Saturday, April 30, 2011

The flip side to being so busy

I wrote a while back about how crazy life is and how stressy it all felt and how much I longed for just an hour to soak in my right brain instead of having to be so organised and analytical.

Things have settled a bit and whilst I am nowhere near doing as much creative and artistic stuff as I would like; the work-work has settled into a pattern and is manageable. Whilst I might moan a bit about how it takes me away from the studio and forces me into boxes and squares that I would rather not be in; work-work does have it benefits.

One of the joys that we take from working hard in the work-work world is that it offers us the opportunity to support other artists and to buy beautiful work for our home and garden.

I thought I'd share some of the fruits of the frantic work-phase that has been the beginning of this year...we are thrilled to have been able to buy some pieces here and there that we love.

Here are some fragments...

From Robyn Gordon (artpropelled) in South Africa - a beautiful, stunning,hand-carved niche carving

From Rhonda Ayliffe (ronnie, art&etc) in Bega - a quirky and engaging photograph (or two).

From Patti Roberts Roberts-Pizzuto (missouribendstudio) in South Dakota - a whimsical and enigmatic stitched and drawn beeswax piece (or two!).

Of course another side-benefit of the world of work-work is that we get to travel  and visit some amazing places and catch up and meet with fabulous folk. So...whilst I love sitting quietly on the mountain in my studio, I am thankful for what the world of work-work also offers me.

And then the beautiful side of being creative and having generous and creative exchange for helping out with a new blog look, Kim Schoenberger gifted me this beautiful piece for our is kind and good.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Ultimately we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace will be in our troubled world.
Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum was a young Dutch Jewish woman working in Amsterdam during World War II. She kept a series of journals which were finally published in 1981. The journals recorded her personal spiritual journey and the most remarkable thing about them to me is how in amongst it all, she managed to keep such a eye for beauty in the minuscule; for peace amongst the chaos. She died in Auschwitz in 1943, at the age of 29.

I'm never sure that I would have the internal fortitude or grace to remain positive against such destructive forces; but I  do believe and try to follow the path that suggests that peace begins with us all. That the more peace we find within ourselves and can share with those around us; the more hope there is for peace on a broader scale.

I think the world and its wars and worry can at times seem so overwhelming that we feel incapable of knowing where to start; who to help; how to choose; what to do; what to do first; leaving us feeling quite disempowered by it all. If we start with peace within ourselves and gradually share that peace in small ways we can make a difference. The scale doesn't matter - its just about starting and reaching out.

I'll keep working on it...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The move to Umbakumba

Just to let you all know where we are now... in Umbakumba, a small community at the northern end of Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The wet season seems to have finished - it just happens overnight and then there is no rain. Quite magical in its own way. So it is warm and dry now, not warm and wet.

Umbakumba is a place for fishing and we have observed great shoals of mullet leaping out of the water repeatedly - almost exploding out. Folk fishing have told us they have then seen the shark that was chasing them in! We have also heard tales of rogue crocodiles and one was shot a few weeks ago; but so far no more sightings.

The major challenge for us here is that whilst we have intermittent access to the internet we can't download or send emails; there is no mobile phone coverage and no television; so we feel somewhat isolated on occasions, but are doing fine. It means we can't publish comments until the weekends (when we visit places that have access) and can only surf the net a bit - when satellites are playing nicely - so we apologise for our absences.

A little puppy has been 'adopted' by our neighbour; but he's not all that healthy so Barry gave him a good wash.

Here are some other images from the island - tide's out, stunning sunset and beautiful rusty bits.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Art Object - continuing to explore

I have mentioned this wonderful project a few times, and am pleased that we now have a deadline for delivery, which means I am focusing a bit more acutely on it. I'm not sure what it is about a deadline; but it makes me deliver!

Whilst BAO has about 16 participants, there are two groups and two poems to work with. I am in a group of about 7 or 8 book artists who have undertaken to create an edition of books based around Claire Beynon's poem "Paper Wrestling". Some clever folk (really do go look at this...) have already made and delivered their books; others like me are still pondering and pottering.

Island time has let me think thru and actually design/draw up what I think I might do. For the first time in my life I am making an Edition. A proper edition. So I need to make about 15 books that are exactly the same. This is my personal challenge.

I think I will work with a square format (oh surprise me say my friends) and will do one original and then scan and print the edition. Plan A. Fingers crossed. I had hoped to learn how to use Photoshop and Publisher in really clever ways with this edition; but given our lengthy time away from home this year that's not going to happen.

Instead I'll do a half and half - made by hand then printed version.

One added impetus to this is that we have been accepted into Impact 7 - an international conference to be held by Monash University in Melbourne in September this year. So...books must be made!

