Sunday, October 18, 2009

artist-in-residency, Victoria University, Melbourne 2009

January 5th - 31st 2009 Artist-In-Residency : Victoria University, 300 Flinders St, Melbourne. The School of Creative Industries 17th floor studios was the location for the residency, with views across the city in all directions. The space was flexible due to partitioned walls which could be moved - thus the studio expanded over the 4 week residency as the work developed and ideas came to life on paper, cardboard and canvas. 
The series of images below is a reflection of the various directions the work took. The first week was by far the most challenging for several reasons - dramatically different climate, accomodation and work areas to become familiar with, and 3 days bed-ridden with illness (a planned operation occured 5 weeks later!)That aside, the 4 weeks were an extraordinarily productive period - after a slow start. Initially the environment was something of a shock. As shown in the images below being 17 floors up in the midst of city buildings was in stark contrast to the lush green subtropical  outlook and domesticity of my home studio in Brisbane. I had gone from responding visually to the vegetation around my Queenslander home to needing to interact with stark geometric lines in profusion everywhere I looked.I was reminded that when I left Melbourne In 2000 to relocate to Newcastle, NSW it had taken quite a long time to loosen up and move on from the geometrical forms that seemed to follow me from Melbourne and to find my way into a preoccupation with water and ocean and swimming had brought a flowing element into the work. The fresh bombardment of City shapes and colours and lines...everywhere lines...were what started my hand moving and filling pages with spare elements at first and then gradually filled in forms. After a week geometry made sense. And the jazz-tinged rhthym of life in inner Melbourne was having its effect on me.

Reconnections with friends and places long familiar to me in the past began to thread old stories and new together. I then found myself turning to an autobiographical series of simple works on cardboard that involved listing in chronological all the addresses I had lived at from the time i was born 50 years before. I had come to melbourne and lived for 5 months aged 23, loved it, but been too unsettled to stay where it was all so new! I returned to live in melbourne in 1988, aged 30 - just arrived home from 2 years in London. This time I was truly enamored with this city. I stayed till 1998 when at the close of my business - Themata Studio - I spent 4 months in Brisbane with family considering relocating  to there. But no, back I came for a new start in Melbourne - my third effectively. I commenced a Diploma of painting at Victoria University in 2000 and 4 months into the course  a house-fire  led to the huge decision to leave this place I had been so attached to and move back to NSW.
Hence the autobiographical work in the second week of the old steps were being retraced and connections remade. Very much a processing of the different eras in my life and the associations with place - geography, experiences, people and ideas. This actually wasn't a new idea for me. Iin my 20's i had moved quite often for various reasons - often work related - and mapping or listing them addresses had been a way of making sense of change. In the photo of myself midway through the images I'm standing next to a tall list of locations I'd lived at... a list which never fails to be a catalyst for musing on so many different experiences ...and considering the impact this can have on shaping one's life. Being at the 17th floor studio added a particular perspective to this recounting of biography.
A curious discovery was how this open-ended 4 weeks allowed one the freedom to explore a number of quite different ideas simultaneously. Not needing to produce a tight body of work for a set goal I felt free to allow room for threads of ideas to lead of in different directions. And so -  I did some work with the seedpod form, the bio work, city geometry inspired explorations,  light-hearted, quirky works on brown paper and  finally several large works on unstretched canvas starting out with a palette knife - something not common for me to do. I was resistant - however much I referred to the lines of the city in these large works - to get too focused on hard lines and tight geometry.
The final work 'City Rhythm'  was completed using ink and acrylic on a clear ground on linen. This was given as a gift to the University. A rather more precise and tightly constructed work than others done over the previous 4 weeks,  it did rely heavily on layering to convey the density of city buildings and transparency to add to this energy.
Nine months later it is interesting to reflect on this 4 week residency. Illness and daily challenge to keep on top of that did not stop me from relishing the sense of expansiveness and pushing through that this time allowed. Long hours painting, by day and by night, weekends even, sustained by naps if necessary in bean bags found in storage, access to a library and reading in breaks, running out for coffee and sushi, late night tram trips home on days when temperatures climbed well into the 40's...and the studio was the coolest place to be!
Perhaps the best learning was being reminded that out of stillness and then letting the hand find its way on the page all else follows. I loved emptying out all the "shoulds" and letting what needed to enter the space enter!

NB:  The formatting on this post has not been remotely co-operative... items therefore are placed randomly... not by design! 

The 4 weeks of the residency combined with the freedom of the huge and expandable studio space allowed for the pursuit of various different lines of exploration at the same time. The organic pod forms and the geometric had long vied for equal attention - sometimes seeming like a clear split and other times overlapping.

The work below 'City Rhythms' is now in the collection of Victoria University, Flinders S, Melbourne


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Blogging for me is an extension of keeping a journal which I have done in various forms over the decades. The difference being this is not a closed book! I like that it offers an opportunity to explore that which concerns me as an artist and as an individual about living and participating in this vastly complex, unquestionably exciting yet unnerving time in human history. Through the blog I hope to increase the possibilties for cross-pollination which I believe can strengthen the sense of being part of something both personal and universal that is vital, expansive and refreshing.