Monday, February 27, 2012

Understanding Zines

Last year, Imprint, the journal of the Print Council of Australia called for zines to include as a give-away in their edition dedicated to artist’s books.

The idea of free art, of making something and letting it go (or just giving it away) really appeals to me. However, that isn’t to say that I don’t want my work to be appreciated. Just freely available.

The idea of making some work and leaving it somewhere in the neighbourhood for someone/people to take has crossed my mind more than once. But this was followed by an image of my poor work being scrunched up and tossed in the bin, so I haven’t acted on the idea.

The zine call sounded good except…I don’t really make zines. And I’m not really that into them. (I think I might be a bit too old…)

At the time of the Imprint call, my contact with zines was fairly limited. I did own one, which I had received for free, given away by Dr Anna Polletti, a speaker at the Freestyle Books Symposium (State Library of Queensland, 2008). The free gifting had impressed me at the time, even though I found the zine itself rather curious.


You can see it above, with its little paper-bag envelope on the right. It’s the musings of “Cry Wolf”, handwritten, on the subject of “pleasure”. It’s written on a page from some sort of sports manual, this page being about competitive walking technique. The whole thing is photocopied (which seems to be the preferred medium for zines) but there is a colour card, like a collector’s card attached. Mine has a picture of a young man looking at a Playboy magazine, and I presume there were a variety of cards included.

So, this was the first zine I had held in my hands, and I have to say that over time, it did begin to grow on me.

The zine-giver, Dr Anna Polletti, is an academic from Monash, and she chaired the zine roundtable at the Impact conference, mentioned by Ronnie on the BAO blog here. Having  written a PhD on the topic of autobiography in Australian zines, she can be considered an expert, so you might be interested in this little chat with her from youtube.

Unfortunately I can’t find the notes I took at the symposium, but I definitely left more interested in zines than I had been.

There are a number of things that appeal to me including making art accessible and non-elitist, creating community, and the freedom to pursue off-beat interests (let’s be honest, we all have them!). The difficulty I was facing was that the zine I had been given looked exactly like I thought zines were supposed to look, an aesthetic largely dictated by the use of inexpensive black and white photocopying. And that wasn’t really inspiring me.

I definitely needed to do a bit more research. More to come.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Visiting Redland Regional Gallery

I really want to thank everyone who has commented on my 300th post. A little give-away will soon be winging its way to you. I had hoped to get them all in their envelopes over the week-end, but today demanded to be a “sofa” day, so I am still working on them.

secret CC2.0 jinterwas

To preserve “the secret”, I’ll wait until my next post to write about the work I’m sending. In the mean time, I wanted to share a bit about my recent trip to the Redland Art Gallery.

The regional gallery closest to me is around a half hour drive away in the Redlands. The shire is known for the gorgeously fertile, rich, red soils and its strawberry production. It is skirted by Moreton Bay and includes some lightly-inhabited islands, including Stradbroke, Moreton and Russell. In the last 50 years the population of the area has exploded from around 10 000 to close to 150 000, and in 2003 the shire saw the opening of the Redland Artl Gallery (RAG).

As a gallery within a region, part of the intention is for the art shown and collected to enrich a sense of place and cultural heritage. The exhibitions often feature Queensland artists or collections, and frequently artists from the Shire. There are also touring exhibitions which are traveling around the national "regional gallery circuit”. There seems to be a concentration on 2D artwork, and the galleries collection emphasizes both painting and works on paper pretty equally. It is a stated aim to collect more photographic and new media works.

The focus on local talent doesn’t mean the quality suffers, although if it is highly conceptual works by bright young things you seek, then perhaps head for GOMA instead. I was drawn to the gallery a couple of week-ends ago to see Judy Watson’s Heron Island Suite of etchings. Below is a video from youtube about Watson's residency on Heron Island which resulted in these works.

