Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New work up today for Group Show in Brisbane.

Heading off to sleep at 4am last night had me wondering how I would pull up today. Any ambivalence about the readiness of the paintings was countered today by the pleasure of conversations with others whilst musing over how best to hang the work.
You can read details about the when and where of this show at  Studio archives blog - Opening night is friday evening, but doors will be open from tomorrow - so if you are out and about in this sunny city do pop in and have a peek... the work of 10 artists is showing over 12 days. I'll be there Saturday morning for 4 hours from 10 am, Tuesday morning - same hours, and Saturday afternoon next week if you want to come have a tea and a chat... you will be most welcome. 
This Gallery happens to be situated in a very lively precinct - a large Antiques Emporium is just up the street - book shops, boutiques, cafes and other galleries nearby. A gorgeous little chocolate shop sells the best, most restorative hot chocolate made from a very special recipe each morning! In fact I must take some photos of the surrounds...a hilly area, with wonderful views and fabulous old Queensland timber houses and lush trees and gardens.
As I nestled into the Gallery's bay window seat next to the wall where my work has been hung... I could not think of a better place to pull up for a little while....especially on these winter mornings where the sun is so gentle.  

* click on images to enlarge for viewing!

This work above is shown below in context. The way I chose to hang the show is suggestive of a kind of dispersal of the pod forms featured in all the various works here. For the project I have been carrying out at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens this year I have focused heavily on the forms found in the seed capules of the rainforest fruits native to Queensland. The Black bean motif I have long employed - finding a way to use it as a kind of scaffolding here in some of the works. This motif abstracted consists of 2 of the most essential or primal of forms... ovals and circles have, across Millennia, held enormous cultural significance... speaking to the subconscious mind powerfully and in our time simultaneously resonating with archaic yet contemporary meaning - with a life force still!

Acrylic and pigmented ink is the medium used and the canvas ovals come in four sizes - the smallest being 17.5 x 12.5cm as in the one below which features the hexagonal cross-section of the 'Pararistolochia australopithecurus' - a ribbed orange berry containing these 6 capsules for seeds....not that 6 seeds will always be found in each. That is something I'm still amazed by - despite the capsules that form in readiness to house seeds the number of seeds produced is not a given. Working in the Seed lab had really brought home the issue of seed viability..  pods may be pried open only to discover the absense of seeds non-vialbility of what is present.
The simple geometry of this species is completely uncontrived in this motif... its elemental and repeated in the most obvious of pattern-making. One cannot but help but think how much of this human love of geometry was fostered by saturation in the most common of everyday things in nature. Once upon a time when the human relationship to nature was for many so strong, and matters of survival meant nothing was taken for granted - seed had to be viable or it might spell disaster - plant breeding would have no doubt have come to rely on an almost scientific observation of what was occuring in nature in particular species. Acute observation may have made the critical difference. 
My long held fascination with ancient symbols has taught me time and again that the correspondance between the tangible and the abstract was deep-rooted and integral. No matter how sophisticated the tiled floors or wall patterns of antiquity appear - how mathematically complex - without doubt the starting point for a motif might be something as singular as a capsule which held seeds... like this one below. Its pause for thought.

The subtlety of the work below highlights three different seed capsules  - each a different rainforest species. This painting ( 35 x 28 cm ) refers to the largely hidden nature of seeds - they are not necessarily seen, more so if we never work with them, plant them, watch them grow. Because of this we can easily forget their mighty role in our lives... their tremendously important role as 'generator of life'. We can remain ignorant of their vast presence in so much that we consume daily... the debt we owe if you like.
And the most critically abundant of habitats for the wealth of biodiversity of these substances we so take for granted iare the rainforests of the world.

My challenge in making works during this year long project "Homage to the Seed" is to find a way to not simply make pictures like one might with a camera. Scientific Botanical Illustration has played and still does play an enormously important role in the research of species and all manner of knowledge. To some it may have appeared simply decorative, certainly exotic and capable of inspiring curiosity, a love of plants and therefore gardening.

Over the year I have researched in libraries and on-line for artistic as well as scientific visual interpretation of plants and ideas around plants.... keen to notice what representation of seeds occured... if any. The formal approach to scientifically presenting a Botanical specimen has often included the cross-section of the pod or capsule to display the structure, the seed - but this is largely secondary it would seem to the external appearance of the species.

