OFF The GRID

Having been told about TedX on more than one occasion, I decided I would attend, when I had a chance to go to their Melbourne show.

It was on at the new Exhibition Centre, behind Jeff’s Shed, on a corner of the Docklands.

Many speakers were  on the agenda, to talk on a wide variety, of diverse subjects .

A quick perusal of the programme revealed no visual artists were presenting, however a creative music maker, and scientist both gave inspiring speeches, and demonstrations.

 

tedx1

Of most interest to me were two talkers. One, an extremely fit young woman, who is in the field of Australian contenders to fly to Mars, as part of the NASA program Its a one way journey with a bunch of strangers, to live in a controlled bubble, in a hostile environment. Once there, after seven months of travelling so many millions of kilometres to reach Mars, you grow all  your own food to live on, ie vegies , no meats or fruits with no 7/11 ‘s nearby. Its a one way gig from which you can’t return. Too bad if you change your mind enroute, or once there. It was a bizarrely interesting scenario, and one that doesn’t appeal. As a visual artist, daily stimulation of the senses from new sights and sounds, is tantamount to my artistic practice, and I don’t think the stimulation would be apparent on Mars

tedx2
tedx2

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The other speaker of note was Max Walker, Tasmanian Cricketer, great sportsperson, and all round nice guy. Quite a raconteur, he had many  a funny story to tell. One of those included the gaining of the baggy green cap to play for the Australian Cricket Team, in the Test Series. A gifted orator and yarn spinner, he proved a highly entertaining speaker, and highly motivated individual.

I left slightly early to get back to my neglected studio work, enlightened and informed.

 

Notes from the Field

” Notes from the Field “ , is an exhibition currently being held at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery, at the VCA complex , in 40 Dodds St , Southbank .

 

It is a collective exhibition by eight artists , 2 local , 6 international , with the underlying theme of artistic fieldwork . The central premise is that understanding is founded in personal experience and most of the works in the exhibition are taken from daily life , a record of the day to day comings and goings of the artists , and the curator .

dodds st gallery
dodds st gallery

 

The artists are Maria Antelman , George Egerton – Warburton , Dara Gill , Sandra Selig , Alexandre Singh , Charlie Sofo , Michael John Whelan , Nina Yuen , and the curator is Melissa Keys .

Many visual tools are used in the exhibition , including , photography , collage , b&w photography , inkjet prints , assemblages , video , altered book pages , found objects and polystyrene sculpture .

To quote the curator the artists ” composing their work using everyday found objects , images and routine simple gestures , the artists featured in ” Notes from the Field ” create humorous , poignant and haunting works that confound and rewire the habitual and commonsensical ways we establish meaning and make sense of the world .  ” Melissa Keys , Curator , September , 2014 .

It is a diverse skill base employed by the artists , and they too are a very diverse group . I particularly liked Sandra Selig’s work . Her altered book pages using enamel paint , adhesives and folding techniques were displayed in a series , and were beautifully executed . It was an interesting and unusual variation of the altered book theme , and one we have used in our own practice in studying our VU Visual Arts Diploma. 

notes from the field
notes from the field

Housed at 40 Dodds St , the gallery space is a former factory , and one in which I worked in the personnel office , as a young school leaver many years ago . The transformation of the former factory is innovative , although the old wooden staircase , stained glass doors and windows , concrete floors , and beamed ceilings , bear testament to its former life .

 

 

Pathways

Last week and weekend I attended a two day symposium entitled ” Pathways ” . It was run by the VCA&MCM , supported by Arts Victoria , held at Southbank NGV , and VCA.

fringe book
fringe book
pathways vca
pathways vca

It was two days of talks , presentations , and workshops designed to help arts practitioners find a sustainable , economically viable  career , in the creative fields of their choice . Many talks and presentations were given by visual artists , dancers , musicians , lyricists and music producers , filmmakers , illustrators , painters , sculptors , scriptwriters , actors and playwrights . Whilst the presentation style , and field of expertise , of the speakers varied they all had several underlying themes to their talk .

An artist has to work long and hard at their craft and it requires a sustained , day in day out work ethic . You need to exhibit , display , audition , and somehow be seen in your artistic endeavours . Networking , and self promotion are essential tools for the modern day practitioner , and effective grant writing plays a big part in the sourcing of funds , to make your practice viable . Diversifying into other fields is necessary , so you have to work across a variety of disciplines , not necessarily those of your specific interest , or addressing and complimenting your training .

Skill , talent , rigorous work and training aside , there is also an element of luck involved , ie : of being in the right place at the right time , when an opportunity arises and knowing how to seize it .

The good news is you can hope to earn $13,000 a year from all this , if you’re lucky . The general average yearly income is perceived to be much lower than this .

Artists are driven , passionate and intuitive mark makers . It is not a profession chosen for wealth , prestige , or success . Usually the profession chooses us and for those in its thrall , its a lonely , indescribable process of struggle , but one we usually can’t ignore .

