Art spaces, Artists, contemporaryart, Exhibitions, Galleries, Inspiration, Studio practice, Textiles

Entering the experiences of others

Imagine walking into a room where masses of cloth that appear to be stained with something like soot or even dirt are arranged over almost the entire floor. Huge paper panels hang from the walls, smeared with dull-coloured stains. Are these marks made by nature or the human hand? Are the surfaces weathered? Accidental? Angry? This was my response on entering the work of Carmen Argote, a Mexican artist living in the US, whose practice focuses strongly on her immediate environment, and her personal responses to it.

This exhibition, As Above, So Below, curated by Margot Norton at New York’s New Museum, is the result of two artist residencies the artist has undertaken in Guadalajara where she delved deeply into the rural and agricultural environments she encountered.

Responding to her surroundings through observation, bodily awareness, local architecture and agricultural activity, she has used materials from those environments directly in the works themselves. Organic substances like coffee, pine needles, avocado and cochineal are embedded into cloth and smudged onto paper through a process of dyeing, or applied to a support like paint. Reflecting an amalgamation of the corporeal and the spiritual in Argote’s practice, her exhibition’s title speaks to a belief in sacred geometry that sees Earth as a reflection of the heavens.

The scale of the installation seems to suck you in to taste the atmosphere she herself experienced. Argote’s work is a deeply felt response to her culture, new environments, and the political and economic relationship we all have with the land.

It was one of the memorable textile-based exhibitions I encountered on my recent trip to the US.

I loved the cluster of beautiful little textile collages I found by German artist Hannelore Baron at the Guggenheim‘s Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection exhibition. Small, thoughtful and quite pained, they are exquisite little assemblages of life experience.

Born in Dillingen, Germany, in 1926, Baron and her family fled to New York in 1941 to escape the escalating Nazi hold over Europe. Sadly the trauma inflicted on her led to mental breakdowns and claustrophobia as an adult and she lived out her troubled life in an insular and solitary way.

Her work embodies a deep sadness, interwoven with the fragile specialness of life and the uncertainties inherent in the human condition. It’s as though she has caught fragments of things while they were falling around her and cobbled them together in a way that both reveals and conceals her personal experiences and her inner turmoil of depression, claustrophobia and life-long breakdowns.

Beautiful little works in every way.

While in San Francisco it was a treat to accidentally stumble upon a beautiful, intimately scaled exhibition of lovingly mended central Asian storage bags at the de Young Museum. The Turkmen Storage Bag exhibition highlighted not only the different designs of cultural groups but the amazing mending evident on most of the pieces. I’m always drawn to mending for a variety of reasons so I was a sucker for this one. These pieces were lush and richly coloured. So important, so useful, and so laden with meaning, that the wear and tear, as well as the repair stitching, was simply and artfully magic.

Small and thoughtfully put together, this was another textile highlight of the trip.

I love the feeling of excitement that goes with chance discovery. Seeing how others respond to life experience is always an education in itself. What better way to do this than through engaging with art?

rhondapryor.com

Standard
contemporaryart, Exhibitions, Galleries, Inspiration, Stocktaking, Studio practice

Meditating on the simple (?) art of introversion

IMG_2274

Studio detail, 2019

Yes, apologies are in order for yet another late blog post (a significantly late one at that). I’m still guilty of letting life get in the way, and sometimes run off with itself entirely. Life, family, discouragement, health – so many roadblocks on the highway to creative outcomes.

I’ve been struggling lately to put into words what I’ve been experiencing and feeling, and how it’s affecting my work. A lot of self-reflection, drilling down, streamlining, has been happening. I can see new perspectives on the horizon, new methods of working, and more clarity in vision.

My own natural introversion has been overtaking. I’m in a hibernating, ruminating, self-examining, wintry kind of space. Long range studio experimentation is on the agenda. A desire for simplification, quiet, and depth of meaning is humming away in the background.

Fortunately for me the The School of Life blog landed in my inbox recently with a beautifully worded piece that perfectly explains my present mindset. The Hard Work of Being ‘Lazy’ examines, and indeed justifies, the need for withdrawal into the self in order to reflect and process experience so that productive progress can be achieved. I encourage you to read the entire thing (click on the link above and you’ll see what I mean in a couple of minutes).

Here is a passage worth noting:

“Our minds are in general a great deal readier to execute than to reflect. They can be rendered deeply uncomfortable by so-called large questions: What am I really trying to do? What do I actually enjoy and who am I trying to please? How would I feel if what I’m currently doing comes right? What will I regret in a decade’s time? By contrast, the easy bit can be the running around, the never pausing to ask why, the repeatedly ensuring that there isn’t a moment to have doubts or feel sad or searching. Business can mask a vicious form of laziness.”

And this:

“The point of ‘doing nothing’ is to clean up our inner lives. There is so much that happens to us every day, so many excitements, regrets, suggestions and emotions that we should – if we are living consciously – spend at least an hour a day processing events. Most of us manage – at best – a few minutes – and thereby let the marrow of life escape us. We do so not because we are forgetful or bad, but because our societies protect us from our responsibilities to ourselves through their cult of activity. We are granted every excuse not to undertake the truly difficult labour of leading more conscious, more searching and more intensely felt lives.”