Thus common thinking positions Botanical Art as a depiction of the seen form - the external over the internal structures...and certainly not concerned with implying the forces contained within. This is why the extensive work artist Paul Klee carried out on this rich vein of thinking has offered me a deeper strata of response to consider and grapple with.
Klee, influenced strongly by Goethe and a rich immersion from school days in things Botanical - at that time part of the regular school curriculum - went onto delve more fully in the many ways of seeing plants, growth and nature - not just a representation of external reality.
Curiously the thinking of Rudolf Steiner, also majorly influenced by Goethe, had for a time an interest for Klee. Kandinksy is said to have been immersed and stayed with Steiner's teaching whereas my reading suggests Klee left off at some point. 
Whatever the case - the notion of internal forces, things unseen, Dylan Thomas's "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower" has engaged my imagination and curiosity extensively and demanded attention over a long period... coming perhaps to fruition whilst focusing more deeply on seeds and paradoxically further exploration into the Scientific realm. Both have been driving agents and both extremely valuable.

This then has lead me to meditations on the place we find ourselves in on the planet at this time, seeking ways to interpret all that I have gleaned to date. The scientific approach..... observation, collection of data, theoretical propositions and such have been important to extract perspective on current concerns re biodiversity and the preservation of habitat and species..

But what then?
What do we humans value?
What do we as a global community care about plants?
What are we noticing and talking about?
What place are we giving this heritage?
Is someone supposed to do that for us?
My list on question goes on...its still shifting and turning. The sense of loss is enormous in the  plant heritage of this world - for habitats and for food. Both matter! Both are necessary to our breathe... to eat ... to have enough nourishment to live ...!

How do we shake our eyes awake? How do we get closer to what matters?

Below are 2 works - the larger one is the cross-section of mangrove seeds in their pod - Ariceunia marina (if I can read my journal writing correctly). Last year I walked through the boardwalk of a mangrove reserve - 12 kms from my house - on Moreton Bay. These seeds were everywhere at that time... and I picked them up off the path to look more closely before letting them fall into the water.
To think that locations where the mangroves had been decimated on Asian coastlines led to greater destruction by the Tsunami in 2004 is a clear reminder of the relationship between intact habitat and human survival. How wise is it for us to be thinking that because it is ... say christmas ... and we are on holiday, have money to travel and have "deserved"our fabulous holidays that the  environment will behave and let us have out nice time in peace.
Ramp up those travel packages where one participates in communities I say... being able to offer one's  self, getting to really know locals, volunteering for a time... reading of those who do this seems to equate with the most  rewarding of experiences.

I posted on the recent Tea and Seed Stories day in the Gardens at the homage blog and one of the central observations of the volunteer guides who conducted a children's art event and quiz to identify seeds with pods and foods was that the adults were most urgent to particpate in this quiz and many themselves did not know what they were seeing.

This was not the way once... we used to know where our food originated, and to worry that there would be enough because we knew about that too!

The smaller of the 2 images above is Mackinlaya macrosciadea
Many of the rainforest fruits I've been investigating this year are not edible, perhaps quite toxic but some able to be treated. Further still, there are myraid uses beyond food sources. I would argue that this kind of knowledge is easily as captivating as wine and cheese knowledge once one gets started, and of far greater significance for the long term. And be assured ... I am partial to a good red and fine cheese!

I will be posting more images and proper titles of works in the next days on the studio archive blog. Congrats if you read all the way to the end of this post ...your bottle of good australian red is in the mail!
You deserve it!


Altoon Sultan said...

These works look beautiful Sophie, and they express your complex ideas very well. The oval shape of canvas that you've chosen is perfect for the subject matter: without rectangular edges, yet not the perfection of the circle. I also like the grouping on the wall, as though the images were floating into and out of view, like seeds on the wind.

Susan Buret said...

Sophie, The work is very beautiful on so many levels and I love the installation, which on the tongue and groove walls of an old Queenslander, reminds me of the way 'exotica' were presented in the Victorian era when these very splendid botanical specimens were prized.

Nicola Moss said...

Hi Sophie,
Your paintings are looking great, I can see all the work you are putting into the residency is crystallising ideas. The patterns are beautiful and your choice of presentation works very well. Congratulations.

r.bohnenkamp said...

Hi Sophie,

I'm thrilled. This work is wonderful.

many nice greetings from here

Sophie Munns said...

I was delighted to wake up this morning and discover such warm and poignant comments waiting for me to read!
I wrote this post last night as a way of catching up with this most recent spate of working with ideas.

Efforts to get into the studio and stay there seemed to be challenged by the need to plan various events coming up in the next 2 months and do all the things that take your concentration for painting away.

Luckily I had that intense period getting ready for Noosa earlier this year - and with time to reflect on that work, new imput and the requirements of a group show and smaller showing space I realised it was fine.

The Oval canvas allowed for a connecting focus and the cross- sections of seed-capsules I realised married the long cherished symbolic resonance of motif with the newly aquired, more scientific awareness of species and critical nature of biodiversity.