Here are some sketches and a few ideas of where this is going.

 Here are the watercolour washes I did over Easter.

And here are some trial runs I did over Easter - still trying to work out which approach I like the most and why! Apologies for the unpleasant lighting. I wanted to do my bit of creativity each day and so at 7pm I finished playing and took the shots with the dark night/fluro light look.

It's all good fun and I am really enjoying being part of this fabulous group.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A little catch up time

We are home for a few days, delighting in spectacular Autumn weather and tidying, sorting, weeding, washing, mowing...

We did however make a promise to ourselves to try and do something creative each day so it's nice to be sitting here with ink on my fingers!

First of all I took all the pieces returned home from the exhibition back downstairs - am yet to put all of them away properly but some are looking good. Then I tidied up the studio in fits and spurts - nothing too serious but cleared the surfaces for a bit of play. To start with I did some watercolour washes which I plan to use in my Book Art Object books. I have at least been able to spend some of the down time on the islands planning for and designing what I hope will work out to be a nice edition of books. More later.

Then I sat down and inked up a few more letters for a letter a week 2011.

I haven't mentioned my letters much this year - mostly because instead of doing something different each week, the style is the same week in, week out.

One of the alphabets this year has to be "Black and White and a touch of..." and I began with this one. I chose to do multi-layered black italics using a variety of nibs on white paper with a touch of gold on each one. They are all still 7cm x 7cm but I have placed them onto a 10cm x 10cm square of heavy black paper.

I am folding them into this pop up lotus type shape and have half begun to put them together as books...but I might have changed my mind so I am sitting still with the putting together a bit at the moment and will keep playing to see if I can get the right final product.

Here are some images of the alphabet so far; coming along nicely I think!

And this is what today's desk looked like. Hmm I didn't really tidy up too much did I? The top 4 letters were still there form before we went away, and I worked on the bottom four today. These letters are underway so you can see how I overwrite beyond the 7cm square and then cut them down and paste them to the black backing paper. At least having done these ones I'm on track for April. Phew.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Art is as important to the human psyche and physical body as air is, as oxygen, as water. And alas, because it's not something we can quantify reliably, we tend to think art is a luxury. Art is not a luxury. The artist is so necessary in our lives. The artist explains to us, or at least asks the questions which must be asked.
Maya Angelou

Sometimes I get so much more than I expect out of a quote like this.  I liked the quote, I thought it spoke in defence of the arts, of giving the arts a place that makes them important to the everyday; not just to special occasions; like an essential household good, not simply a luxury item. And so I chose to think and ponder about it.

I thought first of all I should go check out the author - and discovered a wonderful woman. I guess each country has its wonderful women who inspire and encourage and who act as beacons; but they don't always cross over to other countries, other cultures, and I had definitely missed Maya Angelou on my way through. As I read through her website, I wanted to go out and buy all her books and read her words and poems and biography. So...looks like its off to the book shop for me when I get the chance.

We are facing a Federal budget here in Australia that will be very tight and very tough. We have had a lot of natural disasters that destroyed infrastructure, crops, homes and businesses and the Government has commitments to help rebuild. We also kept our economy going thru the GFC; but are about to pay the price I think. And I worry that the first and easiest of cuts will be to the arts - performing, visual and literary I expect. What a shame that the short-term political cycle cannot see how we need the arts to add beauty to our lives; to inspire and give people a sense of living being worth so much more than dollars in and dollars out. The arts can help explain the world in ways that economics can't - they help express ideas and concerns and moments of pure beauty.

Sigh. Perhaps I'll be proven wrong...

I probably won't get to see the Federal Budget (we usually watch it, tragic I know) as we expect to be back in Umbakumba on Groote Eylandt (more soon!) where there is no TV, no mobile coverage and no email. That kind of explains a bit  of silence from us in the last little while. We are home for 3 days over Easter and it is bliss just being back in our quiet, beautiful place.

Detail - Monet's waterlilies in L'Orangerie, Paris.
I think Claude Monet understood the importance of the arts. My favourite of all the arts in Paris is the basement in Musee de L'Orangerie. Custom-built circular walls to house four massive waterlily panels painted by  Monet as a gift to the nation after the horror of the First World War. He gave the gift because after all the ugliness, death and despair, his country needed something beautiful; something to remind them of beauty and to give them hope.

We still need such things today, every day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Posts and Poles...

North Australian Aboriginal art is very different to the Central Australian desert art. It's tropical up here, wet, wet, wet and the materials available and the traditions are very different.

