Thursday, July 31, 2008

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair

No, I'm not arrogantly presenting my work. It's ironic... It's a quote from Shelley's Ozymandias. It's about the folly of thinking that what we create is going to last forever. Anicca, anicca. Anyway, here are some more works of mine that no longer exist. Some had to be destroyed for space, others because they were temporary installations.

If you needed any more reminders of your own mortality, here's a photo from primary school, age about 11? This person no longer exists, and is as good as dead. See Barthes' Camera Lucida. Just as we all die, so must our art.

This was a piece I made for the Furr show at Kudos, another great show curated by Penelope Benton. I think it was called Tiny Teddies. It's a giant Tiny Teddy made out of Tiny Teddies. Penelope liked the idea and thought two of them would look great. I dutifully made two, but regretted the decision when it came time to dismantle the work. The teddies had been glued directly to the gallery wall and proved rather difficult to dislodge! It smelled great, though!

This is a work that may have been destroyed. I made it for Guy Moscoso, a colleague from my Japan days. I had a party for about 5 or 6 people who all had birthdays in the same month, and made presents for all the birthday people. It was a quick work, a complete rip-off of Joseph Kosuth's One and Three Chairs. I think the black and white backgrounds were painted panels. The shoes are real shoes.

This one I know was destroyed because a friend told me he saw it in the garbage after the person I gave it to moved out of her apartment! This was when I lived in Japan, so it probably wasn't feasible for her to transport it back to America, but still... It was one of a trio of works that I had made for Paisley McMahon. I think this one was called The Father (the others were The Son, and The Holy Spirit). I had even had a little party for her. I was far more sociable and generous in those days. I've since learned that it gets you no where...

This was another work that was directly affixed to a wall. It's small origami squares, scrunched up and unfolded. The folds and creases catch the light and create a more interesting texture than just a flat piece of paper. It was called something like A Pleasing Arrangement of Shapes and Colours Designed to Entertain and Distract in These Troubled Times. It was my comment on pretty-but-vacuous art. It was about 1.5m wide and about 2.5 m high. I have larger images that show the whole thing, but not handy. One day I'll get around to digitizing them.

Ditto this work. It was a 2m-high, and 3m-wide screen covered in layers of balloons, some of which were already deflating. It was a riot of colour, but I only have these two details here. It was called The Way of All Flesh. Both of these works were from the same year at uni when I was studying Fine Arts, majoring in Sculpture, Performance and Installation. I think it was my 3rd year (graduation) show.

Some of these chopstick works have been shown here before. I think this was the Sculpture 2003 show at PCL Gallery. The first work from the left has been remade into something new. The second work is in a friend's collection. The large work with the light globes is in my collection. It's called Hanoi Hilton II. There was a larger piece that was Hanoi Hilton which is in the COFA Arc collection. That work had only one light globe. It reminded me of the scene in the Deer Hunter where the prisoner is in a cage in the water, and is brought up occasionally to be tortured. That may not have been at the real Hanoi Hilton, but I liked the name and the associations.

This is the work that has been destroyed. I can't remember what it was called now. Something about being caged by society probably. The chopsticks have been recycled into other work, but the figures have all been destroyed. They were made of wire cores, covered in papier mache, then burnt, and finished with shellac to seal them. They're on a small square of sand. An earlier version had involved a larger number of figures on a wide circle of sand and no cage, kind of like Rodin's The Burghers of Calais.

These three works weren't even really finished pieces. I think I made them in a drawing class. They're pastel and oil stick and crayon and coloured pencil. I rarely make colourful work, so I kind of liked these. I guess these fit the pretty-but-vacuous school of art. There's no meaning behind them, no exploration of any themes, no art-historical references...

This was another work from Japan days. It originally had a wax head of the Venus de Milo at the top, but only melted wax remains in this image. I guess it was some vaguely sado-masochistic theme much favoured at the time! I don't think it rated a title.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Extant sculpture

This post features some sculptural works that I haven't had reason to destroy, and which I wanted to show to my friend Drew, so I thought it may as well serve as a new entry. Perhaps my next post will be sculptural works that have been destroyed.