I have banged on a bit about the state of things.... but heck...I once used to worry about the longevity of my art materials, the quality of the canvas, the gesso, and on and on. Now I cant be sure about the state of the seeds that are on my table each day! And thats just the strt!

I dont have children, but I cant help but feel moved to participate in parenting the future somehow for those yet to come!!!

You probably have no idea how helpful your words are.... for the fact they nurture, provoke thought, nudge ... they also get me over doubts, clarify a little or a lot and come from such a firm foundation of lived knowledge and generosity of spirit... something you offer others willingly I've noticed. A big thank you!

Your comment is very honouring and indeed appreciated. I was delighted to find I could more or less achieve the hang i'd envisaged... and in this lovely Gallery!
Interesting thoughts about the exotica ...were they seen as unfashionable? - what happened exactly to that practice do you know Susan?
best wishes,

Nicola, thanks for your generous and valuable imput and in the last little while too!. Crystallising ideas is well said... enough time has evolved for this to begin happening ... and the deadline for work two months after the previous show meant there was focus... so even if i was not intellectually that singular in my thinking the limitations kept things being honed.... that and these precious oval forms.
Looking forward to your big show at Redlands Bay Nicola!

Hi Ralf...
your visit is a pleasure and your enthusiastic words a delight to discover ...
best wishes to you over there!

Candice Herne said...

I really enjoy reading your thought processes Sophie and the research you do. All brewing like a wholesome soup. The works look beautiful.You can keep the red aging and I'll look forward to visiting your studio and hold you to a bottle or 2.I'll bring the cheese. Best of luck with the show. It's shaping up to be a real spectacular!Candyxx

Sophie Munns said...

that's a great Chuckle Candy!
I'm so slow this morning I wondered what you meant at first by keeping the red aging... then Aha! You are the first to mention my "generous/jestful!" offer of red wine...! Great idea... will put on hold for your return to Queenslandia after your long sojourn in other territories! You can have tested all the cheeses produced from Bruny Island to Margaret River to the back of Bourke... and advise on that!
Thanks for reading till the end. The soap box was out last night... imagine me at 100 - perish the thought Candy!!
A wholesome soup is quite the aim really ... whole being the operative word there but delicious too is part of the equation... as in some levity, some colour and vitality ! Hopefully...!
As a word-loving person yourself, wading through my words to glean the process is much appreciated.
Blogging for this reason has sharpened up my skills....made me aware I'm a shockingly random typist! If I post late in the day then next morning the fine tooth comb is out culling mistakes... lots of spelling and sometimes frightening bits of incomprehensible twitter!
Nothing like that to motivate a good edit... and trying to keep improving one's form!
We'll raise our glasses to your health at the show candy!
S xx

Mlle Paradis said...

OK so where's my bottle! Lovely and all well done Sophie. Not surprising at all. Once again I want to stick my fingers into those paintings and sift them around and pick the odd shape up and examine it. Not to mention taking my shoes off and wading around in them a bit. I love the presentation of the ovals on the wall too. Well done ma fille!

And the discussion of the seeds and the lack thereof sometimes, quite poignant and poetic. I think art is all about making us look twice, look again, or for the first time properly. I think you're succeeding terribly well at this with your homage to the seed.

Enjoy the show and get some rest. Cause there's more work to do!!!! Dozing off now myself to James Taylor and Carole King........

Sophie Munns said...

Ah yes... the bottle of red....well done!
how many minutes did it take ...first to last word?
I am so glad you get that sensation of fluidity because I painted that theme constantly for much of the Newcastle years... and being a water lover painting it also makes me feel better!
Merci !Merci! lovely comments make me purr.... but more than that they help to counterbalance the alone time of working and not knowing if you are communicating anything at all let alone with any success.
Love your comment about 'seeds and lack thereof'... in the moment of writing that bit I suddenly thought..OMG! if one never communicates or writes in this reflective way you dont fully articulate an insight - sharing a response does bring them into the light of day.
That was a moment in the seed-lab conversations that fired together with visuals of half empty seed capsules from the rainforest fruits book i love to refer to. The difference between hearing/reading something and GETTING IT...
And you so wisely say Mlle Paradis.... looking again till really seeing! That's the gift of the labour of love.... to work with something very closely till it reveals itself -whether its making soup, building a house with ones own hand's, whatever ...
On another note... very fond of Taylor and King... LOVELY music!
thank you for (always) the good and lively thoughts
that keep things turning ....
S x

Candice Herne said...

u know I have to come back just to read your response. I always do! They are such a muse in themselves. So hear u about the random writting, spelling and incomprehensible twitter and editing. sigh.... oh well sigh.... blogging is so helpful in all the ways you said. look forward to the wine. and cheese of course. Candyxx

Nevin said...

