Tuesday, 4 November 2014

into the light of tinsel town

Artwork from Sculpture by the Sea, 2014 (Bondi to Tamarama, Sydney)
Changes. They're mostly good, no? Let's hope so as I've made some rather large ones lately. For starters I've left my beloved Melbourne to live in sparkly, glitzy, shiny Sydney. After a decade of living in Melbourne (this time) I'm back to Sydney where I last lived 16 years ago. But so much has changed in this town since I last left. Whole areas that had very few people living in them are now massive residential areas with many, many medium-density apartment blocks (Alexandria, Zetland and parts of Waterloo). And there are more people generally and the city feels busier. But it still has many of the lovely things that I remember well from living here before.

So I'm exploring new and old places. I'm discovering that yoga classes now cost $30 (eep!) and that people are obsessed with living 'clean' here (read lots of time spent in wholefood cafes). I'm having fun finding my way around as I ride my bike up and down the steep hills that surround my new home.

I'll be looking for an open access print studio in the inner city/inner west areas soon. If anyone has a recommendation please let me know.

The funniest thing about the move so far has been the number of Sydney people who have asked (incredulously) 'why on earth did you move from Melbourne to Sydney?'. Like I've committed a crime against culture or something. Too funny. This two-city rivalry thing never stops, does it?

Saturday, 9 August 2014

the thing is done

It is done. The thesis has been examined and passed. And as weird as it sounds (to me at least), I am now a 'Dr'.

It's been a wonderful experience. I know not many people say that about doing a PhD. Most talk about the torture of it all, the marathon that it is. And of course there is plenty of hard work, a fair proportion of pain, and the journey is long for most, but oh how much I have learned!

My thesis is titled Creative practice, value, and the teaching of art and design in higher education. If you want to see a digital copy of the entire document click here. 

So many thank yous are needed and most have been covered in my thesis acknowledgment section. But I want to say another huge public thank you to the University of Melbourne who funded me to do the PhD through a scholarship. I am very honoured and utterly grateful.

And now for non-thesis writing weekends. And more printmaking!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

studio practice, performativity and the public gaze

Truth be told there has been some printmaking happening around here recently, but not a whole lot. I finally got to the studio last weekend to print some new drypoint etchings. But I'm not overly happy with the results (I messed up quite a few in my hurried attempt to do a lot in a short time) so will take a slightly different approach and print again from the same plates soon.

While the printmaking has been slow, there has been quite a bit of post-PhD-thesis-submission brain tinkering though. I've been thinking (and writing) a lot about the notion of creative practice and performativity, and how this becomes enhanced through the use of virtual tools such as blogs and Instagram to reveal studio practice. I am fascinated with the idea of the public gaze and what this might mean for how artists and designers think about their artist/designer identities.

More soon once I've finished the writing and (hopefully) get it published.

In the meantime, I'd be happy to hear any thoughts you have on this topic.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

things done




It is done. I submitted my PhD thesis for examination 2 weeks ago. I can hardly believe it, but slowly as the days pass my body and mind are beginning to process this fact. I am starting to uncoil the tightly wound spring of tension that I have become over the last 12 months of thesis writing. But what an experience! And I loved almost every single second of it.

So that means a little more time for printmaking - I have not been in the studio since April. It will be super lovely to get my hands dirty again. I feel quite rusty but also eager to get started. In the meantime though, a bit of rest is in order with some beach and mountain time in the company of family and friends. Bliss. See you in 2014!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Mapuru weavers coming to Melbourne


Two and half years ago I travelled to Mapuru, a small indigenous community in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, where I sat the women weavers and learned the basics of their beautiful, highly skilled craft. I blogged about it here and here. The image above is of a basket woven by Mapuru weaver, Margaret Bambalarra. After buying the basket from Margaret I carried it all the way back to Melbourne. It's now hanging on my wall at home. Each time I walk by it I drink in the colours of the top end and think about that wonderful community of women weavers.

If you live in Mebourne (or even if you don't but are prepared to travel here) Friends of Mapuru are bringing some of the Mapuru weavers to Melbourne in late January 2014 to participate in a cultural exchange. Part of that time will be spent sharing their weaving skills. If you'd like to take part in the weaving workshop check out the information on the Friends of Mapuru website and sign up. It will be a blast! Believe me, you will learn so much more than weaving skills from these amazing women.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

hearing feedback: crits and creative process

Work of Art (Season 1) contestant Abdi (left) during a work in progress studio crit with Simon de Pury.