First up are some more of the chopstick sculptures that I featured a couple of posts back. The series as a whole is called Everything Ends and was part of my Hate and Envy and Crime and Darkness and Pain exhibition. It was meant to evoke the idea of impermanence, and suggest architectural ruins. I also make connections with the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi.

The first two are 50x50x20cm, and the next three are 21x21x21cm (approximately).

The following wire figures are from a series that has stretched over about 6 or 7 years. I first made 12 for an undergraduate class, then continued to make more and more! A number have sold over the years, and I rearrange them to make different installations for exhibitions. The works have had different names over the years, too, depending on the installation. A lot of them have to do with violence and genocide (one outing was called If You Want to Die in Bed, Don't Care too Much for Country, which was from a line in a song from Miss Saigon of all places). The installation below was called Fall of the Rebel Angels, if I remember correctly.

The first image is the figure just made of wire. I have a small number of these, but most of them have been stuffed with human hair. I made a lot of work in this manner in the late 90s. The main idea was that of humanity being crammed together and shaped by society's cages. Their were also many grid pieces that emphasised the rigidity and regularity of society - a society of Stepford Wives (I made two works with that title - I'll get around to posting them one day!).

This is one of my favourite sculptures. I entered it in the Waverley Art Prize (scroll down for my recent adventures with the WAP if you haven't already) about 5 years ago, and it won the People's Choice Award. I suspected that it had something to do with the fact that the plinth it was on was about a metre away from the table where people filled out their forms! They couldn't remember any of the other works they liked from the exhibition, but hey, that tea cup looks interesting!

It's a real cup, saucer and spoon, covered in thumb tacks/drawing pins which I let rust, then covered with polyester resin. I also have a shoe which I also like (see the Art2Muse page of my work for that image - I didn't have one handy). The shoe was originally a paired sculpture - one a before, and the other an after - based on the Cinderella story (the before has been destroyed. It was meant to be shiny and gold and pristine - with the 'after' being rusted and decayed - but it started to get a number of green patches, presumably from copper in the pins? It had to go!). The tea cup is called Tea and Sympathy, and you're likely to get neither!

The following work (two views) was made for another Erotica/Sex/Pornography show at Kudos Gallery. I think it was Kox and Kuntz. I can't remember the title of this work. I really should do some research before I post! It's an acrylic box with square photographs of penises. A pair of white cotton gloves was provided for people to browse through the images.

These are all ceramic eggshells. I made molds of eggs and shaped the clay, then just experimented with different treatments/pigments/effects. I like a lot of the results, but ceramics is such a bothersome art practice because of the time involved, and the lack of control of the kiln timing (not having my own kiln). This series is called Population Explosion. I used the same title a number of years before for a different work, one with Chico babies all over it. I often recycle work and titles - some are just too good to let go!

This work is called Crowd. I don't think I've ever exhibited it. I found these tiny glass bottles in a store in Melbourne. They're all stuffed with human hair. It's another work dealing with individuality/collectivity. The bottles are 5cm high.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Am Because We Are: Names and their Meanings in Art and Memorials

My book has finally been published! It may actually have been available for awhile now (it has a publication date of May 27!), but I've been waiting for my copies from the publisher as proof of publication. They still haven't arrived, but I checked yesterday and found it. I've been looking for awhile, but oddly searching for "Rodney Love" on Amazon doesn't show my book until number 42! Such items as What Kind of Love by Rodney Crowell turn up, and I heart Rodney Slifer t-shirts. Searching in Books brings my book up at number 9. I may have missed it by not scrolling down, foolishly thinking that Rodney Love the author would come before Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs!

Anyway, it's available for purchase now. Quick, beat the rush! Order now for Christmas! You may want to shop around: It's about $15 cheaper through Barnes and Noble than through Amazon!

