Launched May 1st, 2009 with a tentative start... this blog evolved into a space to bring things I'm curious about or fascinated with whilst adapting to life in a new city, a new direction with my work and in the online realm. Early on postings were frequent and wide-ranging in focus. Attention slowly spread to new online engagements as ideas developed and formats trialled to extend those ideas. However, this blog has always remained at the centre of all that followed ...the conversations, journeys and glimpses into creative worlds generated here have long enriched my days beyond all imagining and I return always to pick up the thread with gratitude for the experience and for those who've passed through, perhaps joined up or stopped to converse!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Save the Date: Seed.Art.Lab in November + the BIG SEED DRAW!


Its a quick post today to mention an upcoming OPEN STUDIO event at Seed.Art.Lab Studio in November. Throughout the year I've opened occasionally on Thursdays from Midday, putting notices out through FB and Instagram. 




It was a great way to test the waters ... all very informal ... with low-key promo. Many weeks I was too busy or away which is why the casual approach was so helpful. 

I had an excellent time meeting new people and catching up with some I'd met before. Friends dropped in and I found a good rhythm for running the Open Studio days. A bonus was the studio was getting put in order.... it was easier to find things and get a fresh start afterwards too. When painting deadlines became crucial it was simply a matter of opting out till life was settled again.


Elizabeth Santillan, Brisbane Photographer, from her shoot at my studio.


It will be a year exactly since the launch of the Studio... well worth celebrating I thought.

Deciding to Open over 9 days struck me as a good idea when everyone is getting so busy at this time of year. There's a few ideas also being discussed for small events to run during this time.

WHEN:   Two weekends + any day during the last week of November
WHERE:  Meemar St, Chermside
INFO: Email, phone or text for more information ~ 0430 599 344


Once all the details are worked out I will be posting more info here and on FB Page : Homage to the Seed and Instagram. 

 Stay tuned for info on special events during   OPEN STUDIO WEEK!               




One of the activities planned for this OPEN STUDIO week is a communal BIG SEED DRAW. On my recent Residency I set up a drawing table, brought in baskets of seed material for inspiration, some books and artwork and set people up with sepia ink and and brushes. It didn't matter who came and who left... the idea is simply to be together working on shared paper and conversing about the task at hand and the beauty and value of seeds.




I'l be running a REALLY  big BIG SEED DRAW event on November 16th in Brisbane as one of many cultural activities at the G20 Cultural Festival happening for 3 weeks.

Read about this BIG SEED DRAW event here...  let me now if you are in Brisbane and interested to join us.

Its a FREE event and it will be buzzing with all kinds of activities by the river ...  I'm going to be in a Marquee next to the local Community Garden where they will be doing demos ... all very in theme!



The Studio after a huge spring clean following a 2 month painting spree!


Friday, October 17, 2014

An exhibition st Mobilia Gallery

Time to update on what's been happening at Seed.Art.Lab Studio.

After the May Plantbank residency 2014 seems to have flown. From late June to late August considerable hours were dedicated to painting three large works for a Textiles exhibition currently being held in the US, at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

During the painting phase I updated often on Instagram and FB page... and below are images of the works which have been professionally photographed and are now available as Limited Edition Archival prints. Enquiries here ... I'll add a link when formal online sales are organised.

 The show opened October 10th but a formal reception is being held Saturday week.. see here:

 PLEASE JOIN US TO CELEBRATE THE NEW TEXTILES 
 SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25, from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. 
 RSVP 617-876-2109 or mobiliaart@verizon.net 


Text from my website:

The series, approx, 1 m x 2 m, is painted in acrylic and pigmented ink on-stretched Linen, featuring frayed edges, and stitched with Irish linen thread. A May residency earlier this year (tab: 2014) at the Australian Botanic Garden, Mt Annan 's new seed research facility PLANTBANK presented a huge array of Australian species, seed collections and related material which was important fresh inspiration for this artwork in addition to the body of material on Seeds gathered over the last 5 years. 

The motifs in these works are abstractions of seed forms, drawn from pods, seed capsules, seeds themselves, and also in the case of the third work, from the motifs that the artist became familiar with many years ago when looking into the symbolic language of diverse ancient and indigenous cultures. A statement which puts this work in perspective can be read here.





