Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Kintsugi and Real Estate Advertising

Two and a half years ago my childhood home was sold in order to pay for my mother’s care. My mother had lived there for 60 years, 27 of those years on her own. It was a humble enough house in a convenient location with a large parcel of land that had been home to five boisterous children and some of the nicest trees I have ever known.

The house I live in now was also on a beautiful botanic property looked after by a widow with 3 children. While we were building our present property I spent some weeks living in my mother’s already sold house as a stop gap measure between an expired lease and completion of our new home. The house was in a poor state of repair with dreary weather coming in from all sides and didn’t contribute much to my highly stressed state and it was difficult to remember joyful times there. It was a ghost of itself with much of the familiar furniture long gone or the rooms that should have had some nostalgic hold, reeking of dampness and cluttered with half heartedly packed boxes and bags. There was still a stack of the real estate agents glossy advertising brochures sitting on a chair when we arrived, barely disturbed by the paucity of buyers. After taking one for posterity and fuming about the ridiculous waste on such pompous advertising for the little house, I set about trying to amuse myself and make something with the posters.
One of my main drives was the dream of finally living in our new home but to me it would not be a home without a garden and so I set about preparing plants for the coming springtime.
 I had bags of tulip bulbs as well as ranunculus and anemones, jonquils and daffodils which I had bought weeks before, believing I would be planting straight into the new garden. With a bit of research I found out how to make origami boxes and spent hours turning those posters into temporary planter boxes.
I snipped cuttings from Mum’s neglected and depleted garden and poked these into the boxes as well. There was little point in being inside because there was no heating, I had no studio space or things to work with and no company and the smell of fungus and damp was quite overwhelming. And in truth most of my life at this house had been outside.
Outside in the old places of my childhood I could remember the history of the garden as it had changed over our lifetimes. Metre by metre I could remember the planting or flowering of each of Mum’s plants. The place where our twin gums (our Namatjira gums) had been and then replaced by the sleep out, the place where the clothesline had been with its burden of bed linen laboriously washed in the Hoover Wringer machine and lugged out, and hauled by my exhausted mother to swing in the breeze and tempt our fox terrier. I could map the garden by plant names as I walked around it, even though many of those plants had long since gone.  My memory went back further than my younger brother’s but not as far as my older brother’s but the history had been shared and amalgamated. The names formed a chant in my mind as each day I wandered and more of the images emerged. I have a song line for my home and now that my home is gone, that means nothing to anybody. I understand the devastation we have committed our aboriginal people to.
I have been reading about Kintsugi and The Tea Ceremony, prompted by a blog I love, Art For Housewives. Kintsugi is the repair of broken ceramics using a type of lacquer mixed with gold dust to accentuate the damage and repair of an object thereby imbuing it with history and character. In the Tea Ceremony a type of song line developed over centuries as these highly valued objects passed down through families with much of their history manually or orally recorded.

I 'd love to give credit for these images but they were already second hand when I found them.

Many years ago I read a book by Heide artist Neil Douglas and his partner Abbie Heathcote

The Book of Earthly Delights: Living in the Bush with Neil Douglas and Abbie Heathcote

 in which he was laughing about the tenacity of old plants in a redevelopment. No matter how hard the new owners worked on that garden the old plants kept springing up through their well planned landscape. My new garden is a combination of memory and new hope. Mum’s garden (including some of Grandma’s plants), my contribution and our previous property owner, Lurline’s, garden. I rescued as many of her plants as I could before the demolition
and replanted them in my new landscape so my garden is a comfortable mixture of old and new and nostalgia. And those tenacious poppies of Lurline’s defy discipline springing up in the middle of pathways and reminding me that this place had a history before me.

