Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MoreArt 2012 reflections

It was with a bit of sadness and a lot of pride that I closed the shutter on the 2012 MoreArt exhibition piece 'A Neighbourhood Holding Space', yesterday. Present in my life for two and a half months (a little more if you count it's idea birthing  near the beginning of this year) the artworks and the stories held and told, have become very precious to me and others involved.

MoreArt is an annual public art show, funded by my local city council of Moreland. Contemporary art pieces are exhibited along the Upfield train line and adjacent bike track. Personally I think it is a great event and look forward every year to looking out the window of the train, to see artworks travel in and out of view. For this MCC I thank you.

This year I was very fortunate to be approached by Sussex Neighbourhood House to put forward an artists proposal. With the support and assistance of Suzanne, the House manager, we formed the idea of what was to become 'A Neighbourhood Holding Space'. An exhibit created by 'our neighbourhood artists', using the knotted art form I call 'Holding Spaces' and inquiring into the question, "what does neigbourhood mean to you?" We were delighted to receive our acceptance letter. The former vendor window at Gowrie train station was our exhibition site.

Our first visit had us wondering where Gowrie train station was. Neglecting to check the map before we set-off northwards, assuming the other knew where we were going, Suzanne and I enlisted the help of the 527 Northland SC–Gowrie bus-stop signs, aware that it's end stop was the station - cleaver!

After the site visit, photos taken and with note that we would need to clean out the cob-webs and fly cemetery we set about calling for our artist collective. As I have previously experienced in community art-making inquires, our participants came forward through 'connection'. I believe this has something to do with 'trust'. It's often difficult to articulate a process which is rich in emergence - we can only explain so much, the rest we do not know, ourselves trusting a process and the personalities involved. Our artists collective included friends, friends of friends, neighbours and House regulars.

Over two community gatherings (and a couple of extra visit during installation time) we formed Holding Spaces and shared what we wanted to of the individual stories they held. During this time we witnessed the strength of the process and of the power of shared story. The flow-on effect / affect of artmaking and reflection, what we had come to now know and it's impact on our daily lives. There were connections between stories or the forming of connections by sharing our own story. 

The individuals then came together to form a whole. Our exhibit. Life stories to tell of a community story, of 'what neighbourhood means to us'. Positioning of the Holding Spaces and words which spoke of the essence of their stories were positioned with careful consideration within the space. This was important. I often say the exhibiting space informs the artwork, in turn enhances the story – it is a continuous cycle, if you are open to it. It was a difficult piece to photograph in it's entirety and we're ok with that. We like that the observers reflection is in view and the world outside is reflected in the window. All symbolic when describing 'neighbourhood'.

We do however invite you in for a closer look. To take your time, sit down, have a cuppa, read our stories, see our work at the Sussex Neighbourhood House website 

Even though the shutter has been drawn on 'A Neighbourhood Holding Space', it's not the end. We believe it is just the beginning. It is "more than MoreArt" - our emergent tagline, as it continues to have an impact on the artist's lives and perhaps our viewers..?

There is one piece missing from the above photo. It was taken down last week, carefully packed in bubble wrap and handed over by the artist to a community friend, before she left for Spain. This holding space is an offering to La Casa, in Seville. From her blog she describes La Casa as "...two things; an Asociacion of community members working together (voluntarily!) to provide a supportive social and economic environment in an area of the city that is being changed by gentrification and the GFC. It is also a historic building, in danger of being lost to decay or developers. It is the base for the Asociacion and the heart of the community."

We also experienced many opportunities to share what we had come to know with passing commuters and at the Squeaky Wheel artist's talk. When deinstalling I received lovely feedback from one lady who thanked us for the exhibit, she had enjoyed it each day. She told me she had been missing 'this sort of thing', having recently moving back to this area, from St Kilda. As her train pulled into the station we quickly chatted and I hope to see her at the neighbourhood house one day soon. 

My own personal stories of neighbourhood continue to grow, form and change – I hear this from others too. We will meet again in a few weeks for celebratory community gathering. Holding Spaces will be returned to their creators, there will be time to reflect and ultimately re-connect – food to share and no doubt many stories floating through the air.

Farewell Gowrie and MoreArt2012 – thank you, my neighbourhood is richer for it.
It has been grand!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Melbourne on a spring day

On Friday's I work with a lovely young woman, companioning her in exploring 'the artistry of life'. During our time together we head out and about, finding places in and around the city that add to our experiencing. We notice art around us and find welcoming cafes where drawings can be made and poetry formed. We like to discover new places but also have our favourites. We make friends with some lovely people.