'Antipodean Inheritance I'      1m x 2m




'Antipodean Inheritance II'     1m x 2m




'Homage to our common inheritance'      1m x 2m

This week I've spent on residency in Brisbane at Food Connect but I'll update that at my Homage to the Seed blog tonight. So check in soon.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

A global moment to stand for something that matters...


Its been such a long time since I posted here...

Much has happened and most of it is reported on my Facebook Page or Instagram.

Tonight I wanted to take a moment to refer to the importance of the extraordinary mobilisation of  people all around the globe as preparations have been made for the Peoples Climate March ... 

Everyone is invited to participate and to even make their own event... a great idea if its too far or not possible for people to attend.




I decided to make a tribute to my newly born great niece Emmy-Lou... there are her beautiful little hands. She came into the world on August 3rd... born to my niece Lara and her husband Dwight.


Here I am below siting in a cafe on a recent trip up the coast to meet Miss Emmy-Lou! I also have three little great nephews ... all of whom I'm delighted to spend time when I can...  enjoying the precious years of their childhood.



Tomorrow taking to time to stand up and show support for the acutely critical matter of Climate-related matters seems SO essential ... especially where children are concerned. 

They are brought into this world unknowing and their inheritance now is an extremely vulnerable one. I've heard many my age say they don't believe in or wish to think about climate change... but for the sake of our children I would argue it's compulsory. 

Denial at this point is grossly disrespectful of consequences already clearly mapped... and my concern is about giving young people the language, concepts, empowerment and support to be able to face the future with as much eagerness and resilience as possible rather than with fear and loathing and or denial!





This 5 week old child is in the arms of loving parents who are blessed to live in a country with resources and opportunity... but this we cannot take for granted... nor should we be blind to what is happening elsewhere and how things are for others.

I hope that millions take time to rally tomorrow. to observe this mobilisation and in whatever way possible support it and discuss it.

For the sake of everything we consider precious may we find a way to preserve, celebrate and fight for the continuity of what is for the good of all peoples on this planet!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What happened to May?


I just noticed my last post was mid April. 

Unheard of for me to take such a long time between posts here at this blog.

I can't even remember April now. I left Brisbane April 24th driving the coast road to Sydney staying a few nights along the way.

Sunday, April 27th I arrived at Plantbank, the brand new architecturally designed Seed Research Facility at the Australian Botanic Gardens, Mt Annan, south-west of Sydney, where I undertook a two week residency.




The new facility houses all aspects of Seed Processing, Seed-banking, Plant Tissue Labs, Offices, workspaces, a Library and Teaching space. Outside is an extensive Nursery and the old Seedbank Facility. And then there are the hectares of the Botanic Gardens which would take ages to get to know. The location is still in part a rural area with suburban sprawl encroaching, and nearby Hume Hwy access takes one to Sydney which is an hour northeast of this Garden.


Seed processing room.

In the centre of the Plantbank building is a large lobby lined with displays and education panels. The room in the image above is the Seed Processing room where new collections are brought in to be sorted and documented before removing to other areas of the building for other processes and storage.





The Seed Vault consists of several refrigerated rooms set at different temperatures below zero, catering to requirements seeds have for storage purposes.






This image was taken in the large open workspace where staff desks are located.I found this to be a great place for the odd quiet conversation during the day, and getting to know people throughout the residency. The seedpods I accumulated at my desk each day started many an interesting exchange.

Something I find so fascinating about working amidst staff like this is one learns a great deal about Plantbank's numerous projects and the stories, research and background of individuals. Seeing a project in all its aspects enables a depth of understanding that is unique. As questions arise one can find someone with a response.




'Callerya megasperma’ , seed pods collected at the Tweed Valley. 

Hearing about collecting trips is also instructive. So much is what is involved in Plant Conservation Science begins to make sense when you see the connection between the in-situ and ex-situ work, seeing what occurs in the Nursery, Gardens, Seedbank and on collecting trips and field work.  

All invaluable work, Plantbank offers various programs for communication with the public, guided tours and so on. De-mystifying the work to new audiences can be crucial given aspects of the work can be all too easily misunderstood. Much confusion exists around Plant Science due to lack of public awareness of processes like gene-banking. Its highly problematic when seed conservation work is lumped in with the worst case scenario of Corporate Seed politics and practices. Education is the only way through false assumptions. 

