Saturday, April 28, 2007

First draft: text for my flag book

I am really trying to focus on one work and get something finished so I can feel like I am making some progress. The trouble with being low on energy is that I find myself flitting from one project to the next, doing easy things, trying different techniques instead of concentrating and making real decisions that need to be made.
I am thinking of changing the layout of this flag book. I think the picture below expresses the idea of clouds blowing across a sky, better than the one I originally used (see earlier post). I still hope to use the original image, but maybe on the front or back cover.
Today I also wrote the first draft of the text for this book. I have been putting this off for quite a while, but it came together fairly quickly - I had a really clear idea of what I wanted to communicate, which helps. I really hate didactic art works - I like people to have to work a little and to think about the work. However, I do probably have a tendency to be a bit too oblique, so I would really appreciate some feedback on whether you think this text is working.
Meditation: Lesson 1
Moods change like the weather

Sit cross-legged, eyes closed

Breathe in
And out

Hear: the sound of voices on the air

A car passes
And then silence

Observe: tightness in the chest;
Thought: what is this?

Thought: A memory (The mind plays the scene)
Observe: tightness turns into a dull ache

Thought: That’s so unfair

Hear: the sound of birds chirping
Thought: the baby birds are hungry
Observe: pain disappears;
Observe: I am smiling with my eyes closed

Hear: two-stroke engine splutters to a start

Observe: shoulder muscles tighten
Thought: He does it just to annoy me

Observe: Heart rate quickens

Hear: engine dies.
Hear: “Shit”

Observe: I am smiling with my eyes closed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bellebyrd mention

Earlier this week I stumbled across Bellebyrd and Blakbyrd, the Print Australia blogs and its aligned yahoo group, Lyrebyrd. Print Australia have restructured, updating their on-line presence in keeping with the expansion of the internet. They have a fairly broad scope and are not limiting their content to printmaking. They even mentioned me this week....

The following is from Lyrebyrd:
*LYREBYRD* was first founded in 1999 as Print Australia by Josephine Severn and is currently operated in conjunction with the bellebyrd and blakkbyrd artblogs.
*lyrebyrd* * is an Australian based global community which aims to bring together artists separated by distance
* aims to facilitate critical discussion on contemporary issues, practices and events in international art
* provides a venue for the development of opportunities for exchanges, exhibitions, collaborations and curated events
* publishes exhibition announcements and other professional development opportunities for its members
* is named after the Australian lyrebird, like its namesake, it is multi-voiced'.

Invitation:The Print Australia project was commenced in 1999 and has been an outstanding success. It has provided a venue for the promotion of Australian printmaking and has assisted hundreds of artists worldwide in exhbiting their work. At the time of its development it addressed the lack of information and resources available to Australian printmakers and acted as an exemplar of what could be acheived without grant funding, by an individual artist.Its now time for PA to move into its next phase *lyrebyrd*. The objective of the two blogs, *bellebyrd* and *blakkbyrd*, is to introduce Australian art to an international audience, and international art to an Australian audience. The level of engagement is postgraduate. All media are covered, with particular emphasis on current trends. The lyrebyrd mailing list will act in support of the blogs and their forthcoming activities.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Clouds for my flag book

I have been working on more cloud images to use on the outside of the flag book that I mentioned earlier. I want to use one image that will extend across both the front and back covers and the concertina spine. The first image probably works best with the rest of the book colour-wise, although I love the softness of the second alternative. If you look really closely on the left, just below the lower bank of clouds you can see a tiny plane, which appeals to me.

In the bottom photo I do like the metaphor inherent in the layers of clouds of increasing darkness and the sliver of blue sky peeking through. inherent in the layers of clouds of increasing darkness and the sliver of blue sky peeking through.

