Sunday, April 8, 2012

symbols and perennial questions...

Last weekend there was a 50th birthday celebration in my family so visitors and busyness abounded. All week it was still go, go, go ... for this reason Easter provided the perfect chance  for a change of pace. This Easter it's been rather a deep pleasure to slow down, watch films, and paint for hours each day.

Taking things outside to the garden to enjoy the day whilst busily creating has also been ideal with our weather so lovely at the moment. Easter hasn't been celebrated here at this house in anything but a quiet way... catching up with things, mostly thinking about painting and enjoying the quiet.

doodled easter eggs
Found here at Alisa Bourke's blog
We have a four day holiday at Easter each year...for some i5 days or even longer... with school-aged children on up to a 2 weeks break. For many Australians it's a time for family and friends, perhaps special projects if staying at home... whist there is an old tradition in parts of the country of vacating urban spaces to go camping.

Apart from the Xmas period and summer holidays it's the longest punctuation in the year, signalling the arrival of autumn and changing preoccupations. As such, it is as such a time of reflection ... irrespective of or coupled with diverse religious and spiritual beliefs.

Perhaps with this season around the corner last week when reading the blog of this young Brisbane artist Michelle Knowles I found myself quite taken with her call out for people to participate in a project she's recently conceived.


Michelle is a Brisbane based contemporary artist. Her practice explores notions such as the uncanny, the fetishisation of objects, performance and ritual, the otherworldly and imaginary spaces. A curiosity in belief systems and broader spirituality is the catalyst for experiments in both video and photographic works that utilise objects, including handmade artefacts, as tools for transformation. Michelle has a BFA (Visual Arts) with Honours from the Queensland University of Technology and has shown her work in Brisbane galleries such as Artisan, The Block, Metro Arts and QUT Art Museum, and in artist run spaces such as Accidentally Annie Street Space and inbetweenspaces.


The Photos here are all from Michelle's flickr site:

Michelle on Pinterest.





I thought it really apt for the Easter break, which, despite varying so much in significance to people ...  remains nevertheless a time of symbolism and reflection with elements of enduring cultural traditions.

I asked Michelle's permission to write about this here and also let you know that your participation is warmly welcomed and appreciated if you don't mind spending a few minutes following the links. I know that various ones who pop in here from time to time have all given a great deal of thought to the things Michelle is pondering and asking for our thoughts on here.

SO this is what you will find at Michelle's blog post:

Fill this void

I don't know what it's like for you, but trying to pin someone down for a deep and meaningful these days is almost impossible. We skim through our lives, barely daring to break the surface for fear that we might not be able to handle the truth. Our lives are so carefully crafted to fit inside of contemporary life. We (particularly the urban dwellers) reside in a bubble that protects us from the big realities. Until one day that bubble bursts. And reality changes. And we are faced with the only certainty there is - the unknown. And death. Non-existence. The idea of which is so terrifying and incomprehensible that we become faced with an existential dilemmna. How do we live in the face of non-existence? How do we fill the void?

I'm embarking on a new project to find out exactly that - how do people live with such existential concerns. How do you fill the void? The project is open-ended and I don't quite know how it will progress, but for now I am seeking people to participate. I am hoping that at least a few people will take some time out to engage with me in this way - to share what it is that drives them through the uncertainty of life. The information gathered on the website will be used as the basis for new works.

If you are reading please do drop me a line or two, or even an image which addresses the question "how do you fill the void? 

Website is  
Email at

Thank you, and please share the site link. The more information I can gather, the better


Michelle: Tackling the jungle that is my garden. The plants were threatening to eat us alive!

I've visited Michelle's world through her blog for some time... appreciating the fact she brings a very warm, human  and even playful approach to intellectual concerns which so often in recent decades have been treated in a cold and all too often not terribly engaging way. Her blogging, imagery and writing on various social media platforms give it dimension ... and with Michelle it never feels token or random... it's this capacity to be humanly convincing that I think attracts me to observe her work.

