Saturday, 29 August 2015

step by step .....

Once again it has been an age since I posted on my blog but plenty has been happening behind the scenes.  The next couple of photographs are really just a tease ... I am sure Fiona and I will post on this book 'silence' soon.  It is the last of our collaborative books and was done in a more traditional collaboration where I created the artwork and Fiona was responsible for the beautiful quotes we sourced on 'silence'.  It is a very quiet and meditative book and we will speak more of it later as we have editioned this book and have also made a second edition of the five individual prints.

'silence' by Susan Bowers and Fiona Dempster.

I have had to keep away from more toxic things in the last months and as such have been revisiting my painting and drawing days and having a great deal of fun in the process.  Earlier this year I did a workshop with Noela Mills on textures and using some of the elements I learnt I have been working on 'textures of australia' which will form one of the bodies of my work for the up coming exhibition at Noosa Regional Gallery.  I have made four larger individual works and a piece made up of sixteen smaller works to be hung as a four by four installation.  I am really looking forward to seeing them up on walls and not just scattered over my studio floor.

The inspiration for these works has been our trips to the outback of Australia and being lucky enough to take helicopter flights or small plane flights over lake Eyre and Lake Armadeus - both of which were oceans of salt whipped up by wind.  Though the two years prior to my flight over Lake Eyre had been popular viewing because of all the flood water which came down from the north of Australia, I was lucky enough to be there when the typical dry was back and witness the aftermath of a windstorm the night before which created gorgeous patterns and marks and almost made the desert landscape look like frozen tundra, or our ocean shores.

It fascinates me that what we see from on high by way of patterns and marks over extensive landscape, can be repeated in a single rock or stone found on the ground.  People associate the vivid blues and reds with our outback but my eye is always drawn to these soft greys and ochres, charcoals and mauves. In this painting below you can see the remnant of water left in some small puddles amidst what looks like ice but is salt residue.

I have finally completed my 3D drawings ... seventeen of them which will spread across a wall a couple of metres - hopefully in a spot with much delicious light which seems to bring these drawings to life.  The wall upon which I hang them for viewing in my studio has barely any light so they don't look their best.  The process for each of these is quite involved as I firstly need to make the drawings, each of which is between 90cms and 130cms  in height and in various widths.  Once this is done I actually score the paper, which is mostly architectural film inherited from my father, hoping like anything that I am not cutting right through the film and ruining the drawings.  Strangely enough, once all the drawing and the scoring and folding has taken place, one of the most difficult things is to actually the stick down the works along their backs so they become totemic.  Not all all easy when you are not able to get your hands or arms into the lengths of the sculptured drawings!

Part of me thinks that is would be so much easier just to make a number of two dimensional drawings and forget about working in 3D - though I think this is as close to sculpture I will ever come. I am planning some very large two dimensional works in this vein though they won't be happening till later this year, or next year!
I am using many different layers with the drawings - mostly using inks, graphite power and pencils.  I have tried to keep the drawings varied and yet hope they all hang well together.  Mostly they deal with trees and their markings and textures.
I quite like the softness of the backs ...

The seventeen - though I haven't actually decided if this is the final number!

And some details here, and below.

I am also working on a number of artist's books at the moment.  The glimpses of this one below are from a book which will be called 'standing on fishes' and taken from the work of  Rainer Marie Rilke. If you don't know the poem I would 'google' it as it is sublime.  I have had the quote on my computer desktop for a couple of years now and always wanted to make a book of images to suit.  The imagery just happened and when I had made the fourth image and to me it looked exactly like fish beneath the water, I knew I had found my book.  Now I just have to find a way to write the words on the pages ......  will need to solicit the aid of Fiona I am sure though ultimately I want to actually write in the book myself.  I am still in the process of working out how to present this book, what papers to use, whether I need to add anymore drawing or artwork, whether to emboss covers and so forth.  Need to get a wiggle on though as the date for submitting our list of works get closer and closer.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

3d drawings .....

I have been away from my blog for two calendar months - but not away from the studio.  In fact I have been working quite hard on and off, getting ready for the big exhibition later this year.  What has kept me from the blog has been my health as I have saved all my energy and focus for main job at hand - completing some work.

During the last couple of months I have been exploring some new techniques and materials - both for drawing and for textural paintings.   Below you can see an image or two of one of my drawings, or a part thereof.  These are worked flat in mixed media and then I score and fold them to produce my 3D imagery.  I have only worked half a dozen but am planning another dozen and will choose my favourite combination from these to exhibit.  

The process of taking a drawing and then cutting the sheets is fraught with danger ..... so easy to cut too far through the work and spoil it.  I find I am continually holding my breath.

These photographs are poorly taken with me trying to hold a light and a camera simultaneously.  I have them pinned up on a section of wall in the studio where there is no light, and though they look okay like that, the addition of light makes such a huge difference.  I have been recycling many of the materials brought home from my father's architectural practice after his passing a couple of years ago now - it has taken until recently to realise how beautiful the aged drafting film and tracing papers are to work into.

I will post again on these once I am not juggling lights and cameras and can show them in their totemic state and not cross sections like this.  Each 'totem' is around 1200 - 100 cams in height and an installation accommodate as many as I want to make. In their first showing this will depend on space available.

I particularly like the look of these with light brought close up underneath - they really look 'lit from within'.  I imagine track lighting will be an important feature of showing this work.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

textures of the outback .....

There has been much experimenting again in the studio this week.  For the moment I have put the story of our land on hold though having had some very good ideas from my partner Steve about how I can present the work, I am pretty excited about getting back to it soon.