In light of this miss-mash of misinformation currently existing around Seeds it was gratifying to see the constant flow of visitors at Plantbank and the excellent level of public engagement and education offered.


In the large open room lined with staff desks I set up a workspace across two seeks with excellent storage and benches where I seas able to place seeds I was collecting from around the place.



I spent most evenings working back late... that way I could wander around in the morning taking photos in the garden or looking at various aspects of the work being carried out around the grounds. 



Two weeks was far too brief a time for getting as much done as I'd have liked. I tend to make too many plans and always have to rethink mid-way. For this reason photographs become crucial records... and all one to come back to a topic of interest later.



My plan is to return later this year... that was decided quite early in my stay which took some pressure of the fact of only having two weeks to make the most of the experience. 



The images above are of Parachidendron pruinosem, a small seedpod collected at Bellingen which I found captivating. 



Above is Melaleuca globifera, a Western Australian species I took many images of and also drew. The tree was was a great discovery on a walk one afternoon. I found myself returning again and again to observe this curious form, the way it grew half-way along rather thin stick-like branches, and the little globe itself.



Daphnandra johnsonii ... these fascinating seeds (above) took spectacular photos in the late afternoon sunlight ... capturing these shadows was most compelling.



The work above is a long painting on linen that I worked on in ink and acrylic paint. Based on various plantbank inspirations ... like working with petrie dishes, seeds under the microscope etc.


The Microscopy Room was another source of great inspiration. 


The Microscopy Room offered access to a Micro-imaging computer and an x-ray machine which I was able to use to produce extraordinary images, once I learned the basic processes. I will attempt to work with some of this imagery soon.



This Parachidendron pruinosem pod was quite intriguing ... especially so under the X-ray machine.







This species I must check the name of ... it led to some amazing images as well. The small seeds were contained in centre of the sepals... it looked rather like a flower!




The structure was fascinating the more I enlarged it.





The image below is quite pixilated but reveals details I found very interesting... the veins and circular cell-like detail.





A native grass going outside at Plantbank caught my eye so I ran it through the x-ray machine.




So much beauty in the forms and details. Fascination with the x-ray process grew the longer I played around with the possibilities. Its definitely something I'd like to work on further. Finding I could alter the appearance quite radically by shifting the size and tonal contrast of the subject it dawned on me what might be achieved... as well as the magic of what I was looking at.




Since returning home I've been flat-out working on several projects at once. A deadline for the Biodiversity Conversation Plates below  meant some late nights painting to be ready for the weekend just passed ... the Mayo Arts Festival being held at St Margaret's, Ascot. I had already put aside plates I'd previously painted for the show... but on return home from Plantbank I decided too explore and interpret some of the imagery from the residency on this plate series. 


I could be posting much more about the residency, from the 100's of photos taken, the amazing people I had the opportunity to work with and reflections since.

Life is lived very intensely when on a brief residency. Everything is under the micro-scope so to speak. Every conversation is potential material for further research. I certainly worked long hours and came away feeling really rejuvenated even if a little exhausted as well.

Coming home to a whole series of projects timetabled for the last few weeks I've been heavily involved in preparation and delivering material on seeds and diversity as an artist-in-residence in a local Brisbane school ... Kelvin Grove Secondary College. The '100 FUTURES program with yr 8 started on my return from Sydney, as did a Yr 12 program with Brisbane City Council + KGSC, and this week another Jumpstart program for Yr 6 and 7 student at KGSC kicks off.

Between working on the Biodiversity Plates and these Intensive programs with schools I have been absolutely flat chat and am only just now beginning to catch up and reflect back on Plantbank, write blog posts and so on.

If you go to my Facebook Page or to Instagram you can track the last month in images and posts there.

I hope not to take such a long time between posts in future... but sometimes one has to get on tha wave and ride it  ... and not lose the moment that is requiring 150% concentration.

Best to all who pass by here,
Sophie


Thursday, April 10, 2014

OPEN STUDIO EVENT at Seed.Art.Lab this weekend, April 12 + 13 in Brisbane


This is a quick post ahead of a big weekend at my Brisbane Studio: Seed.Art.Lab to let you know all are welcome if you happen to be in this region and would like to come along!




