Wednesday, January 23, 2013

草泥马style - Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Parodies PSY's 'Gangnam Style' Video

Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Parodies PSY's 'Gangnam Style' Video

Found here:
Dissident artist Ai Weiwei parodies PSY's 'Gangnam Style' Video 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Last week in the studio

Preparing for an Exhibition in Paddington next month has been keeping me busy. Percolator Gallery, where I will be showing, faces out onto a lively boutique and second-hand shopping precinct on a hillside close to the heart of the city. Even better... its in the same building where my studio is located so logistics are very doable. Consequently I've felt very positive about managing the other things on my calendar at this time which I mentioned in the last post... relocating my home.

The postcard I designed and ordered today as an invitation to the
upcoming show. All the details are on the back
. More info here.

In 2011 I made a postcard for an event I was evolved in in Brisbane and the concept of Bio-cultural-diversity seemed to just pop into my mind then and there. Obviously I had absorbed it somewhere along the line.

Every time I glanced at that postcard afterwards I'd think more deeply about the concept. By the end of last year it was becoming  a significant influence on my aesthetic, the general direction in my art practice and my research. I started to write about it and reconsider our place in the world according to age-old practices across time and place.

Gravitating towards print-making once again since the Cairns Residency I've re-examined tendencies in my work over years and noted that it was around 2005 when I'd started working with collaged fabric on canvas fro painting on, and using the selvedge,  stitching and textural features from time to time.
I started working on calico cloth as well as canvas back then and a while later painting on linen. I've painted on cloth since I was at school way back when I immersed myself in batik for a few years ... heavily influenced by having studied Indonesian in Language at School.

I've mused on deep attachments I've had to certain fabrics I've owned, bought at op-shops or elsewhere, having been given or inherited. I had a mother who sewed and was known to find uses for pieces from  my collection. My cherished pieces were left alone though and it occurred to me they are virtually the most durable of things I own, having moved so often Ive been able to see what's lasted through considerable change...and more rightly... what I've managed to pack and bring with. Textiles pack well... and my stash has stood the test of time better then most other possessions.

This fabric I couldn't bear to part with despite its eventual worn-out state. I took these photos at the wonderful Dorothy Caldwell Workshop 'Human Marks' in May last year. Dorothy's art practice celebrated the life of garments and fabrics and much was made from old as well as new materials.
I was overjoyed to have a place to take this once perfect item made from superb Italian seersucker. They'd been made for me years before from fabric I'd found at a wholesalers. Beautifully designed fabric... it had been so light and cool to wear I really missed them in my wardrobe. 

I remember packing for my 2008 move interstate to Brisbane and giving many precious pieces from my kitchen to a few good friends because, not long out of hospital, I was beyond trying to pack prized tea cups and all. What did come with me were the fabrics that have always made wherever I live feel like home. 

An important piece from years ago, a lino-printed and painted table cloth that my mother made with my help in Melbourne 20+ years ago when she was down on holidays takes pride of place on the family table all these years later.

It has such history now... so many dinner parties and events ... it really is of huge significance to her ... and to me. The lino squares featured in that cloth came from my teaching days in the 1980's... reminding me of the extraordinary remote coastal place I lived when those squares were cut. There is an octopus lino-cut inspired by an Ancient Greek ceramic vessel from 3,000 yrs ago. The cloth's design was made up of so many pieces of history... complex and storied. 23 years  later I wanted to make revisit that idea and make another cloth to imbue with story. 

So this is what I was working on in the studio last week...

Working on a linen-cotton piece of fabric 200 cm x 140 cm ...with the idea in mind to create a cloth to be hung, not stretched! Exploring Bio-cultural-diversity across cultures, time and landscape of late got me thinking about Tapa cloths in particular.

In Queensland one sees these cloths wherever Pacific island people are represented. In Cairns I felt so much more a part of the Pacific ... the presence of island people is very strong there.

