What is my art practice about?

What is my art practice about? This is a question which I’m occasionally forced to address, usually when filling out those dreaded exhibition proposals.

I’ll start from the points I easily know and perhaps by pegging those down a shape may emerge.

I’m obsessed with the human female form. Yes I am one so that helps but also I strongly feel that there is too much public representation of a very narrow set of female figures. I’m adding my voice to the story. I can’t single-handedly readjust this direction but through using my family and friends, though generally myself primarily, as model for a lot of my work, but I am widening the canon.

All artworks my original
I am a sex positive person. I do not believe sex is a dirty, secretive thing. It is a pleasure that we humans can and should enjoy. I am conscious of being a strong role model for my two daughters. A large part of sex for women is how they feel about their bodies. Extrapolate this idea further -if they don’t see their bodies represented as an idea of beauty, they may easily not innately know that they are beautiful and furthermore acceptable.

I am sure that I also paint myself as a larger body for my own well being. Putting my form on the canvas separates the end product from me as a person so I never truly feel that it is exactly me. It’s not me. It’s a view of me but it’s not me. I don’t know if it’s narcissistic. I feel quite divorced when I’m applying the pigment. Lines and curves, tone and colour are all I see. Posting images on social media doesn’t even feel like exposure.

I say all this and yet to some degree I occasionally get self-conscious when someone in a public gallery asks if I was the model for a particular piece.
No doubt to a degree part of my way of working involves arrogance. I have to show some bravado that I know what I’m doing. My lack of formal art school training rears its ugly head every now and then but I’m not really interested in spending multiple thousands of dollars for something which may or may not benefit me. A friend started studying art formally a few years ago and she learnt a slew of practice how to information which I think could be very useful. The next section of her education was more cerebral and that’s where it lost me. A lot of conceptual art passes me right by.

When I start a piece I don’t always know where it is going. I have an idea that may or may not pan out. It’s generally more interesting when things don’t go to plan. In fact, I like it when things go ‘wrong’ either from a technical point of view, compositionally or due to other factors. It forces me to come at it from a different angle. 

I know that I’m talking around the thing that is my art practice. I find it very difficult to easily answer the question. In fact, I’m not sure I even really know the question. Perhaps that is part of where I get lost. My art practice is mostly exploration – what it is like being a woman in this time, with my unique set of experiences yet drawing on some universal themes that others, not only those who identify as female, can relate to.


On making my art AND on making myself as an artist.

There are times when I doubt myself as an artist. Well many times if I’m to be frank. (‘Glad you’re being Frank’ I can almost hear my children chorusing).  It usually comes right about when I have to fill in an application form for an exhibition submission to a gallery. I’m starting to build up the CV of previous exhibition experiences. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people I consider part of my tribe who have welcomed my emerging art status.

The part I most often trip over is the ‘schooling’ bit. I’ve done some tertiary study it just wanted in relevant areas or even completed. I’d like to imagine that I’ve picked up the odd relevant thing in my 44 years of life though.

So this is where I feel somewhat in limbo. I’m 44 years old so I’m not newly-realised-into-the-world-kind-of-emerging but I’m certainly not seasoned-showing-my-art experienced either. I don’t even feel near the middle. I’ll concede to feeling 30% of the way. On a side note, I heard recently that most people experience doubt about projects etc at the 30% in and 30% to go marks. Maybe that helps explain it.

I’ve never formally studied any art. Local living and learning centre courses of which I’ve done a few years worth, apparently don’t count. I’ve a friend who started painting with me around the same time I did. She’s now in her second course studying Fine Art at a fine tertiary institution. I’ve had chats with her about this and I can’t say it draws me towards incurring a substantial higher education debt for a few lines on an application. I struggle with conceptual art and find myself alienated from of abstract, performance and even video art. Even the world installation can be off-putting.

I would like to increase my practical knowledge about techniques and different media and even relish the idea of associating with fellow creatives on a regular basis but this appears not to be the real situation in most tertiary education facilities.

Occasionally I browse a short course, adult education catalogue and see what is offered. Then usually I jump to the more immediate YouTube to satisfy my curiosity. I am aware that there are many things that I might learn from fellow students as well as my teacher in a class situation that I may never discover from YouTube alone but instant gratification usually wins out. I also like the small but useful tricks of rewinding, pausing and bookmarking sections where I want to study in more detail. The internet provides an incredible wealth of information about the technical side of certain mediums, though I also hit up the art supply store peeps too.

 It’s great to get out of a solo art studio and chat to someone else who is so enthusiastic about the minutiae of art mediums and the Melbourne art scene, as the lovely people at some of my favourite art supply stores. I found myself once having an in depth conversation about particular pigments days after walking past an impressive wall of wisteria – a scene that wouldn’t leave my mind. I needed to paint it you understand.

