Often a great way to get fresh momentum or ideas is to tidy the workroom – apart from making space to do work it reintroduces us to all sorts of things we had forgotten about, which can be inspiration for new directions.
A summer of refurbishing the garden, and the house (as much a studio space as my actual, rented studio), has been like a mental spring clean. Next job is to give my giant mangroves (a.k.a. triffids) new coats. After 4 years outside, their plastic skins were starting to disintegrate unhealthily across the neighbour’s garden where they live. Now they are stripped down and ready for a new layering of plastic bag epidermis.
Their shed skins are quite beautiful – scaly.
It is nice to reacquaint myself with their graceful, prickly bodies. And rethink what they are saying: for mangroves, it seems, are not entirely desirable. I have just read an article in the New Zealand Geographic (https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/mangroves-allies-or-invaders/?source=departmentItems) pointing out that unlike the tropical mangroves (which mine are based on with their long curving legs) our local varieties as they fill up the estuaries and creek mouths are reducing the habitat for young fish. Not that mangroves here are inherently bad, but because of fertiliser and silt run off they have had boom growth and become a nuisance in many areas. As in a lot of environmental issues, first we humans have to change our behaviour, or as we clean up one mess another will be forming behind us.
In my studio working on drawing and stitch – different ways of following a line.
And in response to Margaret Lewis’s request on facebook I have been making a crochet version of the Venus of Willendorf, two now (the first very much a practice piece, learning how to follow a crochet pattern and to use the right size hook for the thread).
Am gradually collecting a collection of red tools – I would not buy them to replace others, but enjoy the serendipity of finding that red in my hand.
….they are ready to head back over the road for the enjoyment of passers-by.
You would think they’d have come out sooner. I had great work spaces. Starting in late summer in the garden I stitched (with fishing nylon) the first layer cut from bubble wrap ironed onto thick plastic bags. Then I was able to use our shed for the peaceful activity of hot gunning the next plastic layers. But lockdown wasn’t a good time for creative openness!
In August, spring coming, I got back out to the shed to work on them. It was so satisfying finally getting their last layer on – laminating plastic roll leftovers (from school!) which holds everything together as some plastics do not fuse nicely when you heat them.
Spring seems like a good time for them to re-emerge!
Well, here we are, most of the world, staying home. As an artist I feel very fortunate to have the practice in working on my own, making things with what is at hand, enjoying drawing and stitching and also having a garden to be outside in. The refurbished beds will get the attention I have never before given my garden projects! Yesterday I trimmed the grass growing over the mowing strip around them. So neat and tidy!
My friend Mary recently got me started on regular drawing trips – and another friend Lyn talked about her morning drawing practice. This meant I had a readymade way to start the quarantine productively. What a great way I find it is to start the day.
Currently I am working on drawing a ginger plant Lyn pulled out (they are terrible weeds). Each day its leaves change so they have a lovely mix of yellows and greens with tinges of brown as they die completely. (I am sure if I planted it it would still grow!)
During this enforced stay at home I hope we can all find ways to get something positive from this, as well as staying well and keeping others well. And (as Jacinda has said, ever since she became PM, “Be Kind”!)
From late 2018 until April 2019 I worked with Clare Battersby, alias Fairy Clare, dance teacher and creatrix extraordinaire on Between Tides 2019.
This was a lovely event, with a range of artistic responses to the expanse of Westmere Beach (which ironically does not exist on the map!). The element of dance and discovery walks has been growing in the longstanding event (it first took place in 2002), and was blessed by perfect weather on Sunday April 7th.
As this year passes, the memories of Between Tides are a golden room in my mind, reminding me of the value of being connected to place and space; also of the subtlety of materials and how they resonate with the ambience and textures of the location. Between Tides happens in a transitory time, on the cusp between late summer and early autumn and just in the few hours between one high tide and the next. The event has a light touch, taking shape as the tide ebbs, and vanishing as the water returns, leaving no trace afterwards. It attracts people who want to work with a place, with its story and with its rhythm. The beach is, in its own way, a participant and key feature of all the works. For me, it takes away the pressure of being “the artist”, when the place contributes so much to the making. It also requires an extra responsibility for ensuring I am working with the beach and not simply using it as a platform.
