Saturday, October 29, 2011

Art and about in Cairns

We visited Cairns through the week for work-work. Mostly we went from airport to taxi to hotel to work in hotel all day to taxi and to airport.  But, each morning we went for a walk. The sun gets up very early in the North and so we were out and about with loads of folk enjoying the sunshine and the Esplanade.

Wherever we travel Barry and I love looking at the public art, the work that people place in our public spaces to tell a story about the place, to celebrate it or just to make the space a nice place to be.

We saw lots of lovely things in Cairns - here are few of them...

Cairns thinks about itself in terms of the Rainforest to the Reef - with majestic rainforested mountains looming above it and the great Barrier Reef a boat ride out to sea. These are just some tiles, in a plain grey wall that speak of the rainforest and the reef.

Don't you love the way the sun is peaking out from behind that cloud and the way it shadows the water. And the beautiful heron!

Community art perhaps?  I loved this tree that had been strewn with people's sandshoes (sneakers) and the odd bicycle tyre.  It was very reminiscent of the mango trees in town covered in fruit bats...

And this big beautiful mosaiced shell by Dominic Johns called "Telescopus". I'm not usually a huge fan of mosaics but this piece was jewel-like and shimmered; and really made you want to touch it.

Along the boardwalk there were 8 of these copper panels, each engraved with a particular animal that lived in and around the shoes and amongst themangroves. This is of Australian pelicans, and the artist is Brian Robinson. Barry has some close ups of the panels on this post here.

Brian Robinson again, "The Fish", are in the swimming pool by the beach. I've always admired them - the simplicity of those folded, woven paper fish - upscaled into these fabulous sculptures and formed out of steel.

The 5 colourful Jelly Babies by Sophie Cadman were out the front of KickArts ready to welcome folk and generally make you smile. At night they were lit up and looked great!

All in all we did pretty well for folk who weren't out and about when shops or galleries were open - we did no shopping and didn't get to wander through any galleries but we saw some great art!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

The imagination should be allowed a certain amount of time to browse around.
Thomas Merton

Life gets very full and very busy and at times seems to be more about getting from place to place, doing all the things on the to-do-list, remembering to be here and to do that.

When my brain gets full of left-brain things, focused on checklists and sequences and arrivals and departures and sorting things out I find it gets over active and doesn't have the down-time it needs to just float freely, to wander from random thought to random thought, from inspiration to idea, to concept to design, to excitement and to wonder. That sense of purposeless browsing from which wonderful art can emerge.

Thomas Merton lived a life committed to peace, social justice and quiet pacifism and I have often enjoyed his writings.  This simple statement can conjure up for me the whimsical image of an imagination popping into a shop somewhere and letting the assistant know it's "just browsing thank-you"!

On the other hand, it gives rein to the need for an imagination to not be active 24/7 as the parlance goes, for an imagination to not necessarily be focused or directed. Rather, for an imagination to come into play and do what it does best, it just needs to go a'wandering sometimes.

We are busy at the moment and fighting off colds and lurgies and bibs and bobs that all take residence when one is run-down and on the move a lot. I just need to be reminded in amongst the busy-ness and sense of frantic activity at times, to just stop and let my imagination go for a browse around...who knows what wonders it might discover in this mode.

This artwork Competitive Ground by Peter Hill, can be found at Understory in Northcliffe, Western Australia. I wonder what my imagination might find if it climbed one of these ladders and had a browse around...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lovely, lovely bits and pieces

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's wonderful to have friends who are artists and to make friends and connections through the blogging world with other artists.  It means that more beautiful art comes into our life.

We are on the road again this week with lots of work-work so are not getting to do too much creativity at home. Which is where the talents and skills of others come in!

Here are some lovely pieces called "Seed" that we recently bought online from Trace Willans (Soewnearth). They are three beautiful individual pieces which we will frame together somehow and hang somewhere.

Trace always uses earth-friendly materials and creates wonderful and stunning effects. And they smell divine with beeswax lingering...

Trace always generously includes extras in her parcels and here I have used two of her gift-pieces to make book covers for a pair of mini-books. I have used rusted papers for the pages and stitched them with two coloured threads. I'm thinking they are tempting enough for even me to maybe draw in them!

And here is the latest outdoor piece.  What a stunner. Called "Window to the soul" it is another piece by our friend Kim Schoenberger, and now graces our front door, acting as a guardian or sentinel. I stayed out of negotiations, but between them, she and Barry happily exchanged and traded bibs and bobs, and this is our end of the deal.  Lucky us.

Oh and a little detail of the rusty nails on the bottom piece of timber. Yum.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Linear I & Linear II

I only realised the other day that I hadn't blogged on these two books which are in Melbourne at the moment in our exhibition.

