In September I had a two week run at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space in Manuka, showing work that had developed from my residency in Tokyo two years ago. In between visitors (good numbers of people walking in from the street), I managed several sketches from behind the desk.
I am settling in for some long stitching sessions over the coming months. In September this year I will be having a solo exhibition at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space in Manuka.
The show is inspired by ideas that were developed and photographs that were taken during my Asialink Arts Residency at Youkobo Art Space in Tokyo in 2016.
Today I have a bit of a teaser for you from the piece I am currently working on. I am focussed on framing those in-between moments of our daily life.
The 16th of September was Papua New Guinea’s Independence Day, so what better way to celebrate than return to the Myth + Magic exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. This time I also managed to drag some friends along, as well as my partner, so we all set about sketching.
My first target was the Orator’s Stool from the East Sepik. I started with the face and enjoyed working with the deep shadows cast by the dramatic lighting.
It was only after I’d finished this first drawing and went to record the details of the work, that I found the carvings of the crocodile and bird on the reverse of the stool.
I still had some 20 minutes before our meet-up time so I went and did a ‘quick’ study of this ancestor plaque.
This work has a very strong presence. It is made of fibre, largely for the backing and is covered with thick grey mud. It is decorated with lots of embedded pig tusks and shells. The image wears a headband of cassowary feathers. I haven’t captured much of its ‘presence’ so I will try to return and focus on this piece again.
After the drama of the exhibition space it was somewhat of a relief to retreat to the airy lightness of the Members Lounge for lunch. Afterwards, our friends decided that they wanted to look at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait galleries so we headed off there for a final sketch. I sat out near the entrance to draw the giant, 12 metres long, fish trap, that hangs above the gallery foyer.
I didn’t realise that I was being observed, but this photo gives you an idea of the scale of the work.
Myth + Magic, Art of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea, is the current featured exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). The art works on display are predominantly sculptural and relate to the spiritual practices of the people who live along this major river system of Papua New Guinea. The works are quite dramatic and often have a visceral quality which derives both from their subject matter and also from the materials they are made from – wood, shell, pig tusk, fibre fur, hair and mud. This sense of drama is enhanced by the display of these items in largely darkened rooms set off by tightly focused spotlights.
There are a plethora of interesting subjects to draw. I was intrigued by these two large figures which are costumes worn during initiation ceremonies. They represent spirits or awan, that “frighten harass and bully” young initiates during their period of seclusion. Like many other pieces on display, these items were collected in 1916, when Australian forces entered the Sepik River to wrest control of the territory from Germany, as an extreme outlying action of the First World War.
These costumes are constructed of fibre, the bodies are woven from plant material and are decorated with clay, shell hair and ochre. The figure to the rear has a head dress made of densely packed cassowary feathers. When the costumes are worn all that can be seen are the wearers feet (there is a photograph of similar costumes being worn, in the exhibition catalogue). The wearer can look through the mouth opening of the nearest figure and the second figure has two eyeholes in the chest to see through.
In each room there were astonishing items to see. In the last room, apart from the massively carved crocodile sculpture on loan from the Museum of Papua New Guinea, are several aripa, or hunting helpers. These aripa are an abstracted human figure, sublimed to a most minimal form, ‘standing’ on their one foot. To quote from the website “If the spirit [aripa] has been correctly appeased it will track down and kill the desired prey’s spirit so it will show itself to the hunter to be killed easily. It was believed the soul (tite) of the aripa spirit being, not the artist, was responsible for the creation of their physical bodies.”
While we were in the gallery my partner commented on how the sculptures felt somehow familiar – even though we hadn’t seen them previously. We concluded that this sense came not from these figures per se, but from the inclusion of tribal art or the influence of similar works from Africa and elsewhere in the globe, into ‘modern’ art of the early 20th century. We had seen the reflection and now we were seeing the ‘real thing’.
The exhibition is on until 1 November 2015 at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. It will not be touring. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.
My partner and I caught the bus up to Sydney yesterday, so we could see the Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The weather was vile. Rainy with strong gusty winds so inside a gallery was just the place to be.
We were a bit stunned, when we arrived, to find out that it was a single entry ticket to the show, so our plans to take a look, retire for a restorative coffee and then re-enter the gallery for a second look were shot. Having decided that caffeine fortification was in order, prior to entry, we went to the 4th floor cafe, with its marvelous terrace with views to the Opera House, only to have to sit inside because yes, it was raining again. I took the opportunity to quickly sketch this sculpture of a ‘child’. When I finally dashed out to get a look at the title and artist’s credit I discovered that the head, turned away from me is that of an extinct and ancient fossil fish!
I won’t say much about the exhibition, other than its great if you like Close’s work, as he is happy to not only reveal, but hang on the walls, examples of the processes he uses to make his work. This includes the actual woodblocks etching plates and forms he uses. I love seeing these objects as much as the finished work itself. There was so much to take in so I was thankful that the catalogue does provide lots of close up detail so you can examine the work again in your own time.
Given that we ended up spending less time at the gallery than anticipated we still had some time to expend before we headed back to return bus. My partner suggested finding somewhere to perch ourselves and draw. We walked to the eastern side of Circular Quay and found a bar on the Opera Walk where we had a good view of the Harbour Bridge, albeit from underneath the shelter of the bar’s umbrellas.
Back on the bus and through the rain to Canberra. I was jolted awake as a brilliant light shone onto my face – the sun had broken through the clouds. I spent the next half hour enjoying the special sunset effects. This is one I tried to capture on my phablet, an impression of the small scraps of cloud catching the last sunlight.