Thursday, 29 November 2012

Living For Today

It's been.....yes....five months since my last post! I feel like I'm in a confession of sorts!? And yes, a lot has happened in those five months. Firstly, I have completed my first year of post graduate study....phew!  I passed.

This year I would have to say has been all about finding my groove and trying to run along inside the notch that holds my sanity in tact!  For those of you who have embarked on a similar academic journey, you will know what I mean....and quite honestly, there is no easy path to follow here.  I guess the biggest thing I learnt was not to be precious about anything.  Nothing is certain in this world and as we know with all the unrest in the Middle East and the depressed economy, there are many 'bigger' things out there than us and our angst over what word best describes knowledge.

I'm not going to go about myself because I really don't believe life's journey is solely based on the route of one individual, it's based on the many encounters we have every day.

The people who I shared my learning experience with were amazing!  Very inspirational artists who gave to me more than I could have ever expected.  What they conveyed to me was the notion of 'living for today', not stressing over tomorrow.  I have become far more philosophical about life and about who I am.  Today for example, I have been weeding the garden (it's had no attention for ten months!!)  A garden can be immensely productive and therapeutic.  It can also give one 'time' to reflect.  Reflection has for me become a daily ritual.  I guess it's a form of meditation.....and oh it's so wonderful to turn my mind off from the deeper than deep thinking I have just been through over the past ten months! See how easy it is to talk about yourself!??

To really bring the reality of living for today home I recently acquired three chickens. They have brains probably about the size of half a pea.  But they absolutely live for today and are very happy about it.  I think it's a survival thing.  All they do is eat, scratch about and create eggs or new life (if fertilized, so I guess that would add having sex too), but they do these same things every day!!!  The sheer simplicity and repetitiveness of this creates a state of comfort - they are little feathery machines that are happy with the constant reassurance of 'living for today'.  Pure enjoyment.

Aptly named 'The Boss' because she rules the roost!!

Having said all that, I do have a lot to think over in the next few months.  Like what am I doing?????
Next year will be intense so it's now that I have to learn to take everyday as it comes, not stress or create unwanted angst, but endeavor to enjoy each day, good or bad.  I have two books I am reading....
The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, by David J. Chalmers and The Self, edited by Constantine Sedikides and Steven J. Spencer.  Both books take the reader deeper into the individual psyche and our understanding how we see the world. for today does entail a tiny bit of learning for tomorrow.  It's just really important to keep it real by reflecting on the simple things in our lives!  Enjoy!

This link is interesting....if you are interested in education....

Changing Education Paradigms

Friday, 6 July 2012

Telling a story

I have been researching for weeks, not really certain of where I was going and I came across a word....mythopoetic (meaning the making of myths).
I have realized that one word can say everything.  For such a long time in this learning process I was reluctant to accept that 'big words' were completely necessary.  Of course they are.  There is always a word that means exactly what you are trying to word that covers a sentence of words, one word that becomes a beautiful image or notion of everything you believe holds meaning to you.  These words are works of art in themselves, that visually and verbally flow across paper.

There is a place in the story that interests me, where words and ideas can manifest visually.  It's the place between non-fiction and fiction.  I like to call it the grey area, it is however, the 'liminal space'.

Victor Turner wrote:
Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial...Thus liminality is frequently likened to death, to being in the womb, to invisibility, to darkness, to bisexuality, to the wilderness, and to an eclipse of the sun and the moon. (1969, p.95)

I am discovering this liminal space more and more within my own work.  It is an space where discoveries can be made.  It is the 'threshold' to the creative mind.  Art to me is neither totally fact or fantasy. I am creating something that has been interpreted by my own set of rules, ideas, experiences.....therefore the factual element that begins the process becomes compromised and the fantasy is the distortion that has been hatched out of the liminal space.  Turner describes this creative place well as "fructile chaos, a fertile nothingness, a storehouse of possibilities....a gestation process"

I guess it can also be subjective as to whether you feel the same way about things you see or hear...your comprehension of anything is always filtered through sets of lenses connected to your life and environmental experience, often subconsciously.
There are no rules.  Cultivate your creative space, enjoy fantasy, embrace the story.

Seraphine Pick's work as a wonderful example of this fact, fantasy distortion.  Enjoy.

Seraphine Pick 'High Rise'

Monday, 28 May 2012

Loving the 'big' of it.

