Monday, October 2, 2017

A NEW direction: renaming this blog!

Like many of you in the blogging world have probably found ... keeping up with the last few years of changes in social media trends & options has been... well ... sometimes bewildering.

I gravitated to Instagram a few years ago... took ages to get used to it but then gradually found it my first go-to place on the internet.

Facebook page: Homage to the Seed I only set up when going to the UK on a Research Trip in 2011... and similarly it took a while to get used to it. I only began using the Sophie Munns feed a year or so ago... and then in a fairly low key way.

I've tweeted for years it seems but that's faded into the background. On Linked-in I'm so out of date its embarrassing.. I don't accept new links anymore. On Tumblr I have 5 sites but rarely visit them... and Pinterest....
... well its thanks to Pinterest which I was very active on for several years that my project was found by Julie Emery, an Art Teacher based at an International School in Hong Kong... which led to my first residency in Hong Kong in May this year.

If one complains about the time spent keeping up to date online its moments like that which remind one there are indeed benefits to having spent so much time quietly building a profile a different platforms.

One can't sit and wait for the opportunities to arrive but the quiet dedication of keeping online threads of one's practice going & interacting widely in the process have enriched and provided lessons for many of us over some years now.

Hong Kong Residency May 2017
Recently I tuned into a week of radio programs on the National Broadcaster in this country discussing the ways the smart phone & social media have encroached on our lives. It was a timely exploration of the impact these tools are having. I was more than ready to reconsider this issue.

By 2012 I had ten or so social media sites. Given I only bought a computer in 2008, and started blogging in 2009 it was bizarre to think by 2011 how hard I was working to keep up with online posting whilst also managing my Art Practice, Artist residences, teaching and speaking gigs, home life and friendships.

To say the computer, iPhone and social media changed my life is a vast understatement. I went from being somewhat locally focused, hand-writing almost everything, extensive journal-keeping and and focus in Slow living before it was fashionable.

This image below right is from my first real studio ... 1989, Kew, Melbourne when I was 30.

After years as a fairly home-oriented artist, apart from a few bold undertakings, I nevertheless was devoted to keeping the discipline of art practice, and a journal, whether travelling, working or in a studio setting.

I liked the world of documentation, reading and thinking & my preference for ideas exchanges was to meet friends in cafes, at events and talk fests like writers festivals.

Graduating Art School in 1980 unless a female was endowed with enormous talent, huge self-belief or bucket-loads of pluck it was easier to hide behind a day job, part-time art-making or group art projects than to step up as an artist onto a public stage & take a risk.

Despite this reticence I was consistent at keeping the threads of my creative passions alive.

After a major relocation from Melbourne to Newcastle in 2000, aged 42, I began to address in earnest how my art practice had to change. I didn't need to work any harder at art, be any more serious about my philosphy or content ...but I did need to stop hiding out so to speak... and take some more risks.

Returning part time to Art School in 2000 & watching first time art students actively promote their early work, print business cards, set up exhibitions and talk about plans & expectations demonstrated a new ethos was alive & well in the Art Schools of this era & my NOT being a more a more public artist was pointless. I began to participate in group shows, entered Art Competitions & worked on showing solo. In 2007 commenced a Masters of Fine Arts at Newcastle University.

Another major relocation unexpectedly occurred in 2008 following sudden medical complications that saw me leaving work as a teacher in schools and putting the MFA on hold. I consequently moved north to live with family in Brisbane.

Unable to pursue MFA research or teaching work in Brisbane I went back to the drawing board, literally and metaphorically, read extensively, painted, started blogging & considering new possibilities ... the Homage to the Seed project was born when I realised I could bring a seed focus to me

The brought was the point when I stumbled into the world of blogging. My private journal process became a public blog process. It took me while to get over the feeling of

With a new artistic & philosophical direction to develop blogging was the means... the scaffolding... the format to do so. First this blog named then Visual Eclectica.

Then the Studio Archive Blog which I've not visited for a few years to post on sadly.

Studio vignette
Then in 2010 The Homage to the Seed blog began in earnest. I'm very sad that so many images that accompanied interesting posts have disappeared form there now.

A scroll through the Instagram feed from the beginning takes you back to the time in 2013 of a significant relocation in Brisbane when I packed up my temporary Paddington Studio went through the slow process of selling the Clayfield family home and relocating with my elderly mother to a more spacious home with an excellent studio plus everything in place to suit her current needs. Although there were some very productive times during this change it was a good 9 months without a studio and managing the chaos.

Photos below are taken around the time of the launch of SeedArtLab November 2013.

The Instagram gallery therefore tracks the story from the relocation through to the setting up and launch of SEEDARTLAB and a series of residencies, the launch of my workshop program SEEDS THROUGH AN ARTIST'S LENS and all the activities and projects that have filled the period between late 2013 til now.

