Its been a few weeks since I did a Sunday Studio visit post – I have been so busy, and one of the reasons for this I have written about HERE (and this is still ongoing!) and I will write a post soon about the other major project soon!!
Today, however I took time out of the busy schedule to visit the Lorne Sculpture Biennale. It is a great show which I have had work in during previous years, and this year had a sculpture in the Wye River Project – an exhibition of small sculpture organised in support of the Wye River and surrounding community devastated by the Christmas Day bushfires.
I vividly remember the ‘breaking news’ stories on Christmas Day, which was hot on the trail of the Scotsburn fires nearer my home which I have written briefly about HERE. Lorne is also special to me as I half grew up near the area (Torquay); ran a business which serviced the area for several years; and have participated in the Lorne sculpture show previously.
So it was great to be able to participate in the Wye River project to support the community – with this sculpture, which I posted about during the ‘work in progress’ phase HERE.
Wye River is a small community, so, as expected, does not have a gallery space, so sculptures were exhibited at the General Store and the Wye Beach Hotel – here is a pic in situ with lots of wine/beer rings on the plinth – I like to think this means it got looked at alot!
But back to the Biennale… I, of course, had my favourites, some of which I have posed on Instagram, and remarkedly my fav aligned with the judges and the peoples choice awards – not very often that happens! Unfortunately (and stupidly) I didn’t bring my wide angle lens, so just have a couple of pics (but will be posting more soon). The winning artist is Jennifer Crompton for Sea Country Spirits, an amazing installation of organic and sea inspired forms made from an array of materials – wire through to feathers and shells – all suspended from trees so that the viewer could walk within the created environment accentuated by the natural movement stirred by the breeze which created a surreal and almost apocalyptic feel – if there had been no people strolling around!!
Visually delicate and mostly white in colour, the forms suggested the fragility of the Great Barrier Reef coral and the current bleaching of it which is such a hot topic at the moment in Australia. I’m not sure if this was Crompton’s intent as artist statements were not displayed with the works, but this is how it spoke to me – more about that in a future blog post.
Surprisingly my most favourite sculpture was not actually part of the exhibition! And I almost got cut off from the mainland during photographing it due to the tide coming in!!
A beautiful rock sculpture, reminiscent of Andy Goldsworthy created on the gorgeous rockscape of Lorne, this sculptor has been in every Biennale show – but not by invitation!! He gatecrashes and installs his sculpture amongst the selected artworks – which I think is fantastic! It begs the question about what are art exhibitions, who gets in, what they mean, and to whom? More about this in my upcoming post also.
So, for now to finish of this quasi studio visit I’ll leave you with my favs from the exhibition …. enjoy, though I will be posting a more in depth review in the coming week, so stay tuned 🙂
***This post is a bit late as it took me longer to write than I thought ***
Today’s studio visit sees me reviewing some pics I took whilst on a girls weekend ceramic crawl I participated in on Friday and Saturday throughout regional Victoria. The tour was organised through Clayspace, a Daylesford based ceramics co-operative, of which I was a founding member and director.
The course of the trail was dictated by the Sidney Myer Ceramics Award, an international biennial award recognising ceramic excellence, held at the Shepparton Art Museum or SAM. Luckily there are lots of major potters living and working in the central highlands area which meant that a ceramic trail was easily structured that took us from Daylesford to Shepparton and back again.
We started out at 10am on Friday morning and the first stop was Barry Singleton’s studio, a renowned Australian studio art potter whose studio was established in Castlemaine in 1970. Now in his 70s, Barry was instrumental in raising the profile of studio pottery in Australia during the 1970s. Trained largely in Japan, Barry’s studio set up is amazing, echoing many of the principles laid out in Bernard Leache’s The Potters Book, from clay recycling procedures through to handmade tools and equipment.
While Barry was trained in the “form follows function” Japanese aesthetic his work has evolved and matured within the contemporary context to include a range of organic soft forms, art pieces and sculpture to compliment his functional pieces, creating a diverse and accomplished oeuvre.
Next stop was Sarah Ormonde’s studio in Bendigo. Sarah is recently back from the Beyond Limitations clay mentoring residency in Sth Korea, which she chatted to the group about over a yummy shared lunch. While Sarah’s work is beautifully functional and is careful and considered, it ventures into the conceptual through the abstracted landscape based marks she makes upon the clay surface using coloured slips and lines. This surface treatment conveys a freedom of expression usually reserved for the abstract artist. This approach, however, is not surprising as Sarah is originally trained in painting and spends alot of time drawing in real time in the environment.