Lurline's 60 year old hardwood floorboards came up a treat and blend beautifully with modern d├ęcor.
And why am I prompted to write about all of this now? Well digging in my garden recently I was surprised to see my old home float past me on a film of polyester. The origami boxes which had housed all my bulbs have disintegrated long ago except for the plastic coating on the paper!
With Melbourne in a property frenzy for the last 5 years these A3 glossy pamphlets are being printed in the millions and dumped in equal numbers into our landfill. It is just one tiny part of our destructive human nature. We must start to understand that the things that are persisting in our lives are not the landscapes that have taken decades of love and labour to produce but inappropriately produced items that serve no use and seduce our vanity, boredom or laziness.
What is it you want your children to remember and pass onto their children? Do you want them to live on a property of landfill in which they poke a spade into soil only to discover one of their own disposable nappies from 40 or 50 years before?
Our forebears came to this country as ignorant clots, hell bent on recreating England and too terrified of their surrounds to appreciate the innate beauty, but over time, their  laboriously created new   landscape,  with its European mementoes, has blended with the original(not much left) to create a beautiful conglomerate mosaic. It is worth preserving and building on to create complex beauty and history instead of ripping up and disposing of the past like toilet paper.
I hope some of Mum’s old plants rise up a create havoc with that bland lawn around the McMansion which supplanted our house.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Deja Poo and We Have Seen All This Crap Before

An Instagram short film
There’s nothing new under the sun I was told when studying ceramics. A bowl is a bowl is a bowl. So there should be no need for status envy among artists. With the internet any new idea is quickly consumed by Korean or Chinese manufacturing markets and spat back at us as the new thing.
This year everyone is taken by pastel coloured cups and saucers in old kitchen configurations and as ceramic artists we can all produce that style if we want and if the market demands it. There are some who are more technically proficient at consistent production and I admire them for it and for their dedication to glaze development and clay research to produce a good product. They deserve success. Jumping on the band wagon to produce the latest style is a soul destroying enterprise because there will always be the masters and then endless look alikes all undercut by mass produced product from Asia.
Recently I held a sale at my studio and I put out an array of objects that ranged from what I thought the market wanted to some of my treasures that I have held onto for several years in my studio. I held my breath as some of my favourite objects were picked up and caressed and replaced on shelves and part of me sighed with relief that they were going to stay with me longer, until the buyers returned and gathered them up.
At the bottom of the price range I disposed of smaller items which were test samples for glazes or foot styles, or miniature dimensions of bigger forms. They were what I would refer to as my thinking process. Objects which have been in the studio and handled hundreds of times as I mull over whether the glaze feels nice or should be on an interior or exterior, whether it can take colour additions, whether the colour survived a firing etc. These objects were picked over just as fastidiously and my favourites all went for coin. So even at the bargain end people are making aesthetic decisions and recognizing a creative thought process that they want to connect to.  It was gratifying to watch people who had the time to circulate and connect one piece with another and juxtapose disparate pieces to create a new aesthetic for themselves.
All my years of teaching were about helping children to know that they had all the resources they needed for a great life within themselves. The greatest of these resources was imagination and the other was synthesis. Big corporate entities work overtime to stamp this out of us. Billions are spent on campaigns to make us fearful of being different, and at the same time urging us to buy “unique” and prestigious purchases as seen on the big screen and associated with luxury and fame. By creating envy of the luxury classes a viral fever can be promoted that unsettles the human heart and fills us with insecurity
Facebook feeds into this fever with its instruction to “be the first to like this”. Huh? What for?
Being the first to like something or own something is part of the consumer virus that feeds the throw away society. Because just as soon as you have finished paying it off and all those to whom you have passed on the envy virus have propagated and copied you, what you have is no longer unique and you need to throw it away, just in case people think you are copying!
So I have decided that my next year’s work is not going to be about catering to anyone’s taste but my own. There will be less work but with the aim of more exploration. No mass production for me.
The world is divided into two groups those who want to be uniquely the same as everyone else and those who just don’t fit in. I am going to design for the second group. They are my favourite sort of people. The odd bods, the crackpots, the cranky ones, the ones with the most interesting minds. They are the ones who fill me up.