I've just been finessing plans for our wee Pop-up cafe on the side of the Studio plans.... and went back to a favourite book of mine by Diana Henry for the recipe for Yoghurt and Walnut Cake with Coffee Syrup last night. Perhaps the Orange Almond Cake pictured above will be our gluten free offering.... the Walnut cake is not gluten free... but has substantially less flour being laden with walnuts! I go really light on the sugar in it as well... have made this many times and the flavours are sensational without loads of sweetness.




To read all the details about the event go to the website home page here.





Also on the home page is the link to the Latest Newsletter which you can read here telling you about my next residency at the brand New Plantbank Seed Research Facility in NSW and this event.





Address: 
48 Meemar St
Chermside 4032
Brisbane,   QLD
m: 0430 599 344

STUDIO HOURS THIS WEEKEND:

Midday till 5pm both days
12 + 13 April, 2014





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April at Seed.Art.Lab

A pinch and a punch... April first and the year is gathering steam!

Tonight I have to design promo material for an OPEN STUDIO event weekend after next at the Seed.Art.Lab on April 12 + 13... so stay tuned if you are in the region and would like to visit. 

I had a long few days and late nights finishing two paintings for an Art Competition... the first I've entered in for a loooong time! The quiet January afforded me time to work on larger canvases and actually have something available when an comp invite arrive in my in-box one day. It was a good exercise to sweat over the process of having committed to 2 artworks in January that I came back to last week to finish off with a fresh eye and some all important perspective. 

Once committed there is no use thinking ... "why didn't I put this one up" ... great to then have to resolve two works that one could so easily remain quite ambivalent about!





I will have to take photos that included changes made after this one above... 2 very late nights and I finally thought... OK... thats it!




This is the studio a week ago after spending March on the work in the limited blue/brown palette.



Below are three images taken from my Seed Sapsules Tumblr Archive... shows some work I have been looking at more recently... I find it revealing to go back and see what one has saved...  looking at other artists work both inspires and clarifies the mind on what it it that one most wants to intimate in one's work and the materials and processes that come into play...  I seem to have been very interested in what blue and brown can do and say for the last couple of years really. 

That started occurring in 2012 when I had just moved to a studio in Paddington.














You can also view this fascinating MOSAIC of my tumblr blog... its an  interesting overview of posts.


I recently had a young photographer Cian Saunders come to the studio to take a series of portraits for his University course in Photographic Journalism. His manner and approach were excellent  and I relaxed for the most part and overcame my usual reluctance to be the subject due to his approach.

This was my preferred image simply because I was at my least self conscious, doing something I like to do, ie... trawl through old journals noting old ideas and work... and in the studio surrounded by work and clutter!




So thanks to Cian I have some professional images to call on!


I will post soon on the OPEN STUDIO event and the UPCOMING residency at PLANTBANK. Read more on that here.

Have a good week everyone!
Sophie

Monday, March 17, 2014

Interior things


For the past 2 weeks I've felt incredibly quiet and sought out considerable alone time, mostly in the studio... whilst also not writing, talking, emailing or working/communicating online much at the moment.

It seems after a period of noisy, busy exterior activity there's a craving for the opposite to balance out again ... then gradually I am lured back to externals and so the cycle continues.


A day spent at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens last Monday was relaxing .... led
to many photos and some seedy finds! This was a flowering South African Tree.

Ive been painting over these couple of weeks. I was so shocked to actually find time to focus on painting ... it'd seemed to be eluding me! Plus when I think about it painting usually does quieten me down and increase the desire to withdraw. There were the days of extreme tiredness as well that made me question if I was ill... even imagine all kinds of things wrong. All in all... this quiet, slow period felt dreadfully important. Much was being processed ...  painting, work and life in general.

Last friday evening I was exceptionally pleased to attend a lecture at QUT by UK based Barrister turned Eco-Law advocate Polly Higgins. You can read her website here or the website for Eradicating Ecocide.


With Charles Eisenstein and Polly Higgins at MÃ¥nefisken.
                                                                      Image from her Facebook Page

Watch her TED talk here and go to the Facebook page here.

About

Ecocide is the missing fifth Crime Against Peace
Mission
Our mission is to stop the extensive damage to the environment and people’s lives by making Ecocide the fifth International Crime Against Peace.
Company Overview
In March 2010 international barrister and award winning author Polly Higgins proposed to the United Nations that Ecocide be made the fifth Crime Against Peace.
There are currently four Crimes Against Peace: genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity. Ecocide is the missing fifth crime – it is a crime against humanity, against current and future generations, and against all life on Earth
Description
Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.
Another image from her FB Page.


