Saturday, December 22, 2007

Its all in the process

Here are some different threads that seem to have come together in that trembling space behind my eyes....

Thread 1....I have just been into an art gallery which is a co-op with a little exhibition of the members and I came across the work of Holly Webber . Her Mum was minding the shop and told me the story of how Holly creates her art. She takes photos of petals or leaves and then looks for the part of them that could be reconstructed into a pattern. Her patterns seem very geometric... when looking at them one could not pick that they came from organic images. So in a sense it is a secret inside waiting to be found....

Thread 2.... Meanwhile I have just been offered some work at a primary school - providing hands on science for gifted and talented students around the theme of sustainability, possibly integrated with some art experiences. Within that theme are some key big ideas that they want the students to experience/investigate.... connection, pattern, energy, systems.... etc...

So I have been busy on the net looking for hands on science in this enormous area... thinking about my own experiences and those experts who I can draw on.... for example, a scientist friend who is researching El Nino - looking for patterns in representational maps (temperature, water flow) of the Pacific as well as in the mathematics.... thinking of my own experiences as a research scientist in the paper industry and how the process from growing and harvesting trees to making paper to dealing with waste to recycling might be a microcosm of some key issues we are facing in thinking about sustainability.

So now I wondered about the notion of pattern...

How does a scientist think of patterns? Perhaps it is through looking for repetition, underlying principles, consistent properties across and within categories, trends, cycles, chaotic attractors....

How does an artist think of patterns? What does a viewer of the art think of the patterns that they see? Do we only see the result or do we understand the making of the pattern and where it comes from? What is the difference between a scientist observing the world and an art viewer? What might it mean to create patterns of life/industry/society from an artistic point of view and a scientist one?

Thread 3 .... Meanwhile on a forum on Integral Theory we were discussing the notion of seeing the world through a process lens versus a reductionistic (parts) lens. An example of this is how we might see a tree... say the gum tree outside your window.... do we see it captured in time - a tree.... or do we see the tree as a process of all its stages simultaneously in possibility? (eg. seed becoming tree becoming seed...) How might we act towards the tree if we are holding a different lens to it? So if we see a fallen log harvested for papermaking in the forest a reductionist lens might see it as a commodity... whereas a process lens might see it as life with a past, future and right to all parts of its life.

When I saw Holly's work these thoughts intersected .... it was a catalyst for me in making connections .... providing meaningful representation of my ideas (even if that is not what she intended) which then could enable new ones to emerge. I wondered then about how to orchestrate student experiences of pattern from different heads (science and art) and different lenses. How the use of science and art together might reveal exciting insights.
I imagined for the first lesson creating a transient art work.... hundreds of egg shells on the floor blocking the entrance to the room the students would be coming into for their sustainability studies. Brown egg shells which I carefully have put in spiral patterns with replication. Hard to see the pattern ... but once you do, you realise that there are consistent gaps to walk through without breaking them....
So now I offer some ethical choices.... to meet the barrier and plunge ahead, not caring if the egg shells break.... or caring but feeling one has no other choice and feeling that emotional turmoil.... or to stand back and do nothing in fear of creating damage.... or to study the situation and look for patterns and see if there is another way.....

Hmmm. So now I will be saving my egg shells...

And hopefully now some of these ideas will perculate into my own art!

Friday, December 21, 2007

When my art surprises me...

I have just started painting a piece called " When life gets too rapid, XXX likes to bring along her canoe." (The picture looks yukky at this stage but it gives you an idea.) Given my sudden launch into paddling on a waveski you might think that is all that is about... but I actually created her before I even thought about buying one... so what is the meaning lying in wait for me to discover.... my future? Hmmm.

Anyway, I am painting the canoe background colours so I can add layers and layers to give a sense of rocks but I was feeling I wasn't getting the shades and ambience I wanted... something between canoing down a river and in the sea under cliffs... I really hadn't thought it through... so was feeling a little bemused about what was resulting. I decided to paint around the canoe so I could get a sense of contrast and stood back...

The canoe hit me.... it seemed aeons old... layers of time. Before time. I had a sense that stepping into the canoe would be stepping into the prehistory of the earth... far more than just a nice connecting to nature or stillness/serenity. I have a face in the canoe in ripples of water and as I looked at it I wondered was it my face... or the face of the archetypal goddess.... creator/destroyer?

I have fish moving up the canoe and they seemed like they were on a journey through time.... were they seeds of evolution? Potentials realised or to be realised.

I was reminded of Future Studies, which I have been delving into... a particular technique for helping us to make decisions for the future is to consider the 200 year present - 100 years back in time and 100 years into the future. We can only understand where we are going if we understand who we are now and how that came about. But I am also interested in cultural models of evolution - Spiral Dynamics (Beck and Cowan) and The Narrative Universe (Bocchi and Ceruti). To really understand where we are we need long term sense of the evolution of humanity... considering the 10,000 year past?

