This week I begin a ten month artist residency at the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability at Balls Head, Waverton in Sydney. A beautiful industrial site overlooking Sydney Harbour and situated next to HMAS Waterhen, it’s a tranquil, lush and inspiring place to work and explore.
If I don’t get too distracted by the views.
I’m looking forward to exploring the industrial remnants and history of this unique site that serves as a much-loved community resource, in what has to be one of the most incredible locations for an artist-in-residence studio. The industrial features are everywhere – even the studio floor.
I’ll be working with old, used fabrics and other materials, reflecting on the influences of the site’s industrial and commercial history, its surviving architectural elements, and the juxtaposition with its current use.
There will be a public program including a monthly open studio and several workshops throughout the year, so the public can pop in for a chat and see what I’m working on, or learn some new skills if so inclined.
Here’s a link you might be interested in with some details of the site. In a future blog I’ll add another link to the public programs page when the workshops and open studios have been finalised.
So drop around and say hi, and check out the community vegetable gardens, beautiful harbour views, great cafe (opposite the studio) and the chicken coop.
And don’t forget all that rust, those evocative tunnels, and that crumbly wharf – all begging to be photographed and explored.
North Sydney Council are gratefully acknowledged for the provision of the Coal Loader Artist Studio.
It’s been a full-on start to 2018. New workshops are planned, a refurbished art centre I’m involved with is nearing completion, and I have new work in development for exhibitions in the second half of the year.
Firstly, its amazing to see the progress of the refurbishment of a building in my local area (Lane Cove in Sydney) for a creative art centre where both practitioners and community can make, practice, and explore their creative potential. As a member of the Centrehouse Management Committee and its refurbishment sub-committee, it has been a bit of a long slog getting the new Gallery Lane Cove + Creative Studios building happening.
But this week’s site visit has made it all seem within reach at last. (Big pats on the back for all the fantastic committee members and Lane Cove Council staff who have made this happen!).
The huge, light-filled painting and drawing studio.
The textile studio.
With studios that will accommodate painting and drawing classes, textile practice, printmaking and ceramics, as well as space for practising visiting artists, the new centre will replace the old Centrehouse Community Art Centre facilities and be located on two floors beneath the existing (and recently renovated) Gallery Lane Cove.
One of the artist-in-residence spaces.
On track to open mid year, the centre will be a welcome addition to the fast-developing northern Sydney region. Stay tuned for news about all the opening events!
I also have some new workshops coming up in the next couple of months I want to let you know about. Click on the links for more information and bookings.
The kids are back at school, I’ve had a massive clean-out in the studio, and I’m gearing up for some long studio sessions to make work for some exhibitions that are coming up later in the year. I’m just putting the finishing touches on workshop plans for children and adults so will let you know about those soon.
Over the Christmas break I have been doing the usual reflections on the previous year, taking stock and planning for the next. So … I thought it timely to share a few of the highlights and interesting things I’ve encountered before launching into 2018 proper.
Some standout exhibitions from 2017. So different but so good!
Piksa Niugini, Stephen Dupont: Darwin Museum and Art Gallery; The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture: National Gallery of Victoria; Interior Landscapes, Elisabeth Cummings: Orange Regional Gallery.
OTHER ARTISTS, AND OTHERWISE GENERALLY INTERESTING PEOPLE
Norwegian textile artist extraordinaire. Oh my God. So beautiful I think I’m going to die.
From nature – of all places.
KosciuszkoNational Park, long (v.e.r.y. long) walks amongst the wildflowers and lakes. The price you pay for silence and serenity…
Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory.
Working Class Man (and its prequel, Working Class Boy), Jimmy Barnes
Oh my God! These books are a compelling, gutsy, and raw insight into poverty, violence and neglect, and the possible consequences for those caught up in that web. A brave revelation of the reality so many human beings face. Much food for thought.
The Last Girl, Nadia Murad
Another Oh. My. God. account of life from another world. Nadia’s story is a seriously courageous one, describing the murder of much her village’s population, and her kidnap and sexual slavery along with all the young girls from her village. Her account of her escape is chilling, and all the more haunting as few of her peers have been as lucky.