My own early Art School experience in 1977 to 1980 was defined largely by the domination of abstraction in terms of colour field painting, with a bit of existentialism thrown in, and not a whole lot else. My main painting teachers (I majored in painting) were male and two of them, back from stints in New York, talked and skited endlessly about their heroes in NY... (male) painters... and thats it they weren't waylaid at a local pub instead. Perhaps if we were very lucky they might pop in at the end of a 4 hour studio session they'd missed, and in a haze of beery loud-mouthed insults infer we'd be better of if the entire Art school were pushed off the nearby cliff into the Pacific Ocean.

No wonder Feminist art and women like Simone de Beauvior looked like they might be onto something... I left art school rather underwhelmed indeed! In time nothing phased at Art School but I felt the vacuum of this "education" quite strongly and so I welcome the fact that Michelle came out of Art School not so long ago appearing spirited and focused... with some great questions, verve and pluck! 

from this post

from this post

I think I will close with this beautiful post of Michelle's in full... from September 26th last year... containing a poem by a much loved late poet from this state. I do hope you might give Michelle a little of your time for a few words or an image you can share on this topic.

It seems timely for us here in the southern hemisphere now in autumn... and with the world churning as it is everywhere with big questions. I hope you enjoy the world through here eyes as I have done...

A dense, tangled growth...

~ Judith Wright.

The forest drips and glows with green.
The tree-frog croaks his far-off song.
His voice is stillness, moss and rain
drunk from the forest ages long.

We cannot understand that call 
unless we move into his dream,
where all is one and one is all
and frog and python are the same.

We with our quick dividing eyes
measure, distinguish and are gone.
The forest burns, the tree-frog dies,
yet one is all and all are one.

I've been spending a lot of time in the great outdoors lately. It keeps me sane and grounded.  All that green has a positive effect on me. The forest is a temple. - a space in which to confront my own mortality. To be reminded that the world will turn regardless of my place in it - this is a comfort. Life and death on the dank forest floor. "A dense, tangled growth".

With warmest thanks to Michelle... it was a pleasure to visit your rich gardens of treasures to write this post!  S xo


do pop over to homage blog if you want to see what this is!

MSB- Ravenala_madagascariensis single seed

                                                      There's a "must-see video" too about the Millennium Seedbank!


Printed Material said...

Lots to absorb and think about in this post Sophie. I will follow the links to Michelle's project and follow up some of your discoveries. Always something to learn about in your world. As for the poem and all that lush and calm 'greenness'.... you spoil us.

Mlle Paradis said...

love this girl! (not meaning "girl" in any pejorative way - meaning only the freshness of her means.....)

love the new paintings too.....the colors, the rhythms...
oh my!

thx for the long e-note Sophia - i will get back to you.....xoxo!

Sarah said...

Your posts always make me think, and since reading it this morning I have been doing that-wondering how I fill the void-as I crochet madly, or look at my latest thrifting finds, or my photos of another visit to another castle, before watching another favourite dvd I think I cannot avoid the answers-or at least some of them! This artist and her work sounds most interesting and I will visit her tomorrow I think.

ronnie said...

thanks for introducing michelle and her work - a nice diversion..... I only had time to briefly dip my toe on her site - I'll have to return and reflect 'sometime' (as she says - its hard to pin down time for engagement these days....)

I share your lack of enthusiasm from 1970s-80s art school wankerism.... I headed off for a very very brief stab at a BVA in the mid 1980s..... when post-mod was starting to raise its ugly head.... so rather than have a lecturer wax on about how good the NY school were - my lecturers failed to turn up (seriously... I was there 6 months and never met my painting lecturer... apparently under the influence of post-mod he felt painting was dead so why should he bother attending..... I didn't bother finishing the semester..... what a wanky waste of time)

when I headed back to a uni art/des dept in the late 2000s to undertake my Masters I found that economic rationalism had raised its ugly head - and now all graduates were on the treadmill for art glory (and $$$$..... don't forget the $$$) I'm not sure which wankerism is worse - post-mod (everything is art so what's the point of art education? go to london and pickle a cow!) or economic rationalism (before you start making anything - lets do a cost analysis, apply for a grant, make friends with the right people.... and we have classes for all these things!... but please remember - don't think.... here's the treadmill)

enough from me

happy easter to you sophie hope you're enjoy the outdoors

Anonymous said...

ooh! well first thanks for the intro to another magical person,I ma off to stalk her now, but not before saying:

I dont experience a void. Not to sound up myself, but my days are full of my own imaginings, I feel surrounded by my inner life so rich my friends wonder sometimes. I can leave the phone under my pillow for days and not realize.

