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

Meditating on the simple (?) art of introversion

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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…

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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.

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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.

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Tom of Holland

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

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Hanne Friis

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

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UNEXPECTED INSPIRATION

From nature – of all places.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stocktaking, Studio practice, Textiles

Studio (dis)organisation and other questionable habits

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

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Artists, Books, Galleries, Stocktaking

Ready for renewal

img_4271Noumea’s pristine waters

What a year. A big jumble of highs and lows, moving too fast, and either scrambling to keep up or rejecting the hype and opting for some hibernation. I’m guilty on all counts.

After a week doing lots of nothing by a pool in Noumea, surviving the Christmas chaos,  and with  head swirling with ideas, I’m mending the error of my ways. To make up for my lack of blogging the past couple of months I thought a good old stocktake of brain food might be in order. So here goes.

Some of the most interesting and thought provoking exhibitions I’ve seen this year:

img_2245   img_2180Biennale of Sydney (Chiharu Shiota on the left)
img_2314  img_236721_21 Design Sight, Tokyo (We Make Carpets on the left), and antique boro textiles exhibition at Amuse Museum, Tokyo
img_3112    img_31142015 Parliament  of NSW Aboriginal Art Awards, Gallery Lane Cove, Sydney
IMG_3569.JPG    img_3567Shona Wilson, Arthouse Gallery, Sydney
img_3947   img_3941   img_3940   On the Origins of Art, MONA, Hobart (until April 17, 2017)
img_4147   img_4140Slipstitch, Mosman Regional Art Gallery, Sydney (Sera Waters, left and Jane Theau, right). (until January 29, 2017)

Now for a line up of some of the books I’ve read this year – at least the ones I can remember (in no particular order):

The Streetsweeper (Elliot Perlman). A great read. Loved it. Hard to put down.

If This is a Man (Primo Levi) – again. Graphic and raw. So readable and well written.

The Truce (Primo Levi). See above.

Burial Rites (Hannah Kent). Amazing storyteller. Just amazing.

Dinner with Edward (Isabel Vincent). A gorgeous account of a very special friendship. A delight to read.

The Good People (Hannah Kent). See Burial Rites above.

Thirteen Ways of Looking (Colum McCann). Great Irish writer.

Wardrobe Crisis (Clare Press). Really interesting read on the appalling waste that our clothing mania creates, but woefully edited.

Productivity for Creative People (Mark McGuinness). Recommended.

Motivation for Creative People (Mark McGuinness). See above.

And now the partly read ones (sometimes I do get back to finish that stack next to the bed…):

The Buried Giant (Kazuo Ishiguro). Not happening for me yet…

The Glass Room (Simon Mawer). Can’t seem to get going with this. Characters are cold.

Resilience (Mark McGuinness). Work.

The Art Rules (Paul Klein). More work.

Mortality (Christopher Hitchens). I’ve been lazy here (or avoiding the subject).

Exit Wounds (John Cantwell). See above.

Dog Days (Ross Garnaut). See above.

How Proust Can Change Your Life (Alain de Botton). Delightful. See below.

Fashion and Orientalism (Adam Geczy). Got to get back into this one.

So much richness to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to. So many ideas to process. Year’s end really is a perfect time for renewing optimism for the possibilities ahead. I hope that in 2017 you find yourself inhabiting a space where you genuinely feel you’re meant to be, doing just what you’re meant to, surrounded by people who support you.

Very best wishes for a creative, thoughtful and harmonious 2017, and I look forward to sharing fortnightly blog posts with you throughout the year.

 

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