(Owned by, and reproduced from, The Book of Life under Creative Commons License)

I’m tempted to recommend this as a useful passage for artists of any persuasion, but really it’s a permission note for human beings to recalibrate without feeling guilt at not producing tangible outcomes 24/7. How do you feel about this deep-thinking kind of readjustment in your own life? Do you allow yourself the time for this kind of examination?

Exhibitions that have left an impression me, and that have fed into this thinking include Chris Capper’s work at Sheffer Gallery (part of  Damien Minton’s 583 Elizabeth St Projects) in Sydney earlier this year, the Asia Pacific Triennial at QAGOMA in Brisbane, and Akira Isogawa’s show at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

Being unfamiliar with Chris Capper’s paintings I was impressed by their charming simplicity. I say charming because at first glance they appear a little naive but on closer inspection they reveal texture and a layering of colour that is both subtle and somehow poignant in their softness. A beautiful combination of still life and abstraction, their buttery paint strokes and soft edges are just quietly, intimately dreamy.

IMG_1245

Chris Capper paintings, Sheffer Gallery, 2019

Mongolian artist Enkhbold Togmidshiirev’s work at this year’s Asia Pacific Triennial struck me with its beauty and strength (and apparent simplicity) amidst a lot of detail in a beautifully put together collection of work from the Asia Pacific region. His embedding of memory into his work is achieved through incorporating animal dung, mushroom dust, ash, rust and various cloths – elements of the land and culture where he was raised. Locally dyed blue silk panels, known as khadag, representing benevolence (in this case inherited from his parents), cover a canvas in abstract, ethereal gradations of blue. Likewise, the adjacent piece reveals its own abstract shapes beneath the clouds of rust. Quiet, strong and beautiful.

IMG_1870

Enkhbold Togmidshiirev’s large scale work, Benevolence, 2013, silk, cotton thread, rust and gel medium on canvas.

Enkhbold Togmidshiirev, Without Form, 2014, horse dung, mushroom dust, gel medium, cotton and wax on canvas, and Coming Season, 2015, horse dung, gel medium, cotton, wax and hessian sack on canvas

Shilpa Gupta’s mesmerising sound installation piece For, in Your Tongue, I Can Not Fit, situated in a dark, cavernous space lit with a few light bulbs, poignantly reveals politically silenced readings from various activists, politicians and influencers through history – in multiple languages – from 100 suspended microphones. The written texts are impaled onto metal rods beneath the microphones. A compelling installation with intense human feeling and truth at its core.

IMG_1890

Shilpa Gupta’s For, in Your Tongue, I Can Not Fit, 2017-18, 100 speakers, microphones, printed text, metal stands.

Indigenous artists Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy’s black baskets (bathi mul) are extraordinary. Using strands of pandanus leaf that has been steeped in a rare black (and secretly processed) dye, the baskets are woven in such a way that, on close inspection, the surfaces gradate between black and charcoal, matte and metallic. Beautiful simple shapes, beautiful surfaces, they are objects infused with cultural meaning and earthiness.

Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy, Mindirr, 2012, pandanus palm and natural dyes.

The Powerhouse Museum’s Akira Isogawa exhibition, while undeniably expressing exquisite embellishment, the underlying shapes are simple, pared back, and economical. His approach, while honoring the cultural significance of the kimono and Japanese cultural practice generally, utilises all of the fabric, either into the garment itself or in accessories. How’s that for virtuosic sustainability! And incredibly striking, inventive clothing that pays no heed to prevailing trends of commercial fashion.

These are works that have left an imprint on me in multiple ways that are augmenting my approach to my own practice.

Stay tuned.

All the best,

RP signature_tiny

rhondapryor.com

rhondapryor10@gmail.com

 

Standard
Inspiration, Quotes, Stocktaking, Studio practice

Thinking, reflecting, digging

Sometimes it’s good to revisit favourite or resonant quotes when in contemplative mode or in the thick of studio work. You can get lost in your own world when busy in the studio but it’s good to remind yourself why you work there in the first place.

Searching for your voice, the tweak that will give the work its edge, the reality of what you’re trying to say: these are the things you dig for, work for, explore for.

You might already be familiar with these but it never hurts to read them again:

Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Hmm… thanks Georgia.

 

Art is a way of recognizing oneself.

Louise Bourgeois

Agreed Louise.

 

Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life, to make something that is fragmented – which is what fear and anxiety do to a person – into something whole.

Louise Bourgeois

Yes. I like this.

 

Art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.

Agnes Martin

Of course.

 

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.

Twyla Tharp

Thank God for escape routes.

 

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

Martha Graham

I just love this one Martha.

 

And here are a few images of works in progress. More old stuff, memories, trying to make sense of things…

IMG_8600

IMG_8504

IMG_8292

These are some of the works I’m getting ready for my solo show in September. I’ll let you know the details in a later post.

Standard
Books, Exhibitions, Inspiration, mending, Stocktaking, Textiles

Reflections: 2017’s good stuff

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.

