Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bringing an idea to life, one vessel at a time

I've been reading a lot lately about the fragmentation of natural habitats.  The colonial occupation of Australia has irrevocably modified the character, extent, and connectivity of natural bushlands and eco-systems, creating islands of remnant wild areas in a sea of agriculture and urban development.

As a creative response to that idea, I thought of organic vessels - multiples, lots of them.  Vessels are containers that hold and restrain, isolating their contents from their surrounds.  Having a collection of individual vessels gives me that feeling of disconnection, responding to the idea of how fragmentation of habitats leads to negative impacts on biodiversity and survival of native plant species.

I've also recently started exploring the making of cloth paper - its an ideal technique with which to make 3-dimensional shapes.  The layers of paper and cloth can be formed over shapes such as bowls and mugs, using diluted wallpaper paste to 'glue' the layers together.  A sort of adult paper mache.

Using the cloth paper technique, I decided that I would try to create 75+ bowls of varying sizes.  I really want to make an impact on the viewer.  So far I've made about 40.

Before I could start to make the vessels, I had to prepare my papers and cloth.  Firstly monoprinting (of course!).  I've been monoprinting with ferns, grasses and leaves in aqua blue and black onto lightweight papers such as tissue, paper patterns, and kozo.  The idea of using plant imagery in the vessels is to capture 3-dimensional representations of their fragility and impermanence, referencing the impact of fragmentation on biodiversity.

Then I've rusted and eco-dyed cheesecloth and light cotton fabrics to get natural browns, greys and light orange tones.

The resulting series of vessels I've titled 'Containment'.  A work in progress, I'm only about halfway but still enjoying the creative process.  I hope that the completed artwork will inspire and educate others.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Finding the beauty in the odiousness of weeds

I've got an unhappy relationship with weeds in my garden.  Technically they may only be weeds by definition (just plants in the wrong place), but there's one particular 'plant in the wrong place' that really gets me angry.  Its 'Red Caustic Weed'.

So what's an artist do?   Print with it, of course......!

Since 2016 I've been working on a piece entitled 'Dispersal'.  Its a collection of monoprints on repurposed envelopes that describes the journey of weed seeds assisted by humans.

In my day job as a bookkeeper, I have been collecting envelopes of varying sizes - the business type ones have beautiful blue patterning on the inside, which forms the background of my prints.

Over time I have been collecting the weeds from my backyard and local parks.  This process changed my behaviour towards them – I treated them more kindly, nurturing them like I would my own treasured garden plants, pulling them gently from the ground to preserve their roots. 

Printing with these weeds made me realise that, in print, they were just as beautiful as many of my other garden plants that I use in my art practice.

One poignant example of this is the "Red Caustic Weed" - this weed has been my nemesis for many years.  Its a prostrate introduced plant which self seeds readily and pops up on my gravel paths and in my garden beds.  I really hate it!  But when I recently found a particularly large one, I carefully pulled it from the ground and placed it between sheets of newspaper under weights for a few days - this removes the excess moisture and flattens it nicely.

And it has produced the most wonderful prints.  The leaves and flowers are clearly discernable, the root structure is very fine and descriptive.  Its my favourite weed print for my 'Dispersal' project.

So, I guess maybe "Red Caustic Weed" is beautiful in its own way.  Next time when I'm scanning for annoying weeds in my garden, I'll try to remember that.

Red Caustic Weed

Second print off the plate with plant on it.

The very flat weed after running through the
press a couple of times.
Revenge is sweet......

Revealing the print, the best moment in a
printmaker's artistic life.

I just love these root prints - gorgeous expressive lines
Results of my latest printing session

The beautiful blue patterns on the inside of business
envelopes - this is a Telstra one.  Good for something!

"Dispersal' installation at Miles Gallery 2016 -
I've been adding to it since then.