Friday, September 7, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - The Artist Book

Every arts residency has a goal, even if its to just 'think'.   My goal for my AIR at Curtin Springs was to complete an Artist Book.

However, as usual for me, it didn't go to plan.  I had a strong idea but was unable to resolve it whilst I was on site, so finishing my artist book was a priority when I returned to 'normal' life.

So its been a few weeks but I have finally completed the work, and I'm happy that it conveys the ideas that I developed whilst completing the residency.

Curtin Springs is a cattle station in Central Australia.  The current owners have been there since 1956 and so there's a lot of history retained on the property, particularly around the homestead.  A lot of used equipment is stored on the property for maintenance purposes, though the elements and nature have taken over and softened the rusted detritus.

To me its like a battleground, a skirmish between the man-made and nature.  Discards from the operations of the property gather red dirt and rust, with grasses pushing through the gaps.  My artist book was inspired by this disturbance, where things that don't belong gradually become part of the landscape.

My process started with rusty objects collected from around the homestead, and I used tea to stain the rust onto paper.  I also collected grasses and made collagraph plates from them, and printed them onto botanical papers made from those grasses (Curtin Springs has a wonderful paper mill).

The strips of printed papers run the length of the rusted paper concertina, wrapping around the covers.  The long format of the book reflects the view of the landscape, where the vegetation is relatively short and the view of the sky is from horizon to horizon.   The use of found objects gives a strong connection to the property's history.  Incorporating paper and prints made from local grasses recognises the value of the grasses to both the cattle operations and papermaking activities of Curtin Springs.

I'm still playing with a title for the book, but I'm leaning towards 'Colonisation'.  The rust can either be taken as a monument to life on the land or as a sign that nature is slowly claiming it back.

Grasses on the property - I love the
rich colour of the red sandy soil against the yellow grass.

Grass samples collected for making plates.
Rusty objects fighting nature
Rusting the paper

Close up of the rusting with tea bags.
The tannin in the tea makes beautiful
greys and browns, not orange.

Yummy marks!
Its tempting to move it before its dry.
Luckily its very dry air in Central Australia.

View of the Artist Book,
with handmade paper covers, rusted pages and prints
on handmade paper

There's some beautiful rusted marks on these pages.
I joined the concertina sections using a thin strip of
handmade paper.

Closed view showing the wrapped cover strip.

One of the pages showing the lovely rusted marks.