There is so much to think about in making an artists book. So much to tie together conceptually, plus I am still searching for papers and printers and trying to decide whether to make it entirely myself or have it printed professionally. I would prefer to have the control of doing it all myself but I am only able to print up to A4, so it does limit my size. It is certainly a challenge, but enormous fun too!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Calling All Printmakers: Advice Needed

I have been trying my hand at some basic printmaking techniques again. This is a paper plate lithograph, also known as xerox lithography. It is a fairly simple technique and is pretty low in toxicity - you use a xerox or toner copy as your plate and gum arabic to repel the ink. Amazingly, you can use "the plate" two or three times.
I can see a lot of potential with the technique as a method of working with my photos as an alternative to inkjet transfers. As you can see, it's a very different look.
As a complete novice in the area of printmaking, I would really appreciate some advice about refining this print. I have uploaded a detail shot of this print and am wondering if someone can tell me what I am doing that is causing the patches of ink. Is this a problem with the application of the ink or is the problem in the way I am doing the transfer? (I used a baren). Or perhaps it's something else? Any tips would be gratefully accepted.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Artist Profile

This is an edited version of a profile which first appeared in the Fusions newsletter, a publication of Fusions, Australian Network of Clay & Glass Artists.

You certainly are a very strange ceramic artist,” a fellow ceramics student at RMIT said to me. I wasn’t sure whether to be upset or pleased, but I decided I may as well be pleased… What had I done to provoke this comment? Well, I’d plastered the studio wall with clay slip and was projecting a picture of myself onto it. Strange? Maybe, but exciting? Definitely!

Ever since first working with clay twelve years ago, I have wanted to do more than build single pieces - I wanted to create whole environments. My graduate exhibition work was a city skyline, interpreted in shades of grey and white and with the introduction of mixed media. Informed by my readings of the Situationists and contemporary architecture, I used light and shadow as metaphors to explore positive and negative aspects of urban existence, always with particular reference to Brisbane. That body of work won me the Craft Queensland Award and began my association with that organization, with whom I have since exhibited on a number of occasions. This culminated in being offered the Main Gallery space for a major exhibition in 2002.

In 2001, my interest in light led me to explore working with porcelain and in order to maximize its potential, I had called on a friend who was a lighting designer for advice. This resulted in the works entitled Facades which were exhibited in the Ivory Street Window, Craft Queensland.

For my first major exhibition, Livable, I envisioned a dramatic opposition of black and white, good and evil, clay and shadow. Collaborating again with lighting designer Andrew Meadows allowed me to create a real city of porcelain buildings with a backdrop formed by the city of shadows. In order to create an urban soundscape, I worked with musician/sound artist, Ian Thompson.

The exhibition also included smaller sculptures, which were groupings of porcelain buildings with photographs of scenes from around Brisbane projected onto them.

In late 2003 I moved to Melbourne with the intention of studying Art Therapy, although in the back of my mind was the dream that I might be able to continue my studies in art. Personal circumstances intervened, and it became clear that there was no way I could manage full-time study. The path was clear to pursue post-graduate study in the Masters of Fine Art (coursework) at RMIT on a part-time basis.

The coursework Masters is a cross-disciplinary degree and while based within the ceramics department for studio work, I mixed freely at tutorials and seminars with students from across the fine arts spectrum and was not even compelled to work in clay at all! This was a perfect environment for me, as it facilitated wide ranging exploration in an atmosphere where failure would be construed as “a wonderful learning opportunity”.

In the university environment, I saw how clay was perceived by those outside a ceramics perspective. This was extremely enriching and I began to explore using the raw material as a completed artwork. The enduring quality of ceramic works of art for thousands of years is beautifully juxtaposed with the ephemeral nature of unfired works.

While giving a presentation about my work to the postgraduate students, I showed images of Livable. One of my colleagues was curator at a community gallery in Melbourne and invited me to participate in a group show, entitled Home Ground. This time the porcelain buildings were displayed suspended from the ceiling by wires as an homage to the web of tram lines, suspended like a wire ceiling over Melbourne. Apart from the wonderful opportunity to exhibit in Melbourne, this show offered me the chance to re-work the pieces in a totally different environment, and this time, the pieces themselves were the stars, rather than being part of a greater gestalt.

