. How does one approach an exhibition theme? What does a viewer expect – and should I consider that?

One approach to the theme could include mind-maps and mood boards and sketches and plans. Not appealing (makes me feel claustrophobic) and I think something directly connected, even narrative, isn’t for me. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learnt from Ruth Hadlow (see 25-Feb-2016 among other posts). So treat the theme as the beginning of a chain of thought and experimentation, and see what I’ve got when time is about up.

“Creativity” – definitions generally seem to involve creating something (physical or otherwise) new or novel and somehow of value or use. Imagination may be mentioned. But how much is truly novel? Play, curiosity and problem solving seem more relevant. And I love applying ideas or techniques learnt in a different area.

Quite a bit of reflecting, not much writing. To finish this lopsided and vague post, a pointer to something worth your time if in Sydney – Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age: masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, at AGNSW until 18 February. I’ve been a few times – not directly inspirational, but for the interest of art history and the simple pleasure of looking.

Folding metal for objects & jewellery making with Christian Hall

This was my third time at Sturt summer school. The first was in 2012, Contemporary Weave with Liz Williamson (14-Jan-2012). The second, last year, was Basketry with Brooke Munro (15-Jan-2017).

It was the same lovely space at Frensham school in Mittagong. The general atmosphere was purposeful, happy and welcoming. The class was out of my comfort zone – a beginner, but I thought with some relevant experience from last year’s Welding Sculpture with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017) and working in wire during Steeling Beauty with Keith Lo Bue (23-Apr-2017). (Yes, I’m clearly a workshop fanatic).

So why am I back in Sydney writing up this experience, when I should still be in Mittagong giving the final polish to my work before the open-class walkaround that closes the week?

It’s going to take some time to think through many details, but I think fundamentally it was a bad match of my skills and ability to the major projects of the class. Although billed as suitable for all levels, I was the only beginner and it showed. There was clumsiness, mistakes, eyesight issues and lots of frustration. There was also learning, lots of camaraderie and support, and a good tutor. Combine all of these with a workroom which needs some tlc in arrangement and tools, and weather that hit 38° C yesterday with 40° C forecast today. Plus a particularly fraught afternoon yesterday. My final sample could have been finished in the time available today, but only with so much assistance from others that it would only theoretically be my work. So much less learning than ideal – and in that heat!

Class work 1

That’s not saying there was no learning or making. Above is my sample from the first day, made by folding a strip of copper, extensive hammering of selected areas, repeated annealing, and finally partially opening the fold. There were pretty results around the room, and some students returned to this technique repeatedly over the coming days. (those working much faster than me)

Sample day 2

On the second day we used hammering around a die to make a shallow dish, carefully sized to act as a lid to some brass tubing Christian supplied. The end result with two dishes/lids or one lid and one soldered base was intended as a tea caddy or similar.

The idea of precision and tight fits alarmed me, so I decided to experiment with using “too much” copper to see how the material behaved. Some beautiful folds, complemented by the roller embossing with leaves that Christian also demonstrated. On the left is the photo above is Christian’s sample. On the right is my response 🙂

The following two days, and what would have continued today, was my “major work” – hammered brass, scored, folded and soldered into a square tube, then soldered onto a base. Nothing fit to photograph due to a sorry (and for anyone else boring) tale of woe.

All is not doom and gloom. Since arriving home I’ve sourced and enrolled in a silver smithing course in February – three Saturday mornings at Sydney Community College. With the benefit of hindsight, just what I should have done before the Sturt class!


In November I spent an extra-long weekend in Hobart with my mother and sister.

Museum of Old and New Art. Hard to describe if you haven’t heard of it, so quoting from the website: Mona is one man’s ‘megaphone’ as he put it at the outset: and what he wants to say almost invariably revolves around the place of art and creativity within the definition of humanity. I found it fascinating, frustrating, annoying, amazing, pretentious… Certainly not bland. There is just so much stuff that it is overwhelming – something you could say about many galleries and museums and places of entertainment, but here sometimes excess seems to be an end in itself. I think it is quite deliberate about unsettling people. At times I felt crassly manipulated, it was a bit obvious. At other times I wasn’t aware of it, but pretty sure it was still happening. Some very clever and very professional people at work here.

I think my hard-won and still limited knowledge of art and art history was both put to the test and at times shown to be irrelevant. And it’s pretty human not to enjoy that feeling. So I’ll focus here on the spots where interests overlapped.