The image cut and pasted from Amazon is about the size of a postage stamp. The second one, a pre-publication mock-up, is not much better! Best go to the Amazon link to see a better image.

The book is a reworking of my MFA thesis. There is some additional material including more memorials, more artworks, some memorial rubbings, and an essay I wrote comparing two memorials (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the World War II memorial, both in Washington, D.C.) which wasn't part of my thesis. I'm certainly not expecting to retire on the royalties, in fact I'm sure I won't be buying lunch with the royalties, but it's nice to have a book published and out there in the world. It has images of my artworks that I made for my MFA, so they're getting out and about. I also think the linking of Victor Turner's concept of communitas with memorials is an original idea that I've not seen in the literature on memorials.

I did find on Amazon a book with the same title from 1996! The sub heading is Readings in Black Philosophy, so not treading the same paths. Madonna has also made a documentary with the same title. It comes from an African proverb, so you can guess the connection. My interest was in the links between individuals and groups.

Here's the introduction to the book (with the layout and punctuation all gone to hell!):

When René Descartes said I think therefore I am, he had stumbled
across a profound philosophical truth. But, of course, it was not the whole
truth, and when taken alone it rings of self-sufficiency and individualism.
For a more complete understanding of the self I draw on the wisdom of
an African proverb: I am because we are. The emphasis here is on our
interdependence and connectedness. Our very existence depends upon
those around us, and the people in our lives shape who we become.
Matt Lawrence, Like a Splinter in the Mind: The Philosophy Behind the Matrix Trilogy

When I read this quote, it helped to clarify ideas that I had been working with in my art practice. I had been collecting hair and socks from people, and using those objects as metonymic representations of the donors. I was assembling groups from these individuals, with the group and the individual being equally important. I was including the names of the donors so that they were known, distinct individuals and not an anonymous mass. The donated materials were being woven, and I was creating groups that were indissolubly joined together. These woven forms were an embodiment of the metaphor of “the fabric of society.” The proverb mentioned above encapsulated the concerns that I had, and provided the title for one of the series of work that I produced for my MFA, as well as the title for two art exhibitions and this book. So, the idea that I am because we are focussed the conceptual basis for the work that I was producing, but the formal link between the series was the inclusion of the donors’ names in the weavings themselves. This led me to research memorials because, as Michael Kimmelmen suggests: “By aesthetic and social consensus, names are today a kind of reflexive memorial impulse, lists of names having come almost automatically to connote ‘memorial.’” The idea of the memorial then began to shape the work that I was making. This included the form of the installation for I Am Because We Are, and the basis for Memorial to COFA Graduates 1991 – 2006. This direction in my work demanded a deeper look at the connections between the names that I was using, the idea of the known individual within the collective, and forms of memorialisation.
These are the ideas that I am exploring in this book. The first section examines lists of names to discover the meanings that can be extracted from them. I see lists of names as symbolic groups, and explore the connections with society, and, indeed, all humanity. I then suggest that memorials and artworks bring the symbolic meanings of lists of names that are otherwise hidden by utilitarian functions closer to the surface, and therefore more easily available. I follow this with an examination of a number of memorials to see how these meanings are added to by the formal vocabulary, by the physical characteristics, of the memorials. The second section of the book looks at the three series of work that I have produced, and discusses them in relation to the work of other artists. Scattered throughout the paper will be sections that deal with various works by the French artist Christian Boltanski. He has produced many works over the years that engage with similar issues to those I have investigated in my art practice. By separating the explorations of his work into different sections, I am able to link them to the formal elements and concepts that are most relevant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I am a lonely painter...

That's a line from a Joni Mitchell song, in case you thought I was opening up about my personal problems... I'm working on some paintings at the moment, so for lack of anything more immediate, I thought I'd show some of my paintings from the past. Mostly I work in a collage style, i.e. I steal other people's images! For the latest works I'm also going for texture, building up the surface with lots of layers of paint, but sanding it down to get a really flat surface with none of the canvas showing. Some of them are on wood panels, but they'll have the same surface. The works I'm showing today are just the ones that I have at hand and that are webready. At some point in the future I'll add others. It seems I have an endless supply of potential future posts!