I really do like the sense of metal books - the steadfastness and resilience implied by the material, and the structure that is clearly so bookish; yet you just don't really expect metal books.

I also like to work with rusted steel; somehow the worn nature and patina of it appeals more than bright shiny new copper or steel.  I had these pieces of rusted steel sitting around for ages, and laid them out and thought they would make lovely pages.

I then shellaced them to protect them a bit and to stop the rust falling off all over your hands. I quite like the long thin nature of these books. Whilst I am inordinately fond of squares, if a rectangle is called for then I love it to be long and thin!

Linear I is a book that reads a bit like a western book; it is stitched on the left hand side and opens in a beautiful and sculptural way.  I have engraved lines and paths along each page and like the contrast of the shiny metal appearing in a meandering manner.

This book can be read like a book, or can act as a sculpture in its own right and I love how it displays.

©2011 Fiona Dempster Linear II detail
©2011 Fiona Dempster Linear 1
Linear II is deliberately stitched more in the Tibetan style; flipping from the top in effect. Again it has similar markings to its sibling, engraved with a dremel tool, and stitched using waxed linen thread and a single page binding.
©2011 Fiona Dempser Linear II
©2011 Fiona Dempster Linear II detail
©2011 Fiona Dempster Linear II opening detail
Linear I has found a new home, but as far as I know, Linear II is still looking!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins.

Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia, 1833

I think this is a lovely thought about how some books on our shelves can be navigated. Any book that has already been read once or twice brings with it at each new reading, a story, a narrative of where and when you read it previously. Perhaps the tell-tale marks are there; perhaps they are not so obvious...

Each time you re-read it, you may recall where you were, what was happening and how it made you feel; how it comforted you; how it may have given you a sense of courage; or how it made you angry enough to get up and take action! Sometimes you might just recall that you were sad, or that were happy at that time - it may just bring back memories of times ago, not necessarily remind you of what the book did or didn't do for you.

I don't have too many books that I can navigate through their blots, or marks or food spillages such as tea with buttered muffins, except my recipe books.

My favourite pages are all splattered with ingredients that go into their making, tomato sauces that boiled and bubbled, butter that was dropped and left grease stains; bits of flour here and there.  It wouldn't need a detective to work out which recipes in some books were favourites that's for sure.

I think that books bring with them a history of you as a reader, whenever you re-read them, and it's nice to take your younger self along for the journey the second or third time around.

©2011 Fiona Dempster - rusty drops on paper.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Art auction in support of Japan

Rosebed St Gallery is small gallery in a small town near us called Eudlo.  The Gallery is holding a 2-day online eBay auction to raise funds for Japan following the tsunami back in February.

The auction will take place on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 October (Australian EST). That is, next weekend.

NEWSBREAK!! - It looks like bidding has begun on some pieces, so if you are interested, please head on over via this link and join in the fun. I have my eye on a piece....

Both Barry and I have donated pieces to the auction and you can see the 'catalogue' for the auction here.

If you email them, they will keep you up to date with the auction action. Promise.

Our friend Kim Schoenberger has also donated some raku ceramics, and another friend Christine has also donated some artwork.

Here are our pieces in case you are interested...

©2011 Barry Smith - trio of leaves
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Book of Hearts
Proceeds from the auction will go the Sunshine Coast's Sister City in Japan - to the mayor of Tatebayashi and will be distributed from there to artists in and or near Fukashima, which is in the prefecture next to Tatebayashi. Its about trying to replace so many art supplies which were lost, and to give people a little bit of hope and creativity, rather than just the absolute necessities of life.

Please support it if you can...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Summer Storms

We are having a busy work-work time again; and are travelling interstate and around the country each week; but at least we manage to find ourselves at home most weekends.  Just enough time to do the washing, pull a few weeds, catch up with friends and family and pack all over again.

This weekend we were witness to some stunning summer storms - the first one came thru at 4am on Saturday morning; the second series came thru about 5pm on Saturday.

One of the joys of living on an escarpment, up on a mountain with a big valley below us is that we get to watch the weather in all its majesty and wonder.

Here is a series of photos, stitched together using a iPhone app that show what we sat on the deck and watched yesterday afternoon...

This first one shows a couple of storms to the south (and the tip of one of our water tanks to the left)...

A little while later the storms had shifted to the East a bit and a few more had joined from the West... and the biggest mountain Beerwah had disappeared...

The storms had almost all passed to the East and the sky was clearing to the west, and the puddles of clouds were lifting from the valley

And then the sun was setting and the puddles of cloud seemed to be settling more than lifting (and I caught the edge of the roof)...