BELOW: Images from PLANTBANK ... location of a series of Residencies in 2014, 2015 & 2016. This leading Australian Seed Research facility, opened late 2013 at the Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan in South West Sydney, was an excellent location for furthering the exploration and research for the Homage to the Seed project.

1000's of photos of seed material, notes, interviews, drawings & paintings, workshops and an exhibition resulted from this period of engagement.

Its worth mentioning that all this material has also been put to great use in various other residencies, presentations and projects that have occurred throughout that period and since.

I had hoped to put together a visual book with notes around the PlantBank experience. However I've been kept flat out with other work since April, 2016 when I completed the Plantbank stint and have not found time to get to that.

Last year preparing work for exhibition in the US I revisited the Journal from my Millennium Seedbank Residency in October 2011.

Trawling through pages of this journal it struck me how difficult it's been to process the incredible wealth of material & stimulus stemming from consecutive residencies into a form that captures precisely what I would most like to share from it all.

Setup for a workshop at Melbourne Botanic Gardens in 2016 
Competing agendas, like making sure the calendar contains enough paid gigs coming up, enough workshops to balance the books... all that is distracting as much as its crucial. Launching a workshop program in 2015 was important for many reasons ... it took a great deal of time and energy to grow it into the experience it did actually become. 
Images from the first SEEDS THROUGH AN ARTIST'S LENS WORKSHOP at PlantBank

I'm so delighted to have shaped a course that brought together enthusiastic people from widely varying disciplines & interests, merged aspects of Seed Science with Art, artist books and new ideas in a refreshing way, growing a kind of online community as a result. 
A flyer from a 2 day workshop held north of Brisbane in April. 

That more that anything did prove to take a lot of time in the last few years. As many find who teach there is less time for one's own artwork. Yet... there is a brilliant opportunity to review what one values, the core material of ones own practice and teaching. And that all feeds back into the Art practice even if not in such obvious ways at the time.

A strong focus on small works, concertina books and artist's books was reignited during the intensive period of teaching.

So what is happening now:
I'm currently preparing for a November residency In Hong Kong at the Kellett British International School and working on several other projects.

Recent artworks:

Daintree River Seed Cloth
size: 50 cm x 120 cm
materials: linen, acrylic & pigmented inks, linen thread stitching. (clear medium undercoat and matt spray varnish)

'Daintree River seed cloth' references fantastic matchbox seedpods sent from Far North Queensland in June by David White who runs the 'Daintree River Wildlife & Crocodile Cruises’ near the World Heritage Daintree National Park.
NB: Botanical Name: Entada phaseoloides

View of work as it was being completed ready to send. 
I was thrilled to be sent several of these stunning pods among a collection of seedpods from rainforest species in the Wet Tropics. They were mostly found in the actual Daintree River by David. He scooped the pods from the river, dried them out then shipped them to my studio SEEDARTLAB … so this work is in part a tribute to that wonderful surprise but also to the extraordinary biodiversity of the tropical north of this continent.

Seed Diversity Cloth:
work in progress

size: 140 cm x 100 cm
materials: linen, linen & cotton stitching, acrylic & pigmented inks. (clear medium undercoat and matt spray varnish)

The finished artwork was professionally scanned with a 600 MB file so I can offer Limited Edition Prints. That file is too large to share even at a drastically reduced size... hence this image above.

A strong motivation behind this cloth is in part informed by my work to understand the concept and implications of preserving Seed Diversity. I gradually came to understand the role of organisations involved in this work.

When I began the Homage to the Seed project I discovered the politics around seeds frequently brought considerable negativity to the science of seeds, and the institutions & organisations working with seeds. irregardless of the nature & focus of the work.

The caretaker role of some of the most crucial mechanisms in place to conserve seed diversity was treated with as much suspicion & contempt as the transitionals profiting from their patented seeds.

For this reason I pursued the public discourse around this work, asked many questions when on residency in laces like the KEW Millennium Seedbank ... until it became clear that Seed Conservation and the concept of Seed Diversity was simply not widely understood ... I found I talk to that through my work.

I have an project with the Crop Trust at the moment ...  an international organization working to "safeguard crop diversity, forever."

This organisation has been a ongoing isourse of information since 2011. My artwork was shown in their Annual General Report for 2014 and in a Xmas card in 2014.

Based in Bonn, Germany they collaborate with many key organisations to preserve seeds … specifically Crop Diversity around the globe, partnering with organisations like the KEW Millennium Seedbank in the UK and crucial gene banks holding genetic diversity of wild relative species as well as cultivated crops and landraces.

So for now... on with the preparation for Hong Kong and completing work over the next month before I leave.