I thought I would share some of our gems, we quietly come across with you. Here are yesterday's...

Wandering down Hanover Street, Fitzroy, calming down after risen tempers at tram door closure incident, this installation piece was a refreshing sight.
Turning the street corner to discover a new cafe - Argos Loves Company.
Wonderful food and very allowing of our 'spreading out' and 'sitting time'.
I also liked the environment, quite homely, yet fresh and rich in texture.
Gorgeous cutlery!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Message flower in bloom

A few weeks back I received an email from a friend with numerous images of art-making ideas, using recycled items. An image of flowers made out of printed pages took my interest.

My apologizes to the original creator, I don't have your details to credit you. However, thank you. 

What I was interested in was not only the form, but the material. In the past I have found the process of 'blocking out words' (this will become clear as you read on) from pre-existing print to be very insightful. 

So I began by cutting petal shapes out of an old newspaper. 

Next, with gouache I blocked out words and phrases, 
but highlighted words that interested me (by not colouring them). 

I did not think too hard about which ones to choose – simply those that I wanted, stayed. 

Once dry I stitched petals into shape and then together, to form my flower. 
I preferred the idea of stitching rather than glue.

Then I noted down the highlighted words, that I could see. 

Here planning joined meet heritage collaboration the planet excuse kitchen cupboard people want to know for sure shocked chemical years because sustainable doing the right thing local shut no sense large volumes potentially moving homes retain hand taken want lock the gate land

It was interesting to notice what message was emerging from my work, from the words. I recognised the topic, it was connected to my concern for the environment. However it wasn't until I took the words into poetic form that it started to make more sense, to me. 

Kitchen cupboard people
doing the right thing,
want to know.
Large volumes
potentially moving 
the planet.

Chemical years
no sense, excuse.
Lock the gate shut.

Retain hand, heritage, land.
Want local, 
Because sustainable homes
for sure
meet – joined.

For me it was a lovely reminder of returning to some of the 'old ways' in our homes. Less chemicals, growing veges, buying local, connecting with our neighbours. Working together to create more sustainable homes and lifestyles.

That was the reminder for me. If you could like to see what message is in a flower you create, then please join me at the next Artist's Studio (Nov 12th). There is no magic just the beauty of art nurturing what matters.

The monthly Artist's Studio at Sussex Neighbourhood House is open to all. Be supported through a focused project (November = the 'message flower') or bring your own project to work on. $20 per session. 6:30-8:30pm. To book call 9354 2210. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Zen drawings and journal sketchbooks

Creative Kids return for term 4!

We begin with 'zen drawings', in our case this morning it was zen doodling. With an ink pen, either pink or blue in hue and a piece of A4 paper we sat quietly and focused on wherever the piece took us. Shapes and lines filled the page, one influencing the other. The CKs requested relaxing music, which was a very good choice - as the mood around the table was very calm and 'very zen'.

Next we started on our main activity for the day, creating our journals. Each term, each CK has a journal that they can start or end the session with - or use anytime in between. These are normally used for free drawings, for reflection or as a place to explore materials. This term their focus is a little different. Inspired by the Sketchbook Project at the Brooklyn Art Library our journals will become sketchbooks, and hold a theme. The creative forming of the books can be worked on in class, or at home also.

I selected a few images from the Sketchbook Project online gallery to show. This was very inspiring. Many ideas were aired.

We talk through the materials available, including some blank and lined, loose leaf pages (with holes). Thanks to my friend Liz (chair of the Neighbourhood House) for the generous stationery donations! There was also coloured paper, magazines, fabric, paint, pencils and threads.

Today's 'mission' was to make a start on the books by creating a cover, selecting internal pages (how many sheets of paper / pages would you need?) and explore how it would be bound.

Gouache was painted on fabric.
Watercolour pencils and grey lead were popular.
Different textures and a handmade stencil with paint
(Thanks Chiara for the paint donation at the end of last term, the pink was perfect!)
Many themes started to emerge.
I look forward to seeing these books fill-up. We also discussed the possibility of exhibiting them at the end of the year. Wouldn't that be good! A great start to our last term of the year.

There is one spot left in the group. Please contact Alex at Sussex Neighbourhood House on 9354 2210 to book, we do like a full House.