So being home for even just a little while was pretty special.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Wisdom begins in wonder.

I have always loved this quote and this idea.  I think the truest expression of living a good life is to retain a sense of wonder at the world; the mysteries of humans; and the majesty of nature.

To wonder at the leaf that manages to curl itself into the letter 'C"; wondering at how the smoke stains the sunset a vivid red;  in awe and wonder as you regard an echidna roaming the block looking for its next meal.

Retaining that sense of wonder in the world keeps you fresh and open to new ideas; keeps you grounded in the realisation that you are not the centre of the universe (disappointing I know) and that there is always something out there that you are yet to discover, are yet to be amazed by.

Socrates was a pretty wise character and I think its pretty special that he put so much store in wonder. Without wonder we tend not to be invigorated by the idea of exploration; without wonder we can feel either pretty self-satisifed or pretty unhappy. Sometimes I need a nudge to be open to wonder; when I am feeling flat or overwhelmed; but when I am mindful of it - it opens up so much and keeps me light.

Now as a segue to the photograph, my brothers and I are are getting organised for our parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and are therefore trawling thru many photographs - some more embarrassing than others.

This is one of my favourites, taken way back when my niece was a dot (she is now 19).  In my mind, the title of the photo has always been "the world is full of wonder".  She and my brothers are looking into a rockpool and I imagine the boys are pointing out the mysteries within. They have all stopped and are gazing, with wonder, (and a wee bit of trepidation perhaps) at whatever lies within. I love it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Colour burst

During the Open Studios back in August I did some demonstrating of large pen italics, layering letters over each other and creating a pattern.

I am finding myself drawn more and more to lettering as pattern - the indecipherable nature of the letters or words; the mystery contained within and the beautiful layout or design they create.  When letters appear like this, they don't immediately engage my left brain and make me want to read them left to right and interpret or decipher them. I am more likely to respond to the image, and then go in and see if I can make some other sort of sense out of them.

The 'reading' of them becomes secondary to the design, whereas with straight calligraphy, the reading is often the primary element and purpose.

When I have been able to grab a free moment here and there for the studio, I have found it really relaxing to go back to that sheet of letters, and fill in the negative spaces with watercolour pencils and watercolour.

It's like a jumble of colour, a kaleidoscope, a starburst of confetti.

I also love the pen-strokes where the ink didn't go all the way thru; the wash-outs or bleed-outs.

I don't know how I will use this - whether I will cut it up into smaller pieces, whether I will do some fine lettering over the top, or whether I'll over print it with some negative spaces leaving the colour coming thru? Who knows...but it's been a delightful and relaxing way to do something creative when I haven't had time for a real piece of work.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Contented sigh...

Well, here is the final expression of those torn and battered books.  I have enjoyed bringing this piece to life in so many ways.

Developing up an artwork or piece is such a journey. Oftentimes it starts with this idea, then wanders over there, comes back to the original but with a twist, or takes an even longer detour and finishes up well off the map.

I would love to be able represent the thought/idea to realisation journey in a graphic or visual manner sometimes.  Mine would be most often be a messy doodle; with the occasional and rare straight-ish line. I think that creativity often feels like a leaf or a tree - with bifurcations taking you off to here, choices and decisions taking you off there, each branching moving you a little bit further away from what you originally intended.

At other times; it's just like everything falls into place and it goes from A to B without a hitch!

This piece fall somewhere  between a straight line and completely off the original map. The final piece holds to my original vision, but needed a few adjustments and detours along the way.

It is called "Learning my Lines" and is part of our Light and Lines exhibition which opened at Hand Held Gallery in Melbourne on Thursday night.

You can now see why we were playing with the metal strapping last weekend! 

I was really, really happy with the way this worked out and have lots of ideas to pursue along these lines.  Sometimes it just feels like you got it right. For me, this is one of them. Contented sigh.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Show is on!

Well we have returned safe and sound from our Melbourne jaunt and had the best time. We were really happy with the way the gallery space worked and after setting up and fiddling a bit here and there, we thought to ourselves; "That looks like us" and I don't think you can really want more from an exhibition than that can you?

You want it to feel like the work has come from you; that you feel an affinity with the way it is displayed and the sense it gives people when they look at it.  You want people to recognise it as yours and for it to have that quintessentail essence of you in it somehow.

Hand Held is a small gallery space but one that displays and shows the work really well.

©2011 Barry Smith - Light and Lines at Handheld Gallery
We had a lovely gathering at the opening - only small - but they were mostly good friends and people we were thrilled to see. The most wonderful surprise came for me when my bestie Sue showed up! She lives in Canberra an hour and a bit away by plane (about 700km) and had flown down for the night to surprise us. Fabulous doesn't do it justice!