Sophie Munns said...

thank you all for GReAt comments...

Lesley... I am like you and interested in many things...but don't always have the to get to therm... it was a delight to post on an artist with a fresh young spirit who's interested in the big questions.

So lovely to hear from you MlleP... now you're in hibernation 'tis sad not to be able to visit your blog! Yes... Michelle brings a wonderful freshness...and shall look forward to hearing form you when the allows!

Hi Sarah,
sounds like your passions bring joy and fulfilment even if at times they hover above the other... there's times when one is pulled below the surface...and other times when getting on and finding rhythm in daily life and/or the meaning in things is a critical and motivating factor.
Interesting to see what you might think after visiting Michelle!

Ronnie... your experience is not much different as you say from mine. Its always been a revelation to hear people talk well of an art school experience...and I have heard that...even experienced it for a semester in Melbourne in 2000 when enrolled in a diploma of painting ( my house then burnt down and I left Melbourne) but the things you describe i understand well. I also noticed that treadmill in the 2000's ... found it often soulless and lightweight despite the pretentions to being more complex. Seemed to be a lot of artist statements without any substance and no view being promulgated that it takes a long time to develop something authentic etc.

I was drawn to Michelle's work over time because I felt she was somehow managing to dig down and get beyond that challenge to any young student. I like that she draws and paints and responds to all kinds of things...its not a shallow approach and that is probably the thing that matters most irrespective of whether we go to art school or not...
that capacity to really be with ideas and mediums and processes to give them time and effort to grow something... to keep digging down and sharing and learning and conversing and participating.
Good to be talking about this!

Grrl... yes I can see that immersion of yours and imagine the phone ringing but something being on the boil which has got you thoroughly engrossed. I can certainly think of the the times I've been like that but it goes in phases with my other tasks commanding attention.
Its a good thing to be able to immerse and experience that kind of bliss... I think it can certainly increase one's level of satisfaction and fulfilment.

Good to hear all thee thoughts...
thanks everyone!
S x

Sandra Robinson said...

What an intriguing project, lots to think about here I will definitely give it some thought. It was also interesting to read your art school experience, I also studied painting but we were not taught how to paint, but left to make our own discoveries, I would have liked a little more teaching. Thanks also for visiting my blog recently and leaving a comment, it was much appreciated.

Carole said...

Isn't Shell just wonderful. Her portrait a day photos are always fun to look at. I'm glad you have introduced her to so many others.

Sophie Munns said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophie Munns said...

HI Sandra,
its curious to reflect on what you mention ... this semester Ive been tutoring at Uni in Visualisation and, quite simply, with 30 students learning new drawing and 3D skills, there isn't enough time to "do the work" for them nor "think for them" is so busy even grasping who they are, how they are faring to interfere.

Being left to make one's own to make discoveries is essentially a great thing...but I'm for offering either group demos with materials and approaches, or visuals and ideas at the start of sessions some of the time + in session light encouragement or useful responses.
I think if a student knows a teacher is aware of or sensitive to their gestures, impulses to make and way of seeing they might feel taken seriously at least ...something about that is what seems to be too often missing. It takes more effort though and absent teachers are avoiding sorting out how they might approach students at all.

The irony I remember is that their words are then so few and so random that they are often leave a louder mark with their random outbursts than the teacher who moves around with subtlety noticing the students and being a little helpful, perhaps referring to artists the person might explore or materials and such that might be appreciated.

Michelle is indeed a wonderful creative being... a pleasure to shine the light on her work!