The Tiwi Islanders are well known for their "Pukumani Poles".  These poles form part of an important Tiwi ceremony for a deceased person. Months after the death, in-laws of the person who died are commissioned to carve and paint the Tutini (Pukumani poles) to be erected around the grave. They may be as tall as 4m high and are often arranged in groups with as many as ten poles

The poles become the focus for ceremonial singing and dancing, and after the the ceremony is over, the poles are left to weather in the bush. Traditionally they are carved out of bloodwood and decorated with ochre and charcoal, with distinctly Tiwi geometric designs (jilamara).

As you walk around Pirlangimpi you come across these poles. They have become so identified with Tiwi culture that they are a proud display of culture, and no longer simply perform their traditional roles. Here are some from around the town, with a few details here and there.

I think they are beautiful, proud and serene.

Pukamani pole near Pirlangimpi airport
Pukamani pole near Pirlangimpi airport - detail
Pukamani pole near Pirlangimpi airport
Pukamanii pole outside Munupi Arts Centre
Pukamani pole outside Munupi Arts Centre
Pukamanii pole outside Munupi Arts Centre - detail

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Farewell Pirlangimpi

We have finished our two week stay here on the Tiwi Islands - achieved much, learnt more. It has been one of those rich experiences which will be cherished for years to come.

After saying goodbye to the team - with the promise to return and talk through what the research has found and what so many people so generously shared with us, I thought I'd share some of my favourite images from the Island.

A waterway on Bathurst Island; the strait separates the two Tiwi Islands

The shop barge - Tuesday morning, arriving with supplies for the week

The way the windows work on the old church (now gym/storage area)

The Team - Anthony, Anthony, Tony, Barry, Fiona, Irene, Maree, Mary Veronica, Bernardo

A dingo at our door

Loads of lino cuts ready to print at the Women's Centre

The wet - it just takes over...

Front Beach 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

I think this is great fun and it reminds me of how much I enjoy sticky-beaking at other people's bookshelves when I visit (apologies to all friends visited, but I am sure you understand).

I remember as a poor Uni student living in a rented flat with few comforts around me, that I was thrilled, besotted and overcome when a friend who lived at home invited us all over to cook a Chinese banquet and when we arrived I realised her family's house was FULL of books. It reminded me how much I missed having 'books on tap' and I just wandered around and soaked it all up.

Whenever I went home for Uni holidays I raided mum and dad's bookshelves and devoured as many books as I could whilst I was there.

My fairly basic and bare room did have plenty of books but they were mostly expensive text books that didn't leave much left over for pleasure books. My treat to myself after long hours of studying was to sit up even later and just read a book (not a text book).  It felt so indulgent and decadent and I still feel that way when I stop in amongst the madness to just sit in a corner and read for pleasure. Delicious!

Books do make great furnishings and here are a couple we have added to our bookshelves of late. One from Annie Kerr at Inkhaven; and one from Gabriella Mirollo at Two Tigers. Both are beautiful and worthy of both dipping into; and steady reading and re-reading.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pirlangimpi colour

I thought I'd share some images of my favourite building here at Pirlangimpi. I have never been around at a time when somebody was there so that I could ask what it is used for, but we have guessed that it might be a Council storage building.

UPDATE - we have learned that this is the old church; and that one of our team was married here. It is now used as a community gym and a Council storage area.

I love the soft colour, the peeling paint, the weathering and bits of rust and the overall gentle worn look of it. In fact it reminds me of some of Rosalie Gascoigne's works. Like White Garden...


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Art on the Island...

We have had a busy week at Pirlangimpi but an enormously satisfying one as well.  We worked hard with our local researchers and got thru the huge amount of work that awaited us on day 1. The only real time we have had to spend on the computer we have been taking turns doing data entry so I apologise for not being a better blogging buddy and keeping up to date with all you are doing. We are used to each working on our own computers so sharing means when one of us has down time from the data entry; we can't just head off and visit folk; we read a book or... in my case pick up a pencil and pen and attempt to draw.

Barry has determined that he is going to go all out and learn about iphoneography (photography on your phone) whilst we are away and has been playing around with images from the Island. I thought I might try to draw some things. I have never been a drawer; I'm much more a doodler; but I figured I might as well try. So I started with some photos and sat down to draw them. All birds.

So, we have two birds on a weather vane at Fly Tiwi 'terminal' in Darwin; two sea eagles in a dead tree; and a kingfisher on power lines.

I have trouble with beaks and heads me thinks; but hey you have to start somewhere and I am at least doing something in the way of art.

And now for some real art - a wall outside the Art Centre at Pirlangimpi - gorgeous! I'm not sure what next week might bring - drawing from photos doesn't really turn me on; I'll have to see if I can find something else to entertain me.