After a gorgeous lunch at Sarah’s the next visit was Gary Bish‘s studio. Gary is another hallmark studio potter within the Australian ceramic landscape who, like Barry Singleton, has been working since the 1970s and is a major contributor to the local ceramic scene. Gary has a beautiful showroom, exhibiting so many temptations I had to buy one (I pretty much bought something from everyone). As with Barry, Gary has increased his artist outlook to include a more contemporary approach. While many of his works are based on the vessel, the use of line and decals he designs himself creates a depth and perspective in the work that can sometimes border on early surrealism not the pics I have here – google him & you will see what I mean). Technically innovative, these pieces challenge the contemporary “ceramics purveyor” as they question the viewers ideas about what a ceramic vessel is and what it is meant to convey – concepts very often left to sculpture.
We left Gary’s studio at about 4pm and headed for Shepparton, arriving around 5.30pm. By then it was beer o’clock accompanied by some relaxing before heading off to dinner at the local pub. Needless to say after dinner – six girls booked into an apartment… I’ll spare you a pic!!
Next morning – an early and bleary eyed start… nothing a greasy breakfast couldn’t fix at a local cafe, and then off to SAM to view the finalists in the Sidney Myer Ceramics Award. The award has been a little chequered in its review this year, even by the the artists we had already visited on the trip, which had generated some interesting discussion about what ceramics “is” by definition from both a purist and conceptual basis. There were five finalists in total, Penny Byrne, Ruth Hutchinson, Sanné Mestrom, Adam John Cullen and Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, all displaying their work in an installation format, a technique becoming increasingly popular in the ceramics arena.
Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran won the award with a body of work exploring the nature of religion, gender and futility through referencing Hindu deities, Christian symbols and sexualised bodies. His use of clay is crude – not being trained in the medium – but this allows him to not be restrained by the historical conventions of the material, so that he exhibits a freedom in the form and surface of his pieces. Though not my favourite in the award it has certainly opened up the debate about the use of clay as an overall art material rather than being purely a ‘ceramic’ medium.
My two favourite finalists were the works of Penny Byrne and Adam John Cullen.
Penny’s work uses kitsch vintage porcelain figurines and found objects to create sculptural assemblages that explore politic themes and popular culture. Again, this work challenges the conventions of what a ceramic ‘award’ is… here we have mass produced figurines presented in an installation, a format relatively new to ceramics compared to other art forms. Penny’s body of work in this exhibition references the war in Iraq, and is a powerful anti-war statement, and while the theme of politics may not be new to sculptural ceramics the coupling of her use of materials may be viewed as controversial to purists who see a ceramics ‘award’ being contained in the more conventional realm of handcrafted and purely object based.
Adam’s installation explored the notion of museum curation and the display of artworks, and the time in between when artworks are in the storage area of the museum waiting to go on display – a somewhat ironic theme, which could be taken as serious comment or just some fun and humour depending your mood perhaps. The work is about the placement of objects in a space and the ambience created – very much in keeping with museum curation. I enjoyed the surfaces of the pieces in this installation, but then I am “into” textures and layers.
Sanné Mestrom’s work, suitably titled Leftovers, was created by asking artists throughout the world to send remnants of their work which she then combined with unfired clay create a body of work in an attempt to reveal the the original of objects and how they anchored in that meaning, whether cultural, historical or physical. This was perhaps the most controversial work, not due to her method or the finished forms and sculptures, but because the clay was unfired. Unfired clay is technically not ‘ceramic’. Personally I was not very engaged in these artworks as they seemed very slapped together – the components didn’t seem integrated to form a resolved artpiece. Unfortunately I don’t have a pic to show, and I guess that’s why!
Finally Ruth Hutchinson’s work Hellmouth, which was not an installation but rather a free standing piece in a separate feature room, depicted a series of figures descending into the open mouth of the abyss. Traditionally trained in ceramics Ruth used dental tools, materials and techniques to create these tiny figures – again challenging the boundaries of conventional ceramics.
