I survived day one ground Monash. Battling incomprehensible acrynoms timetable confusion, a room full of strangers, and unintelligible requests from the academic cohort, I staggered blindly around the Monash Fine Art Department for most of the day.
Studios are cramped, my timetable is not user friendly and my first subject choice denied but I’ll work it out. I got to spend the day with inspirational arts practitioners who will train me, and I colloborated on a joint project the results of which are seen here. The piece was inspired by a visit to Francis UPritchard’s exhibition imaginatively titled ” Jealous Saboteurs ” and the piece we chose was part of the ” What Happens Next” installation of clay figures. Whilst not specifically the end product I would have desired, it made me think in a team mentality, utilise others skills, and assess how I think and work. It also made me talk about and question my aims of production.
We viewed a unique exhibition by Francis UPritchard at MUMA. It was a retrospective show which included work from her student days. I particularly loved the installation piece of seven identical glasses cases. They were possibly gleaned from an elderly relative over a period of time and assembled devoid of glasses but fitted with tiny volcanic ranges of green velvet echoing her New Zealand home.
Its a definitive exhibition of many pieces, sculptural figures, refashioned found objects, childhood possessions transformed and dainty watercolours and incorporation of textiles. Her colour use is superb and the sense of scale challenging, as the pieces are diminutive but perfectly formed in a crouching, defensive position.
What I loved is the specific gathering of objects, but the casual way they are treated, indicating Francis UPritchard is not precious about her collection but rather sees it as a living, ephemeral body prevailed upon by human intervention and interpretation.
An enlightening footnote was the discovery of a pendulous, spindly spider web on the sculpture ” The Tourist”. The spider had invaded the gallery and added its own signature to the piece, perhaps unconsciously reinforcing the aims of the artist. It was specifically relevant to our piece, “what happens next”. The webs presence caused much consternation amongst the gallery curatorial staff, as did, apparently the renegade spiders presence in the gallery space the day before.
1. What brought you to Detroit/why did you choose to do your residency here?
The work of my visual practice explores the theme of abandonment in post industrial environments. Detroit was an ideal environment for me to pursue this.
2. Can you describe the focus of your work leading up to Detroit and what impact visiting the city has had on what you produce since?
The focus of my work leading up to Detroit has been addressing the central theme of abandonment in a post industrial environment. I have produced a body of work addressing this through a series of relief prints of the abandoned cockatoo Island Shipyards, NSW. A body of oil paintings, collages, drawings, photgraphs, prints and assemblages addressing the themes of discarded and superceded childrens games, eg Monoploy, of the 1950’s and 60’s, art deco teasets of the 1930’s , 1960’s comics , damaged tin toys , old dolls and outmoded educational aides eg Cuisanair rods.
My work since returning from Detroit focuses on abandonment in post industrial environments. Detroit has many deployed workers. I got to view up close a city decimated by industry closures and its effect on the people. It challenges me to go deeper into the human psyche ie think about the history and the events behind the closures. Presently I am creating a series of paintings based on the blue windows of Fisher Plant no 21, designed by Albert Kahn, blue helped the workers feel positive . It is challenging me to look at the human psyche, and think about production lines in a grid contextual concept.
3. How would you describe the artists’ community in Detroit? And how does it compare to your experiences as an artist in Australia/ other countries you’ve visited?
The artist community in Detroit was alive, embracing , vital, energetic and welcoming. I believe as a community they have lost so much, have hit rock bottom and will come back up. I witnessed great positivity, sharing of time, resources and information .They were an extremely welcoming bunch, from the high end, swanky galleries, right down to the mural and street artists. It was most refreshing as though as a result of their economic downturn, the boundaries have shifted, its a looser community, not so bound by prejudices and social stigmas & class system, they have stripped all barriers away and are more embracive of creative output and prepared to take chances. Why, a fellow artist, Mike Sackey, gave me shoes, a hat, vest, and decals when i had no cash to pay for them at a factory relocation / garage sale.
Melbourne, Australia boasts a more traditional art scene and community with established galleries and local hierarchy, mind set and prejudices. Whilst it is constantly in evolution, there are established protocols, followers of tradition and favouring of certain art schools and promotion of specific artists. As we are a long way from established art centres there is the isolation mindset, combined with the colonial theme of ” are we good enough , compared to Europe “, possibly some negativity and tall poppy syndrome too. It is changing though and more up and coming artists are getting start projects off the ground, funding is becoming available and more money both private and government is being pumped into the arts.
4. Describe what your exhibition focuses on and what kind of reception it received.
It focused on a definitive, personal experience of Detroit whilst I believe still addressing the central theme of my work ie abandonment in a post industrial environment.
“Define Detroit “exhibition was a series of 11 A1 photographic images, both colour and b&w, of the post industrial sites I visited in Detroit, along with found objects found at these sites, assembled underneath eg tin lightshade, piece of wallpaper, empty, rusted letterbox slot and a child’s abandoned watercolour set and drawing. It contained words I had written to describe Detroit.