Monday, 11 November 2013

Gozer and Forward Movement

Back in March I started this blog after winning an award at Warranwood Art Show from one of the sponsors, Gozer. Thanks Gozer! It was encouraging and inspirational in my little world to receive some tiny recognition.
In my upbringing, windfalls were few and far between, so I always wanted to convert them into something memorable or significant. There was one occasion, where I remember this thinking first began. My brother had a winning ticket in the Grey Sisters charity raffle and won a 2 metre Christmas stocking which was delivered to our house on a trailer. It was wrapped in orange mesh and bulging with gaudy gifts and a toxic assortment of sugary treats. We had collectively never even conceived of something so magical in our fantasy filled lives.

Technically it was Tom’s ticket that won but since none of us actually had any money to buy tickets and were unaware that any were bought on our behalf it was an uncomfortable boast for him. It seemed the monstrosity of greedy indulgence sat in our back room (leaned at an awkward angle to fit under the low ceiling) for only a couple of days, and was the subject of much late night parental discourse and during the daylight hours kept us children occupied with much selfish squabbling and “baggsing “of items under the mesh.

Eventually superstition won over, and our mother convinced us that it was unhealthy for us to have such an object in our midst and to create envy amongst all the neighbours so we were to choose one object each and the rest would be shared with the children at...wherever! The frenzied panic of making a single choice began and somehow nothing looked quite as beautiful or substantial on closer scrutiny. Our choices were final and I cannot for the life of me remember what I chose because I was still full of envy about everybody else’s choices and their wonderful sense of discernment. I remember being enchanted by the plastic holly so maybe that was what I chose!
A few days later our annual Christmas card from Grandma came and we all got the same thing-$1.00.

It was a much anticipated dollar and in my little head it had been spent a million times and grown to epic proportions. I had saved all the children in Africa, I had bought a tin of 72 Derwents and I had still had enough to buy the most economical selection of lollies at the milk bar with a few coins over to tide me through to next Christmas and Grandma’s  next dollar. The dollar was so much more valued than the gaudy stocking because it was in a dimension equivalent with my imagination and allowed my imagination to grow with it. I did manage to eke it out for the summer and spare a coin for the collection plate at church and then reverted back to world of fantasy and empty pockets in a world of wild fruit trees.
The Gozer prize was just the right size to say “Someone believes in you this time so make that grow.”
 I have taken the responsibility of a prize and converted it into a year of growing. This blog has now reached nearly 60 postings. Some people read it and I send a special thank you to all the Latvian robots that register on my stats!

I have had to learn to manipulate images and connect links. I have developed a facebook page for my ceramics, designed and developed a business card, connected with other bloggers and artists around the world.
My image manipulation skills have developed slowly but consistently, and are helping me breathe new life into a passion I have held since childhood -that of creating images.

 I put a wish out there earlier to collaborate with someone, and 2weeks ago I collaborated in a small way to help the children of Africa to get some education, by holding a sale of ceramics with my friend Rosy who is going to climb Mt Kilimanjaro to raise funds for UNICEF.
Another little collaboration is coming to fruition this week in the release of merchandise for Opera Australia’s Ring Cycle produced by Ingrid Tufts and carrying some of my little images.

There have been ups and down and flat, flat feelings but there has been forward movement that is shaping itself slowly out of the great big cloud of imagination out there.
Maybe tomorrow the next tiny step in my plan will bear fruit.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

From Generic to Organic

Sometimes I am jealous when I look at Facebook and see my ceramic friends with neatly arranged shelves of duplicated perfection after a day in the studio. 20 mugs, 20 bowls, 20 cylinders. They must know what they are doing I think. They have a plan or even luckier they have orders to fill. They have trudged around the planet and found someone who will stock their product and once someone likes their product, word spreads around and before you know it, their stock is in every shop and gallery to the exclusion of all others. They are busy people and they are admired for their industry.

I am not that person. I am industrious in a different sort of way. I came to ceramics through painting and drawing. I kind of liked the idea of making objects to use in the world but still approach it from the basis of problem solving and expression, not mass production.
Organic juicer

I read somewhere that Alexander Calder of mobile sculpture fame had the intention of making everything in his home himself. I don’t know if it true and I don’t know if he did but it is an idea that has always appealed to me. It’s pretty cool to sit down to breakfast with a mug of coffee, bowl of cereal or piece of toast on a plate that you or someone you know has made. Growing the food to go into the bowl of stirfry or soup is an extension of this intention.
21st cake

lamp from Two Layers of Cells hand coloured with prisma colour pencils

It is difficult now to personalise your space as something different from everybody else who lives in your neighbourhood. All the shopping centres stock the same items in chains that spread across the globe. Homes on housing estates are mirror images of each other with different colourways or from the same but limited palette of building materials in different variations and the landscaping is generic as well. What on earth does this do to the imaginations of children growing up in these places?