But beyond any personal benefits for my art-making process, and the chance to give my mangroves another outing, the best part was working with Clare and all the artists who participated. It was also great to meet the local community, from the Kindergarten teachers who created a piece with the children to the residents we chatted as we delivered flyers. Crafting the whole event together was a new experience, and hopefully we will do it all over again next year!
Looking back, 2018 has been a full year – starting with the Whau Festival Clay workshop in May and culminating (so far) with installing work at NZ Sculpture OnShore which opened last night – November 2nd. So full that I have not been posting except a bit on facebook!
It has been a year of trying out the new and going further with the old – both techniques and materials, so in a way I feel pleased that I’ve so involved in making and thinking about making I have given little thought to putting up any information about what I am doing.
Working in the studio, playing with collage, stitch and found images has been interspersed with great opportunities:
at Tacit gallery in Hamilton, my first time sending work to an unknown space
at Whau Festival, bringing together my teaching experience with my enjoyment of participatory art-making in a drop-in clay workshop;
at Grey Gallery, with Lyn Dallison and Carol Honson, showing the fruits of delving deep into themes and elements which seem part of my DNA;
at NZSoS, focusing on the audience, both in my own work and when guiding my Year 8 students to their first experience of exhibiting;
Always a pleasure to be involved in this Artweek Auckland event. LOOK means working with people running the businesses as well as the space, and whatever else is in there too – a good experience! I was thrilled to be invited to show in the window of Eighthirty Cafe having bought my coffees there when I was working at the Auckland Old Folks Association in 2015 – and enjoyed the message on it.
Grafting the 3 branches onto Dataspeed cable I found lurking at Surplustronics in Queen St turned them into wired vines (it was an oddity, the guys had no idea where it had come from and just charged me $1 a metre but it was the perfect thickness). A bit of lighting and they have a presence at night that extends beyond the window in a lovely unexpected way.
“Look back” is a hint to the past – to the former ridgetop path through the bush, and to the vanished view over the road from 553 K Rd to the huge tree beside the Church of Epiphany (now Torpedo 7) – and to my little knitted tree for LOOK 2016 at the other end of the strip.
The Grey show was very successful for Jersey redux, and has moved me into interesting new ways of working. Being able to “contract out” some of the making – providing the hand-drawn figures to Work-i-shop in K Rd who created the files and then laser-cut the perspex – was great. It meant I could trial and redraw quickly, making the most of the short time I had after returning from our (mostly) Celtic vacation during which I was totally obsessed by wildflowers and skies!
As usual I made work that was really hard to photograph (clear perspex) but Sait Akkerman (Arts Diary) managed this clever side-on image which caught the light as well as the shadow.
Now onto LOOK – I am preparing work to instal in the window of eighthirty cafe/roastery, 551 Karangahape Rd (near the Ponsonby end of K Rd), ready for the opening on Thursday 5th and for the official “week” of Artweek, October 7 – 15 .
From leaves lying on the footpath to those lying on the footpaths of Queen St – are they just the debris left by “growth”? What has happened to society? Do we not look beyond personal trajectories to see what is happening to people around us?
I have been sharing a room, half a garret, on Queen St, doing drawings, stitching, cutting, copying maps, veins and networks.
Increasingly distressed by daily seeing so many people reduced to begging, in the cold and wet of winter. What shame – what to do?
How well can art draw attention to our wounds, to our cruelty, to our stupidity? Is it the best tool or is it better than nothing?
Meanwhile I have committed to show at Grey. in Grey Lynn with Jersey, and cannot help myself wanting to create. I know it does matter to celebrate beauty, the richness of the world, because otherwise why would we love and care for anything? I try to combine all that I’ve seen and thought and let the work emerge.