She was an exceptionally fluid, easy-to-listen-to speaker. I had booked to attend weeks ahead and  started wavering on the commitment last week. Feeling jaded and unwell enough to prompt a visit to the doctor midweek did I really want to hear about Ecocide I asked myself?

For the past ten years Ecocide has been the lens through which I've looked at the planet all too frequently (even without that name for it)! Late night sleeplessness is occasionally brought on by worrying over the madness of being in a chronically under-financed Artistic vocation or some variation on that theme... but more often I'm kept awake wondering how we under-prepared, often head-in-the-sand humans will manage climate shifts that are and will escalate all kinds of critical issues. 

Conducting a project like Homage to the Seed makes me feel a lot better about waking up each day but it does not take away the waves of dread and horror that come with thinking about eco-systems breaking down and leading to ever more complex issues. Clearly no longer the "maybe" scenarios they once were. 

Its happening ... we already are where we don't want to be.

So... the lecture on Ecocide.

It was brilliant and it was tremendously uplifting. Not because of any hyped-up grand fantasies about the future but because here was a woman with the gravity and leadership of someone that Nelson Mandela might have been proud to shake hands with. Grace and inner strength in abundance... hers is a kind of vision that is so large it includes us all.... and it crosses over work many others are already doing... it just gives it a stronger name and direction. She was not, I might add, anti business or corporation ...  but utterly convincing on changing laws to curtail and end environmental damage...  clearly that calls to the big end of town to get with the program... but... via Legal mechanisms ... something tangible that can be argued and not pushed out of court.

Her incredibly well-reasoned argument came without noise and fanfare. No heavily packaged tour... just a hardworking, well connected, global-hopping self-contained woman with a vision that happens to make a lot of sense. She is doggedly working with Nations, Organisations and individuals toward making an amendment to the Crimes against Peace to include the crime of Ecocide.


From the Campaign

Early on she lightly touched on one of the tough but unspoken things about this era concerning advocates who throw themselves into work to bring forward crucial new agendas in society... and the fact that whether such advocates are quiet souls or larger than life  ... there can be a toll on the person who sees the change needed and comes to feels discouraged in the face of continued stuck-ness and ongoing Eco-destruction. She talked of the fact people can get to the point they give up.... even give up on life. Choose not to stay and watch further damage after having worked continuously for that very thing. It was an aside, a momentary one, but I appreciated this honesty.

I personally was very pleased to hear this mentioned. I realised when asked at the Doctors what was the matter the other day I couldn't quite admit I felt heart-sick for the planet and tired of complacency, govt incompetence and civilisation marching on as if nothing was different.  I'm overcome with anxiety from time to time, then I bounce back and get distracted in activity. I've been finding others  similarly affected despite being very active campaigners and workers for change across all kinds of sectors. As we have discussed this is not because we are naturally gloom & doom types... but simply because it is a time where the global population and our way of living are not remotely sustainable  with the status quo. And short term economic goals and projects simply speed up the worst case scenarios!

Mostly I am just glad to do something useful and get on with it... feeling motivated to be working to offer something to children in particular. I see them inheriting our mess a bit like how someone might feel moving into a new home only to find its been left trashed and needing absolutely everything attended to, there's no money to do it... and energy is committed elsewhere... so how to get through? Only the scale of the problems we are handing down to our children are much larger and more complex than that. And yet we've not begun to accept there is a problem and work as a team to tackle it yet.

Lately I've been somewhat torn trying to work out the best focus of my somewhat limited energy and resources. It's gotten to me temporarily ... an overwhelming sadness for the planet who's natural inheritance is valued way below its commodities and is being discarded over and over and over where it matters. I'll pick myself up again and keep on. It doesn't hurt to wail at the moon every now and then.


Curiously I've also had many positive experiences of late. New friendships have formed and connections have been renewed with treasured long-term friends. Good teaching opportunities have come about or are being planned. Some exciting proposals have been floated... time will tell how they go. A new residency venture will happen soonish which I am truly excited about. Last month I broke into my rainy day/Noah's Arc fund (?!) and now have a newish car as the old one was no longer trust-worthy ... a smart, safe set of wheels to go on trips and enjoy. And some place to visit which are looking good!

