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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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

The museum entry

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?

Placemarking invitation

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A few photos of my work Dispersed Accounts installed on site for HarbourSculpture. The exhibition runs until July 27 and is lit in the evenings until 10 pm.

The community launch is on Saturday 19th from 4 until 9 and will include fireworks from 5 pm, food stalls and a licensed bar. You can even bring a picnic!

If you’re able to drop in it would be great to see you!

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Exhibitions

HarbourSculpture has opened

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Some pre-installation shots of Dispersed Accounts which will be installed in a tree in Clark’s Point next week. My artist statement will explain its evolution:

Dispersed accounts is a recreation of the Atlas Engineering sign attached to their office building, once a home of the Clarke family, that was situated on a knoll on what is now known as Clarke’s Point.

Constructed of copper mesh, its lettering is embroidered with reclaimed woollen yarn and string made from deconstructed WWII military uniforms, referencing human presence at, and historic usage of, the site – wool shipments, modification of passenger craft into armed troopships, and repairs to warships.

Its position suggests having being windblown from its original site – surviving as a fragile, weathered skeleton of an industrial past.

Dispersed Accounts (full image)

Dispersed Accounts (detail)And the old sign inspiring the work:

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Exhibitions

HarbourSculpture work

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Competition selection

Competition selection – harboursculpture 2014

My proposed work Dispersed accounts has been selected for inclusion in HarbourSculpture 2014, to be held at Clarke’s Point Reserve on Sydney Harbour in July. http://www.harboursculpture.com.au/ https://www.facebook.com/HarbourSculpture

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Exhibitions, Prize wins

International Women’s Day Art Prize win

I found out yesterday I’ve been awarded the International Women’s Day Art Prize! Thank you judges Janet Parker Smith and Katrina Cashman. What a thrill!

http://www.ryde.nsw.gov.au/Whats+On/International+Womens+Day

The Weeping Letter

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