Julia Krause-Harder

There were a number of dinosaurs by Julia Krause-Harder. I didn’t get a good photo, but the detail shows what I responded to – weaving using cable ties, plastic and other probably repurposed materials. Here some of the frustration comes in. MONA doesn’t have labels on walls. They provide lots of information on “the O” – iOS only. In many ways great when you’re there – they have devices for you to carry around if you don’t worship at that particular temple. Not so good for me, as usually I take a photo of the wall info whenever I photograph an artwork, making it easy to refer back. So incomplete information here.

bit.fall, 2001–06, Julius Popp

A waterfall, with words derived from news and other feeds, processed through some clever algorithm then fed into mechanism like a hybrid of inkjet printer and sprinkler system. Fascinating to watch and wonder about the news stories the words are derived from. Some words I thought I could place from current events, others remain a mystery.

MONA is very low profile from the outside. Most of it is down within the cliff of a peninsula on the Derwent River. Many large public buildings have a big atrium opening out above you after a narrow or relatively low entry point, to inspire a sense of awe and wonder in those entering. MONA does it upside down – you enter an apparently single storied building, lots of light, the shop and cafe, then descend into the depths by spiral stairs or lift where the subterranean atrium is indeed awe-inspiring. Julius Popp’s work dominates that space, and as you work your way up through the galleries you come to it again and again at different levels.

Judith Scott – detail

Judith Scott

Wandering rather listlessly through a labyrinth of small rooms and corridors, this caught the corner of my eye and I raced (I’m hoping there was no pushing involved, but couldn’t swear to it). Unmistakable. Fascinating and complex and engrossing and for me a moment of peace and absorption in a strident environment. I’ve written in this blog many times about Scott’s work – just do a search top right. No more to say and words aren’t the point.

Fat Car, 2006 Erwin Wurm

One of the more popular exhibits I suspect, Fat Car is just that. A sleek sportscar has been modified and is now corpulent, with rolls of shiny duco flab. Even the black leather seats bulge. A neat critique of our culture.

Brett Whitely

Tucked away in a corner was a mass of “traditional” artworks – oil on canvas type things. The photo above shows a very large and I think overall lovely work by Brett Whitely. He’s not one of my favourite artists – the self promotion is a bit thick and I start feeling suffocated. Here it comes as a disembodied hand and, from memory, eyeball (not a believer in subtlety), but there’s so much else I can still breathe and think my own thoughts.

The MONA excess can just be glimpsed at the edges of the photo above. Lots by Sidney Nolan and various others hung salon style. (There was a huge, HUGE work by Nolan in another area.)

Altogether a challenging and interesting day. I’d love to go back by myself, immerse and challenge myself.

In and around Hobart
We spent some time walking around Hobart. Salamanca Markets have a very good name, and we spent a hot and sunny Saturday there. Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum brought the temperature down. The museum is a replica of the huts built in 1911 in Cape Denison, Antarctica. The central living area has been reproduced with great detail, the bunks, stove, tables used by the men of the expedition. Fascinating.

At the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery we focused on historical exhibitions. First was Our land: parrawa, parrawa! Go away!, a sobering and painful telling of the story of the invasion of the island and the Black War. Just one level down in the historic Bond Store building was Our changing land: Creating Tasmania. On its website the museum invites the visitor to “investigate the making of Tasmania, and explore how the state has become a place of environmental change and complexities, of creativity and of a particular social identity”. It was hard to enter the spirit of that, seeing all the domestic treasures accumulated by the colonists, all the time hearing through the ceiling above the audio of the Black War exhibition.

One of the major reasons for visiting Hobart was to seek out places visited by a great-great… uncle who came out to Hobart in the early 1840s (mum’s research is at A decade after the period of the Black War, but the visit to the Museum certainly gave some perspective and context to the opportunities young John Chester Jervis was seeking.

Richmond Bridge

A short drive out from Hobart took us to Richmond and the bridge which was constructed by convict labour 1823-1825 – the oldest stone span bridge in Australia. To complete the sunny picture a couple of boys in red came running down to fish and be reflected in the waters, while ducks thoughtfully paddled their way into the shot.

While in Richmond we also visited the Old Hobart Town model village, again showing a period a bit before John Chester’s arrival. Together with a drive-by of the only Hobart address we know related to him (the house where he was married, long since over-built), this rounded out our “research”.