 I taught in a school on one of these fancy created estates in the early 80’s. All the homes were the same age and so was the local recreation area. All the trees were the same age. There were no trees to climb, because they hadn’t developed enough and everyone’s gardens were made of the same stuff with easy maintenance paving and pebble rock landscaping. It was difficult to hold engaging discussions in the classroom because all references in the children’s lives were related to Disney characters, or other cartoonified literature squeezed through the box at them. 
Pooh Shepard1928.jpgWikipedia
There is just no comparison with the original.
 I only stayed there for about 6 months and remember absolute despair after reading the children some story as a prompt for creative writing about hiding places. The idea was to describe a safe place to hide where they could be themselves to practice singing or some sort of imaginative play. Every child described the same little drain pipe tunnel in the playground down the street!
They will all be turning 42 this year, the year of the midlife crisis. Douglas Adams was right when he said the answer to Life the Universe and Everything was 42. I hope they all have a life renewal and crave the individual and handmade environment!
My children’s wardrobes were almost entirely handmade until I couldn’t get away with it anymore and I look back with pride at their photographs in all their home made glory. Soft furnishings, home decor items, landscaping, cake decorating, handmade pasta and home baked bread (from base ingredients, not breadmix!) How far can we go in creating and personalising our world so that big corporations don’t own us and dictate to us how to live our lives and make our culture generic?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Island of House and a Limited World View

I have been on my island of House for 2 weeks waiting for the tide to go out.

Taurine my friends. Google its amazing eye healing properties and seek medical advice.

So, stuck on the island of House I have contemplated a life based on input squeezed through pipes to my island. Never a better cure!
And never a better way to make me cranky!
Snippets of the bigger picture from here and a mixed tape for you to scramble in your brain.
Seems there is no end to the wealth of rare earths available underneath Afghanistan so watch US withdrawal slow down considerably as they try to "assist" Afghanistan to make a mining lead recovery. China is waiting in the wings with "off the shelf "rare earth mining expertise and they haven't been at war in Afghanistan. Hmm wonder how that will play out? Rare earths are wonders like lithium (as in li-ion batteries and brain meds) and praseodymium (strong magnets) and erbium (pink glaze and also rose coloured glasses) and lots of other "iums". Special thanks to Amanda Vanstone's program on Radio National.
22year olds who run around wiping their noses on their sweaters and spitting every few metres and have the biggest PR machine in Australia. They are passionate and love what they are doing and they get paid a lot of money, say the same things over and over in mumbly speech and have lots of other people say things about the things they say over and over- Yes footballers!. So deserving of all that money and free publicity.
IPCC climate report. Well thank goodness climate change has gone away in Australia because we have dispensed with the carbon tax and that wind that blew rooftops off last night in Melbourne was just seasonal variation.
A new vision of Melbourne based on roads...

because our State government doesn't believe in climate change or maybe they do and they just don't believe in the future.
Refugees adrift belonging nowhere.
It's so easy to fall into despair and wonder what is the point of even trying.
 I saw this strange item on Pinterest and it filled me with intrigue.
Is there some place on this planet where somebody believes that technology is going to stay unevolved for long enough that it is worth making a piece of wooden furniture to house it? Or is it a temptation for hipsters to believe the world can conform to the 1960s if we just click our little red shoes and wish? Whatever the motivation it rings true with something a friend said the other day about our world globalising and yet homogenising so that it is difficult to find anything different from one part of town to the next. It also rings true with this delightful and insightful speech from the amazing Tim Minchin.
So do what you do well and keep your eyes open (or at least hang onto the handrail)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Josephine The Singer, A Man in Pyjamas, And Walking With a White Cane