Yes, I know, I haven't blogged for a while.....but, I have to say quite honestly I have been totally immersed in my work, which is a good thing!  The balancing act of study, work, play has been challenging.  I still love to play, but need to work so as I can play, and then of course I must study.  Things I have been doing over the last few weeks involve a lot of looking.  That is, looking at images, reading, critiquing, standing back....being objective, taking away the subjective....not that easy!  I have been reading 'Percept, affect and concept' from What is philosophy? There's a lot of heavy reading in this chapter but what I got out of it, is that there are three elements of art.....the 'flesh', the 'house' and the 'universe'.  I'm not going to go into it just now, but I dare you to!  It's made me think of a work of art in a whole different way....something like the way we think of life itself, what is real, what is a living thing?  Is art a living thing?  It is all so 'beautifully big!'

I've been fascinated with the work of Annie Vaught,
The power of the word, the story, the narrative of text.
Another artist I love is Helen Pynor,  Her work is so powerfully poetic....

And finally, Jeanette Scharing, and her gorgeously formatted work...

Explore and Enjoy!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


It's been a crazy few weeks of work, research, work.  I can't believe how fast time goes by?!!  This weekend I was teaching a workshop.  I had an amazing bunch of very talented women working hard making, absorbing everything, learning.  During these workshops we talk about all sorts of things while creating, drinking coffee and eating cake (sounds decadent? it is!)  and during one of our conversations it occurred to me just how much people appreciate the opportunity to learn and the experience of creating.  Why then, are there so many people who think they aren't good enough to even give it a go?  That distresses me.  I believe everyone has a talent to create, whether it's making art, cooking, gardening or arranging furniture!  If someone says to me....I'm not one bit creative, I feel it's my job to help them gain the confidence to try.  If people are in an environment where they feel they can't express themselves or are given no encouragement, isn't that a sad thing?  Life is too short.  I say that SO much, but it really is!  We have a limited time on this earth. We spend most of our precious time sleeping, eating, working, day in, day out.....but we also need time to use our brain to explore making, growing, feeling all those pent up imaginative thoughts.  We need to give ourselves time to express who we are as individuals.  Everyone has it there just waiting to pop out.  It just needs a little bit of nurturing and a pinch of encouragement, but mostly it needs you, yes you, to not be afraid of trying.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Think 2 - the other side

I'm sitting at my desk pondering over four books.  Each book relates to the other in some way but all are very different.  How do I make sense of it all?  The most enlightening thing that I've come to realize is that I don't actually have to make complete sense of it all...yet.  The books that make you think the most are the ones that question what it is you are thinking about in the first place!  I know that at this stage of my study I am only very tentatively knocking at the door of my concept.  The 'thinking' part of it, is the realization that it doesn't have an end point!  The philosophy of it all is to 'think' and continually question.  This is an overwhelming thought to a novice like myself, but the thought is in fact the nature of all study and as I have read many times today, of 'being'.
I found a useful's definition, an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience.  I like the sound of this.  So, each book generates the experience of discovery.  A good book will encourage you to look further, sometimes in a direction that you had no intention of going.  Of course I am questioning my concept now.  How can I discuss my ideas in a logical way when I don't know what is real?  My art practice will reflect these questions and I intend to inject my experiences into the heart of my work.  My feminist enquiry will enable me step forward as a free thinking woman, questioning (nervously at the start).  And the books will support my endeavors  once I have opened the door to the other side.

A la porte de la maison qui viendra frapper?
Une porte ouverte on entre
Une porte fermee un antre
Le monde bat de l'autre cote de ma porte.

Pierre Albert Birot
Les Amusements Naturals, p.217

At the door of the house who will come knocking?
An open door, we enter
A closed door, a den
The world pulse beats beyond my door.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


I've been reading a very enlightening book.  'Think,' written by Philosopher Simon Blackburn.  I need to write the opening paragraph of chapter one to explain what it is I'm trying to understand...

Perhaps the most unsettling thought many of us have, often quite early on in childhood, is that the whole world might be a dream; that the ordinary scenes and objects of everyday life might be fantasies.  The reality we live in may be a virtual reality, spun out of our own minds, or perhaps injected into our minds by some sinister Other.  Of course, such thoughts come, and then go.  Most of us shake them off.  But why are we right to do so?  How can we know that the world as we take it to be, is the world as it is?  How do we begin to think about the relation between appearance and reality: things as we take them to be, as opposed to things as they are? 

Of course this poses way more questions than answers!  