Eventually I had to stop exploring and settle on a firm direction for my masters proposal - to investigate the ideas of process, transience and change. The work is informed by process philosophy and the Buddhist concept of impermanence.
Last year I had the opportunity to showcase a work from my masters in Brisbane as part of Prima Materia at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, in conjunction with the National Ceramics Conference. This was the installation Wraith, which was comprised of a low relief sculpture of a human figure in raw clay, anatomical drawings and a projection. The projection depicted the wraith, an apparition which visits as a portent of imminent death, beside the clay figure. As the clay dried, it fell from the wall, revealing the drawn anatomical details. The work uses the physicality and fragility of the raw clay undergoing a process (drying) as a metaphor for human life.

2007 will be a busy year for me with my plans including the completion of my masters, exhibiting Wraith in Melbourne late in the year and hopefully showing more of my masters work in Brisbane. You can follow my year here on my blog and also on Flickr at

Sunday, April 15, 2007

No Art-Making This Week...

Despite the best laid plans I have not been able to get to work this week. I have simply been too tired and had a migraine on Friday and Saturday after trying to push myself. Today my head feels better, but I just don't have the energy or the concentration to make anything.

I am finding this terribly frustrating and difficult to accept after feeling so well while I was in Melbourne - I guess I was on a high and simply emptied the fuel tank.

In an effort to try to see that I have achieved something this week, I am going to be completely indulgent and list what I have done that is art-related:

  1. made a full-sized transfer of self portrait image onto kozo paper - this did not turn out perfectly, but it is the largest transfer I have done, and may be usable.

  2. decided to test my MIL's Epson printer for a comparison transfer - made original on sandwich wrap and collected some Epson Photo Quality Inkjet paper (recommended for transfers on the Yahoo inkjet transfer group)

  3. researched a source (Paperboys) for paper for my flag book after going to an exhibition of artists books (more later) and seeing the beautiful Mohawk Superfine paper. I don't know how to explain it, but it is soft to touch! Irresistable! It isn't inkjet paper, but I should be able to use InkAid on it to ensure full colour reproduction, if I'm not happy with the result. The lovely people at Paperboys are sending me a sample to test.

  4. I also found out about some opportunities to get my work "out there" later in the year - if I can just get any work made, that is! Grahame Galleries + Editions here in Brisbane is again organising the Artists Books Fair in September. So any book that I make in multiples (maybe the flag book?) I could enter there. Also Fusions, the Australian Network of Clay and Glass Artists, recently called for Expressions of Interest for their newly constructed gallery space, which should be ready by late 2007. I am planning to put in a proposal for the Self Portrait work as soon as it is finished and I can take some images.

  5. Finally, something I did before I went to Melbourne came to fruition this week. I was asked to write a profile on my work for the Fusions newsletter and this has been published.

I guess I can see that even in a week where I can't get to make much, some progress does still happen now that I have the ball rolling. Hopefully this will let me relax into resting and help the energy build up again.

Incidentally I noticed that Alyson B. Stanfield over on the Art Biz Blog was recently talking about writing bios and profiles. She has some advice over there, including her own bio.... what I can see from all this is that it is one of the hardest things we do, and that everyone needs to develop their own in a style that represents them. I am going to post the profile I wrote for the Fusions newsletter on this blog in the next day or so, and while I don't necessarily think it is an example of the best, hopefully it might help clarify what you do and don't like in a profile.

Finally, because a post with no picture can never be as good as one with a picture: This image shows some pages from an artists book by Australian indigenous artist Judy Watson entitled: "a preponderance of aboriginal blood". At Grahame Galleries I was able to hold this in my hands. This is what I love about artists books.