So back to the studio ... these works on paper have kicked off a series of paintings.



Its slow, layered work that means adding and subtracting as I decide on compositional adjustments.




You can see the work on paper in the foreground above ... and on the left of a new work on linen a large canvas that had been hidden away ... looks like I may have just found it a home with some lovely people who noticed it and asked after it!



These works are all in progress... minor adjustments are best applied slowly and after deliberation at this point! These paints suit my mood.... a dry, dusty textural quality subdues the colour yet allows for a depth of hue I find pleasing. 

Below is virtually the same image put through a watercolour app... what this did was allow me to consider the composition and balance in a curiously simple way.



It also highlights for me something about this palette... the colours are called Australian Grey, Burnt Umber, Deep Ultra and Blue haze... and in the previous post I talked about the company Art Spectrum which is based in Melbourne and developed their colours specifically to evoke truer colours that one sees in this country.... although it must be said ... it's a large and extremely geographically varied continent. I always found the colours of the Subtropics where I've grown up (and now live again) so utterly different from the geographically inspired palette of say Melbourne where I spent 12 years and found the straw coloured landscape of summer so alien!

I'm making slow progress on about 5 paintings at the moment... working on each at length and then leaving off to think for awhile, then returning to finesse or change something if needs be.


This one needs a better photo... hard to get accurate colours.


I'm pleased to be working with a strong, engaging theme ...  the whole series feels shaped by this earlier work from January which was titled "Seed Collector's Notations". I've been able to bring a fresh element to something more perennial in my art practice!




I feel as though 'Seed Collector's Notations' is actually the name of a whole series of works... rather than a single painting. It essentially ties many important threads together. I am enjoying a welcome sense of integration in the studio at the moment ... its as if the visual ideas are marrying with the research I've pursued and the impetus behind the project Homage to the Seed.  A quiet but welcome feeling ... I'm not about to shake things up... and that feels good for one who found last year's domestic and work-life changes impossibly upsetting, drawn out and tedious!




I've been thinking about these blues tinged with red... they lean towards purple and mauve ... and the combination with a warm, red toned brown means when mixed with the warm grey or in any combination there are so many hues that bring back to mind childhood reveries under Jacaranda Trees in a country town in NSW obsessed enough with them to hold an annual festival in it honour.

In Festival season when Jacaranda trees were at their best, blooming profusely, laying a glorious mauve carpet under their spreading boughs, all one could see were the mauve blooms and brown limbs of the tree. And then there is the faded memory of all the brown seed pods I picked up... curiously observing their structure, absorbing the colours and textures all those years ago of pods, blossoms and bark textures. Stormy skies were by far the most dramatic back-drop to the mauve blooms. And when mature trees were intensely in full-bloom there were few green leaves to distract from this purple brown palette.

More recently I've thought more about this annual festival held to celebrate an introduced species. 

In the same way I've thought about my twice weekly piano lessons with the Sisters of Mercy at the convent by the river,  from the time I was 8 through to 16 when I changed Piano teachers. I'd wondered over those years why European composers were almost always the only ones we studied.  Indigenous culture... that was a topic banished from halls of education I moved through. I didn't study Geography nor Science to any useful degree. History... well that was about Europe!

Only when I became a teacher did indigenous topics finally surface out of a pressing need in me to explore and discuss what had been so kept down and why! The silence on Indigenous concerns of any kind remained stuck or behind closed door in the early 80's when I first taught in schools. I taught in cities and country towns ... it was the same everywhere at the time... suppressing indigenous culture made NO sense whatsoever in the presence of these proud yet massively shamed people.... even more so when teaching in small towns with a population of indigenous people that extended way back int time. 

 It continued on and on...  I left teaching in 1986 disgusted and glad to be in London for a couple of years. Where I was circulating in that city, intellectual hothouse of cultures and ideas that it was after the tiny country NSW town I'd lived in previously... these critical discussions were not at all suppressed in 80's London ... far from it!

Perhaps in painting these particular works, where the associations of the colours run so deep, I am sifting through essential matters. It's a timely re-engagement with how it came to be that so many of us have come to this continent to live yet take so long to engage at all with what was here  and is here now that is enduring.

Some have remarked at the aboriginal sensibility of these works.