Silk Cut Awards 2014

The Town Hall was lit , flags were fluttering , cars jostled for parking spots and a low hum emitted from the statesque , Art Deco Building . Each time the self opening doors parted a rush of excited chatter burst from the building . I was at the mecca of printmakers , the esteemed , 2014 Silk Cut Awards , for excellence in all things lino .

 

 

marion manifold
marion manifold

 

One of our number had been selected to compete. Her piece was hung on the wall surrounded by a multitude of like minded students , all competing for the ultimate prize , and recognition , such a prestigious  award would bring

 

Deborah Klein
Deborah Klein

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Our fearless leader , aka known as Bridget Hillebrand,  our printmaker teacher , was clustered in a throng of gal pals , nervously and excitedly extolling the virtues of all the work on show .

It was a heady mix of food , drink , chatter and ultimately , the work . True artistry was evident as the work transcended the humble square block of lino. It was embellished , drawn into , upon , stitched over , printed , coloured , painted and displayed in ways never envisaged for the humble floor covering .

Wall after wall displayed exquisite work , some hung overhead on string , others festooned in glass cases , or many mounted in a spectacular sequence format, such as Marion Manifold’s exquisite work , entitled ” My Mothers Threads  , a gift for my children “.

Well worth a visit , to view both the VU teacher and student work on display , as well as all the other exhibitors . Also  pick up a free lino block , generously donated by the sponsors , the Duroloid company .

Tip Shop

in search of corrugated tin
in search of corrugated tin

 

My theme for much of my visual work , is sea washed detritus , with a focus on ravaged and degraded cans .

Recently , whilst working on my series of “Can ” drawings , I decided to use rusted corrugated iron as a base to draw on .

A  source of the material would come from the legendary Melbourne tip shops I heard so much about . I had used them in Hobart , but not locally . A friend had sourced props for a short film from one , another had bought eighties costumes for a themed party .

I sourced them through google .

The closest to me was in Wantirna South , so I coerced my youngest daughter into driving me . She is the owner of a shiny new red “P” plate.

Our Border Collie ,  Clive , tagged along with his impeccable nose for good smells , as we  reversed out of the driveway at a blistering pace.

North road welcomed us and we sped along , my mind racing with all the possibilities the tip shop conjured up.

Upon arrival I was stunned to find it neatly laid out , signposted and well stocked . The cornucopia of discarded detritus, and buried treasure , gladdened my heart . I purchased a new frame , distressed 1930’s mirror , ancient soft cloth sandpaper , to print on , a 1960 Australian Home Beautiful , a British 1969 b&w electronics weekly, neon stickers , 2 Brockhoff vintage biscuit tins , 3 hand painted glass Christmas globes , and a packet of neon printing paper . Not a bad haul for 12 bucks !

I loved the place , and the potential it offered of future resources . The erstwhile female attendant , confided she had procured a mint set of 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games tickets , from their Coldstream store. My interest pricked , I will return . An inveterate op shopper , bower bird , scrounger , recycler and sticky beak , I think I have found a favourite place to shop . Surrounded by dust , dirt , grime & mess I happily sorted , declaring it my ideal job , which caused my driver to comment ” only mum would want to work in a tip shop ” .

13th Istanbul Biennial

vintage clothes
vintage clothes

The mighty Bosphorus, is a vibrant and turbulent River, as unpredictable as the seething Turkish City of Istanbul. Bobbing along on the commuter ferry, clutching a fish roll that cost AUD $1.50, I crossed the imaginary line from East to West, or Asia to Europe. Istanbul is a city of contrasts, medieval turkish bath houses, and gigantic, iconic shrines of Hagar Sophia proportions . The Grand Bazaar is a labyrinth of streets, a maze of stalls, and a brash collection of hawkers all exhorting you to enter their shops. Turkish Delight, stuffed camels, brass, garishly coloured ceramics, and handicrafts abound. Its a vibrant, alive, city summed up perfectly by the Whirling Deverishes, a local iconic, folk act who twist this way and that in their exuberant, native dance .Home to myriad stray cats and dogs ,homeless and itinerant locals, Istanbul has a pulsating energy, and irreverent view of life .

Selale,s shop
Selale,s shop

Stumbling down the main street, I chanced upon the Galata Greek Primary School, one of the venues of the 13th Istanbul Biennial. Titled ” Mom Am I Barbarian “it included many artists, exhibiting in a diverse range of mediums spread over the entire six floors of the venue, including a roof top terrace . The space included short films about abandoned dogs and african miners, intricate drawings, installations and a whole lot more. The exhibits were free, the catalogue a measly $5, and the entertainment priceless. One of my favourite presentations was a series of altered books by a Portuguese Artist, Carla Filipe, who used books damaged by moths to create her altered book series. I spent many fruitful hours gazing at the exhibits, and gleaned a lot of visual stimuli. It ended my visit to Turkey on a high note and I hope, one day to return.