My dear Sophie,
you are very talented artist these works look so beautiful.. XXXX

Sophie Munns said...

That is for sure Cany x oh I mean Candy!
Do we need to drink red wine ... we can slur our spelling with out it!
Blogging also is VERY good for those times on computer when the work is piling up and you have a mountain to do... there's nothing like a quick blogging trip to some far away place to read someone's post on
breakfast, or a walk in the woods.
That always gets me back on track...and i'm not kidding... the simple human story makes you feel less isolated, the breakfasts are always fab and the woods are full of amazing things... what's not to like?
must come an see what woods you guys are in very soon! And as for breakie...

Sophie Munns said...

Hi Nevin,
you are so charming...I am pleased you enjoyed the work even though the photos leave something to be desired!
hope life is good at the new Studio!

La Dolce Vita said...

oh Sophie! would so love to come and sit and have tea .. it would be so wonderful to see your show! the ovals are just wonderful! love them all!! best of luck! sounds like it will be in a great area too! xx's

Sophie Munns said...

It would be so nice to have you here to drink tea with Caterina!
Its located really well... so people are offering to come by for a chat over a tea on the various days I will be in there... takes pressure off opening night crush and allows for a really nice ambience. And there's a lovely verandah out the back where 10 people could sit comfortably all the while looking out across the hills.
In fact I think i could just happily move in there. I felt strangely incredibly at home there yesterday when we were all buzzing about setting up!
Glad to hear you like d the ovals....
Sophia xx

ArtPropelled said...

Oh what glorious paintings and I love the way you have grouped them for the show. Great to hear the opening was choc-a-block full! Best of luck for the following days.

Whilst reading your post today i had flashes of Avitar going through my mind. We watched it for the second time last night and I was thinking along the same lines ..... wake up people .... what are you allowing to happen to your planet. How can we sit back and allow the rain forests to be destroyed. What do humans value?!

Sophie Munns said...

Hi Robyn,
Read your wonderful comment this morning on my way out for a busy day .... its the other end of the day now... thank you for divine comments and good wishes.
I am getting messages from lots of places to see this film. So pleased to hear you felt this way on reflecting after the film.
It stuns me every time I hear someone focus only on what the govt is not doing - for the simple reason I think we have a lot more capacity to do something from wherever we are... certainly those of us lucky enough to have our basic, everyday needs well met.
I loved the fact that recently when a network (transition towns - do you have this in Sth Africa?) Im connected to asked us all to write to the Cinema company responsible for choosing not to release the film Food Inc in Brisbane.
Given the huge press coverage of this film internationally I was sure it would show here... but it was decided no one would attend and why bother! With 24 hours emails flooded to the address we were given to write to. This lead to a promise to open on June 24 for a month. The opening night ticket price was made cheaper of we could get a large group. Soon 200 people had booked by paying straight up - then it was sold out. The group organiser then set up bookings for a vegetarian banquet at a local Indian restaurant near the cinema... and now there is a sense of true celebration about this event.
I'm sure seeing this film is going to be very unpleasant... the hard-hitting and graphic depiction of the industrialised food industry! But I certainly don't want films like this to not make the screen in this city and the conversation not to be had.
I like the fact that the groundswell of fast and lively support created real excitement and no doubt has spread a bigger message and that will see a good flow on affect in ways not even observable.
Each person who makes a shift re consumer habits towards genuinely greener ones makes a difference...and its interesting how quickly things can shift when there's more momentum!
Lets keep asking the questions,

Studio Sylvia said...

Hi Sophie. I am new to your blog. Amazing work. Love the last pic - Your hanging of your work has such visual impact - wonderful.

Sophie Munns said...

Hi Sylvia,
I have just popped over to visit your blog and was very excited to find you are working with enamelling which I mentioned was a childhood passion of mine!
Thanks for really warm and delighful comments! Really looking forward to seeing more of what you are making!

Maggie Neale said...

Love seeing your engaging use of the oval, which works so well with your shapes and the seed. All so thought out and offered to us your readers. Nice job, Sophie; good luck with this showing.

Sophie Munns said...

Lovely to read your words this morning Maggie!
Hope the new studio is growing that lived in feeling!

Sharing the space with 9 other lovely artists for this show has been most pleasant. This post was curious... usually Im slow with images and because i actually downloaded them the same day I hung the show I was really immersed in the thinking and poured it all out here.... it just tumbled out. This surprised me next day... i had to check spelling and edit a bit but all this
thinking had just found the moment to air itself.
Pleased it read ok to you Maggie..
good working,