Friday, April 24, 2009

500 Ceramic Sculptures (including mine!)

Just a quick post to share some exciting news, as this week has been taken up with hospital visiting. My mother, who is now 84, has had a heart attack so things have been a bit crazy here.

At the same time, the Lark book "500 Ceramic Sculptures" has been published and my copy arrived earlier this week. I like the format of these books as many of the images are full page...including one of an earlier work of mine. (see below)

This work was exhibited in a solo show at Craft Queensland in 2002, and my thanks must go to the photographer Alastair Bett, who generously offered his services to document the show. There are more photos of the show on flickr, and I wrote about it in this blog post. The installation of the porcelain pieces was re-worked in Livable 2, which was shown in Melbourne in 2005 in the group show "Home Ground".

This is the first time my work has been included in a book and it is an exciting step for me. These achievements in the "real world" are all more sweet for the extra time they take, and of course my mother is thrilled about it too.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Exploring solar-powered techniques Part 1: Sunprints

I don't know whether it's a subliminal effect of "Earth Hour" or just the fact that at last it is a little cooler here and I can actually enjoy being outside again, but recently I've tried out two art techniques that rely on the sun (or UV). Both are things I've been interested in trying for a couple of years (!) but had to wait until my studies were done.

I love many of the old photographic techniques that are now experiencing a revival as "alternative techniques", especially photograms and cyanotypes. Historically, the greatest proponents of photograms are Man Ray, who re-named them rayographs(!) and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. The basic concept is that instead of using a camera and film, you place an object directly on photo-sensitive paper and expose it, then fix it and rinse as usual.

Cyanotypes, also known as blueprints, were traditionally used for plans in architecture and for recording botanical specimens. It's a simple process that can be used for photograms or with a contact negative (where the negative is placed directly on the paper, rather than using an enlarger).

I've been planning to buy a cyanotype kit from this photographic store in Melbourne, when I knew I would have some time to experiment, but last year when I was at the Tate Gallery, I saw these "Sunprint" papers in the shop. Although designed for kids, I knew some people on Flickr had used this type of thing to good effect, and besides at less than 5GBP, there was nothing to lose.

The papers sat among my supplies for nearly a year and when I stumbled across them about a week ago I was a bit dismayed to see the packet said: "use within 6 months of purchasing" I rushed out to give them a try.

One idea that relates to process and change that I didn't have a chance to explore in my masters was "the life cycle". I've had a number of ideas about this that I hope to eventually explore, and one symbol I'm drawn to is the chrysalis. So rather than using objects for my sunprint test, I decided to use a drawing of a chrysalis that I was preparing on transparency for a workshop (more about this soon).

I think the paper manages to pick up a surprising degree of subtlety from the image, considering it was drawn with a chinagraph pencil. The beauty of this paper is that it comes ready to use and is processed in ordinary water, so it's low toxic. There's only a bit of testing with regards exposure time, if you want to be really picky. If you'd like to see some more examples take a look at Sunprint and Photograms groups on Flickr.