Overall the exhibition was great – and had mixed responses within the group, which created interesting thought and discussion – but I suppose this means the exhibition has achieved what the curators set out to achieve and what I think they were attempting and that is to present a collection of ceramic works that push the boundaries of contemporary ceramic art practice in Australia. This award has been in existence for many years, and from a curatorial perspective, it would be time to shake things up a bit!
As SAM Director Kirsten Paisley says “Their practices span historical and cultural themes, revisit modernist concerns, delve into social issues and moreover, challenge our understanding of ceramic art and it’s positioning within contemporary practice”
And SAM Acting Director Rebecca Coates explains “each of the five artists shortlisted has created an outstanding new body of work that not only extends their own artistic practice, but also challenges our understanding of ceramics within a contemporary context”, and according to Ms Coates all finalists were judged on the criteria of “the conceptual premise of the work and approach to the opportunity; technical ability and engagement with materiality; and spatial considerations – how the work inhabited the space. The work also needed to be innovative, to challenge, excite and intrigue.”
I do think it was a great show which made me think about my art practice and at the end of the day that is a good thng!
Upon leaving SAM it was back on the bus to visit Graeme Masters in Sweeney’s Creek. Graeme is another large figure in Australian ceramics having worked as a production potter in the heyday of Australian pottery during the 1970s-80s. Today he works in his studio producing wares he makes from an amazing carving technique, which he was generous enough to demonstrate to the group, and teaching at Bendigo Pottery. He also makes some sculptural teapots to break the flow. Graeme had an amazing studio setup including a streamlined process for reconstituting clay complete with settling tanks and filter press. At the end of tour of this process he presented each of us with a bag of freshly pugged smooth white clay – can’t wait to try it out!
Next it was off to visit Dean Smith in Castlemaine. Dean was the recipient of the Manningham Ceramic Art Award this year, an exhibition I also had a piece in, which you can see HERE. Dean had recently come back from an overseas trip and was only just getting back into work and had a huge pot on the go which he had thrown in two pieces. He didn’t have much finished work on display as most of it was with the gallery that represents him in Melbourne. We did get to see his studio and firing setup, which was great. Dean is also quite the creative inventor. He rigged up his own spray booth using an old shower base as the floor of the booth, and created an exhaust system for his glaze mixing area using an old oven rangehood! The pic below is not great, but the surface is dry crystalline glazes … something to make the mind boggle!
And then it was time to jump back on the bus and travel home – eventually all good things must come to an end.
It was a FAB weekend and thanks to the Clayspace people who organised a fantastic weekend 🙂
As most readers are aware I am a visual artist working with clay, natural materials and found objects. I also dabble in some painting and drawing.
What some of you may not know is that I also write alot about art. You can check out some peer review articles I have written by clicking on the publications tab in the above menu, or you can check out some reviews I have written by clicking on the Exhibition Reviews category on this blog.
A few months ago I began writing a few posts for an arts website specific to the region in which I live – ArtsAtlas. It is a directory of artists, art news, opportunities and anything artsy happening in the area and surrounds sponsored by the Ballarat Council and other local stakeholders. After writing a couple of exhibition review articles, which also included photography, I was invited to be a contributing editor, which was great.
A month or so ago, the council put out a call for commissioned content to be written for the site, to which I proposed three articles accompanied by documentary photography – and I recently received an email notifying me that my proposals had been accepted : yay, a paid writing gig!
This is actually very exiting, and I will keep readers updated on the progess of researching and documenting my articles as it all unfolds 🙂
The following images are linked to the reviews I have published so far on the ArtsAtlas website… enjoy 🙂
I live in Ballarat, a regional town of Victoria, Australia and I must say that I am starting to love living here – as a an artist. I did the ‘tree change’ from Melbourne to Ballarat in 2000, because I love the history here, and the property I live on is beautiful. However, not much was happening in the ‘art’ scene at the time – but in the last few years that has been changing rapidly!
In recent years artists in Ballarat have stood up to be counted – Facebook pages have been launched, art groups have been funded, artist registries have been created and council committees have been re-invigorated!
It has been amazing!
The most recent initiative, a public art exhibition, funded by the City of Ballarat, via the City of Ballarat Public Art Committee (PAAC) entitled What Lies Beneath officially opened on March 28th to a huge crowd of art enthusiasts. The exhibition features images from eighteen artists (including myself) printed on a commercial product – Earth Wrap, a non-slip aluminium backed pavement product normally used for commercial signage or safety applications. This exhibition is the first time it is being used in a public art context.
