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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Art classes, Paper, Photographs, Textiles, Uncategorized, workshops

Stitching Memories workshops: the debrief

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Two full classes and a hugely enthusiastic tribe. What more can you ask for?

Running the Stitching Memories workshops at Lane Cove Library was delightful. Its always an amazing thing to see what people do with their work: all have different approaches based on a photograph of their own selection from the Library’s historical image collection.

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I showed how to transfer a design (or text) onto a photograph, and various ways to stitch, showing my own examples and those of other artists, always encouraging participants to be free, non-judgmental and experimental.

Some people chose images reminding them of their families or homes, others chose randomly, while others decided on imagery completely unfamiliar to them.

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All the examples here are works-in-progress. A two and a half hour session really just provides an introduction to the possibilities.

Sometimes just a touch of stitching here and there is enough to make a quirky statement. The addition of text can change the entire reading of an image, and over-the-top stitchery is certainly not out of place in this workshop!

And did I mention the camaraderie involved in these sessions?

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I have one more session in this series coming up at Gallery Lane Cove on Saturday March 11, with a slightly different focus. The Stitching Your Memories workshop is free, and will be running in conjunction with the exhibition Translating Displacement, which shares stories of former refugees, asylum seekers, citizens and non-citizens whose families fled war and violence to settle in Australia. If you’d like to book please phone 61 2 9428 4898 or email info@gallerylanecove.com.au.

We’d love to see you there.

 

 

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Art classes

Stitching Memories workshops in February

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Please join me for one of the free Stitching Memories workshops being offered by Lane Cove Library in February. Develop new art making skills while we explore memory and image making using a selection of historical photographs from the Library’s collection. Using text, hand stitching and cloth we’ll create new images from old, superimposing our contemporary lives onto photographic images of place and time from another era.

There are a few spots left so reserve your place by phoning 61 2 9911 3634. The details are:

Saturday 11 & 18 February

1:00pm – 3:30pm

at Lane Cove Library,

Library Walk, Longueville Rd, Lane Cove, Sydney.

I hope you can come and enjoy a fun afternoon with us while sharing your own ideas and skills. You’ll be in good company!

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Exhibitions, Inspiration, Japan, Residencies, workshops

Images, memory and boro love

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How do you feel about the power of images? Do you ever stop and think about the impact images have had on your life? They’ve always been hugely influential to me, and I can think of many I’ve carried around in my head since early childhood.

A more recent episode that illustrates this is my fascination with Japanese antique boro textiles and clothing. A few years ago I came across my first boro images (yep, on the internet) and was captivated by their layering, frayed and tangled edges, faded surfaces, and their quirky and sometimes desperate stitching. But what I think screamed out to me the most was the obvious extent to which these items were valued by their makers and their families – out of desperate poverty I might add, but the Japanese have a way with aesthetics that can make your head spin.

While my art practice began with (mostly oil) painting, my recent work involves photography, textiles and installation. I found the sentiment of these boro textiles very sympathetic to the intentions in my own work. Memory, a sense of place, traces of human touch and history now all interconnect with varying input from photographs, cloth and stitch.

All this led me to undertake an artist residency in Japan last month, where I saw authentic boro that didn’t disappoint. More on my residency next week. But in the meantime here are some photographs I took at Amuse Museum in Asakusa, Tokyo that show some exquisite textiles and clothing. Here is the museum’s website. And if you’d like to see more I can recommend Sri Threads beautiful website as well. I wonder if they touch your sensibilities too?

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This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body

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I’d also like to acknowledge the assistance of the Copyright Agency Creative Individuals Career Fund for this project

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Exhibitions, Residencies

Placemarking: the exhibition and workshops

Here are some of the photographs by Ian Hobbs of my Placemarking exhibition last month at Willoughby Museum. Special thanks to Ian and to Jacky Talbot from Willoughby City Council – a great art facilitator and colleague.

