Tuesday, July 30, 2013

5 weeks later...

I've lost track of the last time I posted.... but it was June 26th when I left Clayfield and its now almost August and I can finally say Ive landed in the new home and have been here all of 4 days.

The State Library which I frequented during the last month or so.

We're concentrating on setting up the all important things first... kitchen, sleeping quarters and such so my studio is being ignored. The 5 week of nomadic life reminded me of the things that really are important in daily life. I had three wonderful homes to go to and was offered such gracious hospitality in each different home.

I realise that my life has changed these days immeasurably ... once a keen nomad-type I would gladly set up camp, stay with friends or in places all over without a second thought. 

These days I am impossibly given to home routines and feeling settled. I can draw a line between past and future back around 2003 when I began to realise I was not lured away very often and became quite bad at preparations and leaving. This was almost in complete opposition to how i had always been so it was quite shocking to register the change and did wonder about it from time to time.

This limbo time I had many plans for and expected to get a huge amount done on my book.

I did make a point of setting up places to work ... like the Asia Pacific Design centre at the State Library where one can read many recent magazines, journals and publications.

I had plenty to quiet time and not so many distractions yet I was torn, anxious at times about the year passing, and just plain restless.

I went to various outlets like the Antique Centre at Wolloongabba where I came upon some interesting Eames furniture... some in really good condition. Here I fantasised about my new studio-to-be.

I had some photos of the new place which I looked at here and there, like this one above of the path up the side of the house... usually when showing a friend where I would be living and working. I had particularly deep exchanges with friends during this time. Somehow being so thrown off course with the move and months or prep, encountering old vulnerabilities, brought some really wonderful exchanges to light with much appreciated friends.

Ive been far too busy working through all the stages of settling in over the past 4 days that I haven't taken any images of the new place. Soon!

Best to any of you who still wonder by here... no internet at the moment. Ive rigged up my iphone tonight to do this wee post... so that's something!

S x

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rescuing images for the archives

Its really rather mind-blowing how easy it is to document images now if one has access to a digital camera and computer... compared to not all that long ago.

In 1989 I'd settled in Melbourne after 2 years in London and travelling. I'd taken loads of photos whilst overseas and was so disenchanted with the quality of the images on the whole, and the feeling that one could not really collapse precious memories into film that I'd pulled back from bothering with cameras. 

Hence I have some years with very patchy photographic records. I did however take a camera on a 1989 trip to Central Australia and took some surprisingly memorable shots which I seem to remember pinning to my studio wall in the house I lived in in Kew, in north-east Melbourne.

I drew and painted extensively once home from these photographs as well as pinned up work I had completed during the travels.

Below are the drawings I'd put up on the wall and photographed later that same year. Recently I rephotographed the photo of the work on the wall on my iPhoto so I would have a digital version ... and despite it being a very dubious way to get a good image its satisfying enough for me to have this record online of what was a particularly affecting trip.

It was winter ... I'd been back in Australia about a year and felt the need to visit the Centre as I'd not been there before. If I could travel other continents then at least I should see more of the one I'd grown up on I determined.

These are views of Uluru from various viewpoints whilst walking the grounds and of Katajuta where I spent a whole day walking and drawing with black ink and a twig on large sheets of white paper.

These drawings are very fragile now and I hope to get a decent print of one of 4 drawings I did  at Katajuta in black ink. It immediately takes me back to a remarkable time spent there... of being dropped off in the morning by bus and then waiting for the last bus in the afternoon to get back to camp. Time just seemed to drop out that day... as if I went into some other dimension.

These images of those drawings leave much to be desired... but the feeling is there when I recall walking alone around these ancient rocks and pausing to draw and ponder.

I am thinking that I possibly visited areas that are now off limits to outsiders. I never walked up Uluru and chose instead to wander around the circumference ...but I did hear some years later that places I passed had become closed off in recognition of their being important sacred sites.