This first one is a work I made when I lived in Japan. I think I had just discovered the work of Juan Davila.
I was going for pop kitsch with art-historical references. It's called La Joconde aux Croix. The title refers to Fernand Leger's La Joconde aux Clefs, which, if you look at the linked image, is the Mona Lisa with keys. I didn't have any keys, but I had some crosses... The work I was making at the time involved collaging images or items with the (acrylic) paint. The central image of the Mona Lisas is a Warhol work sewn on to the canvas, along with the crucifixes.

This work is a much later painting, or series of paintings. Each dog is painted on a separate panel. This was made for a dog-themed show at PCL Exhibitionists in 2000. I had moved from having a lot of different images crowded together, to one image per panel. I think it's called Let Slip the Dogs of War. The person who has done all my art photographing for the past 7 or 8 years, Adrian Cook, has this work. He also commissioned a similar painting of bunnies which I did with blue paint on white backgrounds. That work has been built up in layers, then sanded back. I wanted it to look a child's bedroom cupboard that had been used for years and was showing signs of age. Do children still have cupboards like that? I have photos of those paintings, too, but not handy.

This was from a time when I was trying to get a lot of texture in paintings. It started off as a mainly-blue painting, with some white bits throughout. It had 'nausea' written in the flat area in the bottom right quadrant. The title is still Nausea, but I decided to cover the whole thing in graphite to emphasize the texture and not the colour. It's mostly acrylic, but mixed media with graphite.This is probably from 2000 or thereabouts.

This one was also from my time in Japan, I think. Well, I started it there, and finished it when I moved to Sydney. It has since been covered over and sanded and used for another work. I was never very happy with it. A lot of collage elements again. The top originally had the purple text that covers the bottom showing, but it got covered up. I think I didn't like that it was so messy and chaotic. Most of my work starts off that way, then gradually becomes ordered and neat. The latest series is going back to this use of background text and foreground painted object, but with the multi-panel simplicity. Even though I don't like some of my early work, I'm showing it to show the evolution of my work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Incubate Interview

Earlier this week I had an interview for an article for Incubate magazine, the in-house magazine for COFA. The interviewer was the always fabulous Dominique Angeloro, half of artist duo Soda_Jerk, and former art reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald (amongst other art-related activities).

The interview covered my involvement in the Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial, and my soon-to-be-released book, two topics I’m waiting for the right moment to write about here, as well as my art practice in general. I had suggested the article to the editors of the magazine because of the involvement of a number of COFA graduates and staff in this year’s biennial. The magazine is part of the marketing of COFA to the community by showing the activities of alumni, current students, and staff. There’s always a slight frisson of anxiety being interviewed because I have no control over the final result. One doesn’t know what the writer is going to make of the hour of conversation, or how she’ll distill that into 500-1000 words. Not that I think I’m going to be attacked in print or anything, but interpretation of a conversation is obviously as subjective as interpretation of an artwork. Anyway, in lieu of any other art-related activities this week, I thought I’d post some of my previous press forays.

This first one was in The Daily Telegraph. I know I didn't have very complimentary things to say about the Tele in a previous post, but that's only when I'm not in it... This was about my search for socks from people for an installation for my MFA. The article was by Elizabeth Fortescue, Oct. 1., 2004.

This one was in TheHerald Sun , a Melbourne newspaper, when I had a show at MARS Gallery in 2005. It's by Harbant Gill, Mar. 21.

This one was before my show at MARS had opened. The model is wearing the kimono that was part of the installation. It's also from The Herald Sun, Mar. 9, but no writer listed.

This is from Textile Fibre Forum magazine, and was written by Richard Allport. It was a look at some people involved with the COFA Textile department. My work is the hair weaving at the top of the page. This is also from 2005.