Another body of work I am working on for our exhibition is drawing on all the outback travels I have had around Australia over the last years.  I am going to let go any specificity regarding the work and where the inspiration for each piece has been drawn, and just present the work as 'the textures of Australia' or something like that.  For the moment I have been working on building texture to give the feel of flying over our land and the marks one sees from above, and also the texture of canyon walls, salt deserts etc.  With this work I am also planning to balance each textural piece with more realistic drawings.  I saw a really lovely artwork in New Zealand where a realistic drawing was presented with an addition of a separate mark making work and it enthralled me ..... am trying to marry the two ways I have of working - the love of the abstract and the mark with my background of drawing.

In April I did a workshop with Noela Mills on textures and had enormous fun, learnt plenty and then worked out how to run with some of those ideas and make them 'mine' or experiment further and see what I could achieve.  I am still trying to push boundaries here but am quite excited by some of the outcomes.

I bought some transparent paper from Sydney and have been working on it, seeing how I can make marks and get some textures.  Playing with different charcoal and graphite tools - generally having fun and making scribbled notes so that I remember what it is I was using.

You can see a little of the textural work here .... some of the pieces will end up in final work.  I just have to keep making lots and lots of pieces and drawings and then see how I want to marry the work together.

No completed pieces yet but heading in the right direction.  I also think I will try and make some artist's books using these textural ideas as well.  So many ideas .... hope there is enough time.  At the end of the day though, one can only exhibit what one has time to make!

Monday, 18 May 2015

growing a story .....

Another busy week in the studio and though the wall is growing and the story of 'here' expanding, it is not moving along as quickly as I hoped.

You learn such a great deal each time you make a book.  Maybe because I am primarily a 2D artist and see images in my head all the time as singles, I find it hard then to make multiples of very different images belong together.  Not sure that made sense ..... if I was just doing a series of artworks which spoke about our land I would be finding this way more easy than working it as a book - even though it will be an unbound book.  Within the book no one image can completely dominate the other and there needs to be a thread which ties the book together.  I am using numerous techniques as well which makes this quite a difficult story to tell but I do hope in the end the tale has a sense of belonging.  For most of course the underlying story will be completely obscure, but for those who are interested and ask me to lead them through the story, I will happily do so.

This first image is the one that was heading for the bin ... and the reason for that was twofold.  Firstly as an image it drowned all the other work and secondly, there was too much information in the one 'page'.  One of the things I love about artists' book work is the slow reveal, the fragments of stories.  Not reading the ending before one has passed through all the pages ... and even then wondering if it has finished, or if indeed you need to read the book again to find more of the story.

One tiny corner of our property.
A for avocado tree and all the circles are there because our next door neighbour has built his garden out of old tyres.

The mountain line over our site plan places us up here near the Glass House Mountains - anchors our land.
I still have a little more to add on this image.

My story board.

I want to bring back my magpie but am searching for the right way to work into the negative space - marks are needed!

Lots of work on the go ...

And another layer on the wall.

A few things I brought here from my parents home were these pots - four incredibly heavy rusted/metal looking pots that were used for pouring molten metal into shapes ..... can't think of their name for the moment.  One is over a metre tall.  They will be sitting at the middle level of our land as an installation - near the picnic shed.

Still working on the top layer here - over our house and shed.  

Finding ways to show all our trees and boulders.  

In a very strange way my book reminds me of 'The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' though mine is more like 'the contemporary markings of a bush block dweller'!

Still needing lots more images - rope, some of the bush orchids, more steps perhaps and certainly crows, maybe even their nest.  I gave myself May to break the back of this work and I think that will happen but it certainly will not be near completion.  Over the next few months I will be able to refine images and add others.  Once I have an overgrown storyboard, I will ask Fiona to help me decide how this books reads best.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

a map of me and my place ......

Mapping 'my place' - the image is not as yellow as this, just really aged.

I have been working really hard in the studio for the last ten or so days and am only now just starting to work out where I am heading with this very large book.  As I have been working through the planning I have come to realise that I can't divorce my emotions and myself from the land I live on - all are inextricably entwined.  From the onset this book, which will be about six metres of work, was going to be just about this beautiful block of land we live on.  As 'the story' has been evolving for me visually I realise that though the books will contain many fragments of things that have meaning to me around the land, it is starting to contain much more.

I am feeling the need to include some of the pieces missing from my life now, by including marks and images which will represent some of the major happenings in my life since moving here towards the end of April 2010. By pieces I mean incorporating work that reminds me of those recently absent from my life and also the newcomer who has fulfilled my life.  So my story about the land will now be one overlaid with a more personal story - all pretty obscure but it will all mean something to me.

Well, that is the plan .... As we know, work can have a way is leading us off in tangents.  This body of work has already taken a fairly major shift of direction.  

Below are some of the photos of false starts, which may yet lead into other images,  beginnings of ideas, the trying out of technique to make the lines I want to use and so forth.  I have found that I am needing to experiment every single step of the way as I am using layers of different papers left over from my father's architectural practice, various other transparent and fine papers and I have to work out how they all react to various techniques.

Heading for the bin - though some of the ideas I will re use.

A bundle of old, very old, tetra set from my father which will find its way into some of the work .

Blending and bleeding with conte - one of my favourite tools.

I decided my book needed some king of cohesive thread running through the pages to help tie the story together.  Hence an afternoon of printing on numerous papers.

Ideas forming.

Working out how to suggest rather than draw lines.

More possibilities I think.  For me it is like working into already messed up paper which is far less daunting that facing the big blank white.  Only I need to muss up lots of paper and create layers into which I can work and then paste them down onto the papers I am using.  Pasting has proved almost hazardous with may of the film papers and tissues.