Julie Collins, Ballarat Public Art Co-Ordinator and the curator of the show was inspired by an existing public art piece in Police Lane and Alfred Deakin Place entitled The Goanna Totem designed by Dianna Nikkleson. The goanna image is impressed into the pavement and recalls the indigenous history of Ballarat. The participating artists in What Lies Beneath were asked to create an image that explore what lies beneath the surface – physical or metaphysical. The response from participating artists was diverse – from the literal presence of minerals, water or archaeological fragments beneath the surface through to the more abstract notions of listening to the Earth.
Another new initiative present in this exhibition is the presence of QR codes with each image, allowing an interactive experience for the viewer who can scan the QR code with their smart phone and learn more about each individual artist.
As an exhibition that incorporates these original notions into the viewers experience, it is well worth checking out if you in or near or visiting Ballarat. It is at the Backyard Gallery in Alfred Deakin Place until 5th May 2013.
A new public art initiative in Ballarat began on Friday with the grand opening of the Unicorn Gallery. Situated in Unicorn Lane – between the CBA and the Unicorn Bar on Lydiard St, the gallery consists of eight wall mounted metal boxes in which artists of any medium can exhibit art work. The boxes have perspex fronts, are internally lit and are lockable. The initiative has been developed by the Ballarat council, and as such is free to artists and no commission is taken on sales.
I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the opening exhibition. Installation was conducted on Friday afternoon, and the boxes looked great. Come night time at the opening they looked even better, with the lighting working well against the starkness of the laneway walls.
During the afternoon while artists were installing their artwork, lots of passers by stopped to look and comment – all were very positive to the idea, and agreed on the value of art and public art within the community – so YAY!
I installed four organic abstract forms by mounting them to the back wall complimented by stones arranged along the floor of the box.
Here is a slideshow of the artworks and the opening.
Focusing on the benefit of public art to the broader community, including business, the public and local artists, A Public Art Perspective consists of two linked exhibitions: Backspace – exhibiting a range of smaller marquette works, and Backyard Gallery – displaying public art from some of Australia’a leading public artists.
The marguette works are on show in an intimate gallery space, and the larger works are sited in the centre of the Ballarat Arts Precinct: adjacent to the Ballarat Art Gallery, Backspace Gallery, and the University of Ballarat Arts Academy; home of Inge King’s landmark sculpture Grand Arch; and the site of community celebrations such as Harmony Festival, effectively cementing Alfred Deakin Place as an arts hub for downtown Ballarat.
Curated by Julie Collins the exhibition represents a diverse sculptural practice, ranging form the playful mixed media sculptures of Louise Paramor, the formal sculptures of Robert Hague through to the powerful works of Bruce Armstrong.
The exhibition is ongoing until the 22 April, and is well worth a visit.
Julie Collins & Derek John
Stelarc is an Australian internationally known performance artist who performed at the Lorne Sculpture show this year. His performance was based around his Ear On Arm project, a project which has evolved over the past decade. Stelarc has grafted a replicate ear on his left forearm, which will eventually be able to hear and respond. More information about his project can be found here: http://stelarc.org/?catID=20242
Much of Stelarc’s past work has centered around “the body”… its use, how it can or cannot be modified, bodily identity, what the body can or cannot withstand and similar such themes.
I enjoyed this performance. From my perspective Stelarc’s laying on an oversized sculpture of his “Ear on Arm” and being painted with white clay slip, enabled him to merge with the sculpture, signifying his becoming ‘one’ with the decade long project, which has been problematic at times… finally his identity merged with the altered , yet (in the future) functional ear on arm: a mutual acceptance.
But are there larger societal questions at stake here? The introduced ear is foreign to the arm… it doesn’t belong… it looks “different”, “funny”…yet Stelarc presents a scenario where each accepts the other, but under what conditions? A passive merging … a homogenisation? In the context of globalisation such questioning of acceptance, on personal, social, economic and political levels, are crucial. This is now evident with the mass revolutionary movements that are occurring worldwide.
But I will get off my soapbox now & just say that it was great to see so many families wandering around the show on the weekend, because the young kids that are getting exposed to wide and varied art at a young age will be those revolutionary thinkers of the future… we hope!! (oops, soapboxing again!!) Enjoy the slideshow!!