Tahune AirWalk

Tahune AirWalk
View of cantilever section, taken from early part of the walk

Huon River from Tahune AirWalk

A longer day trip was to Tahune AirWalk, a suspended walkway above the forest canopy next to the Huon River. It was another hot day and somewhat airless in the valley, but beautiful in the dappled light of the trees. The Huon River is dark, its waters coloured by tannins. Birds and insects flew around us. Even the length of the walk – across the river and through the trees, then 600 metres of the walkway itself – was pretty much perfect for our party. There are other adventures available here, and you could stay longer or overnight if you wish, but we were happy and satisfied without.

Mount Wellington
Finally, given this has turned into a family travel blog rather than strictly art and creative practice (although I’ll maintain each part of life feeds and supports the other), a snapshot from the top of Mount Wellington

Top of Mount Wellington

Still glancing back

Continuing from 21-Dec-2017, looking back as I move forward…

There’s been a little making over this time.

A matter of balance
Overall it’s not what I intended to make and it’s just not right. On the hand there’s lots I like, lots I learnt, lots I brought forward in this.

Good points include:

Sample p3-40 sand molded side

* Use of sample p3-40 from Mixed Media for Textiles (23-Sept-2015). This started life as a heat distortion sample of silver lamé, which was later encased in resin.
* an element of basketry – neolithic twining in wire for a couple of elements.
* I like the little dangle of shards and chain.

Class with Marion Gaemers

Marion Gaemers at workshop

This two day workshop was organised by Basketry NSW.

My class samples

In one sense Sculptural Basketry was pretty simple – cutting and distorting different sizes of chicken wire, wrapping it, coiling from it, covering with and removing paper. Repeat over two days.

Of course there was more. Marion didn’t stop, coming round to each person, asking questions… – and listening to our answers. Then more questions, encouraging us to see, to think about possibilities, to challenge our unconscious, limiting assumptions. With structure taken care of by the wire you can go anywhere with basketry. Cut some out to create voids, or add, or twist. Build in any direction, experiment with materials, use familiar techniques in new ways.

Marion also has lots of expertise in group installations, and while in Sydney she was helping with an upcoming project. It’s too soon to share any details, but here is a glimpse of some work in progress.

Art gallery talks
An embarrassment of riches really. The AGNSW weekly lecture series Site Specific: The power of place, shorter series and one-off lectures on Tolstoy, 17th century dutch doll houses, archaeology in Khotan and Dunhuang… I go and in the darkness scribble phrases and images that catch my mind. Too much to sift through right now unfortunately, but filed away as a resource for the future.

There was a whole day of lectures at the Sydney sculpture conference: in public space. Speakers touched on sculpture as a carrier of time – beyond time, space, reality; the language of a particular place, of Sydney; facilitating transformations; propositional and ephemeral work. There was a lot about the funding of work, challenges to the artist that push them. Maaretta Jaukkuir commented that a work can address the whole of society and public sculpture more ideology than art.

Statue of Richard Bourke
Attribution: DO’Neil at the English language Wikipedia

What has particularly stayed with me is Michael Hill’s comments on public sculpture helping you to understand a place and its history. He talked about a monument to Governor Richard Bourke. This was the first public statue erected in Australia. It is by Edward Hodges Baily, who was also responsible for the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square. It shows a prominent governor of the young colony who worked to change it from military to civil government, to reduce the number of lashes a magistrate could order to a low 50, who declared each religious denomination on equal footing before the law, who was the first governor to publish the colony accounts. So a great, modern, guy. Except that he was the one who proclaimed the doctrine of terra nullius, that the land was nobody’s, dispossessing the indigenous Australians. And the statue stands high, looking over usurped land, on a plinth which lists this achievement.

Now the proclamation seems to have been triggered by concerns about European squatters on the land and a particular “treaty” that was claimed to be have been made and has all sorts of complications and issues. So maybe more establishing a pecking order in the plundering. But coming back to Michael Hill’s lecture, you can see why some in our community find the statue of Bourke offensive, and I don’t agree with Hill’s repeated laments about calls for the statue’s removal and that only sculptures and artworks are subject to such calls, while buildings and other works remain standing. To me the statue has limited modern artistic merit – if it was part of the AGNSW’s collection, would it be guaranteed constant display in perpetuity? It is there because of its historical interest, and that history is disputed and painful. So let’s get the statue down and display it somewhere with context, with other points of view given equal weight, where there can be discussions that take us to a better future that includes facing and redressing as far as possible past wrongs, rather than celebrating and continuing them.

Rant over. And catchup almost over, as much as it ever will be.


A snapshot of a moment – I want to remember how I got here.

