Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“When I was little, my ambition was to grow up to be a book. Not a writer. People can be killed like ants. Writers are not hard to kill either. But not books: however systematically you try to destroy them, there is always a chance that a copy will survive and continue to enjoy a shelf-life in some corner on an out-of-the-way library somehwere in Reykjavik, Valladolid or Vancouver.”

Amos Oz

I love the magical thinking of childhood and how one could wish to grow up to be an actual book!

The logic in the story belies his young age, however, and he seems to have thought it through quite well.

It is so true that humans and individuals are fallible and vulnerable; and also true that books often outlast us. Their stories are told time and time again; they get re-printed and stored, passed along and handed down. They go out into the world and are picked up at garage sales and second hand book stores. And the cycle begins again.

He has somehow imbued books with a sense of eternality, and I complete agree with him that you can sometimes come across a book in the strangest and most unexpected places. And doesn't that make you wonder about the journeys they've made and the people's whose hands they have passed through to get there?

I love those discoveries - a true gem, or an old favourite found when and where you would never dream to find them.

Anselm Kiefer, Sternenfall/Shevirath
Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart
This piece makes me think of the tenaciousness of books and their ability to survive.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Looking up and around

I have been enjoying Ronnie's "looking up" series of photographs - taken each day and allowing her time to ponder, reflect, ruminate or meditate.  I haven't done the daily ritual involved but have spent a lot of time looking out and up over the past wee while.

The skies are just so amazing at the moment - here are a few scenes from the mountain in the past week.

A storm going through the valley below.

And the wind in the tree up here.

A sliver of a moon one dark clear night.

A sunset storm passing by below.

A very early morning cloud lake in the valley.

Somebody once told us they liked driving along our road each morning on the way to work - "a different postcard every day" and that feels about right.  The view, the valley, the air, the sky. They fill me up.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The versions

My book The Nurses returned home last week from the Pieces for Peace exhibition in Ieper. It is actually headed off on the road again to another exhibition Personal Histories at the Redland Art Gallery in March, so I'm pleased it is home safely and will be available to send on.

In a strange quirk of fate, I was speaking to another gallery just before we went to Ieper last year and they asked if they could also show the work.  I checked dates and unfortunately they clashed. Susan, Barry, Helen and I are all sending out Piece for Peace books to Redland, but Caloundra Gallery was very keen to have them or something similar, so we all agreed we could produce variations for the Caloundra show.

Which is why I was extra pleased the original made it home, so I could double check everything I had done! I had kept quite reasonable notes, but it was so good to examine lots of little things in detail.

So, over the weekend I made two more books - the first is an Edition Variant - pretty much the same book, but with variations in paper and embossing. The second book is simply a variant on the theme. The same materials and imagery and words, but a completely different format.

I am setting myself a bit of a goal this year; having learned a lot from Helen, that rather than just simply make one book, I could/should try to make more than one at the time, so that I always have one ready to send off somewhere.

Perhaps it is also part of my artistic development; I am occasionally finding now that people do want to see, use or buy more than the one book, so it makes sense to have more than one available.

Here are the three books together.

And here are the first two side by side - same same but different.

Clearly you can never replicate the rusted pages...

The words used throughout are the same and in the same order.  I kept the number of lines of de-bossed barbwire the same on comparable pages in each book - but the actual barbed wire pattern used was different.

They look companionable I think, yet individual too.

The last pages in each book.

And here's the third book - similar, but quite different!  Perhaps if the first ones were non-identical twins, this one is simply a sister. Clearly related but not the same.

I often just love the details - the stitching, the deckle edge, the embossing...

The rusted braille paper with hand stitched words of peace - long and thin this time.

More pages of de-bossed barb-wire imagery with words about the nurses (black) and by the nurses (red).

I feel good about having completed these works. Details of each exhibition can be found at my "Works on Show" page at the top of my blog (or just click here).

The story of these young women who travelled so far to face such horror and to do so much to help and care, continues to amaze me and make me feel proud.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“Don’t ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance, or my kindness for weakness.”