I’ve posted about this artist here before, as I am a big fan, and not just because her name is so similar to my mother’s! This show included some lovely works like the one below from the invitation. If you click on the image you will go to the RAG site where there is more information on Watson and her work.

Judy Watson: Heron Island 4 (image from invitation)
Other examples displayed a distinct tension between the watery organic backgrounds and the graphic, scientific details shown in tables and graphs (see them here). Having had the privilege of handling some of Judy’s etchings in the form of an artist’s book at Grahame Galleries, I couldn’t help feeling that these works suffered a little from being behind glass.  

Also on show was a 30 year retrospective of now-local artist Carolyn Dodds. A printmaker working largely without the use of colour, these works just didn’t sing to me. The prints were mostly technically-excellent, intricate woodblocks or lino prints.  Unfortunately the density of detail simply overwhelmed me, but this is a purely personal preference. 

I did enjoy Dodd’s small collection of photogravure prints, which she traveled to the US to produce. These were moody works, where the light in the photograph and the graininess of the technique combined most effectively. There were a couple of artists books included in the show and my favourite was this one, The Heart of the City. The book featured photos of graffiti in a prescribed area of Sydney, which had been photocopied multiple times to achieve a grainy, urban effect. 

At the gallery I bought a copy of their recent publication, Redland Art Gallery Collection, 2003-2009, which I have really enjoyed studying. I really wanted to share a few page views from the book with you to give you some idea of the scope of the collection, but I don’t want to infringe any copyright laws. So instead I offer a couple of links to the RAG site here and here, as well as directing to you a couple of upcoming exhibitions of interest here and here. (Can you spot the Book*Art*Object member??)

Friday, February 03, 2012

February: Celebrating 300 posts and 6 years of blogging

 Above: This was the image that went out with that first post!
Probably lucky I didn’t scare everybody off permanently.

It was a Saturday afternoon in late February 2006 when my first blog post was published.
My friend Claire (who just over 12 months ago finally launched her own blog, Doing What Matters) convinced me that perhaps I had something of interest to say.
Claire and I share a love of art and art-making, and we both believe firmly in the power of art to heal and to nourish us as human beings. Claire works as an art therapist and there was a time, before the existence of this blog, when I hoped to make that my life’s work too. When I moved to Melbourne in 2003, my plan was to study Art Therapy at La Trobe University. Although I had ME/CFS, at that time I was much improved, and it seemed a possibility.

livable 1 (detail)
 Installation view from the exhibition I had in Brisbane just before moving to Melbourne.

The gains I had made were only temporary, and it was soon obvious that I wasn’t energetic enough to undertake such a demanding full-time course of study. So, being in a new and exciting city which offered a range of institutions, I looked into the possibility of studying art in a university environment. And the rest is history, as they say. (In case you don’t know, I eventually completed my MFA from RMIT University).
Those first steps into the blogosphere were rather tentative, at times erratic and mis-directed, but my impulse to equate art and health remains strong.
I re-read that first post today with interest. Personally, I have a need to create regularly or I can feel the tension building inside me. I become ungrounded, irritable, anxious and eventually depressed. It’s not pretty! I guess these all sound like mental health symptoms in the jargon of the day, but I also see it as a question of the heart (not to be confused with cardiac), soul or dare I say “spirit”.
Whatever term you prefer, the bottom line is that creativity and art are essential in a healthy life. With the help of this little blog I hope to spread a little of the joy of art around.

A Give-Away
 Tokyo 081
 Yes, this pic is *somehow* related to the Give-Away
So to celebrate 300 posts and 6 years of blogging, I’m offering a give-away to everyone who comments here before my next post (make sure I can find an email to ask for your address). When will the next post be? Well, who knows? I certainly don’t! That’s one of the rules I have for myself about blogging. No pressure! There are very few areas of my life where I allow myself a little leeway, but blogging is one.
As my friend Cusp likes to describe it:

So, leave a comment if you’d like to receive a little something from me in the mail. What will it be? Well that would be telling, wouldn’t it?