Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, or love, or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened.
Albert Camus

Some of the best detours in my life have seen me following things of beauty but I wonder a bit if in fact these things should become the main route of my life rather than the detours.

At the moment (despite a trip to Vietnam) it feels very much as if the world of work has taken over and that art, beauty and passionate advocacy or voluntary work have definitely become side roads as the freeway or motorway or autobahn of work pushes through without a moment's hesitation, without pause to stop and reflect.

We are both tired and half way thru packing to go away again. This time to work in a couple of remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. It will be great and a wonderful experience; but the preparation of what we will need to take is at times a bit overwhelming. What I wouldn't give for an hour of blissful indulgence in art; a random detour thru beauty somewhere right now, where my left brain could go to sleep and stop worrying and organising and anticipating and my right brain could just soak in wonder and exploration.

I think this quote has made me stop and reflect how important these detours are; how important they are in finding your true life and way of being the world and how in fact the rest of it all (work-work and worry) can simply be distractions from your real purpose. I'll need to work out a way to transit from the motorway back to the side road; then work to widen the side road so it becomes more of a main street!  The next few months will challenge that notion but I'm sure it could be worth it.

©2011 Fiona Dempster - unfurling rosebud heart

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Silk in Vietnam

We are home again and have more ready access to computers so a chance to get blogging again!

I haven't done much art myself of late, but thought some of the fibre folk out there might enjoy these images from the Silk village just outside Hanoi. We have visited a few times and are always enraptured by the machinery and the detail and the noise and the dust as these amazing bolts of patterned silk are woven. Click clack click clack click clack it goes.

We bought some lovely colourful scarves from the shop where the machines were and I have worn three of mine so far; but of course I don't have any photos of them...

The intricacies of the knot tying and needle threading causes my eyes to water and my brain to ache as I think thru how it happens; but the results are wonderful.

©2011 Fiona Dempster - silk weaving in action
©2011 Fiona Dempster - silk threads
©2011 Fiona Dempster - silk pattern card
©2011 Fiona Dempster - silk threads, knots and 'needles'
©2011 Fiona Dempster - silk worms

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs.
Henry Ward

It's the end of summer in Australia, Autumn really, but the weather at home we hear is hot - so summer seems to have arrived late this year.

We on the other hand are travelling - a holiday we had booked months ago before our working travel went berserk. Hard to relax sometimes when you know you have so much to do when you return; but we are working on it!

Which brings me to summer reading, just between laziness and labour...or perhaps airplane reading is the way I think about it. I tend to still read good books in summer, but when I travel I tend towards throw away and trashy novels.  Partly because I like to offload the books as we finish them, leave them here and there for others to collect on their travels and also to lighten the load in the bags. If I took good books with me all the time my bags would end up overloaded!

I like the idea of people coming across an English language novel in a foreign land and it keeping them company on their next train ride, or bus ride or plane ride. It might also come in handy for hotel staff who might be able to sell it on and make a few rupiahs, dong or dollars. I always leave a note so that staff know they can keep the book and not get into trouble for 'stealing'. For the random ones we leave behind in coffee shops we sometimes leave a note; but mostly let them be discovered for themselves.

We are in Hanoi - overcast, cool and misty. A fabulous city filled with sights and wonders and good food and coffee. Oh, and smells! We spend our days traipsing the streets, poking our heads into shops and alleys and temples...It also has one of the highest proportions of artists and art galleries that we have seen anywhere in our travels - so many wonderful paintings (and oh so many knock-offs as well - Van Gogh's sunflowers anyone? of perhaps Klimt's The Kiss?).

Wherever you are be safe and happy - we head home soon for a few days before starting another adventure.

Here is a shot from one of the palettes used by a talented knock-off artist...not a book or reading; but colourful!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hungry beasties

I had an interesting experience with a book a week or so ago.

I had a hand-made journal with paste paper cover sitting somewhere to maybe be bought. It waited patiently and quietly but didn't sell. So I went to collect it and another journal and a few other bits and pieces.

I happily packed up all my goodies and when I got home realised that something had been 'at' my journal. Literally. Ate my journal.

This intrigued me, and between us Barry and I think we determined the culprit was a cockroach. We think it liked the taste of paste (which after all is mostly wheat and water). And in particular it liked to munch where the paste was thickest.

We have been hearing warnings about cockroaches in high numbers given our extremely wet season, which is why we figure it was one of them. The other journal with dyed paper covers wasn't touched, so I now need to think my way through presenting and preserving paste-paper covers for folk who might buy them!