When I came across the story by Franz Kafka of Josephine the Singer, it was one of the most joyful LMFAO moments. I felt as if I had been included in an intimate way with the insane humour,  but kindly mocking voice of the universe and that was a relief. If you don’t know the story it is a short story about the artist and her audience. From Wikipedia...
Josephine is a rarity among the mouse people, for she has the innate ability to sing, which none other in the community has displayed. She can not only sing, but she can sing beautifully, helping all the mouse people tolerate their unusually hardworking lives. Some of the mouse people claim to dislike her and do not believe she is truly singing, while others adore her and consider her a communal treasure; regardless, all the mouse people gather round to listen to her, and once she is singing, forget their reservations about her; they use her feeble vocal cords to their utmost strength, and treasure her delicacy

As a Josephine, I know her well, as she mounts her little pedestal and sings in her reedy little voice. My existence is as of little consequence as a treasured member of a short lived mouse colony, but the rest of the parallels are snortingly funny if you let them be.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_the_Singer,_or_the_Mouse_Folk

Many years ago my beloved was under a great deal of stress and I was woken by his restless dreaming in the middle of the night. He was laughing out loud in his sleep and intrigued I asked him in the morning about his dream. He said he was walking a tightrope in his pyjamas, and quite ridiculously used a gun to shoot the  end of the tightrope loose so that he no longer had to worry about walking along it. It marked a turning point in our lives and is an image I will treasure.

The universe sends us many images to short circuit a crisis and to help us to see the world in a new way. I have always used a Zen technique for problem solving, of throwing the whole kit and caboodle up in the air and wishing for the things I want most to be the ones that land. This week I have been thrown a wobbly one with an eye problem that has thrown my world out of balance (and in extremes of imagination has reduced my eyesight to walking with a cane.) A trifle melodramatic I know, but looking through a dodgy lense this week my worldview has greatly changed.
I live in car dominated world from which I have been excluded this week. I see myself as an artist but without my eyes, can I still be one and without my eyes can I still lip read to be part of the conversation? My peripheral vision has been affected and since I have always been a big picture type of person physically my view of the world has been narrowed down to my immediate and selfish ones so how do I maintain my intellectual persona? Is this what has happened to Australia? We have become dizzy from staring in panic at our immense borders and have become sun blind so need to now just tend to our own selfish little needs?
I will stand here and sing in my croaky little crackle “We are a part of everything and everything we do impacts everything else because that’s what the universe has shared with me this week.” You can put it to any tune you please.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Manifesting and Incubation

In the life of an artist there is no one direct line of work to follow. It is difficult to know how a day will pan out unless you are actually involved in a project. The difficult time is in generating a project especially when responding in an emotional way to background noise.

It is important therefore to be able to surface from the miasma of idleness with a clear plan for forward motion. When an artist is involved in a project it is as if that is the only thing on earth that they were put here to do and optimism levels can rise to an unsubstantiated level. The ebb tide can be  daunting but it is also important to recognise that ebb and flow are a normal part of an artist’s way of being and to work with that.