I can't tell if these are large enough to read. Would anyone be reading them anyway? I can provide a transcript if anyone is really keen. I also have a number of other articles, but not digitized and handy. If there's a clamour for them, or if I'm having a slow news week, then they'll make an appearance!

Friday, July 11, 2008

WAP winner

Okay, they've now posted the winner of the Waverley Art Prize on their website. Have a look... Tell me I'm not wrong in saying that it's hideous! Maybe that's a bit harsh, but do you think it's worth $5000? This photo is her entry photo (all entrants submitted images on disc). She's just clipped it up with bulldog clips and sent it off and pocketed $5000 thankyou very much. She didn't even crop the image to make it look a little better! Oh, the injustice!

And scroll down to look at some of the other winning entries. I like the image with the finger holding the artwork. And the winner of the oils which isn't even centred, let alone cropped. It's enough to make me weep with despair...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Waverley Art Prize Results

Well, I didn't win the Open Prize for this competition. Nor did I win one of the 7 $1000 prizes. Nor did I get one of the 10 Highly Commendeds. Or even a Commended. My work was in the same room as the winning works... I knew I wouldn't be winning anything, because they phone the winners during the day to see if they'll be at the opening or not. They also have all the winning works on the wall that faces the door in the main exhibition room (even though they don't announce the winners for an hour into the opening). Mine was on the same wall as the door. I went to the opening anyway to see what the competition was like.

There was some really great work there, but also a lot of what looks like Sunday painter art. No images of this year's winners yet, but have a look at last year's winners and see what I mean. The winner of the Open prize this year wasn't much better than the top one from last year. It looked like a drawing from an art class where the teacher has arranged a still life and this student has drawn it quickly and roughly. I just don't get the judges' decision. I'm not saying I should have won (I'm also not saying I shouldn't have won!), but there were at least 25 works there that were better executed, more imaginative, and more aesthetically pleasing in almost every way! Maybe I'm just really out of touch with contemporary taste. Or are my grapes, as they say, sour?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Waverley Art Prize

This Wednesday, July 9, is the opening of the Waverley Art Prize exhibition. It's a small local prize, but there is about $12,000 in prizes up for grabs. The Archibald Prize offers $50,000 to the winner, but I have a better chance of winning this one! Actually, it's probably easier to get into this final, but there are more finalists, so harder to win the prizes. The list of finalists is here. I entered another chopstick work from the Everything Ends series. I've been working on this series for about 8 years now, and produce something new every couple of years. I finished this one earlier in the year for the Praxis show at Kudos. The opening is from 6:00 - 8:00 at the Waverley-Woollahra Arts Centre. 138 Bondi Rd, Bondi. The exhibition continues until Sunday July 13, every day 10:00 - 4:00.

This was the first work I made in this series. It was for an undergraduate sculpture project. I don't remember what the brief was, but my inspiration was scaffolding on building sites. I equated this with the buildings themselves, and later, to the skeletons of buildings. It was about 30cm high, and i placed it under a concrete walkway. It was meant to evoke a miniature city, abandoned, partly destroyed.

I pretty much destroyed the above work in taking it down. Some of the elements were still intact. I then incorporated all the elements, and all the other bits of chopsticks into this cube below. This shot is from a finalists' exhibition for the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Scholarship (2000?), which I didn't win. Always the bridesmaid... It's on a square of sand. It's very rough and ready, and was just slightly too large to be practical to store and handle. So I broke it up, too.
After that the works became more contained and controlled, more rigidly geometric and staying within the boundaries. I contrasted the two below, where the one on the left is a simple grid, and the other is the same anarchic, chaotic style as the one above.

It looks similar to the new one at the top, but this one has pieces going through the middle, and the joins aren't tied together. The new one was actually made from the one on the left above. After making a number of other works, I decided that I didn't like the simplicity and openness of it, so I covered the surface with a random pattern of pieces. The one below (the same work as on the right above) still maintains right angles, even though they're no longer ordered and regular like the one on the left. The new work has every join tied together with string and acrylic binder medium for extra strength. All the new works have been tied together.