Posted yesterday (21-Dec-2017) and in process began to remember a way of looking and thinking. Great conversation with Claire last night, with ideas to encourage and support and push each other. With mum to Pipilotti Rist exhibition at MCA today – immersive and stirring and beautiful (in an engaged way). Then watched a video – George Condo: The way I think and while not drawn to his art felt impelled to capture notes, ideas:
For a start Condo talks an awful lot about art history, artists, low and high forms, painting vs drawing etc. While I’m interested in learning about art history it seems artificial to be consciously combining influences in a work. Very “arty”, which is not directly a goal for me.
Emotions – I often can’t recognise emotions that people say are in a painting, unless they are simplified down to almost caricatures (which Condo’s own work seems to be). Though I loved his phrase about Rembrandt, about “see the world they lived through in their face”. Need to go to the AGNSW exhibition again and look with that in mind.
Loved the use of oil sticks, and then dragging the brush through for tone. Would need to relax and not think about cost, seeing the way he churned through them. Also liked the way the drawing changed as he worked on it – eg one of someone’s eyes became the eye of another head in profile.
Interesting the bit about fake news, that we don’t know what realism is. And the phrase “strange shadows” – could really explore that as a theme. But not sure about art being truthful – unless you say it is the viewer’s interpretation so their own truth.
It did have me wanting to jump up and draw, and think I might need to do that straight away. Strike while the iron’s hot.

Jumped up, grabbed some A3 cartridge paper, some oil pastels, a figure from sculpting class with Kassandra Bossell (breaking off arm and foot in the process), sat on the floor and started drawing. Colour didn’t move with brush so pushed with fingers. And here I am, breathless and excited and blood coursing. Alive and creating.

“Result” is not the point, but included for completeness. The point is in my mind and body and emotion.

Looking back, moving forward

There’s no sugar-coating it. My creative work was overtaken by other priorities for a good part of this year. There is now some time and energy, but where to begin? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Beginning, one action then another. Repeat.

But I don’t want to lose sight of things that have happened, have been seen and done. A light touch, with a little more detail where part-written posts captured some thought behind…

Victorian watercolours
One of the old court galleries at the AGNSW has been redecorated in Victorian style, including dark red walls, double swag curtains and antique seating (too fragile for actual use). The pictures are a mixture, Some rather saccharine and bland, many enjoyable.
I appreciated the hanging of two in particular, either side of a draped archway, both similar and contrasting in theme and staging. Publio de Tommasi’s cardinal shows sly satisfaction, anticipating triumph in the game of chess. Two other men debate the news of the day in a work by Charles Robertson. A world away, or sharing a love of rich tapestries and good conversation?

Victorian Watercolours exhibiton

Publio de Tommasi
The game of chess (detail)

Charles Robertson
Bazaar gossip (detail)

Passion and Procession: art of the Philippines
An enormous canvas at the entry to this exhibition initially intimidated me. So much happening, so much war and death. Rodel Tapaya combines multiple mythologies, a mix of symbols, to present views of a recent violent event. My companion and I took our time, examined the detail, made connections and discoveries, and ultimately I felt rewarded by the effort. This is a country and history I don’t know, but have since felt drawn to learn about.

Inside the exhibition it was surprising to find many works of a human, domestic, scale and theme – although on reflection I think that surprise was misplaced – Tapaya’s work was full of humanity and the personal price of conflict.

Rodel Tapaya
Do you have a rooster, Pedro?

Norberto Roldan
Detail of domestic altars series. 2005

Marina Cruz
Blush fibres and bed sores

A long weekend in Melbourne in July was packed with interest.

Greater Together

ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) is an exciting venue and the exhibition was full of ideas and risk-taking – and somewhat hit and miss.
Letters to the Land (2017) by Bik Van der Pol (Liesbeth Bik and Jos Vaqn der Pol) was the biggest hit for me. A large space filled with voice and colour.

Bik Van Der Pol
Letters to the land

Van Gogh and the Seasons

A blockbuster at the NGV. It was always going to be crowded. Long queues to get in (hurrah for pre-booked tickets and reciprocal memberships, so walked right past), great gatherings around the later, more familiar works. But it was a happy and generally considerate crowd, people enjoying themselves, looking at art and talking about it. Most also moved through quite quickly, so with a bit of patience you could spend some quality time with whatever caught your interest.