For this reason I have placed images of this painting here. This is the structural foundation for many a work I have painted over decades now. Geometry and architecture I've always loved and have an affinity for... not all but many works I do on canvas have some architectural structuring in them. Incidently I spent several years from age 13 drawing house-plans and imagining I would be an architect when I grew up. Design work I did was often highly structured. 

But never was I afraid of the organic line... nor drawn to hard-edges or tightness. I liked space... negative space and ambiguity.

My work between 2001 and 2007 was often a curious juxtaposition between organic, fluid layers and architecturally complex structures. And then there were to forms and the symbols that would never disappear ... they'd keep coming back and felt often at odds with what else was going on.





Its been a lot of work to integrate these profoundly diverse compelling elements in my art-making. 

When recently asked to spend a whole day working with a group of Year 12 Students on Expressive Mark-making I dug into that rich stream in my work to find inspiration, examples, exercises and direction for a long days work with highly energised students. 
When teaching Adult courses in Melbourne in the 90's I gave emphasis to this expressive way of working and stressed at great length that one has a certain signature or expressive manner or way of working to uncover that will resonate and feel stronger and more authentic... and for this reason not everyone will find their way through life drawing and classical training. Nor do we all look in the same direction for what we require to be able to grow and mature as an artist.

I found myself teaching what I was trying to learn for myself ... as one very often does. Its took me years to work out what was essentially true for myself as it was often contradictory and that is why it perhaps took longer and demanded that I counter oppositional compulsions and approaches until there was a gradual inner and outer dialogue I could grow into that really made sense.

Two years ago asked to lecture on "The Senses in my Art Practice" I was again reminded of another rich seam of exploration I've lived by over years... also taught in my Melbourne courses on Journal Practice and Colour Exploration. Both these courses relied heavily on exploring the senses from all directions. I often get restless with teaching material and tend to want to create whole new programs when actually a focus on the senses is an incredibly rich and important departure point for creating... and in contemporary life begs us to take notice on a highly critical level re what we are making and why.

The senses can really bring us to a much clearer appreciation for things... far more multi-dimenional experiencing and noticing. Attuning oneself to a simple leaf can be through sight, touch, sound, smell and taste. And sight is not just one thing either... to really notice the colours brings an artfulness to the effort... one aspect of seeing amongst many! Its easy to march into a store and buy endless colours with an assumption that anything goes. Consumer society allows us to pick and choose yet remain very, very undeveloped in our choices because fashion can dictate and take away any need to fathom, learn, respond, observe, become familiar with anything that exists in the world in its pure form.

It can be quite wonderful to find inspiration in other artists and creatives, and hopefully over the years the artists will change even if some remain perennial favourites. Yet in taking on colours, mediums or approaches of others, whilst fine up to a point, at the end of the day stalls something important in us. More seems to be required of us than replicating things we love when pursuing art with some diligence and devotion.

Which is an interesting moment to mention painter Paul Klee who was, as a young student a great inspiration to me... an again in several key stages over the years he would be so again. He has written powerfully about seeds and was greatly influenced by plant life and gardens but it was through musical references that I was drawn to him years ago.... and the structural aspect of his work... structure that would collapse and dissolve and go somewhere else.

Reading how he studied music very seriously for years and might easily have remained in that profession interested me ... and that he did commit to painting at a certain key point. I felt this musicality in his work ... immersion in European traditions... but then there was a divergence at some point ... time spent in North Africa must have shaped not only his visual language but also other aspects of his sensibility. 

In 2006 I met a mature female artist from NZ who discussed at length why she felt revisiting Klee was such a vital wellspring for anyone coming to terms with abstraction ... or investigating it all over again. She felt he was one of the most crucially important artists for abstract painters to look deeply into and we discussed how many incredibly different abstract painters from around the globe still pay tribute to Klee as a foundation in their thinking about painting. Often painters who one doesn't easily equate an influence in.

Why I revisited Klee at key times was because somehow the say he structured many of his works really resonated. However as I was seriously developing my art practice I was at pains not to copy or derive direction from his work. That's the challenge of being influenced. You work with certain devices and approaches and you push off hopefully in search of a more resonant story or way. There have been many, many influences in actual fact. 