So now I wonder about my title.... can we can only negotiate the rapids of the future because of a sense of historic connection... to evolution of the earth, evolution of species and evolution of humanity.

This lady also represents a dialectic - a contradiction - how to live sanely in an insane world.... and the solution initially seems to be to find a space for peace and serenity to make her busy life sane. But with dialectics when we enter deeper into the cultural/historical/environmental aspects we can see there are deeper questions, deeper contradictions... and we need to go deep into understanding humanity to negotiate the rapids of the future.

So rather than looking for simple solutions to climate change, poverty, materialistic world... perhaps we need to look for complexity... excavate the depth... and this allows us to reinterpret our current reality so we can make a new one.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sydney, here I come!!!

So, earlier this year, after the mammoth effort of getting my succesful exhibition underway, I am wondering where my art is heading... should I change direction... try somthing new... and I did for awhile... playing around with machinima and cartoon videos ... and then the offer came out of the blue to do an exhibition in a new art gallery PromenArt in Balmain in Sydney.

So after being incredibly slack with production of my ceramic ladies it was suddenly all go. Had I any creativity left? Had I anything to say? Well I was engaged on a forum looking at postformal thinking - vision plus logic, dealing with contradictions through dialectics - and this seemed to permeate my brain.... possible titles kept forming.... and then...

The significant and sometimes contradictory moments of Darlene Winterspoon...

So I sat down and wondered about different contradictions we have.... how we deal with them... and came up with a number of ideas.... and then I was in the studio creating 6 new pieces.... whoosh....

And then all sorts of things started speaking to me - even a magazine entitled Ethical Investor - the piece is called Material Girl can now buy Carbon Offsets - and yes you can imagine her in her Gucci shoes and flamboyant earings holding a delux shopping bag - perhaps called poocci?

My friends need to now watch out because anything now is fair game for creating a piece!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Finally, the ladies will go on the plinths!

Exhibition go, go go!

Today in about 2 hours I will be running a military operation. 4 cars at intervals will be invading Salamanca Place, my crew will be commanding parking places. Then with precision, they will be unloading precious sculptures from each car. Taking them up a flight of steps to Off Centre Gallery with no tripping, or dropping the sculptures out of the bottom of boxes, or knocking pieces off.

That is how I have planned it in my head. But anything can go wrong! Not least of all there will be no parking with the morning breakfast crowd taking all the spots!

I set up plinths on Friday ready to take my beautiful ladies but there are too many ladies and I suspect the plinths are just not wide enough for some of them. Yes, I have been dreaming musical sculptures... how on earth am I going to arrange them all?

But in 4 or 5 hours it will be over. I will have an exhibition set up and ready for the public to enjoy. A sigh of relief before the next task... media releases and presentations.... organizing the opening... and I am dreaming hors d'oeuvres.

I really wish I was on a tropical island somewhere under a palm tree.

Everyone keeps saying to me, "I bet you must be excited", "Art is fun" but at this stage, after months of hard work, I am numb, and tired. I must remember to have time to enjoy it, smell the roses of the process... but really it is hard to do that when you are trying to load cars with ladies who are just a little bit too big and have too many bits to knock off... like the fat lady which is nearly 1 m tall and 0.55m wide and 20 kg. She has a tropical island with palm trees on her head, and I just hope it will stay there by the time we manouver her into the gallery and onto the plinth I have organized just for her.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reclining women

What does it feel like to be a woman photographed or painted?

I have a lovely book of reclining nudes by famous artists from across 200 years or so. Last year I decided to sculpt Lhote's Bacchante. I moved into the pose and a strange thing happened. I connected in a completely different way to what I might have experienced if I was just looking at a painting.

I wondered then what responses other women might have to moving into a pose depicted in a famous painting. I am a member of "The Arts Group" - a local group consisting of women interested in the arts and literature, some of whom are artists and writers. I wondered if they were interested to be guinea pigs. So I gave them a brief at our recent meeting - to choose a "reclining nude" pose, to move into it (clothed), be photographed and then to write about the experience.

The women started hesitantly and then became quite engaged in the project... gathering props, helping the model to find the right position and right feel, being very exacting about the angle of the neck, foot or hands. It became clear to us all that many of these poses were not only just uncomfortable and unnatural, but the painted bodies were not normal women... some with impossibly long and flexible necks, elongated torsos and double jointed wrists.

Oh the image of ourselves as women cannot live up to the artists love of exaggeration as they try to express the essence of form!

Did the women connect at a different level? Some started wondering about the emotions of the women in the paintings... what were they feeling and thinking... some seemed to connect across space and time… some questioned what it was like being a woman. Can a pose enable access to aspects of womanhood that we haven’t experienced before?