I read this quote and said "Yes".

I have kept it near me, never sure when I would be ready to say anything about it, but today it popped out of the list and into my blog post, so I figure it's time.  As I thought about it, it came to me that one of the reasons I resonated with it, is because maybe it is talking about introverts.

I asked myself who would say this? What sort of person are you? Being the ubiquitous 'anonymous' I couldn't go searching and researching them. In the end I felt they were maybe shy - not one to make a noise or be loud or have people looking at them or seeking attention; or introverted, needing time to think and process and work through things before offering anything verbally.

Sometimes I remain silent because I just can't find the right words to say what's needed - it takes me longer to think through and formulate a considered response. And by then, the moment may have passed.

Sometimes I may appear calm, but that can occasionally be because my red-head is about to explode and it's ugly and I know that I need to settle down before I say anything that hurts or cuts people nearby.

I think only a fool would ever mistake kindness for weakness; kindness is the most beautiful and basic of human considerations, and is the perfect response so often.

I think 'anonymous' was wise here - we often under-estimate people because they may be quiet, or shy and in doing so, we miss their strengths and gifts.

A hard quote to illustrate, and I ended up here.  Partly because Buddha is kind, often silent and calm.

This was one of my favourite pieces at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart when we visited last year.  The artist had gathered up loads and loads and loads of burnt incense from temples; then filled a mould of buddha, seated like this, with the incense, really compressed it, and then released the mould. The impermanent piece was gradually falling apart, in a large, dark room and was simply stunning. It was much taller than me.

It took my breath away.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lots of Lettering

Or at least, lots of letter-play!  My mind must still be in holiday mode as I seem to be jumping from one thing to another at the moment, trying this out, testing this, wondering what if?

Nothing seems to actually get completed though, which is a bit of a worry. I am trying to tell myself that all of this exploring is ground work for something real and meaningful; that having done all of this I will know whether the ideas that are rolling around in my head like a bunch of a marbles on a gyrating turntable are worth pursuing.

I have some big commitments later in the year and I need to get a lot of work done - but I'm just not sure what. I am yet to settle on anything - technique, colour way, materials, subject - nothing! Everything is up in the air and as a way to stave off a mild sense of panic at times, I tell myself I am 'being open to the possibilitites'. So for now I am happy to pop on over and try a bit of this, do a bit of that and see what happens.

As I have been writing this, I kept thinking, this has happened before, and sure enough in early Feb last year I wrote almost the same thing.

There will as ever come a point when things have to coalesce and I have to get moving and making and finishing, and a part of me hopes that bit happens soon!

Here I am writing words on a small square of heavy paper - around 600gsm, then cutting them up into 1cm squares. Sometimes coloured sometimes white. Don't ask...

I have been enjoying playing around a bit with watercolour pencils. you know when you have in your minds eye a beautiful soft finish and try to create it?  This has been fun practising, but I am ever so glad I attending a proper pencils workshop in a few weeks with the talented Gemma Black; I hope things improve after that weekend!

I had left one of my backgrounds out on a desk trying to encourage/force me to work into it in a wild way.  Well, I think I met that criteria!  It is almost done - I have since added a few more things, but I'm not sure to will ever be a real piece...

It is quite possible that my only offerings for the next wee while will be snippets; its also possible I might just finish something. At this point I have no idea which way it will go. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A random record of the weekend

It's been a hot weekend here on the mountain and I have jumped from this to that and over there as I haven't been able to sit still and concentrate for too long.

I was showing somebody some folded books that had been used in a display a year or so ago, and found that a few of them were no longer in pristine condition, so I thought I'd popped them in the garden. With the pumpkins. It will be interesting to record the changes over time - no rain on them yet, just scorching sun.

The pumpkin patch has gone completely wild again and is rambling all over the block...

Looking from the studio shed,

Looking up to the studio shed it has clambered through the hedge and is rolling on down through the coffee bushes.

And there are a few pumpkins here and there.