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
I loved this and couldn’t put it down, but was ever so slightly underwhelmed at the ending.
Alone in Berlin, Hans Fallada
An insidious and chilling account of life in Berlin during World War 2: trying to live your life while trust and humanity evaporate around you at a rate of knots.
The Art Rules, Paul Klein
Some pretty decent, practical advice for artists here.
The Good People, Hannah Kent
An absorbing story about rural Irish farmers and their beliefs, although I didn’t find it quite as thrilling, or as heartbreaking, as her first novel, Burial Rites.
First We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson
An inside view of living with anxiety. Pretty compelling, especially if you know someone who is dealing with it. Quirks, weirdness and acceptance all thrown together.
Practical home Mending Made Easy, Mary Brooks Picken
Said to be a mending bible. It’s certainly thorough! One for my textile reference library.
Fashion and Orientalism, Adam Geczy
Meticulously researched history of oriental influences on Western clothing. Authored by my old lecturer!
The Textile Reader, Jessica Hemmings (ed.)
This is a gem. I’ve only just started it but am thoroughly fascinated by it. Recommended to anyone interested in textile theory.
Now I’ve got all that off my chest, and the decks are almost cleared, I’m looking forward to getting down to work in the studio.
I want to share with you visual art and textile lovers a couple of intriguing articles I’ve come across of late.
The first is a piece in issue number 77 of Selvedge magazine, Keeping Body and Soul Together. If you don’t have access to a print copy you can see an abbreviated version of the article here, under the title Going Going Ge Ba. With the most beautiful photography by Mark Eden Schooley, the article by quilt expert Dr Sue Marks outlines the old Chinese practice of making ‘Ge Ba’, a type of textile collage. With up to 15 fabric layers held together with rice glue, the resulting pieces (roughly 40 x 60 cm) were pretty tough, and were cut up to sole shoes!
All kinds of fabrics scraps were used to make Ge Ba, anything worn out or no longer of use, old embroideries and even propaganda cloth. Perhaps they can be seen as a Chinese version of Japanese boro.
I think you’ll see why I love them. The compositions are striking textural abstracts, in much the same vein as boro.
The other article I wanted to mention is also a Selvedge one. Painting with Wool, on their blog of September 27, features American textile artist Channing Hansen‘s organic knitted works. This guy is wild! His complicated compositions are made of various natural fibres he dyes himself, patch-knitted in rambling formations. His work process must be so frenzied!
I just wanted to let you all know about my upcoming kids’ school holiday workshops. Book your crafty, stitch-crazy kids in for some imaginative and skill-building creative time!
STITCHDRAWING: 10-4, Friday 29th September or Friday 6th October, Ku-ring-Gai Art Centre
This is a new workshop that will build manual and imaginative skills. Here’s what we’ll be up to:
Share in an imaginative day of stitch drawing: making marks and drawing on cloth. We’ll use some basic hand stitches with different thread to create texture, line and pattern. Use your wild imagination to make an experimental abstract or figurative picture. Take home your own original cloth drawing.
Well, Sighting Memory has finished and its time to head back into the studio. The exhibition, with Sepideh Farzam at Gaffa Gallery in Sydney, was a fantastic experience. The gallery team at Gaffa are great to work with, and it was a real pleasure working with another artist who has such an affinity for cloth and feeling, and who produces such sensitive, unique work.
For those of you who were unable to make it to the gallery, you can see images of the works below. Most of these were taken by the very talented Marty Lochmann.
A Close Marriage, 2017, reclaimed clothing, silks, pearl beads, thread, 203 x 110 cm. Photograph: Marty Lochmann.
A Close Marriage, detail. Photograph: Marty Lochmann.
As mentioned in my previous post the exhibition focused on textiles and their ability to store and convey memory, a theme characterising both our practices.
Familial, (detail), 2017, Belgian linen, reclaimed textiles, thread, hand painted timber frame, 45 x 35 cm. Photograph: Marty Lochmann.
My framed works were representations of people and relationships close to me. Using old textiles that struck me as meaningful and memory-charged, together with thread or yarn, I stitched and abstracted ‘portraits’. The combination of Belgian linen and hand painted frames make specific reference to the tradition of portrait painting.