My line of questioning in my studies begins with the narrative. How do we perceive the story and does it distort over time?  We, as human beings who can process by logical thought, are the decision makers of how the narrative evolves.  So after reading this book I have to ask, was the story real at its conception? Was it a dream...conjured up by an exhausted house wife whose everyday life was so sad and tedious that she decided the person in the photo was her father who was of royal blood. Somehow, through fate, she was poor, married to a fisherman and had 7 children.  As the story of the photo gets told and retold by her children and grandchildren, I wonder, does the man in the photo become God who is going to save them all?  The narrative in this instance gives 'hope.'  

Cripes!  Back to reality!  Maybe it's just the sinister Other getting into my thoughts that's making me think such things.  I enjoy thinking and dreaming.  It's part of my artistic personality and is quite often the seed that germinates into something extraordinary.  It's great to question what we see and wonder.  Who's to say it's wrong?  I believe if we humans didn't imagine and create wonderful fantastical stories sometimes our life would be a sad place.  What's that saying....I think therefore I am.  I'm thinking so I must be alive and that's got to be good!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Dig Deep and Discover

How far down can you dig to find what you are looking for?  It seems a very long way down!  In the last few weeks I've been discovering what lies under the surface of 'me.' Discovering strength through struggles and gritty determination.  I like to tell my kids that everything that's hard or scary is worth it in the end because it builds character. So here I am, looking down at the root of the problem trying to build copious amounts of character! There's dirt and leaves and a bit of rubbish scattered at my feet.  I start digging...with my hands (for effect), and there beneath me is a tangle of veins winding down into the earth, twisting and branching everywhere, in every direction away from me.  These roots mimic what's going on above me but they, unlike the wind swept tops, are quiet and strong and still.  These roots below me are my beginnings, my foundations, my fundamentals, my starting point.   
So, at this stage I get my pencils and paints out and scream 'liberation!'  Finally after four weeks of worrying, I have the confidence to begin researching through my mark making. It's OK not to be doing what I normally guilt, I can do anything, there are no limits, dig deep!  That's one of the vital elements of learning through art and it's something that I know could be described with one fabulous word, but I haven't discovered it yet!
Feeding your mind through exploring theories and methods of practice enrich the whole process too.  It's like someone giving you a shovel to help you dig.  
Here's a quote from a reading about process and practice theory....described by Eisner (2002):
In the process of working with the material, the work itself secures its own voice and helps set the direction.  The maker is guided and, in fact, at times surrenders to the demands of the emerging forms.  Opportunities in the process of working are encountered that were not envisioned when work began, but that speak so eloquently about the promise of emerging possibilities that new options are pursued.  Put succinctly, surprise, a fundamental reward of all creative work, is bestowed by the work of its maker. (p7)

mmmmm  food for thought.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Are we really the artist?

I've had to ask myself recently, am I the author of my art?  Do I create my own story for people around me to read?  Or...and I am speaking more broadly now, is our life story dictated to by the people (the viewer) manipulating and molding the decisions we make? That's kind of heavy going considering we probably all think we are in total control!  So, if we artists create an object that is scrutinized by the audience/critic, who all have their own opinions on what it means to them, does their interpretation change the concept we have placed into the object?  My learning curve for this week is all about who the author really is.....if you hadn't already guessed! If there is no person with an emotional connection to the work, creating the work, then how can it be made in the first place?

I had time to reflect on these things recently while at WOMAD.  There, the music flowed and people danced with not a whole lot of direction, but heaps of passion!  The music and the people who played the instruments were in control, yet I could see there was this underlying symbiotic relationship happening....artist and audience fed off each other, evolved, bounced ideas off each other.  During that time of dance and reflection an artist friend of mine suggested that I should consider the viewer is the artist.  That's scary to me.  Does the viewer direct the show?  I know that within the world of 'production art' it's possibly true, due to the fact that the galleries are dictated to by the people who spend the money.  I am a romantic.  I like to think an artist is driven to make work that tells their story in some way....that they are communicating who they are through their art.  Is the author/artist/maker dying a slow death?

