Friday, January 20, 2017

Research and Reading

Its been a month since I returned from my residency in Tasmania, and since then I've been busy finalising artworks for my upcoming exhibition.

I'm exhibiting 'Big Smoke Little Smoke' with fellow artist Jo Taylor at the Dogwood Crossing Art Gallery at Miles during February and March this year.  This is a follow up to our exhibition at Tambo early last year.  The exhibition space at Miles is bigger than Tambo so Jo and I have both been working on new artworks to make the most of the new space.

My focus for the exhibition is on my favourite theme of urbanisation of nature.  I've been reading a lot of books relating to introduced animals and historical accounts of how today's Australia was shaped by a lot of bad behaviour by colonial settlers.  I've been blissfully diverted by tales of Tasmanian Thylacines (extinct or roaming Tassie somewhere?) as well as reading about how our national identity is linked to the animals around us, both native and introduced species.

As part of my art practice, I read a lot of books that focus on the conceptual side of my art. Gone are the days where I just read novels and technique based books.  A wide range of reading sources have really helped me to develop the ideas or conceptual side of my art practice.  I've been able to use my research to spark interesting ideas and lines of investigation which I then develop further into artworks.  I learnt this from attending workshops with artist/writer/educator Ruth Hadlow.

As I read my books, I flag interesting paragraphs and sentences. Then after I finish reading the book, I refer back to the flagged pages and write notes in my ruled A4 notebook, its nothing flash or visually exciting.  I write down details of the book, where I got the book from (eg local library or my bookshelf), and the page numbers of each note that I make so I can refer back to that section of the book if I need to.

These notes then become my resource when developing artworks or writing exhibition/grant proposals.

Ruth Hadlow also had another great tip which I use frequently - read the references section at the end of each book, it gives hints on other sources and books to look at on related topics.  Its almost like a rainy day spent on the internet, where you go from one YouTube video to the next, drift along happily in Pinterest etc.  You never know where it may lead you.

For me, I don't just want to make an artwork that may be decorative or pretty.  I now take the time to research and read widely to broaden my thinking and develop my ideas from external influences.  Its not just all about technique, which of course is the fun bit, but I also want to have a story worth sharing with my viewer.

A4 Notebook and books I'm currently reading

Sample page from my Notebook

You can see the flags I use, like
mini Post-It notes
Invitation for my exhibition (front)
Invitation - reverse side