Verandah (detail), 2017, Belgian linen, reclaimed textiles, thread, hand painted timber frame, 45 x 35 cm. Photograph: Marty Lochmann.
A Close Marriage, and Sepideh Farzam’s Principles, 2017, fabric, vest and thread, 91 x 114 cm.
Sepideh Farzam’s Don’t Leave Me Alone, 2017 (left), fabric, pullover and thread, 58 x 148 cm, and Insomnia, 2017 (right), doormat, fabric and thread, 60 x 56 x 53 cm.
Sepideh’s work concentrates on female perspectives and extensively uses hand stitching. Her amazing work, Insomnia (pictured below), is an incredible piece – sadly, my photograph doesn’t do it justice.
Sepideh Farzam’s Insomnia.
If you’d like to be informed of upcoming exhibitions and events please get in touch via the link at the top of the page. I’d love to meet you at one of these events.
After several months of experimentation, studio rearrangement and all kinds of work disruption my new exhibition is about to open. It’s a joint show of textile based work with my friend (an amazing and very sensitive artist) Sepideh Farzam.
Sighting Memory will be opening at Gaffa in Sydney’s CBD on Thursday 17 August, from 6 to 8 pm. I hope you’ll be able to drop in and have a look if you’re in town. The show runs from 17 to 28 August and is open Mondays to Saturdays (Gaffa: 1st floor, 281 Clarence Street, Sydney 2000, T: 9283 4273).
Here is a bit of info about the exhibition:
Identity and relationships, memory and emotion: some of the most explored themes in contemporary society. Observations of human relationships: deep, body-embedded memories of personal experiences. Combine these subjects with the re-use of old textiles and you have a contemplative and sensitive appraisal of life.
Human beings long for connection. The ability of cloth to hold traces of direct personal contact make it perfect memory stuff. It can hold traces of body shape, show unique signs of wear by its user, even bear an individual’s DNA. It’s a fascinating substance to work with.
While working across several disciplines as artists, we’re drawn to the significance of textiles and their ability to trigger a memory response. Fragments of old, worn clothing combine with other materials to draw attention to the uniqueness and intimacy of human ties and the feelings they spark. With a keen sensitivity to observation, Sighting Memory explores these themes in an abstract way, addressing identity and referencing portraiture.
Here are a few images of my experimentation and process leading up to the exhibition:
Each work has been developed using Belgian linen and old textiles, in a reference to painting, relationships and personalities embedded in memory. I like to think of these works as ‘portraits’. Not everyone’s definition, I know, but I think its time for an update.
Each frame has been individually hand painted to tie in with their ‘portrait’.
Please pop in to see the show if you get the chance. I’d love to know what you think.
So when did a tidy studio become a thing? I’ve tried, believe me, but just can’t make it work. All those blog posts and magazine spreads that show studios looking like they’ve just been painted, pimped and primed for ‘work’ do my head in. Little snippets of showpieces, that’s all they are…
Mine, on the other hand, simply operates around a kind of chaos where I can generally find everything (thank you visual memory) but can’t seem to negotiate the time to put everything away before starting something new. In fact, I frequently work over the top of things because I haven’t cleared a nice, inviting horizontal surface first.
I can confidently say I have nil clear horizontal planes anywhere in my workspace. This is, of course, exacerbated due to preparing for an upcoming show in August, and an influx of more pre-loved clothing I’ve been taking apart, but I’ve come to realise – only lately – that I really don’t care. That tidy desk tidy mind stuff just doesn’t match my brain. Whatever works.
These pictures are of some of the tidier bits of my studio. Full of promise and wonder.
In fact, the whole chaos thing seems to suit me. I love finding bits of cloth/paper/yarn/photographs/wood/clumps of tangled thread/hair around the place and allowing them to suggest form for another work. The process can take a while though… like years.
And while I’m at it, falling prey to chaos has been the reason for my non-blogging of late. My apologies to anyone expecting the regular fortnightly thing I promised earlier in the year, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
So my advice to you all is this: don’t even think of trying to conform to the expectations of others (within reason I suppose I should add); just get on with your thing, and; believe in yourself while you’re going about it.