When studying ceramics one bright mentor said that it is important to just go into the studio and work as if that is what you always do because the work of an artist is what generates the next project. It is also important to ask yourself what it is you want. You need a clear visualisation of where you want to be and want you to produce and  where you want this work to appear in order for it to manifest.You cannot plan if you do not have a big picture idea of where you want to be. BTW Has anyone heard a big picture idea from any of our pollies about where we are going to be anytime soon?
A few quick scribble reasons for being an artist. I am sure you can make the list much longer!
Can’t help myself. It comes out of me like breath.
Want to be famous
Want to make money
Want to save the world
Want to be remembered
Want to have a conversation. My way of being a part of something.
Therapy to help myself.
While it is nicer to have the conversation with others, sometimes you just need to sit and have an imaginary conversation with yourself to ask the questions. When you hear the answer then it is a matter of following some logical pathways to achieving that outcome. Sometimes the answer directs you away from the process you have been following because it is not a logical conclusion. e.g I want to make money- does art make money? Not frequently and not much. So was the original answer naive or dishonest?
Some practical things that you can pursue when you fall into the pit of doom are
1:to seek challenges to stimulate your imagination-competitions etc
2: repetitive exercises to perfect a skill
3: market research
4: choose another area of interest to focus on for a set period of time thereby giving yourself permission to step away without guilt.
5: play with your existing work, mixing it around, displaying it differently to perhaps stimulate a new idea. Imagine curating just a small fraction of your work
6: try something as exactly opposite to what you are doing as is possible eg try to make something really ugly and clumsy
7: experiment with the same idea or object in a completely different material or several different materials
8: ask people in to look and comment.
9: respond to an existing problem eg too many throw away containers, rising obesity levels, limited modern storage.
10: random dictionary slam- two unrelated words picked at random and brainstorm ideas these two words generate.
Never throw away ideas. Keep a book or scrap pile or pinboard and file them. Sometimes your ideas collection drawn in your own hand may become collectable but when dipped into occasionally can feed more ideas. These ideas percolate through your brain the more often you flick through them in a relaxed manner and when left to incubate can suddenly erupt when another random idea rubs up against them.
Pinterest is fun but unless you follow up straight from Pinterest into your own scribbled ideas you are just wasting time. Pinterest adds to your sense of futility, and envy especially if you are collecting directly from other people’s design and art pages. It also becomes a lazy way of filling you up full of other people’s stuff so that you no longer know where the real you is.
Try  instead to only pinch a part of an idea or image using a tool such as snip  (widget not showing!)and play with this little snippet. Steal another artists colour palette or a colour palette for interiors to give your work a contemporary look. I have been obsessing for a few years over Cy Twombly’s paintings and can endlessly amuse myself with snippets of his paintings embellished with my own work to create wishful ideas.
Try stealing objects from still life paintings, Margaret Olley has a zillion of them and I think Gwynn Hansen Piggot has given Morandi a good going over.
Stir your stumps and get making or drawing or doing whatever it is that makes you an artist! We will know the fate of the election cycle in a couple of days and life will continue for better or worse.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Stephen Benwell and Cerebral Accretions

I have had a little break in my writing to accommodate some other cerebral activity. Our bodies don’t grow evenly but a little bit on one side and a little bit on the other so at some stage we might be in sync but at many times we are striving for that balance.

My mind has had to take on some new learnings, of the IT kind because my regular band of clever helpers were not available at the precise moments of my crises. It meant I had to nut things out alone and that was a good thing because I now know how to use some new applications and with more practice I will look experienced by comparison. It took me longer than a digital native but I am happy to say my mind is still able to take on new things which means my mind grows a little more on one side or other and that is a good thing.

When hand building with clay especially fine porcelain, it is a matter of constantly adding even weights and thicknesses of clay and giving the clay time to consolidate before adding another piece just like adding new learnings to a brain. An expert in this field is Stephen Benwell who is exhibiting at Heide Gallery. http://www.heide.com.au/exhibitions/future/exhibition/stephen-benwell-beauty-anarchy-desire-a-retrospective/edate/2013-08-08/eid/448
His forms are outrageously large and finely built and a mystery of construction if you have ever tried it yourself.

