Saturday, June 21, 2014

The project with no name (yet)

Added several hours after posting:
I really wish I could say that I planned for this post to be published on the solstice, but I didn't. Nonetheless here it is, and it seems quite fitting. Happy Solstice, be it short or long of light where you are.

I've made a few adjustments to the images I showed in the last post and am now ready to make the final version, but I'm out of glassine. So while I wait for that to arrive from Melbourne, I thought I'd tell you about the long term project I've been working on for a while.

If you've been reading this blog for a while you probably realize that I'm not particularly enamoured with Brisbane as a place to live. Nevertheless, I do live here for now, and in the spirit of increasing my awareness, relating to the seasons, and simply "getting more from something if you give more", I began this project.

Although I live in a small unit block, we have some small common garden areas and I have a large patio where I grow some pot plants. I've started to gather plant matter from the trees and bushes in the garden and my pots, and am doing tests to see what colours and marks they produce.

I've added to these with flowers and leaves that I receive as gifts, as well as collecting leaf fall from a couple of deciduous trees in the next couple of streets. Here in a subtropical Brisbane autumn is barely marked by the delicous colours that deciduous trees provide in other areas of Australia, but they are still the most potent symbol of that season, to my mind.

I'm also thinking of using some kitchen scraps, like onion skins and avocado pits, but I'm drawing the line at buying something we don't actually eat, like purple cabbage, for instance. The point of the project is to be a document of this place and time, so I don't want to add in plants just for the colour they provide.

I'm also choosing to include some things from my mother-in-law's garden, because she plays such an important part in our lives at this time. She lives in the next suburb, and we go to her place for dinner twice a week. She is the only one of our parents still alive and it feels right to include her in the record of this time and place.

Before dyeing swathes of fabric, I've been doing some tests with a few mordants to see the colours I can get, following a method described by India Flint. I've been using alum powder, copper sulphate, tea, and a home-made aluminium mordant made using alfoil and vinegar.

Below are scans of my journal pages documenting the tests for rose and callistemon leaves, and gerbera flowers, plus a few other bits and pieces. As silk is the most receptive to the natural colours, that is what I use for these initial tests, plus some tests on cotton rag paper, because I'm also interested in using the dyes as stains or watercolours.

Finally, here are some larger pieces of dyed fabric, including some bundled ecoprints. The fabric is silk, unless otherwise noted.

Gerbera flowers
Rose leaves

Callistemon flowers and leaves

And what's the plan for all of this? I don't have a clear outcome in mind yet. I just know that the work is about this place and this time. I definitely see it as a document, a record, and in that sense at least, as a book. I'm excited to start putting things together, but I know the collecting isn't done yet, and there doesn't feel as if there is a need to rush. The work may be a farewell to Brisbane...but that remains to be seen. For now, I'm very happy to continue as I have begun.

Monday, May 12, 2014

About ME : work in progress

As today is International ME/CFS Awareness Day, it seemed the right day to share where I'm up to with my artist's book "About ME".

Below is the text I am using in the book.

"Patients with ME/CFS experience abnormal fatigue that is both more intense and qualitatively different from normal tiredness. The fatigue in ME/CFS may take several different forms: post-exertional fatigue (abnormal exhaustion or muscle weakness following minor physical activity), persistent flu-like feelings, brain fog (mental exhaustion from everyday cognitive effort) and wired fatigue (feeling over-stimulated when very tired).
The type of fatigue that is a core feature of ME/CFS is post-exertional malaise (PEM). PEM is the exacerbation of fatigue and other symptoms (e.g. cognitive difficulties, sore throat, insomnia) following minimal physical or mental activity that can persist for hours, days or even weeks. PEM may be related to abnormal energy metabolism." *
*Quoted with permission from the IACFS/ME Primer for Clinical Practitioners (2014)

When I read this excerpt from the International Association for CFS/ME's "A Primer for Clinical Practitioners", it struck me as the clearest, brief description of ME that I have ever read. A sort of Goldilocks explanation. Not too much, not too little, just right. I use the text as a tonal element to create a self portrait, but despite being partially obscured, the text I select is an important aspect of the work.

In earlier posts you've seen some of the stencils I've been preparing. Last week I finished a first trial using the stencils to position the text on the translucent pages of the book.

Here's a photo of the trial, just snapped with my iPhone so please excuse the quality. 

Bear in mind this is a work in progress, a way to test whether the technique would do what I hoped. The text is written on eight pages and the book will be a simple pamphlet binding. There's tweeking and refining to be done, a little more detail in certain important areas, but it is a pleasing start.

When the book is finished, I hope it will contribute in a small way to raising awareness of ME. This is the first artwork I've made in over a decade that deals directly with my illness.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A small space is all you need....

....cleared, amongst the mess... finish the stencil cutting....
.....and start to test out the text.