Firstly I thought I might spray the cover with some fixative - figuring that might make the paste less palatable. Secondly I thought I would always have my journals in plastic - reuseable bags from now on to help protect the paste from paste-loving bugsnstuff.

Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions and advice warmly welcomed! What to do with the munched journal is another thing yet to be determined...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek. To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.
Terry Tempest Williams

I loved the sense of this the very first time I read it. It seemed so full of energy, enquiry, exploration and joy - so much to do so little time it seemed to say.

As a calligrapher I have often prepared lists of words and one of our daily rituals is to choose a word out of a bowl each morning that we think about or try to encourage in our day.  I now make sure that every set I make has a nice balance of verbs and nouns - the verbs to encourage us to be active and participate in life; the nouns allowing us a bit more time to think about things like 'reflection', mindfulness' and 'generosity'.

The idea that one could have a faith of verbs - of doing things. I like the idea that life is about being active and engaged and involved  - whilst there is the verb to observe; these others are much more about experiencing and doing. I think perhaps I have a tendency to do!

This faith of verbs makes me feel as if the person is truly alive, and living their life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Harlequin Dancer

As I braved the return to the studio after so much frenzied activity, instead of focusing on tidying up, clearing away, replacing and returning tools I got distracted.

My gaze was drawn to this lovely, quirky little book I made years and years ago. Perhaps after all the creams and rusts of the exhibition pieces my eyes were attracted to the vibrant colours and lines of this little one.

The swirls of colour and flourishes suggested dreamers and dancers and poets and singers, so I've called it Harlequin Dancer.

©2011 Fiona Dempster - Harlequin Dancer
I remember it was a bit of a practice of flourishes and controlled swirls using a calligraphy pen - attempting to get smooth curves and changeovers. Some more successful than others I must say as I look back over it - but it has an exuberance which I think overcomes any such such shortcomings!

©2011 Fiona Dempster
©2011 Fiona Dempster
I then played around with watercolour pencils, filling in a few of the enclosed curves here and there, and trying not to make the ink run when I touched the wet brush to them.

©2011 Fiona Dempster
©2011 Fiona Dempster
It is only small, measuring about 3cm(w) x 12cm(h), but it feels like a little gem.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

journeys, places,marks & traces...opens

As we sit here, nodding into our keyboards, hoping to avoid the keys making a forceful impression on our foreheads as the heads drop closer and closer, we manage a quiet sense of satisfaction (and relief).

We had a wonderful time at our opening last night - surrounded by family and friends it was lovely to share and celebrate the culmination of a journey. Folk travelled from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and up and down the Sunshine Coast and hinterland to attend (and even Barry flew in from Darwin!).

There's not much else to say except a huge thank you to everybody who attended, and especially those who bought pieces (Noela, Mark, Jo, Tanya, Kim, David & Judy...).  It means a lot to us to share our work with folk who care; and lovely when pieces find new homes where they will be loved and appreciated. Thank you too to Jennifer and Richard of Studio4 Gallery - the gallery space is perfect and intimate for our work.

And a final big thank you to all the folk across the blogging world who connected with and supported us along the way. In a perfect world we would get to share these events in person everywhere (now that's a an amazing dream...) but we nonetheless know that we had plenty more friends out there wishing us well and we truly thank you.

Noela was 'official' photographer and took loads of lovely shots of us at play and enjoying ourselves - so here we are! Plenty more over at Barry's blog as well.

Jennifer Stiller, Studio4 Gallery welcomes everybody
Barry Smith and Fiona Dempster
Fiona Dempster and calligrapher Helen.
Fiona Dempster and calligrapher Tanya
Kim Schoenberger; proud owner of Finding my place...
Fiona Dempster and calligraphers Helen and Tanya
And just to let you know... details of all the exhibition pieces can also be found under the current exhibition gallery in the portfolio section of our websites:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Exhibition all set up

Well, we think we did it! Before Barry jetted off again to Darwin, Melville Island and Groote Eylandt this week, we managed to set up the exhibition.

It's always a daunting task to be faced with a space, and know that the task is to fill it and make it look beautiful and interesting. Luckily we work well together and there were no fights over "That's my plinth" "No, it's my plinth!". After a couple of hours of unpacking, fiddling, and moving around we left satisfied that we had done what we could.

At different times we had both worried that we wouldn't have enough work to fill it; at others we were assuming we would need to bring some home. In the end the amount we had seemed to be 'just right'.