I ‘m a Bright Star

My Prize
My Prize

Following much cajoling by vigilant VU teaching staff , I reluctantly agreed to submit a piece of work for the annual VU 2014 art prize.

Gazing forlornly around the studio my eye rested on “Cans ” , a watercolour and oil sketch of rusted spray cans , washed up on stkilda beach . Housed in an op shop frame I marched it around to the events office .

The 17 th floor gallery space , was swiftly adorned with a vast range of splendid entries .

Nestled in between a beautiful photo of a young girl , and a skilful rendering of a desert scene , “Cans ” looked right at home .

Thursday night arrived . The gallery hosted hopeful bands of visual and graphic art students , clustered around grazing cheese platters , and sipping apple juice .

The VU Bright Star prize was announced first . A mispronunciation of my surname couldn’t alter the fact that it was my name they were calling . I staggered valiantly to the stage , dazedly agreed to have my photo taken , and wandered back to the throng clutching my certificate and prize voucher .

Yay ” Cans ” , you didn’t let me down !

Now what to spend my prize money on ?

Perhaps , a new set of derwent pencils ? Or start saving for a painting by Adam Cullen , hmm only $ 84, 900 to go !

Thank you VU !

Spring

Spring’s gentle caress touches my face,

its time to put winter in its place,

rain is gone , squall and sleet,

now I want sun and blossom at my feet.

 

botanica
botanica

The grey, unforgiving, bleak streets, will be replaced by sun dappled, sweet smelling, welcoming greets.

I want spring and all its warmth, no more reference to winter henceforth.

Horse-racing, Cracker-Night, hedonistic joy,

A giddy round of comforts and delights,

Entice me from winters long toil.

 

Budapest

Budapest is a city of contrast. Divided by the Danube River,Buda is the West Bank and Pest, the East. Originally begun as a Celtic Settlement, it has endured many historical, cultural,ethnic and religious upheavals to become one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful and enduring cities,  and certainly one of its most interesting.

 

TOE
TOE

Where else can you buy $2.50 tickets to the Ballet Giselle at the Budapest Opera House?  of course the 22 year old daughter and I  had to enter via the back stairs, so the patrons in expensive seats could be seen making a grand entrance, via the front stairs! A night time ghost walk around the cobbled streets, revealed a bloody and gory past, buried beneath the grandeur and opulence, of old Budapest.

Taking a commuter ferry ride down the mighty Danube, revealed the olympic training school of the Hungarian rowing team, a mix of old and new high rise housing, and ended at a defunct shipbuilding yard, and abandoned, industrial estate.

A favourite memory was shopping at the local flea markets. Most had good quality goods, and were keenly priced. One, in a far flung suburb, revealed old folk art pattern rubber rollers, genuine nazi war badges,  vintage tin toys, and a jumble of retro clothing. It was cheap, musty, and housed some dilapidated merchandise, but was worth the complex trip out of town to get to it.

 

budpest
budapest

 

Other memories include, walking across the Liberty Bridge spanning the mighty Danube, using the funicular ( cliff railway) running up to Buda Castle, visiting the Budapest Art Museum, and feeling chagrin when the student daughter was invited to a private viewing of Warhol pieces. Watching the same daughter get her hair cut for her 22nd birthday. Me agreeing to a haircut by a non english speaking hairdresser, at the same salon. Drinking vast quantities of home made limonetta ( lemonade) for $3 a litre in local restaurants, and visiting Margaret island, to ride bikes, and eat ice cream and fairyfloss, as part of the birthday celebrations. Friday night saw us floating around the Rudas Baths, a thermal hot springs with magical restorative powers, needed for two world weary travellers, and trying to avoid gazing at the plump male, tattooed, ponytailed, patrons.

Nicholas Building Open Studios

I went along to the Nicholas Building Open Studios on the 28 th August 2014. It was a brilliant opportunity to see inside an iconic Melbourne landmark , and watch artists at work .

Nine floors of visual delights were unveiled . The building itself is ever so slightly down at heel, just as you would expect from a work in progress . True to the Art Deco period of architecture and ornamentation , it has glass ceilings , iron framed windows and period ornamentation . The staircase alone is worth a visit, and would be suitable for a horror movie set.

melbourne
melbourne

The standout artisans for me were ;

Nicholas Jones , an exemplary artist who creates beautifully constructed and crafted , altered books . Many completed ones were on display , whilst some were a work in progress . Off cuts had been sewn together to create garlands , truly inspiring work .
Another room held textile artists who had magnificent collections of vintage fabrics , marbling kits , large wooden cotton reels and retro sewing accoutrements . Photographers , Printmakers , painters , leather workers , book designers , illustrators and jewellery makers were all on display . A truly incredibly talented group of disparate individuals, all bought together in a mutually inclusive inner urban creative space , it was a joy and privilege to observe them at work .