Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.” 

Jackson Pollock

I think I gravitated towards this one because it challenges me a bit and makes me want to think.  I don't think I agree with Mr Pollock here - although in part I do.  I do think the outcome is the statement and that what the finished work says is important; but I also believe that the technique, and the process also contribute enormously to the statement that can be made at the end of it all.

Perhaps it's the old art and craft divide again; but for me, every decision I take along the way has to hold together; has to give the final work integrity; and has to add to the wholeness of the piece.

If I am am going to burn book pages and leave behind words about feminism; then the book I burn should be a feminist book, not simply a garden guide or a travel book.

If I am making a book about WWI; then the paper I use is aged and fragile - not pristine and white.  Every step of the way I consider materials and techniques as a way to enhance the final piece; to enable the book or the piece to hold together and not simply be the result of an idea that used whatever I had on hand without much thought.

Perhaps what he is saying that it doesn't matter which technique you use, because whichever technique you use is capable of making a statement?

Time for Change - grids, quilts, bandages, watch parts, burning - every decision taken adds to the integrity of the piece.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

McAuley House

In my last post I wrote about the work I had done for McAuley House in Melbourne, in this post I want to share more of the stories and the art in the new building.

As you walk in you are met with this hand-crafted neon light. Using the word the women felt best represented them, it shines - strongly but gently. I love it.

Art is an absolute feature of this building - the visionary who pushed and persisted throughout the project to make sure that art and beauty were integral to the new building is a remarkable person. The art just gives the building soul and spirit and makes it a beautiful beautiful place to be.

A huge mural by Lucy Lucy and Kaff-eine, runs along two wall sin the entrance area reflecting female icons (like Rosie the Riveter) and women of so many faiths and cultures.

In the dining room is this amazing enamelled stencil of a bouquet of flowers - it is huge and you can see how it wraps around a corner...

By Jessica Kease/23rd Key it is called simply "Bouquet".

A famous Italian graffiti artist Alice Pasquinin was visiting Melbourne and they were able to invite her to do a guest piece on a door. Called "Unveiled" is the woman covering her face or revealing it?

One of the board members won a chunk of money on a tv show and donated it to the project so that individual works of Aboriginal art could be placed in each bedroom (there are 25).

Nooks for peace and quiet have been built into the building; and there are words everywhere as well...

Inside is a winter garden as well - of when Melbourne is too cold to enjoy the outdoor gardens and balconies. A stunning place to sit and rest.

Looking in from the outside

And on opening night, the bedrooms included storyboards that told of some of the women's stories.  Trigger warning for family violence in the words that follow.

We heard from one of the survivors who had gone on to thrive, to study, to be reunited with her children, to be independent. And brave.

 Today the women move in to their new accommodation. There is  communal dining room; and a small kitchen if you want to cook for yourself. There is a recreation room if you want to join together and chat - with sewing machines, and a visiting dog. Each room has a fridge and a kettle and a balcony and an ensuite. Beautiful surrounding to re-establish value and worth when you feel pretty low, and your world has tilted.

I think McAuley House has set the new benchmark for homelessness in Australia and I hope many others take the vision forward.

There is much still to do but McAuley is doing a lot and we need to continue to support them!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Words on windows...

During the week, Barry and I had the honour of attending the opening of McAuley House - new custom built housing for homeless women in Melbourne.

I had been commissioned to make work for the windows of the Meditation-Reflection room - a sanctuary space where women can sit and reflect, ponder, dream, think...

It is a remarkable piece of architecture this building - so beautiful and light, using bold colours (many chosen by the women who are currently housed in the old accommodation) and the challenge for me was how to create a quiet, calm and serene space with the vibrant colours around and the extraordinary city-streetscape outside the floor to glass windows?

The room is the very top one on the right here.

On my first visit, this is what I had to base everything on...a pano of all the windows, no colours yet. I chose to work with the middle seven.

My brief was to put "words on windows" and so I had to work out the 'what' - which words to use? and the 'how' - which processes and colours and materials to use to create the sense of tranquility I was hoping for?

To gather the 'what' I went down to Melbourne and spent some time with a group of homeless women who were living in the old building.  We spoke a lot about how they wanted to feel when they were in that space - what sorts of things mattered to them in there, and what feeling did they want the room to help create or evoke in them and in others?

So they pelted me with words (figuratively only - they were an enthusiastic and energetic bunch!) and I wrote each word on a card, gave them some stickers and asked them to vote on the most important words.

I was a bit stunned when the word which clearly got the most votes, the words that expressed best how they wanted to feel in that room was 'brave'. I almost wept.

I also gathered some words from one of the Sisters of Mercy (who run McAuley House) and it was wonderful to see how much overlap there was.

I had some of my words.

My other plan was to use the word 'peace' to anchor the space; and I wanted to write the words 'peace' in the 16 languages that were spoken by the women being housed in the past twelve months.

