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!!