Thankfully I did get images form time to time in the Melbourne years so there is a record of some of the work from the period when I was tentatively finding my way into an art practice.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Words and ideas as a foundation for art practice

Yesterday I posted these quotes at the Visual Eclectica blog. It seemed fitting to post them here and add notes about the way words and ideas underlie much of the work I do in my Art Practice.

Of late my Facebook page: Homage to the Seed was the easiest means of keeping communications going when all was getting so complex with packing and moving. The brilliant upside of this pac-up was that I took time (I almost couldn't afford) to sort home studio contents properly.

In doing that I looked over years of writing... on A4 pages, scraps of paper and in journals... kept along the way as well as the photos and materials intrinsic to my practice.

This text by Franz Marc was one of the earliest quotes I saved. I remember at Art School being continually drawn to the German Expressionists and unexpectedly finding in the work of Klee and Kandinsky in particular something very nourishing for the journey into thinking about painting. There might have been a whole world of painters out there who could easily be identified as impressive or fascinating ... but it was the artists associated with German Expressionist painters whom I was drawn to look at and read about.

I'd had a very committed Art teacher during my 6 years of secondary school who'd given a thorough and comprehensive introduction to Art going back to earliest cave paintings right through to the contemporary world of the 70's. In 1977 I went on to Art school and did a 4 year degree, majoring in Painting whilst also training to teach as one often did in consideration of earning a living.

The tuition at Art School in the late 70's was sparse ... little instruction or dialogue really. We were left to find out own way which on the one hand was annoying for lack of rigorous instruction about material , methods and diverse approaches and thinking.

On the other hand it allowed one to free-range and not be pushed into something that wasn't particularly authentic. And that can be fortuitous when compared to the opposite story one heard from time to time! In a way journals became the crucial companion and the years of note-taking and quotes mounted up and collected into something specifically relevant and curiously connected even if seemingly divergent at face value.

In my early 30's I dedicate myself to studio time for 2 years... without interruption or feeling I had to make a 'career' happen. I found if I lived frugally I could stay with cultivating a path that had personal resonance through reading, writing and deeply examining the ideas that had loosely surrounded me for some time and now needed to be made sense of.

There's a whole chapter there but suffice it to say that after 2 years pragmatic themes arose and I changed course in order to tackle ways my practice might become more commercially viable by developing the material produced in this period of retreat.

At first I developed Art cards, found outlets in good book shops, Art Gallery shops and boutiques and offered over time themed series of cards. That was a good foundation in business whilst remiaing true to my art content. However it became such a production line that after 15 months, despite success, I could not maintain the momentum which left little time for Art.

This lead to launching a shop-front Business in Collingwood, Melbourne where I could diversify, offer 8 week courses and produce work by commission. It was in this period that I was reading writers like Thomas Moore and bringing the ideas of many like him to my course on Journalling which attracted a fascinating range of individuals, many in creative fields or those who were keen to explore their ideas in a gritty way in this course.

Screen shot from Facebook where I recently posted this quote.

This journalling course would introduce a carefully considered theme each week where participants might bring in material they had found or worked on for discussion and we would look at the evening's theme that might include text from poets, writers, thinkers with images and stories and lead into hearty dialogue tackling the themes as they related to our own lives.

One could say that it was a course in 'artful participation' with each other's themes and stories whilst digging into the layers from one's inner life... not facilitated or shared as one might in group therapy... but negotiated through the lens of artful engagement and response to the minds of poets, artists and so on. In this way not disimilar to how a book club might work. There was room for candour, a note of melancholy or outbursts of laughter... but a box of tissues was not needed in this context as individuals soon learnt their story would be met with respect and warm interest in its individuality.

What I brought to these courses was wide-ranging material from my own reading, writing and art-making and a profound desire to engage with others in a kind of rigorous reckoning of the things that matter to us and where Art comes in and this notion of artful participation. I wasn't terribly enamoured with the language of the Art World at that time. I found many who also felt it left them out or didn't address what  interested them.

Here I could write anther whole chapter.

I'm going to add a recent quote from writer Thomas Moore here which I posted as well on the other blog.

I found an article  at Huffington Post that he wrote on Education for his column.