His earlier works are quite muted colours because of the clay he used and the fact that in Australia in the seventies there was not much advice about firing coloured work which he discovered was better in an oxidation firing than reduction. I made the same mistakes at the beginning of my course. In those days he decorated with geometric forms on quite classical shapes. There are legs and feet on many vessels and at one stage he goes through quite a zoomorphic phase based on Pre Columbian figures. You will have to visit the exhibition to see those forms because my camera hiccupped at that point.
Here is one with feet though.
Being a pioneer of a form is a hard road to hoe but it is also free of rules and Stephen Benwell has used that lack of guidelines to his advantage. He has learned like a child whose default mode is to always be a learner and discoverer. Firing stoneware to earthenware temperatures and firing pieces up to 30 times to see what happens is a true adventurer's spirit. He is so closely involved with the clay but at the same time detaches himself from the object by exposing it to a gamble.
As he acquired more understanding of clay and firing and how glazes work in different firings his colours gradually come to life. The stiffness of his forms loosens and the surface also loosens and sings with colour and texture. The white surfaces become canvasses for luscious colour while the classic influence is directed more at the imagery on the vessels in repetition of classical tiled Roman walls.
Eventually the sketches of forms on the surface metamorphose into the actual figures without the vessels and have the quality almost of porridge which he accomplishes with layers of slip and glaze over the already slipped and glazed surface with just hints and smudges of the underglazed colour showing through the misty surface. A kinder way to describe them is to say that they are made of cloud material but if I said that I would feel pangs of jealousy because that is what I have always wanted to achieve! A couple of the pieces worked this way remind me of Cy Twombly paintings.
While viewing this exhibition someone asked me how one person can make a figure out of clay and for it to be a success and yet another person cannot. My answer in Stephen Benwell’s case is by adding a touch of tenderness. It reminds me of the old Milton the Monster song where the mad professor adds” just a tincture  of tenderness ..but not too much” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gJAm1BA6Fg
The expressions drawn out  in the facial expressions or bodily gestures have a magical quality that can only be put there by transferring a bit of one’s own soul into the creation. Many years ago I interviewed Melbourne naive artist Anne Marie Graham and she not only kindly tolerated the presence of my four children in her tiny apartment but she directed half of the interview to them in order to pass on her secrets. One of the most important gems was that no matter what you are painting or creating whether it be a rock or a bird, you need to inhabit that thing for that moment of creation, so that if you are a rock you know its heaviness on the earth and its drape of muscles and if you are a bird you know the flightiness of its perch. When you work like that you leave a part of yourself in the work. Stephen Benwell’s works breathe with a part of him.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Persepctive and Channelling Pollyanna

It's been a week of taking stock. Someone took mine or rather the proceeds of some of my stock plus other stuff in a handbag snatching. So all week I have been vacillating between anger and resignation as the real world reality of a snatched bag impacts on my life.  Actually I wouldn't say anger but puzzlement. The sort of person who snatched my bag is so far from my existence and yet now marches beside me every waking moment. I argue with him in my head, I try to look at his family photo album that I have created in my head to see the moment that he lost his way. If only my thoughts could communicate with him or at least make him itch and think!

 But they don't and I just have to channel Pollyanna and her good view of the world always looking for the right handle on life.

Every Cranky Ceramics post begins with an itch or something that bugs me and by sorting out my thoughts I can free myself from some of the anger or over excitement so that I don't look so cranky all the time. In other words I try to put the world and our impact on each other into perspective.
I have always had difficulty in handling perspective in drawings and paintings and maybe it is also a reflection of my mind.
This is one of my very(very) old paintings and I can see now on reflection, where it went wrong but I just haven't had the urge to go back and fix it. Sometimes going backwards and trying to change outcomes can make things better, but other times the mistake is a good lesson to sit in front of and learn from.
Skill takes constant practice and attention.
It also takes effort and study to produce a balanced ceramic vessel but sometimes the physical state of our bodies affects the outcome. Many years ago, I was involved in a car accident which resulted in a number of spinal fractures which have permanently changed the behaviour of my spine. Some days are worse than others if muscles are not worked evenly on both sides and often my pots have a giddy lean. I have come to embrace this aspect of my work as representative of who I am now, but at the same time fight it because it indicates that I need to do more stretching to prevent the decline in my spine and all the impact it can have on my internal organs.
So when my mind leans too much one way, it is also a warning to me that maybe my perspective is out of whack and that I need to do some physical , mental and dietary balancing.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Neoteny and Wisdom

It seems we humans have been evolving quite rapidly over the last 50 years or so. We have been evolving in a way that prefers traits of youthfulness over decrepitude. These traits include big eyes  adaptable thinking, playfulness, and other juvenile features which explains love of anime characters,  pandas, sloths, kittens  and cute overload as well as explaining the longer time span adult children spend at home.