Another strong influence is Hundertwasser. Not so much visually... although I did rather like his instinctive way of handling paint and composition... and his exuberance in taking that and putting it on buildings and the rest!  However ... it was his ideas... the obsessive way he stayed with developing themes that run across all his preoccupations and mediums he worked with. I applaud the way he named the need for eco-warriors for the future. He got the message out and it was never lost or muddied or irrelevant even it some would find him far too quirky and offbeat. He won people's hearts and changed things ... affected how people thought. And he kept painting. I also loved his manifesto about straight lines making us crazy... our cities being far too hard-edged and isolating. Permaculture looks familiar with him coming before putting trees and plants everywhere and making irregular lines, spirals and symbols people could interact with in the built environment.

The idea of notations had obsessed me with the above work. The desire was there to layer on transparent pages of notations... counting seeds, marks and symbols... layer upon layer as if notations across time. Seed collector's through time keeping count!

In discussing the layers of ideas, influences and indeed decades of reckoning with things that I've moved through and around ... perhaps the reading of something 'aboriginal' in my work won't be touched on too lightly or carelessly after reading this. The recent works aren't derivative of or originating from the influence of work by indigenous painters. In saying that I have to say I'm  exceptionally interested in the art of a great many indigenous artists and have been deeply nourished by range of their vision and the rich cultural legacy they share with newcomers to this country like myself. It would be hard to live in Australia and not be impacted, influenced and touched by the enormous wealth of Indigenous painting. But I wonder if what influences me more than their immensely beautiful visual languages is the message that comes through to me of there being other ways to live and to see the world. The (perhaps watered-down) European vision I was born into has worked brilliantly for some aspects of living and disastrously for other dimensions of life.

My work on seeds and plants from this continent has given me an quiet entry point into indigenous culture ... its been slow, gentle and deeply revealing. Not been a fact-finding mission instead its a slow, quiet thing of getting to see and understand bit by bit how life is shaped from responding to being in an utterly unique bio-region. Understanding the complexity and diversity of bio-regions, how small and unique they can be and still right next to quite different environs is  a consciousness that I seem to have understood so much more through seeds. In the same way introduced species overshadowed my childhood appreciation of the place I grew up in... introduced cultural lifestyles completely overshadowed a way of knowing and appreciating local indigenous inhabitants. 

The seed pods I used to pick up on childhood walks... some of the rainforest species I like to draw and learn about now ... they were perhaps the one thing that kept a genuine link alive to the stories not told, the histories not learnt and the landscape not truly engaged with. I was quite competent at playing Bach and Debussy, did well enough in my study of Modern (German) History but was frightfully unknowing of the place I grew up in. 


The work of the last two weeks is essentially a pared back version of the January work...  colours, shapes, and markings are all pared back, allowing me to enter a more open space to ponder and refine something in this persistent visual language.


from the 'Seed Collector's Notations' Series
There is a push-pull thing that is so strong much of the time in my work... a tension between structure and  organic, fluid, open, moving spaces. Tightness and looseness. Things coming forward and things receding. It takes quite a time for these paintings to fully resolve even though they can seem to be coming together at a certain point. Its a process of constantly adding and subtracting till a moment to cease arrives!

I've spent little time blogging this year ... partly it's finding a new routine in a new home and studio set-up. Making headway with other aspects of work takes time too and there's planning and setting new goals.

The desire for changing the way I engage online is also a factor. I had no immediate answers but the question that came with me into this new phase at SEED.ART.LAB  centred on how to do being online differently. To date that simply means not keeping up with any old expectations I placed on myself. Maybe , hopefully, it might just work itself out without too much thought.

I suspect that more than anything what has really changed is what I wish to bring to the online experience... I'd like to deepen content here to address this very particular time. I find myself far less able to keep up in a meaningful way with the panorama of wonderful people I've met online and I regret that. What I'm realising however is I really want to dig down into things and give shape to my own thinking more effectively and thoroughly at this time. This makes me less able to take things in... to absorb and respond.

So... Why still post here?

Well ... despite all the material in circulation out there... who knows... there's maybe still room for an honest, searching voice that is endeavouring to discuss both where I am heading, and where we are collectively heading, wanting to acknowledge human vulnerability and resilience, find strength in different possibilities for creating, connecting and see where that takes things. 

To read such a long blog post is a big ask. I certainly won't be expecting anyone to attempt that!
Sending all my very best wishes!
May you be well and find much to reward your days,
x Sophie