Huff Post: 

Thomas Moore has been a monk, a musician, a professor, a psychotherapist, an author and a lecturer. His book Care of the Soul was a number one bestseller and he's written about 20 books in all. Currently he's working hard trying to bring soul to medicine.

From article: 

Redefining Education: Cultivating the Soul

I took this excerpt below from this article which will give you a taste of his thinking:

"One way is not to treat the material we teach as things. I've used mythology in much of my writing, and frequently a reader will say to me, "I never knew that mythology had anything to do with my life." Most people could say the same about many things they have studied. I didn't know literature had anything to do with me. I didn't know that science had something to say about my life. I didn't know that I could sort out moral issues by reading poems.
The "thingification" of education has cost us an immeasurable loss of values and insight. We build great machines, but we don't know how to use them for human edification. Many have studied the natural world as a collection of things of which we are the absent landlord. We grant Ph.D.s to people without knowing if they're ready to be creative and responsible citizens of the world. As long as they know certain things...
Maybe it's time to restore subjectivity to the subjects we study and to redefine our very idea of education. We could guide people as they learn not only things of value but also how to be."
You can probably see why I was so interested in his thinking and how well it fitted with my exploration of Art and Ideas ... what we make of things, feel about them and how value is accorded to them... and  all of this being so intricately bound together as I see it in undertaking to be an artist.  Discussion of ideas is for me central... a rich encountering of other thinking seems to be critically useful along the way.

I enjoy the company of those who know we don't all think the same, share the same impulses, stories, backgrounds and journeys. I like to feel connections and rapport... that makes me relax and be open... but that does not come from feeling my life is the same as another's... or we like the same things. The rapport comes from a certain quality of engagement... not based on assumptions but on something much deeper than that.

Living in a variety of communities and landscapes, each with a unique character and history brings the challenge of getting to know a place and its people. How it works, feels, thinks and so on.

It might be said that people are the same the world over ... yes and no!

Certain things are universal... we laugh and cry, we plan and build, things break down and end, we despair and have hope,  we rise up and go on. Cyclically! We humans have much in common. But its my thinking that experiences are shaped by place and circumstance... and although it is possible to rise above circumstances that suppress us... there's a great deal to be understood along the way. NOT making the effort to understand individual, unique and diverse  circumstances seems actually quite counter-productive in terms of making the kind of world we all night prosper in.

Living globally as we very much do now.... even if we like to think we are "away" from everything we don't like ... its a huge challenge that we cant ever really pretend is not there. It may make sense not to listen to the News the way it is delivered and to avoid tapping into things that make ones heart race and fears flare up... but .... by the same token it is important to remember the "we" aspect of being on this planet. I hope more join the "we" as we go into this future. Young ones have a big job to pick up now.  

It seems necessary to get an entirely new take on our roles from now on... as artists... and as human beings. In the 70's 'opting out' had such a positive ring to it. Opting in to wide-ranging + cross-boundaries options now is looking like the more mature position and nothing much is going to sway me from that unfashionable position. In complex times we need to be complex people... not obsessed with a level of comfort that is dwindling before our eyes as less feel like sharing and more hands are out.

The Balance Unbalanced 2013 international Conference I went to at Noosa in June focused on how the Arts might align with other disciplines to counter Climate Change. I sat in a number of sessions where the topic was the Age of Unsettlement and home, homelessness and belonging was discussed at length, with case studies presented from various places on the world map including my own country. 

We discussed how many now exist on the verge of homelessness... one weather disaster away, one step away, one pay-check away. No fallback positions in so many cases. We talked about how radically we would need to change our lifestyles if we truly want to deal with this rather than just say how sad it is.

I was glad to be in a context were people were talking about this. Too often I seem to encounter people who don't get it ... or are too haughty to accept that it could be them in this position ...  or too ashamed to admit how close they feel to it. Lets talk about the stuff that matters and stop keeping the lid on the shame!

i just want to say...

come one everyone... let's get smarter right now.

Is anyone reading this?

What do you think?
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About Me

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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.