So I try not to over-think these things (an expression I heard from a friend a few years ago and I immediately knew what she meant). The way to make art and therefore makes myself as an artist is to just keep turning up at the easel.


supernatural insect woman series

Not a great name but it is an accurate way to pin down my elusive thoughts for now.
I saw the Mirka Mora exhibition recently at Heide gallery and it reminded me that flights of fancy are more than acceptable in my field. Also I’ve been playing with some new paints that I recently bought and that is always inspiring.

Mum and I were also discussing the real life constraint of whether or not the customer feels that they can live with a piece of art. It’s all well and good buying art as investment – though clearly this ain’t my style. I’ve actually been discussing this with friends recently but that will be another post.

I can appreciate that certain works were ground breaking in style, technique or ideas as the time but again this doesn’t mean that I ultimately want to continue to view it in my house whether that be my intimate bedroom space, a more public living space or even walk past it often in a hallway. Please note that I’m not saying that I don’t like the work. I’m just saying that I don’t want to live with it.[The above commentary more refers to the ‘angry penguins’ group such as John Perceval, Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester and Albert Tucker (on display at the art gallery) than Mirka Mora’s work which was on display in Heide II]

This is all relevant just now as my first solo exhibition opens in the Long Gallery at Montsalvat, in Eltham.

What feeds me

How do I feel? Actually I feel very calm. Possibly it’s just asking a deeply hidden anxiety but I don’t think so. I’ve done the work so really there’s nothing more to do right now but cruise into it all.

I’ve been asked to sift through and find some items to place into a cabinet in order to add to my story

          Things that inspire me
          Things that I need
          Things that I write
          Things that I read
          Things I draw
          Things that I play with
          Things I think about

Clearly my blog is all part of this too but I can’t exactly put that inside a glass cabinet. This evening I’ve fished out some old sketch books and marked some pages that I think will work.

I did enjoy the process of hanging and found it all relatively painless. I can see that the miniscule changes could become irritating after awhile but for me the novelty of my first hang was all good.

It’s a gorgeous space in and of itself which doesn’t hurt my euphoria (plus a stunning autumn day). In fact, I did wonder if it being such a classic beauty of a space might overwhelm my work but I felt right in the space.

This afternoon since I got home, I’ve just been taking it easy. I’m in a very relaxed positive mood and one thing I love to take my time doing is to cook. There’s quite a satisfaction to be had in preparing food. My mother had given me home-grown Jerusalem artichokes straight from the garden. Into the sink they went to help ease the dirt from their skin. As I began to peel them with what may have been the world’s sharpest peeler (most fingernails are intact…) I delighted at how fresh they were. Thanks mum! An entire Paul Kelly cd’s worth of songs later and they were peeled, clean, sliced and caramelising nicely in my new copper pan with lashings of organic butter and sprigs of thyme from my front garden. Adding half a litre of vegetable stock and before you know it, a batch of delicious homemade soup for my fridge and a batch for my freezer.

So the link here is that good seasonal produce, mindful preparation and satisfaction of the senses all feed my art and fortunately at the same time – my belly

Solo exhibition

Please join me for my first ever solo exhibition.

Opening night Thursday May 22nd 6.30pm – 8.30pm. Show runs until Sunday June 22nd and is open daily 9am – 5pm. It will be held in the Long Gallery at Montsalvat, 7 Hillcrest Avenue, Eltham.

Have a glass of wine, enjoy some local art and soak up the surrounds.

It’d be lovely to see you there!

art darts

I’d like to tell you a story….

I felt that I was stalling a few weeks ago. Was it some metaphysical block that I wasn’t even aware of? I phoned a friend..we talked and she ran me through a few scenarios..trying to lead me to what she felt was super obvious. It’s time I took the next step art-wise and get serious about earning income from my work. She suggested to me that I ask the universe for a very clear sign as to what my next move should be that would help me financially. So I did as she posited and that evening when I went online and typed in ‘art awards melbourne’ the first item in the search result was ‘Kennedy Art Prize’. OMG! If that was not an incredibly clear sign, then I’m a monkey’s uncle…

That was a few weeks ago and I’m furiously submitting here, there and everywhere. I call it throwing art darts. It feels like throwing a dart out there into the big bad art world. Who knows what it might hit…

I’m excited, exhausted and at times over-whelmed.
I’m in the process of submitting my work for all sorts of gallery exhibitions and art awards. I’m learning a lot I.T. wise and getting all professional about myself as an artist. I’m not looking to make myself rich but it would be nice to earn more than I spend on materials. 

I’ll post any developments here as well as on my Facebook art page. Please support these galleries/institutions as that’s how the circle of art/life survives.

I do have a spot in a group show entitled ‘Nude’ 17th October -8th November 2014 at the Beth Hulme Gallery in Fitzroy North. 

I’ll remind you all closer to the time. In the meanwhile, keep up the good work, peeps!

