“Beware of Falling” is the title of my final performance piece of my second year Bachelor Of Fine Art. It concluded my 2017 study year at Monash University, Melbourne.
The formative work began as a response to a studio project entitled ” A Narrative Tale”. Initially I decided to photograph my wardrobe. This took some time and involved the photographing of four hundred and two items of clothing. All my clothes are sourced from flea markets, vintage sales, opportunity or charity shops, garage sales and online second hand sites. I habitually buy only second hand items. This is a personal habit formed over many years. Financial circumstances made recycling an initial lifestyle choice. My ongoing aesthetic of repurposing the found object as a visual artist combined with my love of the old, quirky and undervalued has continued to inform my purchasing choices. As a weekly volunteer at a local op shop and keen sewer I have great resources and the ability to refashion rehoused items.
A thirteen hour photo shot started the process which took on many iterations over the course of the 2017 year. Photographic displays, artist books, diagrams and sculptural pieces, drawings and collages extended the theme. Further work included using large quantities of fabric to create installation pieces, which were hand dyed, silk screened, torn, stiffened of embellished in some fashion all bearing the hand of the artist. I played with fifty metres, 20 metres and 10 metres of fabric in various configurations in the stairwell at Monash University Building D. It rapidly became my work space, informed my methodology and forced me to address questions of scale and spatial practice.
My final iteration of the work took the form of a performance piece at the end of year show. I recruited several helpers who were to drop their specific bag of colour coded fabric into the stairwell onto the swathe of a 60 metre piece of orange fabric hung there . It was a total of four hundred and two pieces of fabric to replicate the original four hundred and two pieces of my wardrobe.
The process was a huge amount of physical labour, manual manipulation and lengthy thought process. It involved a prodigious following through of the original concept . Much collaboration was involved, reliance on others labour and skills. Uncertain as to the outcome it addressed my interest in public performance, trained me to address spatial concepts and fed my imagination. Never satisfied or appeased my restless search in my practice is continuing. What do viewers take away from a performance? How is the non static judged? How important is it to leave or maintain a permanent record of work.
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 .
In this blog I want to describe my artistic practice at the beginning of 2014, and my artistic practice at the conclusion of 2014.
I am an inveterate collector. I use found objects in my art, and to inspire me. My visual diaries, are a record of my daily journeys. They record, and sometimes act as a repository of my found objects. The focus of my artistic practice in 2014, has been beach washed detritus. Specifically I have used destroyed, aged, sea washed,rusted, crushed, and tattered cans. My work has involved sculptural pieces, using plaster, and metal frameworks amongst other found objects. I have completed a folio of many paintings, drawings and prints, based on cans, at various levels of decay. My printmaking work has also embraced the theme of destroyed, abandoned, and deserted post industrial landscapes, such as Detroit, USA , Cockatoo Island, Australia, and Hashima Island, Japan.
At the completion of my 2014 studies, I believe I have produced a cohesive body of work, that addresses my principles of the use of the damaged found object, ie cans, and has directed a burgeoning interest in the post industrial landscape. I have learnt many new skills, eg; drypoint, intaglio printmaking, and re-awakened old ones of life drawing, and perspective placement. Involving myself in a daily training environment has been most beneficial, as has access to a brilliant studio space. I look forward to completing my studies in 2015, particularly in the area of painting.
It has finally arrived. Our final folio submission. Months of hard work, dedication, studio toil , self doubt and creative output are drawing to a close.
Gruelling final hours, are being put in at the studios, as final touches are added to works, tweaking of folios, and stretching ourselves to the limit is occurring, in a final, vain, effort to get our work just right. Its a long, difficult, and laborious process and one that doesn’t come easily. Mountains of work has to be sifted through, pieces selected and finals displayed in our cramped, newly cleaned studio spaces. I spent the better part of my Saturday cleaning, choosing, tweaking and self doubting. Pinning countless pieces to the walls, I marvel at my huge output but obsessively question the value of the work and the validity of my artistic statement. An inveterate collector, recycler and re-houser, my work tends to overwhelm even me and I find my creative output massive and un-harnessable. Its excruciatingly difficult putting your life on the line, figuratively not actually. Always questioning, seeking solution and completion, whilst perpetually searching and depicting, is the artists lot. No arrogance or bravado for this mature age student, just hard graft, my resilient work ethic pushed to the limit. Whilst I envy the exuberance and arrogance of the young practitioners on my course, I value my experience, my compulsion for my work, and my questioning, and restless mind. I am impatient now, want the assessment to be over, and want to house my work and establish a working space over the long summer break. I have enrolled in a framing course at the CAE, over the next month as I wind down, and share my burgeoning mound of prints, drawings and paintings, with friends and family.
Mawkish sentimentality aside, goodbye VU, 17th Floor Studio Space, its been a bumpy ride, you’ve taught me a lot, and witnessed many upheavals in my daily life, and whilst I’ll miss you, I am lucky enough to be re-visiting you in 2015.
It was big , unwieldy and eminently untransportable . How to get it to VU ? certainly not on a slow moving Sandringham line train . I could just hear the shouts of indignation , and rude expletives as I tried to wedge it sideways onto the commuter train at 8.03 am monday morning .
Nothing for it , it would have to be driven in !! Gasp ! its like ! huge , t he 17 year old learner driver exclaimed as I attempted to secure it to the roof of the car . Not my car , its too small , but the larger other car had to be called into service . Dangling tent guy ropes , old shoelaces , torn rags , any binding agent that I thought would work was used to secure it .
Hmm , didn’t look that big when I first rescued it from the hard rubbish , and skewed it home , hanging out the boot of my car .
A slow procession was made through the sleepy sunday morning streets of Elsternwick . No speeding I exhorted to the hapless driven , or we might become airborne ! A foray into chaotic Kings Way saw us take the outside line , proceeding at a gentle 55 km per hour . I was on tenterhooks as we sometimes accelerated , waiting for the dreaded ripping sound as the canvas left its moorings and pirouetted into the path of the oncoming traffic . Didn’t happen . Town loomed and I exhaled gradually . Stopping in Flinders St I finally breathed and gleefully congratulated my daughter on getting us there intact . Trembling , I unloaded the canvas easing it out of its haphazard bondage , and sauntered into the lift at VU . It was a Sunday , and it would insist on stopping only at the 15th floor . I couldn’t cajole it to go any further despite frantic swiping with my fob . Exiting , I plunged toward the stairwell , and feverishly dragged the enormous canvas up the two flights of stairs to level 17 . Finally , secured in my studio looking resplendent with a coat of gesso , its all ready to go . Now what to do with it !! Watch this space .