For some women the whole experience of being photographed as art was challenging and thought provoking. Because yes, after all we are all women between 45 and 70 years… not usually regarded as models. Not usually the centre of attention as an audience looks at us and moves us “just so.”

Can we now ever look at a nude painting in the same way again? Can we look at ourselves in the same way?

You might like to try it. What does it feel like for you?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Exhibition looming... breathe in... and remember art is fun!

My next exhibition is only 2 months away and I am doing the calculations in my head... that means I have to paint 3 - 4 pieces per week, start my brochures, signage, catalogue, have marketing plan.... aaaagh!

I have to say for someone preparing for an exhibition I have been a bit slack over the last year in output, even though I gave myself plenty of time between exhibitions (2 years). But I have an excuse... some 100,000 words I wrote this year for my thesis and another 120,000 last year (sadly I had to delete a fair bit of that to get it down to size!). In november I finally sent off my thesis to my examiners. A sigh of relief. A week or so to sit back, and relax.

Then I went into my studio, lined up all my bisqued (fired but unpainted) pieces, moved them around, scatched my head. As you will have read earlier my intention was to create pieces around the theme of evolution and transformation. Many were stand alone pieces. By putting them altogether I got a sense that "this one" related to "that one", that I needed another one to tie a couple of pieces together, and maybe these two over here could be part of a series.

So now a time for sitting on the sofa doodling images and forms. Suddenly with a clear head (removed of all epistemological methodological and editorial considerations) I could see the big picture with my art. I think it is really important for an artist to be able to zoom in and zoom out like this. I often find I have a very creative generative period capturing lots of ideas in an "ideas page" in my visual diary, which is really handy to go back to on days when I have little original creativity.

Within a day I had ideas for seven new pieces which I put into clay over a period of three weeks. I was on a roll... got started on the painting end (which is not my forte) building up slowly until it was realitively easy and actually enjoyable and exciting watching the personality of the pieces emerging.

But then burn out. I don't think I am cut out for being a full time artist.

Yesterday I took these new pieces out of the kiln... there they are sitting on my living room table. I am off on holiday up the east coast of Tassie for a week. With laptop. We go with a friend and usually immerse ourselves in literature and poetry. My friend is bringing some poems by emerging Australian women poets which hopefully should inspire me in the creation of the poems, little booklets and the catalogue stories which go with each piece and give them that extra dimension.

Hopefully the sea air will transport me to a place where I can see the meaning of my evolution theme with wisdom, insight and intriguing perspectives. Ha ha! And pigs might fly (in another parallel universe where evolution has taken a quite different turn!)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

An Integral Artist?

I have been head down writing my thesis and so my art blog has gone by the wayside. Ooops!

My thesis is about integrating soul and science in education... and I am using Integral Theory as a model to help me see how that might be possible. What is strange is that in the very writing of it I am creating an experience for the reader as artistically as I might be creating a sculpture. I don't want to create something that is cut and dried; but which has many layers, some ambiguity and enables a creative emergence of meaning. I am using pictures, metaphors, poetry and dialogue as well as a narrative and analytical voice. I am even going to include pictures and poetry of my own art as well... because I realise that I have certainly been living my thesis in my art... and maybe the art is part of the whole dialogue.

I have just been writing a very reflective piece where I undo the layers of self and culture to understand what has informed who I am and what I believe... how that influences my teaching and the educational culture that I am in. I found myself sculpting another reclining nude... but rather than smoothing her off I started adding slivers of clay so it seems like she is peeling away... instead of a nude being looked at, she is looking at herself.... deeply, inward. It is strange creating an outer image of such an inward looking process. I am not sure that I manage to convey it, but audience was not on my mind at all as I was doing it. No, because in the process of doing it I was unpeeling myself, putting that emotion and experience into the clay.

Am I doing Integral Art?

According to emrgnc Integral Art holds that:

  • all perspectives are valid,
  • some viewpoints may transcend and include others
  • where you stand is what you see.

Integral art includes both the experiences of artist and reader/audience and each can bring many different eyes to it. Integral art may help in both transformation of the artist and the reader/audience. It may be an expression of transpersonal knowing which pulls the reader into a deeper connection with higher self.

Alex Grey is recognised as an Integral Artist. He recently had an exhibition in NY called Sacred Mirrors, consisting of life size pictures showing ourselves in all our physical, energetic and transpersonal aspects. This puts a whole new meaning to the notion unpeeling the layers.

Just looking at his pictures I found myself pulled to attention, recalling who I am, in the most profound way.

My unpeeling nude does not call me to attention... nor bring out the best in me, nor cause me to transform... I think it is a piece of compassion... a quietness of the process of becoming and disappearing. Is this a feminine aspect of self which the warrior like images of Alex Grey perhaps do not capture?

What is transpersonal for men and what is transpersonal for women? Is it different?