Reading about Tapa cloths online tonight I found these notes from the Kew Gardens Economic-Botany Collections:

Bark Cloth

The Economic Botany Collections at Kew house around 40 specimens of bark cloth, a versatile material made from beaten tree bark, once used widely in the Pacific Islands and Indonesia . Bark cloth comes primarily from trees of the Moraceae family, including Broussonetia papyrifera, Artocarpus altilis, and Ficus spp. It is made by beating strips of the fibrous inner bark of these trees into sheets, which are then finished into a variety of items.
The main use of bark cloth is for clothing. The Collections at Kew illustrate the amazing ability of this beaten tree bark to form soft and delicate items of apparel. Examples include shawls, loincloths, headdresses, skirts, dresses, shirts, and even a tight fitting jacket. 
Bark cloth has not just been worn, however, but has also been used as a wrapping for the deceased, a dowry, a room partition, and a mosquito screen. The cloth has played an important role in the societies of the South Pacific, being incorporated into folklore, religion, culture, and ritual. It has been popular in ritual gift exchange, in everyday trading and in healing ceremonies, and it has been used to symbolise status and wealth, with the level of decoration, the style of wearing, and the amount of cloth worn signifying rank.
 In Tahiti , for example, the upper class wore the ‘ahutara' or shawl over their shoulders, while the lower classes wore one rectangle tucked around the body and under the arms so the shoulders were exposed to passing superiors. Meanwhile, in Fiji the length of a man's loincloth symbolised his rank. A chief's loincloth would drag on the ground, while a poor man's loincloth would drape over his belt as little as possible.
Each region in the Pacific developed its own unique methods of production, style of wearing and design. The Economic Botany Collections at Kew have examples from a wide geographical range, including Pitcairn, Hawaii, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Futuna, Tonga, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Sulawesi, Halamahera, Seram, New Guinea, and Java. The samples cover the many diverse uses, designs and styles of bark cloth, and are the result of a number of private collectors and colonial expeditions in the 19th century, from HRH the Duke of Edinburgh to the mutineers of the HMS Bounty. Most of the examples at Kew date from the late 19th century. The production of bark cloth slowed considerably in the 20th century, eventually dying out in all but a few islands as missionaries from the west visited the Pacific, bringing with them western ideas and goods such as cotton textiles. In fact, it became a sign of a convert to wear cotton, rather than bark cloth.
With the manufacture of bark cloth in such decline, the Collections at Kew serve as an important reminder of this unique craft. The specimens kept here will provide present and future generations with a chance to see samples of the beautifully crafted cloth, and an opportunity to learn about the societies who once used bark cloth in nearly every aspect of their lives, from clothing their children and adorning their priests to healing their sick 

The part that interests me at this time is the way the Tapa cloth was incorporated into folklore, religion, culture, and ritual ... and with this feeling of the value of ritual, cultural practice and remembering I  worked on the 'Homage to the seed' cloth last week late into the nights.

Building up layers slowly by creating a foundation using square lino tiles that I've been using for 26 years now. There is a personal history held in the marks the old lino-squares make... coupled here with recent lino cut motifs. 

I like to merge the organic with the more geometric... working in a painterly manner ...leaving space and adding dots which always to my mind are seeds ...especially after times spent in the seed lab counting tiny seeds... dots as seeds. 

The lino-prints are worked with in this painterly way to allow for a raw and natural aesthetic... also reflected in mono-printing with recycled polystyrene trays... a quick way to do series of stripes and some of the dots. 
Interestingly much of the Islander work may not feature a 'raw' aesthetic, but, rather favour extremely precise and masterful line-work, cutting, printing and painting techniques. A Thursday Island artist I met in Cairns described the high level of competition in his community (amongst males) to draw well and produce prints that were extremely fine works.

An area of the cloth that feels like a painting within a painting. Seed-capsule circular cross sections are shown on the right. My objective is not to emulate in any way cloths that one might see... but to focus instead on making something that holds stories for me and that may communicate something of the continuous thread of nature... the eternal cycles and rhythms.

In the workspace the cloth was so large I kept turning it around ...using a table I could move as needed.

Getting closer to completion... working flat on a table where one's vision is not an overall one make balancing the composition and colours a little harder. There is a desire to retain some of the raw first layer and to allow the fabric to show through... it is a painting... yet its not quite how I usually go about painting. On a stretcher frame there is more freedom to overpaint, or take out an area thats not working or adjust colours and so on.