The phenomenon has lead to a study called neoteny which comes from the Greek neo meaning young and a German variant referring to tendency. People are living longer and the dilemma of facing a prolonged old age of senility is being rapidly evolved by middle life extension, before our eyes, as 20 somethings evolve into 30 somethings still involved in what seems to be frivolous play activities. Fur babies have satisfied the reproductive urges for young people as well as those who would have been anticipating grandparent hood. It seems everyone is in a holding phase as they try to work out whether the planet or world finances are going to implode. So it is a case of Keep Calm and Play. It also indicates supreme optimism that there will be enough time, a very typical juvenile trait.
It seems all the old paradigms are shifting including accepting rights of disabled people, rights for all to marry the ones they love, rights of animals not to be farmed for food or to be experimented on in cosmetic factories. So where do we point our collective fingers of disgust? Well if the world is changing to one of youthfulness then the aged and all those who show signs of ageing are going to be the new targets for discrimination.
Education is going to be a very important factor in this new world. At one end there will be fewer children spawned by very old zygotes, being cared for by ??? Hmm... decrepid old people who are even more divorced from modern technology and understanding of the modern world... or reluctant and middle aged parents who are paying IVF debts on top of HECS debts and mortgages in a world of spiralling costs and housing shortages.  Technology which is favoured now will age quickly and the bright young things at their zenith now will be flailing to re educate to keep up with the next bright stars. 
Edward de Bono suggested 30 years ago that a better education system than our current one would be to have it prolonged over a lifetime with breaks for work experience and skill development, returning to higher academic study in the late 20s and deeper intellectual study in mid life. This concept may need reviewing again (even though it was never implemented) as human intellectual capacity keeps growing just like data storage and faster computer speeds.
Being an artist is not just about filling in time and playing. It is about being aware of the changing times and seeing signs where no one else is looking. It is about being visionary and thinking outside the box. It is about self directed learning and enquiry. Art employs the imagination with a licence that no other practice has. It works perfectly with science to give both sides of the coin.   
It is important that no matter what age you are, if you wish to be relevant and share acquired wisdom to cope with an uncertain future, that you maintain connection to both ends of the age spectrum . If you don’t have a personal contact within every decade of the age spectrum, consider that maybe your life is not balanced, just as a diet can be unbalanced without certain nutritional food groups.
It is a delight to find yourself a young tutor no matter what age you are. Children born today are considered to be digital natives, in that the world they are born into is all digital, and they have an innate sense of digital media. But they cannot necessarily synthesise old understandings with new media and so their world is limited and dependant on older tutors who understand the past and the present. Their naivete is also charming and an inspiration for further imagining.
 Finding food, growing things, making things and understanding mechanical devices is further removed from these children than my generation is from the beginning of the industrial age. Show a child a video tape, a cassette tape, a vinyl record and they have no concept of what it is or how it works. Flour is white powder in a bag, but so is plaster, arsenic, and titanium oxide or cocaine and they have no means of understanding its origin or purpose just from observing it. Foundation skills are missing and as we travel into an uncertain future we need to hold hands across the generations and transmit the knowledge that might be necessary.

Don’t be a Luddite and give up on the digital age because it might be a very long future, from which you are excluded.  There has never been an era of more accessibility in learning with facilities like online tutorials and contributing to these has never been easier either (if you feel you have something to contribute) There are many companies waiting to make a mint out of your helplessness, and reluctance to move with technology, and once you give up one skill  and one right to know, they can move in like fog and separate you from your soul. And it can happen to you  at 20 if you don’t keep tabs on your rights and responsibilities as well.

One of the joys of being a grey haired lady of no definable age is that I have perfected the famous Harry Potter cloak of invisibility. I can lurk and eavesdrop and learn whatever I like and no one suspects. I am closer to both ends of the age spectrum than I will ever be again in my life and have communication skills to interact throughout the full range.
You can share your time equally between being teacher and student. You can also use invisibility to do the unexpected. Just as “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition”, nobody suspects little grey haired ladies to be so full of surprises. Here are the contents of my handbag this week.
Note 8 Tablet, media stick, wind up LED torch, earphone, iphone, black sharpie and white permanent pencil for graffiti, mechanical pencil, Rock- it mobile amplifier, slingshot, reusable roll up shopping bag, mini microscope,crocheted grass basket project.