On a completely separate note (I did mention random!) I have been pondering dry point etching on copper plates - I have this image in my head that I think drypoint can help create.  I like the notion of drypoint because it doesn't involve the use of acid, and is possibly easier to control and/or amend.

Over the years I have purchased a range of sharp tools that can be used to scratch into copper, creating lines and marks and I thought before I even begin, I should really try and work out what each tool will do and how it will do it, so I made myself a little sampler so to speak.

But first the tools - pointy!

I inked up the copper sampler and printed it using different inks, all on BFK Rives paper.

First using Aqua Charbonnels

Then Charbonnel oil-based inks - my first attempt with the oil-based inks was barely there I had wiped the plate so clean, hence the note about less aggressive wiping.

My third run saw me trying to make other marks as well and it is this one which shows some promise I think.

And then as we sat down to dinner on Saturday night - the sky offered us this. Stunning.

Life is random, but good.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“Something that you feel will find its own form.” 

 Jack Kerouac

Whatever the connection between intent, intuition, sensing, feeling, controlling, guiding and art may be; it seems to me variable and quite different on different occasions.

In my last post I spoke about how work can emerge without control or guidance; and yet at times some wonderful work appears after really, really, really, working hard to make it.

I imagine a lot of artists feel things and want to express them somehow - it's not always about simply describing something or trying to represent something that you see.

It seems to me that on occasions, from deep within, one feels the need to create or express and in this way, "something you feel will find its own form". Whatever is made or formed is a result of that feeling and is the result of responding to that feeling.

Perhaps the other way this quote works relates to that letting go, getting out of the way approach to art. Something you feel will appear in the form that is right for it, perhaps the opposite to something that you think - which you might guide or control more?

Not sure, but when work comes from feeling I think it has more chance of happening in its own special way.

©2012 Fiona Dempster A Subversive Stitch
This is one of my favourite pieces which really emerged from feeling and found its own form.  It is also the perfect way to start the year with the search for Roy. G. Biv - the rainbow search that Jennifer and Julie take us on each month. Pop on over to see what other folk have discovered...

The rainbow starts with Red!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Silence helps no one

I enjoy this creative life so much. Time spent in the studio is never time wasted, and I continue to celebrate those moments when things happen that weren't planned for. 

Serendipity, things coalescing... like alchemy. Some days I feel as if I almost sit outside myself and watch it happen in front of me, without me being in charge at all.

This book was completely unanticipated and unexpected. Suddenly there it was.

The story begins back in Brugge, where I saw a binding done by metal art worker Mathias Claerhout.  Strange combination! The book was under glass, out the back and not part of his real exhibition. It caught my eye and I tried to think my way through what I think he did.

I came home and transferred my thoughts and sketches across into my visual diary-notebook. As I did it, I thought I should have a quick go at this, so I played around with some pages I had lying around, left overs from another play day quite some time ago. I think I got it.

Then I thought about words, and what would suit this form. I went away and wrote some words using my made up script from a few months back.

I found some book cloth and made some covers, used a bit more book cloth to hold the outside pages together. Fiddled a bit here, there and then stitched, and then there it was.

I don't say that to sound trite - I find it remarkable that years of experience and practice, materials I have prepared and accumulated, my pondering and thoughts, all come together and what emerges is a piece I never knew I had in me.

 I wrote this about it earlier today:

 "The supposedly private nature of family violence means we don’t speak, we don’t intervene and we don’t step in; yet more than one woman is killed each week in Australia by a partner or former partner. 

The construction of this books reflects the hidden nature of this violence, how trapped these women often are, and how hard it can be to leave and try to be safe.  It also demonstrates how hard it can feel to step in from the outside and help. Along with some sobering statistics, it tries to remind us of simple things we can do to try and not be bystanders.

The sombre colours and jagged lines express the danger women face as they live their lives, and try to leave; and the despair they feel for themselves and their children".

Another book that focuses on women affected by family violence, called Silence helps no one.

The subject appeared as I went along and thought about what the binding was telling me - what sort of story did it tell? And so it came into being.