I am always seeking a calm and quiet exhibition space - one that doesn't make you buzz as you look around; one that allows the pieces to breathe and quietly show their special qualities; one that doesn't look so busy and cluttered that you can't see the pieces.

We decided we would try to 'film' the space before it had people in it so that you could have a little walk around the gallery. Hilarious! Film makers we are not; but we used our phones to have a go. If you want to have a quick, grainy, slightly bumpy look around - please play the mini video below! It goes for about 3 minutes. Steve taught us how to load it, and his next challenge is to teach us how to a) film better and b) edit!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.
Camille Pissarro

I chose this quote tonight, quite quickly - it seemed something I could respond to.

This quote speaks to me of the communities and networks that we discover on the web - where in amongst the literally gazillions of pieces of information and opinion and imagery that flow every millisecond; we find those who find the beauty in humble places. Who celebrate the moment. Who celebrate the uniqueness of the old, worn or tired. Who see that something simple, plain or apparently inconsequential in fact holds much to be admired, respected and loved.

I think its a gift, this capacity to see that moments, fragments and the often passed-by elements of a day are special and beautiful. This ability to stop, be in the moment and truly appreciate the wonder and beauty they behold instead of rushing by, pushing through, not glancing this way or that.

I feel a kindredness of spirit with folk who can see these things and wonder at them. Who can render a fleeting image in quick graceful lines, write beautifully of a quiet, stolen moment or photograph the magnificence of a winter wonderland. The world is full of wonder and its nice to know we have friends who notice it too.  Blessed indeed.

January Rain by Fiona Dempster
During the big wet, I took this shot thru our flyscreen one morning as we chose our daily word. Humble, yet beautiful (to me).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Southern Cross Uni - an intriguing selection process

In our criss-crossing of the country in the past few weeks, we managed to make it to Lismore on a Saturday night to attend the opening of the Southern Cross University's Acquisitive  Artis' Books exhibition.

I really wanted to be there so that I could hear what was said about the books that were selected. Living in a small country town  and not having studied art formally at all, I am inexperienced in the ways of the 'art world' and like to listen in whenever I can. And this Saturday night was a true lesson for sure!

I also knew that Sara, who hosts and supports the Book Art Object project that I have been fortunate to participate in this year (altho I use the term 'participate' loosely as I am yet to make my books...) was going to be there and it seemed too good an opportunity not to try and catch up with more blogging buddies!

next art gallery, Lismore
In selecting those pieces that would be purchased by the University for inclusion in their Artists' Book collection, the 'selector' took a very conservative path. He acknowledged this up front, apologised repeatedly for who he was and his selection approach and proceeded to explain what he thought an artists' book was and which ones he felt comfortable with.

My observation of the selection was that he didn't really want to see the hand of the maker in the work, as digital prints were preferred along with some quite traditional fine bindings. He wasn't at all fond of a book that appeared in the slightest bit sculptural and wanted to experience a reading of the book in a traditional way.

On reflection I figure that the Uni knew his style when they asked him to select; so perhaps they were keen to get the collection 'back on track' with some worthy and formal artists books. Perhaps it had veered off into the chaotic over the past few years?

So both Sara and I knew early that our books weren't going to pass muster; but the one thing that worried me most was his comment that he looked through the collection and decided 'who' was missing; and chose people who he thought 'should' be in the collection.  I felt this approach was a) not about the quality of the books on show; and b) encouraged homogeneity amongst collections and c) kind of left all the emerging artists out in the cold with no hope of being invited in...I wondered and worried about such an approach a fair bit.

But in the end I saw some BEAUTIFUL books; I loved a number of pieces there and would have loved to have been able to purchase one in particular (but the $1000 price tag was hmmmm somewhat beyond us on the night shall I say?!?!).

They produced a great catalogue and I am proud to be in it.

Here are images of some of the books I no particular order of preference!

Book of Dreams - Triptych by Annique Goldenberg
Book of Dreams - Triptych by Annique Goldenberg (detail)
Speaking Tongues/Armada - Sara Bowen
Threads by Nicci Haynes
Threads by Nicci Haynes (detail)
Landscape plane by Sally Anderson

I think I'll talk some more about artists' books and what they are later on sometime...I am sure there is plenty more to be said!

Sara and I failed to get a photo - we were about 10kms down the road when I slapped my forehead realising we'd missed the chance. So it just means Barry and I will have to go adventuring south again sometime!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A trip to visit books and blogging buddies

I think whirlwind is the best way to describe life right now...we just keep reminding each other to keep breathing. In. Out. It will all happen.