EXHIBITIONS

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

Darn and Dusted

Check out the video of Luke Deverell’s fantastic mending enterprise.

dust-darned-5-thumb-620x443-83679

Tom of Holland

Another mending guru. Self-taught but with a penchant for the very precise.

Tom_teatowelprocess2

Hanne Friis

Norwegian textile artist extraordinaire. Oh my God. So beautiful I think I’m going to die.

b8a9c0a46fc238d54e848f199d6a6301--hanne-friis-needlework

UNEXPECTED INSPIRATION

From nature – of all places.

Koszi_1  Koszi_2

Kosciuszko National Park, long (v.e.r.y. long) walks amongst the wildflowers and lakes. The price you pay for silence and serenity…

Litchfield waterfall

Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory.

BOOKS

2017 books

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

Standard
Artists, Inspiration, Studio practice, Textiles, upcycling

Fragments and Patches

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.

Ge Ba collage

Image: Selvedge blog, Going Going Ge Ba, 27 September 2017

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!

Channing Hansen Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Image: Marc Selwyn Fine Art

573e29ad4d64e571914380-1

Image: Selvedge blog, Knitting DNA, 16 June 2017

ChanningHansen3_a0cca647-c36d-4cf4-a6f7-673d50fa8980

Image: Selvedge blog, Painting with Wool, 27 September 2017

Feeling inspired? Pretty amazing work, don’t you think?

Standard
Artists, Exhibitions, Galleries, Inspiration, Studio practice, Textiles

Flowers on the brain

Some new work on the go in the studio. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s spring or I’ve been gripped by Modus Operandi Flora, but flowers have definitely caught my eye these past few months.

I’ve been playing with making flowers with velvet and voile which I’m in the throes of experimenting with in an en-masse kind of way.

The two images shown above are studio shots. Everything is very much in the development stage. Studio updates to follow.

Meanwhile – enjoy the view…

Below are some of the floral distractions I’ve loved of late. From the top: Hiromi Tango, AGNSW, kids art installation at Gallery Lane Cove, Sarah Contos, MAASKosuke Tsumura, H&M, and Juz Kitson.

img_6317

Hiromi Tango at the Japan Foundation’s Eco-Anxiety – Holding a Deep Breath

img_5511

Embroidery details from the Asian Gallery at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

img_5519

Kids art installation at Gallery Lane Cove

Detail of a Sarah Contos work at Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery, Sydney


 

 

 

 

fullsizeoutput_d58

Beautiful details at Love Is…Australian Wedding Fashion at Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

 

H&M advertising poster

 

Juz Kitson at Sydney Contemporary

 

 

 

Standard
Artists, Inspiration, repair, Studio practice, Textiles, Uncategorized, upcycling

The heirloom theory

sat-brown-rabbit-web.jpg

Donya Coward, Brown sitting Rabbit – photograph from her website

Do you have any artists or makers who do it for you? Are they an inspiration for your principles and practice?

I often find research addictive. One find leads to another. Before you know it you’ve got a chain of inspiration and empathic appreciation for the work of others that informs your own work and sits comfortably with your beliefs and principles.

Discarded materials, ratty old preloved garments, mending, and disparate bits & pieces often have reuse potential that goes unheeded. Memory is embedded into everything. These examples of creative work are very much aligned with my own philosophy and love of materials.

Slow work.

Hand work.

Considered.

Ethical.

I say that (ethical) because I firmly believe in the Less Is More theory.

Less consumption, more human contact, less fast-paced living. Purchase something of great quality that you love, that will last and last – and take pleasure in handing it on to others when the time comes.

Donya Coward is an artist whose work is an exquisite example of what I like to call ‘the heirloom theory’. She takes bits and pieces of very different materials and turns them into sculptures and other textile art that are brilliantly handworked treasures. You can see more of her incredibly detailed work here.

cp_cp001_0141-682x1024

Celia Pym, Norwegian Sweater – photograph from her website

cp_cp001_006

Celia Pym, Hope’s Sweater, 1951 – photograph from her website

Celia Pym is a UK artist whose penchant for darning and mending is a quirky and beautiful way of extending the life of garments and objects. In her hands anything textile can be preserved in a way that gives a refreshing and individual twist to its existence. You can see more of Celia’s unique projects here.

5

Mayer Peace Collection – image from Instagram

f881fc3418cf46c948049c9d82121854

Mayer Peace Collection – image from Instagram

Berlin designer Christine Mayer’s practice is one I’ve watched for a while. She is superbly skilled at repurposing textiles in a way that’s individual and deftly structured. Her work extends to theatre costumes as well as fashion. Check out her work here. I’m happy to say I’m a proud owner of one of Christine’s pieces, bought during trip to Berlin in 2012. Timeless and beautiful.

I love finding inspiration in the efforts of like-minded creatives. There is satisfaction in finding similarities in practice, using your own resources creatively, and sharing ideas, whatever limitations might be in place.

Who are the practitioners you find inspiring? Does your list keep growing? Let’s compare notes……

Standard