Saturday, April 28, 2012

dna drawings from a week in the Lab

The  week just passed was my second week in the Lab... I introduced this current residency in a long post at the Homage blog and also at the studio blog in a brief summary last week.

a new visual journal

If you wish to know why I've been drawing DNA then a visit to either blog will provide the context.

Tonight I have loaded up these black ink and watercolour drawings to give you a view of the latest work in preparation for a show on the 18th of May. Much more on all that soon!

I worked on these drawings whilst figuring out what large paintings I wanted to go ahead with. With the limited timeframe it's been a very useful process to think it through via the drawings from a series of photos Ive been taking over the past 2 weeks of graphs and other material in the Lab Journal of my collaborating Scientist Joshua Mylne. 

I've been offered demonstrations and instructions on many aspects of the work being carried out in the lab... Joshua and assistants have been incredibly obliging and thoughtful. Given I was starting with an empty slate in terms of my prior knowledge I expect to leave better informed.

This Gel slab which I photographed, about 12 x 8cm, might appear very low tech... 

but this image below gives a better idea of this stage on the process.

Scientist loading a Agarose gel for electrophoresis
image found here :  Scientist loading a Agarose gel for electrophoresis
Viewing DNA set in gel, one of the things that can be seen at the Darwin Centre of the Natural History Museum in London. Image from here

Gel electrophoresis
Short notes here if really curious: Principles of DNA Gel electrophoresis

Ive been using two journals in the past two weeks... both have been stored away waiting for a reason to be used. 

Curious how certain shapes keep drawing one in... some of these ovoid shapes turn up over and over in my work... and the Lab provides yet more opportunities for viewing patterns in nature... even if at a Micro level.

Check out other blogs for updates and I will add details about the coming Viewing of this residency work.

Click here to go to the information page at my website!

Monday, April 23, 2012

consider the ant...

Last year I posted this image on a story at this blog and since then quite a few visitors have come via this image at google. This morning on a whim I went to the google page and found the story which follows. It was found at this post and written by Pooja Jayaram, a student of philosophy.

I had to share it because it visited upon me such captivating images and wonder!

One evening while returning from my college, I saw my 85 year granny learning new Kolam (geometrical line drawings composed of curved loops, drawn around a grid pattern of dots In South India with rice flour) styles from some random Tamil magazine. I asked her why ladies followed this centuries-old tradition even today. My granny responded that it is customary to get up before sunrise, sprinkle water on the mud flooring, swab it with cow dung and draw Kolam.
Ladies coming out of the house experience the early morning breeze which is good for health. They sprinkle water on the mud flooring so that the dust settles and doesn’t enter the house. Cow-dung, which is used for swabbing the floor, acts as a disinfectant. Bending down to draw the kolam is a good exercise for the waist and shoulders. The mixture used to draw it, popularly called Kolam Maave, is rice flour. Kolam is a free hand drawing and is an art. Especially in the Margazhi month of the Tamil calendar special Kolams are drawn and streets of Mylapore (in Chennai) look lovely with Kolams of different colour, shape and design.
Apart from the tradition, there is also a scientific reason behind drawing them. They are believed to produce cosmic positive energies which benefit people residing in the house. Predominately, most kolams are completed with thick, red lines on the periphery. They are called Kaavi/Semman. It adds to the beauty of the Kolam but the reason behind drawing it is that it blocks negativity. It is bordered by two white lines running parallel. These white lines are believed to retain peace and prosperity in the house. Kolam is also a symbol of welcoming people and the absence of a kolam at the doors indicates a mishap in the household.
Most of the designs drawn are with bare fingers using predetermined dots that are arranged in a specific pattern. Later these dots are joined to form different designs. Joining these dots is a tedious job as it requires a lot patience, accuracy and concentration. Drawing Kolam on a daily basis improves one’s concentration power.
Sadly this art is beginning to fade. Gone are those days when ladies used to walk on streets judging which house has drawn the best Kolam. With people now are moving into apartments from independent houses, they are finding it difficult to draw Kolam on marble floors. The kolam doesn’t stay on the flooring and thus, the whole house is full on rice flour mixed with sand. The markets are flooded with metal tubes on which the kolam patterns are already drawn. So people simply fill in the tube with rice flour, drag it on the floor and the kolam is ready. True to my granny’s words…..
Convenience has taken over Tradition.
Pooja Jayaram
Guest Writer
Student of Philosophy | Miranda House

I then found another intriguing post also on this same traditions here.
Flour Kolam in Tamilnadu
image at this post

Quote from the post: 
"The actual significance of making the Kolam design in the Rice flour is that the kolam powder will be a food for the ants and the small insects. When you perform the kolam construction in the sand floor after cleaning the floor, you can find that the ants will be in a queue busy taking the rice flour particles to their holes. This is a great thing to see. For this purpose the Kolam powder is made with the help of the Rice flour." 

Ants that eat Rice Flour Kolam
from same post as image above

Also quoting:
"Ants are one of the great species that teach the concept of saving the food for the future. This particular concept of saving things for the future is very good indeed for the human beings. Ants take the kolam flour that is drawn in front of the house to their holes so that the rice flour that is present in the Kolam powder acts to be the best food for the ants. Moreover not only the ants but also some of the birds feed on the kolam flour. This is the best significance that occurs in drawing of the kolam flour in front of the house." 

found here

I hope you were also captivated. One imagine's the clash of old and new must be very loud in today's India. Seems that nowhere remains untouched by the pace of change. Last week I was amazed, then on second though not so surprised, to read that over this past summer 70,000 seeds were unintentionally brought in to the Antarctica by tourists and people working there.
We are in the midst of such complex changes one can barely keep up ... if we chose to notice. Switching off makes sense... but if we turn our gaze away too long... ALAS!... when you look back it will be different.
 A good week to all!
ps warm thanks to all who visited or left comments at the homage blog... very much appreciated!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Where have I been this week?

If you thought I had disappeared lately .... well its true ... I've been flat out in the last two weeks getting ready for the project I started Monday.

Here's some fast pics...

For the lowdown you'll need to go to the Homage blog... and  skim a little if your rushing.

But... its  all there... a story about Beatrix...

and a book...

and a residency...

and added thoughts or two or three. Well an essay I guess. But hey... I'm not expecting you to take it all in... just love to hear from you over there, if time permits... and I do so long to get back visiting all very soon!

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!