Here are some shots of the space and the gathering...

©2011 Barry Smith - Fiona, Gary, Helen & Sue
©2011 Barry Smith - Brendan, Denis, Fiona, Kathy, Sue, Boris, Richard, Megan
©2011 Barry Smith - Sue, Kathy & Fiona
Dear friends from Melbourne came along to support us as did some Maleny friends who were in Melbourne for a wedding.

And a number of these wonderful folk also bought our work - which was very very special. Thank you all - we really appreciate your support of us and our work.

©2011 Fiona Dempster - Linear I
©2011 Fiona Dempster  "The journey begins and ends with home..."

©2011 Fiona Dempster - Cartography I
All images taken with iPhones so apologies for the lack of clarity here and there; but I was thrilled to have mine back as I left it locked in the gallery for about 24 hours. Note to self; I CAN live without my phone...

Now back to checking out everybody else's adventures and replying to a few folk!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

What you need in an art work is to awaken an emotional response, a blow in the solar plexus, something that moves you. You don’t have to intellectualise : what does it mean?

Rosalie Gascoigne

I agree with Rosalie here - it's about moving people, taking their breath away; stopping them dead in their tracks, making them still for a moment, or bringing a great big smile to their face. Now that's art!

This brings me to my dilemma when viewing art. The labels.  My preferred way of viewing art is to enter into the room or space and be with it. To gaze and seek, and respond. To let it settle over me; or shout back at me depending on the work - but to have that first innocent, raw and uninfluenced look at the work. To experience it fresh and anew; without too many preconceptions.

I no doubt have preconceptions before I arrive - the name of the artist or the show; or the location of the works, each tell us a little bit about what to expect and set the scene somewhat.

I prefer after my initial viewing and experiencing, to then, and only then, turn to whatever has been written about the work and seek to understand what the artist was on about. In part I think this is because I really dislike too much art-speak and often the works is described in flowery or over-the-top ways. I also don't like to be told or preached at, so working my own way through something is my preferred approach.

The other side of me does like to read and think about art, to discover something else I might have missed; or something that adds a new dimension to my reflections and understandings. My official art-training is light-on, so I often do learn something I knew nothing about when I read the descriptors. Hence the dilemma.

I think art is very personal, and not all of us will have the experience that the artist thought they were portraying or expressing; but its good if we have a response. I think good art moves us - it might make us calm or angry or distressed or joyful; but it makes us feel something.

Andy Goldsworthy

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sometimes beauty is enough

It's fascinating to stop and observe or consider your own responses to art; to works in progress and to objects.

I have been really enjoying having the book stacks around - with their worn and torn beauty.  And it really is beautiful to me. I don't know what it is, but I feel calm and warm and gentle and peaceful when I look at the stack of old books with their spines ripped off and their inner stitching revealed.

I would love to understand what it is that happens, that produces that sense of warmth and relaxation almost.  It would be a good medication to patent I expect as it feels like my heartbeat slows, my blood pressure drops, stress falls away from my being, muscles relax and lengthen and that everything is smooth and calm.  I likened it once to feeling like warm, flowing caramel inside.

So here they are again, but this time only their corners, just because they are beautiful.

And just as a final shout-out - Barry and I are off to Melbourne tomorrow to set up our exhibition at Hand Held Gallery in the city!  The show will open on Thursday 6 October, from 6pm - 8pm.

The exhibition is on from 6 October to 29 October, and the gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday 12pm - 5pm, just in case you get to fly by or drop in!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Work in progress...

This is a bit cheeky, but I wanted to show you some of the things that Barry and I got up to on the weekend, without letting you in on what they are intended for. Sneaky I know, but down the track I think you'll appreciate the finished piece!

I am very fortunate to have Barry in my life to help me get art pieces from A to B. He doesn't even mind some of the twists and turns in between.  He knows so much about fabrication of things and is very 'handy' as the expression goes.  He has good tools and good ideas and understands art, so that is a deadly combination when it comes to me trying to fully express an idea or design.

So here I learnt to rivet - in the old fashioned way with copper rivets.  None of this pop-rivetting tool kind of thing; but hammering and 'setting' first, then 'doming'.

Then on we went to the making putting a few bits of rusty metal strapping together in weird and wonderful ways...

And then turn them upside down - as you do!

This has been a great example of me having an idea, but not the skills to fully execute it. Barry came up with the solution; he taught me how to do the things and together we worked out the details of actually doing it.  You wouldn't think that there could be such different approaches to finding the centre of something - but as ever, we came at it from opposite directions, yet still found the middle path.

I hope to be able to show you the finished piece towards the end of the week...