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Im reading a book....Treasures: the stories women tell about the things they keep.  My ideas for work in progress stem from the collecting of things, reliving the stories behind them, remembering, maybe even trying to forget?  So this is a great starting point for my research.  I know, having been bought up in a home full of women, that we are emotional creatures.  Often tragically dramatic and desperately passionate about 'things.'  This book reveals many untold stories of treasured objects.  These are personal accounts of happiness and sadness that are held within seemingly unimportant objects.  That's the thing you see.....what one person sees, another doesn't.  So the story is told from one woman to another and held onto for sometimes many generations!  I have two questions that bug me about this...just how many of these stories become distorted over time, who do you ask when the person who gave it to you may have passed on?  And how do we keep hanging onto these treasures when we live in such a throw away society?
A thought provoking quote:  "Our treasured things contain a whole world of associations: the time, the place, the activities, and the emotions all contain connections to vibrant meaning." 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Everyday Life

What is the everyday life?  Interestingly we were discussing this in depth this week and I found it most thought provoking.  Do we regard the everyday life as a problem?  Or is it an asset that leads to many self discoveries?  Personally, I find the mundane, habitual realities of my everyday life to be a welcome break from the worries and concerns of simply surviving, I have my best creative revelations in those moments of routine.  Vacuuming, hanging the washing out, doing the dishes are all part of the quotidian.  I believe humanity needs this quotidian as it is a way of us 'coping' with all the hideous things that are happening in our world.  I question the critical thinkers who believe that habitual nature of the everyday life is a problem and leads to nowhere....shouldn't we value the opportunity to zone out, meditate, and clear our brains of all the clutter around us? Think about this when you are cleaning your teeth in the morning......Check out  Rita Felski's paper, 'The Invention of Everyday Life.' 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Working in the Storm

A storm swept through our district on Saturday morning and I have to admit it was the most frightening thing I have experienced in a very long time.  The force of Mother Nature was unrelenting! My studio home was bashed from all directions with winds over 160km per hour.
While waiting for the craziness to subside I reflected on everything.  (Actually I thought I was going to die and we realized how close we were to being crushed when we looked out in the morning.....pine trees next to the studio had snapped in half and shot through the air into the ground below us like torpedos!)
So, I reflected frantically, then power went off and all I could think was "how am I going to do my study!!"  No internet....eekk!  Technology is fantastic but no good without power!
The reality is, if you are dead you can't do anything about it and if you have no power you can't do anything about it either!  We constantly rely on technology that needs power and as an artist I should know better.  Pens, pencils, paints, paper, books and using hands to make are fundamentals tools of art making that we must never forget to use as primary modes of exploring.....not always online search, online books and photoshop!
We adjusted to our basic living over the two days with a transistor radio, a container of water (no power, no pump), gas to boil the billy, and the log fire.  The art of survival is to be warm, fed and have a shelter.
We survived none the worse but more the wiser!
Today is a beautiful day.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the insects are flying and the power is on, hence I am writing this blog.  I'm back into the books and online stuff as if nothing had happened.  Not reflections have created an awareness that I must always keep my hand and eye in touch with my training as an fine artist and be mindful not  to get sucked into the quick-fix addictiveness of the wonderful world of cyberspace (and know that faced with the mighty power of Mother Nature, we have no control at all).
Below is what is left of the shed across the road!!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Being Creative

If there's one thing I love doing, that's being creative.  It doesn't matter what I may be doing, I'd rather make things happen in a creative I can imagine a lot of you would also do.  So today I embarked on tuning up or rather prettying up my blog.  Again, it was a learning curve just to find the right links and buttons to adjust things, but oh so much fun was had!!  I am aware that to some people exploring the possibilities on the internet can be daunting.  But remember, it is a tool just like any other tool we use in our creative processes.  Drawing, photographing, sculpting, painting can all be utilized and used within or taken from, cyberspace. I feel blessed to have such a tool so I have decided to embrace it fully.  And in embracing it, I can research the worlds resources.  Today's little flurry with my blog has taught me that interacting with text, imagery and not being scared to be geeky can help me answer many philosophical questions.  My talking out loud to you is clarifying what it is I'm on about.  Hopefully I will see the effects of this self analyzing in my work and today's thought is....dialogue through the web is just another form of creative exploration and it's absolutely cool!

The Cabbage

I picked a gorgeous red cabbage from my garden. Each layer is a life in itself. Each layer represents growth. I feel like a cabbage, peeling away each layer until a best layer presents itself ready to be used in some culinary masterpiece. It's all part of the learning curve....yum!

