Artists, Exhibitions, Experiments, Studio practice, Textiles, upcycling

Sighting Memory exhibition

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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).

SIGHTING MEMORY invite 2 copyHere 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.

Sighting Memory is a joint exhibition of new work by artists Rhonda Pryor and Sepideh Farzam.

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:

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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.

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Each frame has been individually hand painted to tie in with their ‘portrait’.

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Please pop in to see the show if you get the chance. I’d love to know what you think.

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Experiments, Paper, repair, Studio practice, Textiles

Studio work: chaos, conflict, and the path to resolution

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I’ve been spending time in the studio working on some paper pieces – with cloth and text   too, of course – reflecting on chaos, conflict and resolution.

It seems to be part of an evolving theme I’m exploring about my dad. Always having thought of him as a fairly difficult man, with moments of intense love and attachment, I have for many years thought about examining his relationship with his family and his love of the Papua New Guinean people – his comrades during World War II.

Dad trained members of PNG police force during the war, and recorded, in Pidgin English, testimonies of the native people affected by Japanese war crimes after its end. You’ll see some of his handwritten and typed records in these photos.

Rather than embarking on a comprehensive analysis of his life, I’m finding myself drawn to examining bits, vignettes if you like, that catch in my memory. And the more I do this the more I see parallels with contemporary life, and sometimes specifically with my own.

In the contemporary world Japan is a major trading partner and friend of Australia; a remarkable contrast between Dad’s memories and mine. I love the Japanese, their culture, art practices and traditions. And the contrasts between the WWII era and now are both strikingly different and proof of the possibilities of reconciliation.

Having dug up some lovely vellum I bought in New York twenty years ago (in my painting days – and I’d always thought it too beautiful to use), I’m combining it with a variety of rice papers and vintage threads.

A selection of stitches that have their own particular meanings in this context: a ‘mattress’ surgical stitch, running/sashiko, and the stitch method used to repair Japanese sake bags (I don’t know if it has a name, but please let me know if you do) are really important to the work.

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Vintage Japanese rice paper from notebooks and ledgers.

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Burnt Arches paper, surgical stitching in vintage linen thread, handwritten text.

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Placement of layers of hand dyed muslin, like bandages, over the work, ready for stitching.

An attempt at mending.

I’m hoping to get at least one piece completed this week, so will show you the results in due course…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Experiments, Paper, Studio practice

The seductive qualities of raw materials

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Dyed mulberry bark

Sometimes (well, frequently actually) I get sucked in to materials. Their various qualities zap onto something in my subconscious and I acquire them, often letting them sit in the studio for a ridiculously long time before knowing what to do with them.

Often it’s a time issue because there are occasions I know exactly what I want to do with a certain material and by the time I do get around to using the thing I’m almost salivating while handling and making with it. This exact thing happened last week with three pieces of Japanese mulberry bark paper I bought late last year.

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Boiling the avocado pieces in muslin

First, I dyed two pieces of the (very white) paper with avocado.  I wrapped about 1 kilogram of chopped avocado pips and skins in muslin and boiled the bundle in my big aluminium dye pot, with about 4 litres of water (enough to cover the bundle) for about an hour and left it overnight. Next day I heated the pot again, popped in the loose paper sheets and left them in for about 45 minutes.

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Post dye pot – Beautiful textures of the bark

The result was a lovely soft, goldy-pink colour with the beautiful surface sheen of the mulberry glowing through. I’m always amazed that you get pink out of avocado but there you have it. Note the beautiful, gnarled spiderwebbiness of the bark.

Looking for deeper colour I tried adding Spanish onion skins that I know can produce a very appealing rosy-pink. I really love the colour of these onions (and beetroot, which I understand is hopeless to dye with) … and purple carrots, by the way. With the uneven openness and quite firm body of the paper I knew the bunding method would be unlikely to work because it couldn’t be tightly rolled. However, I thought the result might be some pretty rosy blotches on the lighter background shown in the picture above.

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Mulberry bark with Spanish onion skins

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Loosely bundled for the dye pot

After bundling with rubber bands (being careful not to break the paper) I put it in the heated avocado dye pot, which now had only about two litres of dye water, simmered it for about 45 minutes, then left it to soak for a while.

The result was a richer, darker, fairly evenly distributed, dusty rose-pink with a lovely unevenness due to the bark’s construction. No rosy blotches, but a happy result nonetheless.

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The lovely deep pinky brown result

I intend to stitch with these pieces, either individually or sewn together into one larger work.

Something sculptural.

Watch this space to see what happens! And whether or not it works…

 

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