Building Detritus eg a tin box, copper wiring, pressed metal of a roof.
A series of 9 small watercolour paintings produced enroute whilst travelling around Detroit.Six old 33 1/3 vinyl records found on the side of the road in Detroit, which included motown iconic singers like Diana Ross and Ray Charles.
It was received favourably by most people. Those who know me believe it addresses my work succinctly . As it is housed in display cases in the entrance foyer it gets a reaction as people entering and exiting the large building see it . Some seem puzzled . When I was installing I got six favourable comments, & some puzzled glances but at least it is topical. Three D decals have already been stolen/ souvenired!
My talk went for 10/15 minutes was theatrical. It included removing my sparkly cheer leader skirt bought at a vintage store to reveal my ” detroit-still-exists tshirt dress underneath! I had their attention . Of my 20 or so listeners I was told I exuded passion, knew the artists and all the art I had seen , my memory and attention to detail was exceptional . In short I gave an inspirational talk which totally embraced my art .
Several questions , including, ” did I feel safe ?” were answered adroitly with ,”yes of course , I actually felt more unsafe in NYC.”
5. What would you tell someone who was considering visiting Detroit.
You’ll be surprised with what you will find.
Her creativity, passion, interest, beauty, old& battered facade are inspirational, and the natives couldn’t be more welcoming .
Vast quantities of vintage garments, dishevelled, abandoned sewing machines and garishly printed cotton. The only problem, it was all mens wear. Sigh.
I managed to bag a few small sized shirts which I will alter to fit my frame with the help of Mum’s old Singer sewing machine. A remnant of vivid seersucker also came home with me to be transformed into a nice frock.
The fittings and fixtures are straight from the 1950’s, and provided endless fascination to my creative eye. The building has been sold, I don’t know what will become of this treasure trove of fashion and nostalgia, her heady days as a doyen of the rag trade clearly behind her!
Aussie Actress, Cate Blanchett, is presenting a monologue of thirteen manifestos in Julian Rosefeldt’s current show, Manifesto, running until 13 March at ACMI, Federation Square, Melbourne.
Each short film has a different theme, character and exploration of a different manifesto. Rosefeldt has edited and reassembled a collage of artists’ manifestos. The work draws on the work of Dadaists, Fluxus artists, Situtationists and Futurists, and the musings of individual artists, architects, dancers and filmmakers.
I particularly liked the reading of the Dada manifesto intoned by Blanchett, dressed as a middle aged, middle class woman mourner complete with sombre clothing, hat, and makeup standing beside a coffin at a funeral which was about to be lowered for burial. It was an effective juxtaposition of images, the positive yet absurd nature and clarity of the doctrine, against the ostentatiousness of the funeral and the ridiculousness of the burial process.
My fellow artist Lauren Kennedy, was exhibiting her four piece neon installation at Ne Art Exhibition 2016. Its located in downtown Collingwood at the gritty end of Smith St. I caught the packed 86 tram along gertrude st to make a foray northside. An old converted shop space with upstairs rooms its an artist run initiative. I talked to several of the exhibiting artists including “Teloc” a diminutive vocal man who expounded on the virtues of neon.
The man whose factory made all the artists neon pieces, Steven Cole, is a third generation “bender”, industry speak for manufacture of neon. He said his industries early work was in signage but laterally it has been in art installation, and he shyly showed me his piece.
Lauren’s panels were proudly on display in the third room placed strategically next to the “Ziggy Stardust” piece. I wondered if this piece had been created prior to the great man’s demise. Her work brightened the dim space, gleaming iridescently and invitingly in the small space. As a body of four panels it made a bold statement addressing her creative intentions of depicting the inner angst a creative mind struggles with.
I also admired the work of Konstantin Dimopolous , Standing Man, a neon study in life drawing and Ally Pyers piece, “Selfie” epitomising the current obsession with phone self portraiture.
Dominoes, no not the age old game I played as a child, but a living art installation played out in Melbourne’s CBD, on a hot, lazy summer afternoon last Saturday.
My niece was in from out of town for a few days and cajoled me into going. I’m glad I did. The circuitous route of the domino path embraced parts of flinders lane, the Melbourne Town Hall, St Pauls Cathedral, Degraves St and even beat a path through the Crumpler store.
The domino pieces, which were blocks of chalky, lightweight concrete mix had been placed in perfect symmetry along the route, some lying, many upright but all in perfect accord of the overall plan. This plan was for each to tumble onto the other, causing all to fall in a sequential order. Volunteers were placed along the route to hand out information and guard the blocks. From my vantage point our “marshall ” complete with walkie talkie told us when they had started and how far away they were. A victory yell went up from the crowd as they tumbled toward us. Yes they fell in perfect formation, spectators stood transfixed, and it was evidence of an art installation involving all that captivated and engaged the audience.