I like to walk away from work nearing completion so I can get some perspective.
This work will be in my Exhibition coming up next month at Percolator Gallery... so it will be interesting working out how it should be hung... and seeing whats needed for it to feel complete. A bit of finessing to get the compositional balance I like yet. 

My next cloth is almost completed now. I went with a simple composition for that one... lots of raw fabric showing through. 
I look forward to putting these up to see them properly.

I've posted The making of a 'Homage to the seed' cloth (9 photos) on my Homage to the Seed page on Facebook  so if you wish to follow the Homage to the seed page visit (above) and click on like! 

Welcome to those new to this blog and I wish all a most productive week!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

slow summer days...

Somehow days are very full at the moment, making posting at my blogs a very rare event sadly! I say sadly because I am fond of bloggy friends from near and far and I really miss the to and fro of this realm! Two years ago over the xmas/new years period we had huge rains and floods in this part of the world and I remember blogging non-stop through al that. Last summer was cool and quite wet too... hence much time spent catching up online. This year is different with bushfires more likely!

Xmas seems ages ago now ... I downloaded photos yesterday and noted I was so relaxed over my 6 day break at the coast I rarely got my camera out. I shall have to find if my brother down south has photos from xmas night when we revisited all the songs we used to play on guitar and sing together. That was blissful!

Having little ones around demonstrating their excitement always makes for some fun! William enjoyed his nan's pavlova smothered in berries! Some memorable moments conversing with him I must say! Lunch under the mango tree at my niece Lara's home was really delightful.... photos of the magnificent tree and the even larger macadamia tree next to it...? Too much going on I'm afraid!

William at lunch!

Patrick eating blueberries ...recovering from 
a fall where a front tooth met an early demise!

out the front of our holiday place!

A last minute online find for our family gathering up the coast. The deck overlooking the water was blissful... we spent late afternoons and evenings mesmerised by the water and boats coming by, some with xmas decorations and passengers waving and singing out to us!

13 of us had a peaceful xmas night on the deck with the family musicians Lara and Dwight playing so many wonderful songs for us... including all our requests from the 70's and 80's. Words were remembered and harmonies too! Cheeky friends used to call us the Von Trap family with good reason... piano lessons, singing and guitars were compulsory for my 3 siblings and I. As were the hours of practice and the Eistedfodds etc! These moments years later make it so worthwhile.
Four year old William loved the evening by the water... effusively commenting on all the boats coming by and people waving. It was hard to leave I must say.

News for 2013 is that we're in the midst of rethinking "home". Getting the house ready at the moment to be offered for sale soon spells major change. House hunting took up days before Xmas and now that we are back its all go with the fresh makeover in readiness for the (daunting) experience of showing our home.

Perhaps it's the same the world over... here it's definitely a buyer's market .... houses sitting for a long time on average before selling. Many sellers are taking their homes off the market because offers aren't meeting expectations. We've no great imperative to move...yet in saying that there are changing requirements and timely reasons to move. There'll be tears, yet there is much excitement... and maybe it wont even come to pass! For 25 years this has been a lovely family home. I came here in 2008 not long out of hospital (from Interstate) ....and needing a slow recovery. I painted and walked the leafy streets into a new life here... gathering seed pods from day one... and giving shape to a whole new project and direction during 2009 that has carried me through to 2013, and for the 4th year I will be pursing "homage to the seed"... albeit in its latest incarnation.

As you can appreciate this is throwing plans a little ... navigating competing agendas and prioritising left, right and centre! Having moved no less than 36 times in almost as many years there is a weariness... yet...  I also know new spaces bring forth things one can't even imagine. I thank my stars for the fact of a roof over my head, and as always happens when change looms ... every single thing around one's home is seen as if for the first time and cherished that little bit more. This is a not a time to take anything for granted... of that I am sure!

Ive been wondering if it's best to take a blog-vacation for a while... that may come.

For now I wish you all a truly wonderful 2013... may it be richly rewarding for each and every one!
Many blessings all through this new year before us now! Be strong and live from your deepest passion... I for one will continue to aim for just that! No matter where I am living!
S xo