That way, I hoped that many of the women from non-English speaking backgrounds who entered the room, would see the word peace written in their language, and feel welcomed.

You have probably seen my many experiments , here and there along the way on what was for me, a massive piece of work. I learned so much as I went along and had to really back myself and my decisions, and develop a whole heap of new skills and understandings.

Exhilaratingly exhausting could well describe it, especially from such a distance.

So I flew back down for the installation and again learned heaps about applying signage to windows.

At the end of installation day.

On Wednesday we visited the building and the room - and again I teared up as I stood outside. I wasn't alone. I had been told by somebody that as the nuns visited a number of them shed a tear; and words I heard were "beautiful words hanging in the sky" and "they will give great encouragement and comfort to women for years to come".

What an honour to be able to offer these brave women  a sanctuary space; and those who work with and for them as well, a place to be calm, to be quiet and to be peaceful.

The work is called "In Peace and Stillness" and here is the statement:

Within this space for meditation and reflection, the central band of two lines displays words for peace in the 16 languages spoken by women of the service at the time I visited. I hoped to make the words familiar to women of many cultures who will visit and live here.

The floating words come from a workshop I did with some of the women, and reflect how they hoped to feel in this room. They are melded with words of wisdom from one of the Sisters of Mercy.

The words are written in a calligraphic script I designed which is flowing and gentle. The words are sized to fit each window, and to be small. - to not shout or be overwhelming, They requires stillness and time to contemplate and absorb them.

In peace and stillness.

The next post will share more of the magnificent building and the stories of the women.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

"The act of reading is a partnership - the author builds a house, but the reader makes it a home". 

Jodi Picoult

This is another one of those simple, elegant truths I think. It reflects what happens when we make and view art as well I think - between the maker and the viewer, in a sense, a new piece of work is created.

Books clearly do provide a structure, a form, an outline; and yet what we as readers bring to them is all the stuff that fills them up and fleshes them out and makes them so very personal.  Whether that is our experience, our belief system, our dreams or our fears - oftentimes what we bring to a book makes our reading and interpretation of it different to the next person's.

I really like the simplicity of the analogy of houses and homes; we all know the difference between the two when we see it and feel it whether we can describe it fully or not.

A house, 2007.

A home, 2016.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stationery heaven

I think I have caught up with the posts I wanted to share from Japan - here is one for the stationery lovers.

Whilst I w a keen to look for paper when we visited; we didn't really have the time or schedule to explore paper factories and the like; so I satisfied myself with a day or two in Tokyo checking out stationery stores as best we could.

I think Tokyo is heaven for stationery-lovers.  There is so much beautiful paper, ink and styling going on.

We made our way through back streets as darkness fell to Kakimori - not far from Ginza - where I had read you could make your own notebook.

Which is kind of funny seeing as how I can make my own anyway, but it was fun to wander around the shop selecting paper, covers and clasps.

Here are our two notebooks on completion - they look pretty staid but are much nicer in the hand! We agreed it was as much about the experience and the theatre as it was about the outcome; altho I do like my notebook.

 Next door was probably the most amazing find of the trip - a shop called Inkstand where you could mix your own ink colours. That level purple is made from 3 drop son plum mixed with one drop of blue suede.

And you get the idea...

It was almost closing time by the time we dropped in (which was probably fortunate for the bank account) but I loved the precision with which these women were testing and trialling their signature colours.

I was in fact besotted by the whole thing and could have spent hours there.  I think it will be first up on any future visit to Tokyo.

The next day we visited It-Oya, 8 stories of stationery in Ginza. Huge sigh.

The entrance display of wash tape!

Some samples I bought home.

Walls and walls of samples to choose from.

 And then across the road was the 5 or 6 story shop of art supplies. Throughout the shop the displays of individual coloured pencils were so beautiful.

I am sure there are many more we didn't get to, and they will  make for more fun next time!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Art and beauty from Japan

After a week that has been filled with friendship and exchanges with our Japanese Sister City colleagues, I realised that I had barely had time to share any of the images from our trip to Japan. So much has happened since our return!

So I think there is one more Japan post before I am finished - stationery - but for today these are some of the images of art and beauty that I carry with me after our visit.

Some temple images...incense sticks smouldering in fine white sand, and Buddha's hands.

Some more images from the exhibition by Shohei Fujita. Simply divine work.

We came across a graphic design exhibition; here they were trying to link paper texture to butterfly wings.

And a detail from a wall inside a shopping centre.

A beautiful hand-hammered vase by one of Haryu-sensai's students.

Assemblage art at the Gunma gallery.

And as a complete contrast to such elegance and beauty here is how I spent part of Saturday - helping Barry and my dad build a wall for a  cob oven at the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre; before helping Christine and Merv take down the exhibition we hung earlier in the week! Quite the contrast... and of course we had the first major thunderstorm in ages just as we were working.

Never a dull moment here.