Part of my immediate learning curve is to master the computer search engine.  I sat for 5 hours (glasses on, drink bottle by my side) looking at the words 'object' and 'visuality' and 'memory'.  Oh my God its such a powerful tool!  Addictive!!  Which makes me worry about the future of books??  and my ability to keep on track and not get distracted with Face Book and online shopping.  I thought I would rather flick through a book with visually tactile text and glossy pics any day, but for some reason I am drawn to the 'Google'.  Am I becoming a geek as well as an intellectual type?  Or have I been subtly seduced by the WWW!!!?  So much for the cabbage!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Knowing by Being-There Making:Explicating the Tacit Post-Subject in Use

Remember I mentioned I needed an 'art speak' dictionary??  My head is now full of words that are fabulously poetic....yet I don't have a clue what they mean?!  I have been told with great certainty that I will learn these gorgeous mouthfuls in no time at all and I will soon be intellectualizing my written research....I will be an academic!!!  Oh my God I am so excited!  Snap out of it girl!!  Before all that can happen I have to read, write, document, make, design, rip apart, scream loud!!  and probably pull my hair I that uneducated?  Oh my God now I am full of angst....
So, I challenge you intellectuals out there to read the above piece of written poetry (written by Cameron Tonkinwise, link below) and tell me what you think.  I can't wait to understand it!!    If you can't find it there are plenty of other juicy journals to look at....:)
P.S.  Learning is wonderful!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Feel the fear and do it anyway....

It's totally over-rated.....feel the fear (leg buckling, heart racing, brain burning!) and do it anyway?  Cripes!  Why, why am I doing this again???  Tomorrow I am presenting in front of a very academic crowd.  Normally I would be ok with this but after todays critiquing experience I seem to have lost all my focus.  It's all those big words that get me!  I need one of those art speak dictionaries uploaded into my overworked brain immediately!  Having said all that, I have to admit I am quite excited at the prospect of stretching my art practice beyond all my self inflicted boundaries.  I will be enriched by my trials and tribulations.  I have faith that the anxiety and worry I am feeling now is perfectly normal and all part of the  feeling of the fear syndrome.  I am not alone.  Learning to learn again is a journey for us all.  I will embrace it head on and do it anyway (this time tomorrow I will be relaxing, wine in hand, with my gorgeous and talented new friends.)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

I have begun!

My brain has been kicked into action, like one of those things they kick start a heart with.....bang!  All I can say about today is it's amazing.....I am so impressed with the people who are teaching me to think and create.  I am amazed and so impressed with the people who I am studying with.....I feel so fortunate.
Am I ranting???  I am! I'm going to enjoy it while I can.....we only get one chance at our life so "Here I come life!!!"

Monday, 20 February 2012

Mixed Emotions

I'm sitting in my studio hiding away from my everyday craziness. On one hand I'm amazingly excited to be leaving tomorrow for my first block course. On the other hand I'm sad not to be seeing my daughter off for her own first year at University. Then I realize I'm hiding away from my family's constant need for me to be just as efficient and wise as normal (I'm really not normal at all!) Everything in their lives is changing and here I am wanting to rebel. I don't want to feel guilt for saying "it's my time kids, give me a break!" My head space can't take much more...I'm writing lists for them and for myself and I wonder, will they help me get organized? I think not! I do love them more than anything, but there comes a time in everyone's parental existence to say.....sort your own life out, organize yourself, you are a young adult now! I say and I think..."make plans, you have a wonderful full future ahead and this experience will create a confidence you will always have." Subconsciously that bit was directed at me. So no more procrastination. No more being scared of the unknown. Just feel the fear and do it and practice what you preach! Phew!

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Procrastination: Delay or postpone action; put off doing.
Do I need to say more? Today....gym, coffee, groceries, kids, washing, baking and pickling.....
Now here I am thinking about what I have to do for what I really need to do!!  Power point, read, organize work, read some more, think intelligent thoughts, read some more!
I did work out how to make a really good batch of cinnamon bread rolls. Check them out!
And now that I think about it I did manage to take some documentary photos today, including one of the bread rolls. I guess my brain is trying to click into my concept, but I have to say it's a battle of trying to unlock a single door with a hundred different keys.....hopefully one will fit the lock soon!

Saturday, 18 February 2012


My nerves are on edge and I can't find my glasses!
Now Im back on track with my eyes pinned on the computer screen trying to compose a logical and informative power point presentation..... what am I doing again?? I have to make a good first impression.
Oh that's right Im beginning my Masters!  Cripes!
They say you should air your brain out every few years.  It's been 10 years for me!  So, this is the beginning of my most challenging chunk of my life (so far).  I can do it (that's what Im thinking in my head).....oh God how can I afford it?  Time, money, deadlines,'s all part over-analysing and self doubting as a more mature student tends to do.
This is my journey as it unfolds...Carmen Simmonds