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These are photographs of one of the workshops I conducted in conjunction with the exhibition. Embroidering text onto photographs, we used a variety of threads, yarns and textiles to transfer handwriting onto photographic images from the museum’s lace collection. We had a really enthusiastic bunch who made some lovely works.
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Exhibitions, Residencies

Process to Placemarking: a peek at the evolution of my current exhibition

I’ve just completed a residency with Willoughby Historical Society at the invitation of Willoughby Council as part of their Visual Arts Biennial (a new initiative incorporated within their Emerge spring festival). The biennial’s theme is Imagining Place, and I was asked to look at their collection with a particular emphasis on their lace and embroidery. After several month’s work the exhibition Placemarking is now in full swing (so please drop by before Sunday 27th September and have a look if you’re in the area – details are at the end of this post).

I’d like to show you some of my process and describe how I approached the residency as I’m always interested in the working methods of other artists, and I thought you might be too.

The museum is tiny, in a 1912-built cottage, and I was allocated one room to exhibit in. My practice often focuses on personal attachment to objects and clothing, and the influences of time on them, so this criteria seemed a good match for my work.

Most of the garments are beautiful of course, but some are stained and torn (my personal favourites as I love the mending and the fact that the clothes were important or otherwise valued by their wearers). I felt incredibly privileged to be allowed to handle these precious things. I photographed some of the collection in close-up, focusing on beautiful details while allowing other parts of the image to fade away. Some garments were photographed underwater and some piled up with sunlight filtering through. These images were then cropped to square format with additional focusing on particular details.

Vintage lace and embroidered blouses, bodices and children's dresses drying after being photographed under water

Vintage lace and embroidered blouses, bodices and children’s dresses drying

I photographed documents and early 20th century local subdivision maps, further exploring links to place, with the intention of making ‘wordlace’ by manipulating the images. Wanting to activate the space more I had silk georgette digitally printed with these images to make a vintage gown that would be lit from underneath, illuminating the overlapping images in a lace-like way. But first I had to make up a toile of the dress (after getting my hands on a gorgeous reproduction 1930s gown pattern form the UK) as georgette is notoriously slippery and difficult to handle. I’m so glad I did……

The toile for the vintage dress

The toile for the vintage dress

Checking the drape of the finished fabric

Checking the drape of the finished fabric

Cutting the georgette was extremely tricky and slow as matching the print at the seams wherever possible was important. The assembly took about eight times as long as the toile because of the pattern matching and slipperiness of the fabric. But once on the stand I was really pleased with it – all flowy and light and transparent.

Cutting the digitally printed silk georgette

Cutting the digitally printed silk georgette

The almost completed 1930s evening dress

The almost completed 1930s evening dress

Installation in the museum went smoothly although the lighting was pretty tricky as the museum’s lights were unsuitable, and permanent attachment of equipment wasn’t allowed, so numerous other alternatives had to be tried out before settling on a satisfactory source.

Installing the photographs

Installing the photographs

Installing the dress

Installing the dress

One of the old mangles was moved to the museum’s front verandah and set up with sheets overflowing into the trees in its front yard: a bit of fun to attract attention to the museum and the biennial generally (although the configuration of sheets has since changed, draping down the large tree at the front rather than over the pathway).

The old mangle on the front verandah

The old mangle on the front verandah

The front of the museum

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Professional photographs of the installation and a selection of final photographic images will be coming soon, as will photos of my workshops associated with the exhibition. I’d love to know what you think. Are you a bit textile-intoxicated like me?

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Exhibitions

Lines of Communication opening today

Lines of Communication opens today at Incinerator Art Space, 2 Small St Willoughby.

I’d love you to drop by and take a look and let me know what you think. The show is open 10 – 4 Wednesdays to Sundays until 16th November.

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Postcard

Postcard, 2014

Tracer Bullets, 2014

Tracer Bullets, 2014

Testimonies, 2014

Testimonies, 2014

Testimonies, 2014

Testimonies, 2014

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