I am gradually catching up on things and wanted to post about a special part of our recent trip; when we went to Bega to see Ronnie's show at Spiral Gallery.

We had arranged to meet at the Gallery and hoped that we would recognise each other.  We did! and then had a great old chat about the work, a play with some pieces and a wonderful few hours chatting over nice coffee at lunch in town.

Ronnie is a great calligrapher, photographer and book artist who does ten thousand other things all at once. I had 'met' her thru the blogging world; exchanged emails, asked questions about her studies as I pondered returning to study; found lots of overlaps in our worlds and love of books - even getting munched by ticks.

The Show! Ronnie had included some installations with encyclopaedias; beautiful photos of books being set alight and burned, and just randomly placed in settings on her farm; as well as her flower-form coptic stitched books and her incredibly l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng coptic bound serpent books. She also had a nice display of take-aways - small journals and the like at good prices.

Barry and I had a lovely wander thru and ended up buying two photos that really spoke to us. One is books placed along a cow trail on her farm; the other an image of a book alight. Stunning.

We also got to play with the rainbow serpent book - here are the fun shots Ronnie feared might appear sometime!

Ronnie shows Fiona how to handle the 'rainbow serpent' book
The two photos Barry and I bought are in the background of this shot - the burning book at the back and the meandering thru the paddock line of books on the left:
Fiona enjoying wearing a book!
It takes two to pop it back in place - apologies for the rear views!
A close up of the reddish section - beautiful stitching!
A black and white serpent book
Ronnie and Fiona in front of some photos and 'flowers'
In her energetic and effervescent way, Ronnie has just completed more installations at "Sculpture on the Edge" at Bermagui and taken more beautiful evocative and atmospheric photos - they are on her blog, do go and enjoy!

It was a fabulous fun day; wonderful to spend so much time together; meet each other face to face, see and feel her work in the flesh, hear the stories behind the pieces - and chat about art and life. 'twas grand!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Having too many books to read is not a problem, it’s a gift. Having no books to read: that’s a problem.
Jessica Zafra

We have had a frantic ten days or so and this little quote reminds me how much I need books to  help me through; to be my companion; to be my escape or to simply let me feel comfortable when I am feeling out of my depth in a place.  The thought of NOT having enough books with us when we travel is almost my worst nightmare.

We travelled across the country for work-work recently and much more looms ahead. It might have seemed like we were pottering away on the mountain but those posts were not 'going live' so to speak. We travelled to Canberra, then down to Bega to see Ronnie's work and her exhibition (she posted about the visit here) and then back to Canberra for work and down to Melbourne for a conference, then back to Brisbane and a drive to Lismore to attend the Southern Cross University Artists Book exhibition. We also got to meet Sara at the opening and she wrote about the exhibition here.

Then we came home for 14 hours and got up at 3.30am to fly to Alice Springs - hot desert country and then came home last night. Weary. But happy.

Wherever we went, our bags became heavier because we bought books. To look at, to remind us and to just keep us company. A happy traveller is a traveller with a book or two (OK I admit it, even more...)!

I'll fill you in a bit with the artistic fabulousness we came across in different parts of our trip over the next wee while. In the interim, the photo below is an image from within a new sculptural piece at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra called "Within, Without" by American contemporary artist James Turrell. It was awe-inspiring and deserves its own post later.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rusty rememberings

I have so enjoyed preparing work for this exhibition. It has allowed me many wanderings and explorations and many opportunities to take an idea and either pursue it or let it be, until it says to me 'that's it'!

With these pieces I was turning text upside down, and writing through it so that it became more about marks and symbols than the written word. There were hints of language but no real sense could be made of it.

I then enjoyed applying the rusted and encausticed (I like to use 'the verb to encaustic' now) transparent paper over the top and drawing into them further. You may recall that these pages then sat with me for a while because I thought they were going to become the pages of a book.

And all of a sudden I imagined them placed in this pattern and becoming wall pieces! I have no idea why or how that happened but that is definitely what they needed to become. I played with them in this pattern and realised that there was a lovely space left in the middle that needed to be filled so off I went to Barry's rust pile of bibs and bobs and made off with these two items which fitted perfectly.

I'm sad I can't show the framed pieces properly - the reflection off the glass is way too wild; but I have used a double black mat board and a beautiful black frame that is high on the outside and angles down towards the work and the lovely lines lead the eye into the centre.

©Fiona Dempster 2011
©Fiona Dempster 2011
©Fiona Dempster 2011
©Fiona Dempster 2011
©Fiona Dempster 2011
©Fiona Dempster 2011