Van Gogh_
A Wheatfield, with cypresses

The exhibition was also cleverly hung – lots of Japanese prints in the hallways leading in, giving context and getting eyes in tune, then paintings arranged by season rather than chronologically so the works that many viewers gravitated towards were spaced throughout the gallery, generally with a little extra room around them. So clusters formed, parts spun away and reformed, children wriggled through – I can imagine a beautiful film taken from high above, using a thermographic camera for glowing colours of massed heat, like watching a colony of tiny organic forms under a microscope. My husband suggested an Esther Williams movie, much less formal but with explosions of movement and sprays of water at key points.

What caught my interest?
The movement and weight of a field-worker.

Van Gogh
Reaper (1885)

Thick wedges of colour and line in tree trunks.

Van Gogh
Tree trunks in the grass (1890)

Full of detail and flickering colour, a path to follow but for the moment lost in the depths of the bark. It was fascinating to see the man returning to ideas, to seasons, throughout his short career. On a less sublime note, I found myself seeing the detail of the world around me with clearer eyes, the lines of colour and depth in my teabag glistening…

Blocks of colour piled up, strong shapes and line.

Van Gogh
View of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (1888)

On another day we roamed through the NGV, more or less at random.

Ross Coulter

In the Festival of Photography I saw a solitary viewer fascinated by Ross Coulter’s Audience – photographic documentation of audiences of performances that may or may not have been taking place. Another large gallery was dark, luminous, with works by Bill Henson.

Turning a corner I was excited to see Spatial Concept by Lucio Fontana.

Lucio Fontana
Spatial Concept

Last year I did quite a bit of reading about Fontana’s work and ideas (12-Jun-2016), and returned to his ideas of infinite dimension numerous times in my exploration of the grid. To see an example of the pierced canvas, to experience the ruptured sacred surface, the glimpse of the worlds beyond, had more impact – a visceral impact – than I would have expected.

Creating the Contemporary Chair was an unexpected delight.
Tracey Deep’s She Chair was an exuberant transformation of a classic. (see 29-Sep-2016 for other works by Deep.)

Tracey Deep
She Chair

Shadowy armchair, designed by Tord Boontje and manufactured by Moroso was an extravagance, something that would have suited the cat in a hat, handwoven in plastic threads. The chair was one of a series designed in collaboration with traditional craftspeople of Senegal and Mali, and the same plastic threads are used in fishing nets. I loved the clever weave, the beautifully resolved edges.

Tord Boontje (designer)
Moroso (manufacturer)
Shadowy armchair

There were many more beautiful, fascinating and just plain weird chairs. And there is still more catching up to be done. But this post has been building over a few days and is long enough. And in tandem I have started making again. It feels good.

First stabile and other making

After initial attempts making mobiles (20-Aug-2017), I’ve moved on to a stabile. I’d never heard of them before starting Keith Lo Bue‘s Poetry in Motion: making marvelous mobiles DVD workshop. They balance just like a mobile, but instead of being suspended they pivot on a table-based stand.

So here in all its glory, full of blemishes but actually working … (drumroll) …

Galvanised wire and corrugated cardboard.

Gregory Hodge

I had some idea of making a variety of shapes and painting them, then drawing/painting the result (following Gregory Hodge – see 31-Aug-2017). Perhaps as well weights could be inserted in the cardboard, causing some apparent “impossibilities” in balancing.

The stabile isn’t right. Some clumsy connections that don’t hang well, the main balance is tilting to the side, obviously I haven’t gone on to painting, the “design” (let’s be kind) is awkward with parts hitting each other and the central support. Still, fundamentally it works!

I still think there are possibilities with the cardboard, but another idea has come up that loops around to experiments from a year or two back. More to be done 🙂

In other news, the ceramic earrings seen in progress 13-Aug-2017 are finally resolved, after multiple attempts. I’d rate them as OK, wearable, but not exciting. It was a good opportunity to play with wire, and a library of shapes is gradually building up.

Neolithic twining??

Neolithic twining? A video on Lanny Mackenzie’s instagram feed had me intrigued. I’m not sure my attempt is the same, but regardless it’s interesting. Unlike most weaving and basketry which structurally use two sets of elements – warp / rib and weft / weavers – this technique uses a single set of elements. Each length of material (yarn, wire, whatever – let’s call it “end”) follows the same pattern as every other. In her class Judy Dominic showed us that the same end can change function, a rib changing to weaver or vice versa. Neolithic twining, or whatever it is I ended up with, goes further – no differentiation. What possibilities does this bring? How could it be exploited?

Later edit: just so I remember: working end goes over 2 (a and b) and under 2. new working end is b. repeat.


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

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