Sunday, September 22, 2013

a weekend and some remarkable children...

Saturday morning was a flurry of activity making sure the studio was really organised for the first workshop in this new space!

I took time to find a niche for everything to belong somewhere useful ... divying up art materials into precise keeping places according to kind of product and frequency of use.

The night before I'd worked on canvas... one of a number of recycled canvases a friend recently dropped off for me to use as they'd been left behind by his Uni class and he was keen they not be thrown out. Taking on discarded stretcher frames can be too much at times... but  all the hyper-organisation of late meant there was room and I decided to use them for these initial sessions getting back into painting after an unusually long break. Its liberating to be working over a previously used canvas... one is not precious about the results which is very freeing.

This 40 cm x 120 cm work below is a case in point. Working in colours slightly outside the usual palette was great for a start... and getting into the flow in a very organic way allowed it to emerge as i went along... watching, or moreover, listening to a brilliant doco on the life of extraordinary pianist, musician Glen Gould.

As for the result... its too soon to determine whether it will stay as is. Playing with the idea of seeds across millennia, pouring out into the endless emerging now... this is an idea ... the intimation of endlessness... that I return to time and again.

Back to Saturday and preparing the studio...

Opportunity presented itself for me to offer an Intensive class on Seeds and Plants to a young student... a very keen 12 year old boy ...  it seemed important to find someone to invite to join with him to do a special holiday class. A friend's 9 yr old daughter was the first thought and class started at 10am Saturday going through till 2.30pm which allowed us to cover some fascinating material trying numerous visual approaches.

Afternoon... both in full swing.

Excuse me for putting this series of images this way up... it gives an overview of the Jackson's work which we laid out to dry on the floor. He relished being in this space it seemed... my shelves laden with seeds and pods ...specimens gathered ll over the place.

And then there were the books which he was keen to pour through. His memory of the species he's seen before is really evident  as he talks about forays into the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane , Cairns and elsewhere. What struck me was that he had been frequenting these places from his earliest years and... as the only child of two devoted parents had quietly been given the chance to constantly further his interests in a way that struck me as quietly dilligent and without unnecessary fuss. 

It seemed they'd perhaps learnt the art of nurturing this inquisitive, somewhat rare mind in their son 
Jackson in a really solid, grounded way ... balancing these passions of his for the world of nature with Piano lessons and connections with others his age.

Subsequently he's a very motivated 12 yr old who would easily already be most at home in a Science lab ... despite his young age. This is his work above and below... revealing great attention to detail and a love of plants in their various configurations. 

9 yr old Sophie has spent time in my studio over recent years here and there...  and seemed a natural to include on this occasion as she has a curious mind and love of leaning that I felt would make her quite at home with an older student with a unique passion for nature. 

It was an excellent pairing ... nothing was forced or expected of them in terms of connecting but it seemed that the level of conversation that ensued did satisfy their intellectually ripe natures. Sophie wasn't coming from a place of having being immersed in a deep passion for nature from the year dot like Jackson clearly has been ... but what they shared was a marked curiosity for thinking and engaging on topics of interest.

Sophie investigated the patterning in this seed pod below... producing a drawing I was taken with for the way it demonstrated close observation of both the structure and patterning in this object. 

The highlight of the day for me was the dialogue between all three of us. The outstanding level of engagement really stemmed from the busy mind of Jackson as he shared with us his surprisingly vast wealth of knowledge and experience of the world of Plants, Funghi, Etamology and even Marine Biology.

Since yesterday I've considered the way the two students interacted and fed of each other's curiosity and commentary... pausing to respond to my questions, comments and challenges. Both were so receptive, open to being nudged along if it made sense to them why. It confirmed for me that learning happens best when focus can be 100% an distractions aren't coming from the noise of unengaged others  in one's space.

A lot of talk at one point in the day's conversation was on the annoying stuff that school brings... it reminded me that bright children can deal with a lot of bullying ... and if not direct bullying ... then certainly undermining by those who begrudge this uniqueness in their peers. Both children are interested in others and like having close friendships. Yet both were having to be quite cavvy about how to deal with the messages they get from those around.

It reminded me of certain experiences I've encountered over the last 5 years where a growing passion to explore and think deeply about Seeds and Plants in my Art Practice has aroused some remarkably stiff competition seemingly out of the blue... moments of confrontation with less than pleasant attitudes tha can be bewildering in their intensity and pointlessness.

Pragmatically of course its best to identify poor behaviour or attitudes that undermine for what they are, identify and name them and move on... making sure to grow fruitful connections in their place that allow one to be free of such distraction. To hear a 12 year old and 9 year old discussing how to navigate this was fascinating. Being smart, talented, different and so on can arouse asll kinds of reactions in others and learning how best to not further provoke undue unpleasantness or alternatively how not to completely suppress one's uniqueness for the sake of connection and social acceptance is a big thing for children... and it would seem for adults if I think on it.

Saturdays class was such a frank and interesting reminder of this.

Spending Sunday with my grand-nephew Will, soon to be turning five, was also a revelation in some ways. 

Here he is pondering his jelly and blueberries last night!

This afternoon he and I built this half-constructed house...

I'd saved a lot of off-cuts of timber, red perspex and some other bits and pieces ... so we glued bits together and we'll keep it here so we can add to it whenever he visits. A lot of chat came from working together on this project.

I find I'm very drawn at the moment to work with children one to one ... or as I did on Saturday... with two. I spent a good part of the period from 2001 to late 2007 working with children as a substitute teacher in secondary schools. For one so given to working with the individual needs of children of course its a very exhausting experience to be attempting that in a system that is loaded in terms of large classes moving between subjects all day. I did it for 7 years and was not overly concerned when a major illness necessitated my leaving that work environment.

It would make pure economic sense to scale up class sizes but my interest is not in what size fits all learning no matter how tempting it might be to generate the all-important funds that keep things moving that way. What I find is at stake is a much deeper interest in learning what is at the heart of children's lives and thinking now.

Perhaps working on the book over the last months has pushed me to ask deeper questions on virtually everything, al over again ... I keep chewing over and evaluating what is most critical in terms of the purpose and direction I am aiming to articulate. 

Some months back I felt an urgency about getting this book together... however... at a certain point I stopped and completely reckoned with myself over the need to be more sure and absolutely clear in my heart and mind before I attempt to throw my words and ideas at the world.

And in that light this weekend has been invaluable!

Here's to a good week for all!


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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.