I have been getting back into my PhD studies over the last few weeks. The main focus of this research is to investigate and develop my notion of Aesthetic Subjectivity. This model of subjectivity looks at the human, or the self, as an enfolding of body and environment, always absorbing and processing (metabolising) the external world in the process of forming its conscious image, drawn from sensory inputs and body states (synaesthesia), of its self in this relationship. Said in another way, looking at how we process the intersection of our inner and outer worlds to interact within “the world”.
I began my PhD in February 2012 by focusing on my relationship to the environment. This took in my childhood and adult geographic environments as well as the socio-historical lineages of these environments. That first year of my research was mainly spent surveying that vast contextual field. A vastness that turned out too overwhelm my core research aims. I was advised by my supervisor, Head of the ANU’s Sculpture Workshop Wendy Teakel, to narrow the aperture of my focus to my immediate domestic space. I was resistant and sceptical to this idea at first and the shift from the theoretically and geographically broader landscape to the absolutely localised space of my immediate world was an at times painful transition. But at my heart I am a good girl and I could see potential in Wendy’s suggestion so I did what I was told to do and set about observing my domestic space through visual diary format.
This process of continual observation has proven to be a rich venture yielding insight into that overlapping of self and space that so enchants me. It gave me the platform that I needed to ease myself back into the production of art itself. I can see a strong little body of works emerging that embody my research concerns. This series of small sculptures considers the way in which we interact with everyday domestic and familial objects, ingesting there physical forms and patterns as our muscle memories form the habits of their use. Through observing myself and my family in our ordinary space I have come to believe that these habitual actions provide the canvas for our social interactions, the shared moments through which we model behaviour and modes of organising emotion, communicate and gesture our believes and values, and so critically yet often so unwittingly imprint each other in shared experience. I use fabric in these pieces as a loaded medium. To me fabric conveys something of the material body, the weaves and intersections and connections of neurons, nerve fibres and muscle, the intricate braids of DNA . It is also temporal, it conveys “social fabric”, the “rich tapestry of life”, the weaves that extend from one generation to the next.
This series of works is titled “Memory Flesh”. I can envisage a kitchen full of these items, the inanimate made aesthetically animate. The work at the top is called “Memory Flesh #3, Unfold Me”. I borrowed a lyric from a beautiful, vulnerable Sia song “Breath Me” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSH7fblcGWM . I put this piece up for auction at the recent F Project fundraiser for the Artery and believe it was bought by one Mr Gareth Colliton. I am using a combination of textile work, painting and poly resins to create these expression of the body. I am quite excited to see what else comes through this creative stream.
I was busy completed the Light Chamber Observatory the afternoon that this grand mosaic was unveiled to the public on Wednesday 28th of September. A couple of Saturdays ago I was finally able to see the finished beast standing tall and proud alongside the Community Hall… and I was pleasantly impressed, it is actually quite a strong work with loads of colour and character. The Moyne Shire crew who undertook the installation extended the legs so that the art work is now easily seen as you drive through Hawkesdale main thoroughfare. My favourite parts are the three-dimensional features including the clouds and reeds which make the work just that bit more sculptural.
Late in the second last week of our project I made an evening visit to our Project Coordinator and School Principle Lynn Lyle’s home. Here I collected 18 completed drawings crucial to the conclusion of our project. When Lynn and I attended an Arts Vic PD day back in March she warned me that she was not creative at all, non-the-less she was prepared to take our explorers for their Painting and Drawing Sessions as part of our five week rotation. Looking through these 18 completed drawings together I could see Lynn’s genuine pride in the children’s work.
During the Painting & Drawing Program the students were introduced to different mediums and taught a number of drawing techniques. It wasn’t until after I’d written this program that I saw the quality of the work the students were already making in there fortnightly art classes, I began to doubt if my program had anything to offer them….
We used Eugene von Guerard as a starting point, not so much for his meticulous technique but for his arts explorative process of looking at the environment in its parts and as its whole. The Arts Explorers in our program were to look at their environments, drawing on their expedition themes and create images uses the new methods shown to them.
This process was not about creating “perfect” drawings. In fact parts of this process were specifically designed to break with that idea we hold of being “a good drawer”, this was about getting in touch with creativity, and becoming brave and bold in the process. One of my favourite bits of feed back came from a year six student when I asked her what she had learnt through the process. She replied that she had learnt “that art didn’t have to be perfect” and that “it could be anything”. WOW!! Her mum actually stopped me in the hall one day to let me know the interest that her daughter was now showing in creativity and art and what a positive effect the program was having on her. For me it doesn’t get much better than that!!
These 18 Images are really strong works that are a kin with works I have seen by practicing artists in contemporary galleries. I collected the drawings that evening to turn them into digital prints which would become the lead-light images for our Light Chamber Observatory. Logos Ahead Warrnambool did a great job printing these and they look absolutely stunning inside our child centred light space.
I learnt so much working with each of the Expedition Parties. It deepened my understanding of working with school aged students and it also deepened my understanding of the themes selected for exploration: Space, Light and Earth. These themes are important within my own arts practice and being able to open them up to the fertile minds of these young explorers’ revealed new perspectives that I would not have otherwise seen.
As part of their ephemeral art practice the Space Expedition Party created a large joint work that had to develop the concept of space. Collaborative processes can be tricky for anyone to work through but I was really pleased with the way that each of these groups worked through their ideas, compromised and reasoned, and cooperated in making their collective works. The Space group came up with a great solution to their art work. They created this Space Island (the proper name I forget but maybe one of them will add it as a comment for me, please !!). One large space which was then sub-divided into smaller regions which included an abandoned beach shack, a farm, a wildlife park and camping ground nature reserve, a pier, a pub and was centred by a beautiful black hole.
Watching the kids negotiate with each other as they created their miniature world was really cool- it gave me an insight into how humans divide the world, compete for resources, practice democracy and create the human space in which we live. Working with this group helped to develop my comprehension of the overlappings of space: from the Macro Space of the Cosmos and Space’s emergence from the big bang to our planet, the atmosphere and our human Spaces of inside and outside, private, public, personal space, emotional space and sacred space to the Micro Spaces of mini beasts and micro-organisms…. Our world really is multi-dimensional, how amazing is that!!