How do you respond to feedback on your work?

It's a curly question that one, most probably generating even curlier responses depending on your view.

Let me give you some context. I've been engrossed in watching Work of Art: the Next Great Artist on SBS, a reality series from the US about artists and their creative work in a competition environment. You can read more about the series here on wikipedia. Spoiler alert: do not go to the official Bravo site to read about this series if you want to keep the mystery of who wins alive to the end. They have winner information plastered all over their front page at the moment (for season 2).

Have you been watching Work of Art too? If so, I'd be really keen to hear your take on it. There's so much that can be said about this show from many different angles - the competition, the participants, the judges, the studio environment, the nature of the briefs, the personalities (!!!), the made for TV formula, but...I'd like to dwell on the crits for a moment in this post if I may. Because boy, are they lively!

Crits (or critiques), as many people familiar with art or design school environments will know, are one of the most important places that an artist (or designer) receives feedback on their creative work, either the work in progress or the finished work. For a very thorough run down on crits and their role and place in art school education you might like to read this post by Kurt Ralske. A fellow tweeter and colleague, Megan McPherson (@meganjmcpherson) is doing her PhD on the student experience of the crit in the art school studio. She will no doubt have much to say on this topic as her study finishes so stay tuned!

If you haven't seen them, the crits on Work of Art are brutal. They're honest and hard hitting and the whole time I watch that part of the show I sit on the edge of my seat and my heart beats faster. I swear. This may sound odd but I feel some of the pain for the participants. Why? Because feedback is hard. It's hard to hear especially when the feedback is critical or negative and you've been working like a demon to produce something you feel is worthwhile. It's hard to hear feedback in the most normal of crit environments but on tv in a reality show with cameras and viewers all over the world, well that is something else! Sure, it could be argued that the partipants knew that this would be the case, that their crits would be uber public and that's the 'game' they entered into when they agreed to be part of the show. Yes. But all the same, they're creating work in very short time frames while being filmed. And then on top of it all they endure very public feedback on their work via a gallery show and then the crits. To actually hear the feedback, own it, take it in and process it, and then act on it takes a great deal of openness for artists, and I would suggest especially in the kind of environment on Work of Art. 

But I'm keen to hear what you think. Go watch the show. Come back and leave comments. Or just tell me what you think from your own experience of crits. Is feedback hard for you? Do you have any special ways of dealing with it?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

on rabbit holes and creative process

Inside a Japanese woodblock print studio. Total immersion in the process. Photo by Kylie Budge (circa 2003)

 A fellow researcher, Melonie Fullick (@qui_oui) and I have been chatting about rabbit holes and the PhD process on Twitter lately. This is because we both feel like we travel down somewhere deep in apsects of our research work, and it feels like a solo place where we can't think about other things. We just have to tunnel down like a rabbit and do our thing there for a while until we're ready to come back up. Melonie even wrote a blog post about it yesterday. She describes the process and feeling well, I think.

As I read her post this morning over breakfast it got me thinking about the creative process and how it has similar rabbit hole qualities. You know that feeling, when things are going well with a project and you forget to eat and can't bear to stop. Hours and hours can pass by without you noticing. Psychologists call this 'flow', the idea where immersion in creating is so deep that time seems to stop for the person involved. They also talk about it being a single-minded immersion. Which led me to the rabbit hole analogy. It's a similar idea.

I was thinking about this quality of single-mindedness the other night as I watched Jennifer Byrne interview Elizabeth Gilbert on the ABC. Elizabeth was talking about the process of writing and creating her new work of fiction, The Signature of all Things, a massive 512 page story set in the early 1800s. When she spoke about writing this book and bringing the story to life I was struck by the details, the collecting and sorting and researching and weaving of all the tiny minutiae that make up a fantastic story (and if Jennifer's reading of it is anything to go by, it will be great. The book will be released next week). Surely creating something like this requires at least one rabbit hole? Maybe more?

And yesterday I read Lucy Feagins interview with the Sydney artist Cressida Campbell on The Design Files. I've always admired Cressida's prints so was really excited to see this interview. In it she talks about her process. One thing that struck me is she said that while a small work can take her 2 weeks to make, a larger work can take up to 4 months. And Cressida admitted she usually only works on creating one print at a time. A great example of the rabbit hole! Check out the article with Sean Fennessy's beauitful photography showcasing Cressida's studio.

I wonder, do you experience the rabbit hole feeling when creating? Or something else entirely?