Unfortunately the image doesn't show the wonderful graininess of the red ink - it really looks like blood. The book explores the incredible situation that went on prior to granting indigenous people in Australia the vote in the 1960s. The exhibition is entitled Lessons in History Vol 1 and comprises about 35 artists books exploring both personal and political history in book form. I spent about one and a half hours there, pouring over the books, and talking to Noreen, and would love to go back for a second visit if I get the chance.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Refinery (Artwords #47)

The Refinery
Originally uploaded by potsrme1962.

It's great to be contributing to Artwords again after an enforced break. Actually this is the first artwork I've done since returning from Melbourne nearly 2 weeks ago. The whole thing took a bit of a toll on my health and I guess I will have to factor in that sort of recovery period after each trip down this year.
Tomorrow I plan to get back to my masters work but today I took a trip to Wynnum about half an hour from my home and took some photos.
This refinery is on the way back. The whole area is full of "Jeffrey Smart" moments, as my husband pointed out. Wonderful if you like photographing industrial scenery - and I do.
Photoshop is a wonderful way for me to get my creative juices flowing again and I was even able to locate the exact spot to show you on a map on Flickr - great fun! Check it out here:

By the way, there is actually quite a bit of yellow in the sky, it just doesn't show up so well on screen.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Exhibitions in Melbourne

While I was in Melbourne I managed to get to a few exhibitions. I was surprised and pleased to see the number of people I studied with who had shows while I was visiting - there is so much going on in Melbourne in the way of art. I made it to two shows by dear friends and I wanted to show you images of their work, but as I didn't take any photos in the gallery, I'll have to rely on their invite images. The posting order of images relates only to the order in which I saw the shows...

First I went to the State Library of Victoria to see the ANU Edition + Artist Book Studio exhibition titled "How I entered there I cannot truly say". This gorgeous triangle book on the left was my pick - triangle books are my favourite and with that succulent red section, well who could resist this beautiful piece.
There were some wonderful etchings but I was hugely disappointed that the books were displayed in cabinets. Where were the white gloves? A book is made to be held in your hands and the pages turned...and I told them so in my feedback sheet.

This invite is for an exhibition of beautiful works by Hannah Bertram, a talented artist who I met at RMIT. Hannah's work concerns the decorative, is often ephemeral, and frequently surprises. This installation consisted of a trail of everyday paper ephemera beautifully pierced with intricate patterns. The works extended along the wall, filling the entire length of the gallery like a chain of buddhist prayer flags. The contrast between the labour-intensive decoration and the incredibly mundane substrate is at times quite amusing.

In the same gallery as Hannah's work (Dianne Tanzer Gallery) I stumbled on a wonderful group show with quite a few Australian "name" artists including two of my favourites, Kris Coad (her work left) and Sebastian di Mauro (below). I know I saw this show advertised somewhere but I can't find any images of it online to show you so I have used some older works by these artists which are particular favourites of mine. Kris Coad works with the translucency of porcelain to create works with almost-hidden symbols that rely on light to be exposed.

Sebastian di Mauro is a wonderful artist from my home state, Queensland and this image shows the first work of his I ever saw. It was called Floccus and as you can see he created these wonderfully ambiguous huge sculptures of some soft material that looks like fluff from a clothes dryer or something. The forms really took on the feeling of being creatures that you just wanted to hug or stroke, but by the same token, in the semi-dark space, you couldn't be sure they might not turn on you suddenly! It is one of my all time favourite installations. The work in Melbourne continued to explore similar forms but in bronze and less than 30 cms in length.

The last show I saw was by another talented artist from the MFA program, Katie Roberts. Katie's work has focussed on the Yarra River, which twists and turns its way through Melbourne. She has used video previously and in this exhibition presents her second series of mixed media drawings which functions as documentation of the social and natural history of the river. With moody depictions of the city in the background, Katie has manipulated her materials to create what looks like a record of the very soil on the river banks. Indigenous imprints are overlaid by the European ways of thinking about and interacting with the river, creating a visually "sedimentary" historical record.