Day 5

Friday April 4 2014     

It’s my brother’s birthday today – happy birthday Al!

Today has been an odd day. We had such a full on day yesterday with the super early start and some sake or five that I really didn’t want to get up this morning. Mind you, the tatami mats that we are sleeping on aren’t exactly comfort central.

After the Tsukiji fish market tour we came home and slept for 5 hours (well I did) before attempting the second half of the day. We had a yummy lunch next door at the Sobateria. I had the spring special of cold soba, tempura vegetables (not all of which I recognise) with a dipping sauce. Afterwards hot soba water is brought out to mix with the dipping sauce which then becomes a light soup. This was very much the experience of soba I had been seeking. In my mind, it is traditional and I felt vindicated by the four older, immaculately attired japanese women sitting at the table next to us who all ordered the same dish as I. Steve had soba in a hot broth (possibly dashi) with crispy fried chicken. He was satiated also.

After lunch we wandered around some more exploring different parts of Asakusa. The sake bar, which is also a liscened bottle shop,  was our first stop in the evening. Hoppy St, also locally known as ‘stew st’ was our final dining destination. Wow- what a place!

It was one of the few areas where I’d seen restaurants tout for your business. The restaurants are tiny places that extend directly onto the street and when it rains, as it did last night, heavy plastic curtains are lowered and secured with any weighty object to hand.

So there we were under some type of ad hoc cover on a table next to 2 very rambunctious fellows having a great time. Offal soup, horse sashimi, grilled chicken gizzard and pigs feet terrine – OMG! I felt very Anthony Bourdain. And in true Anthony Bourdain style things did go downhill….in a good way. Some more beer and sake and shochu and sleep came very easily.

Unsurprisingly, today was much more low-key. We started slowly with some tea and coffee at a cafe/gallery a few streets away. Tea here is served cold and black or hot, milky and sweet – I chose the latter. Gallery ef is situated in a building that was built in 1868 and has survived fires, earthquakes and war. It’s very serene, dark, shoes off, minimalist, calm, shiny lacquered floors kind of place. It was a very moving experience.

One thing that I’ve learnt is that I should have brought more business cards with me. Good thing to know for next time. After the gallery visit, we strolled down to an incredible stationery store. Again, it was a sanctuary. The Japanese people as a culture value stationery, ceramics and fabrics far more so than western societies. It’s delightful. I share these passions also.
Luckily Steve is happy to indulge this apart of me. I’ve learnt a lot about being with Steve this trip. He’s very good for me. He understands the many sides of me and sometimes knows what I need even if I have yet to perceive it myself.

Upon leaving the stationery store – Kakimori – we had a trashy lunch of snacks from Lawson (the convenience store with more) whilst sitting overlooking the Sumida river. some major queuing was then necessary to purchase tickets for a cruise down said river to Hama Rikyu gardens which is just past Tsukiji fish market by the top of the Tokyo bay. after a brief walk around the muddy paths viewing the 300 year old pine tree we cruised back to Asakusa just in time for a freak, short but sharp hail storm to dampen our clothes but not our spirits.

A wander around the Sakura beer garden (after hours in an amusement park) was essentially  waste of effort but you don’t know til you go. It could have been a really cool, hip place to eat and drink but the lack of patronage made it all appear just a little sad and dull.

Oops – I forgot our trip to a bizarre store called Don Quijote. Think cheap nasty meets nice department store – food hall included. We bought a range of things – trashy snack foods including shelf stable’ camembert’ cheese, multi pack of groovy socks for Steve, USB connection heated pillows, Hello Kitty pez for the girls. Odd and lots of fun. Our dinner by comparison  was pretty low key. Kamamishi – rice and other bits cooked in a pot served with a strong miso. Again, just what I needed.

Oh what a beautiful day

Last week, I indulged my newly healthy again self and took myself to the National Gallery of Victoria. After tramming it up St. Kilda Rd and alighting at the appropriate stop I halted to take it all in – the schoolkids, the out of town tourists, the chinese guy busking and the little kids discovering the water wall at the entrance for the first time.

Straight through the main foyer I walked then paused looking up at the kaleidoscope of stained glass and out through the rear doors into the secret garden that many people don’t know even exists.I  remember once being taken there as a kid on a school excursion and although the surrounding building have crept up, it still provides an elusive peace in the centre of the chaotic city. If you’ve never been, I suggest you go.

After my artistic wanders, I wandered up to Hosier Lane for a fresher take on art – the plethora of graffitti that constantly turns over. From here, it’s a natural stumble into Mo Vida for a glass of rosado and anchovy on crouton with smoked tomato sorbet. Throw in crispy fried pig’s tail with green mole  and beef cheeks braised in pedro ximenez with cauliflower puree and another glass of that delicous dry spanish pink wine and I’m one happy camper.

Oh what a beautiful day!