art

In One Year

Life in Taiwan is often changing and endlessly curious, but one thing it seems unable to provide is the impetus for regular blog updates. I know it's a combination of Taipei's endless distraction, the temptations of new friends, the ecstasy of old ones. I just can't seem to become too serious about regular updates. And that's OK, the purpose of this blog in my life has changed. It may change back again in the future, or it may move closer to a typical artist's website (though that's unlikely). One thing I do miss is the pleasure that comes from developing thought through writing. So in rekindling semi-regular updates, well, I'm hoping it will help me ground my mind in what could be the basis for bigger and better work, exhibitions, and all that good stuff. The momentum upon leaving Canberra fueled my enthusiasm to continue on with the work I had been planning. But as I say, life here is often changing. The first major change came when I had to leave my first apartment. Not something I planned or hoped for but thankfully for the best. Now I'm in my new place, with a perfectly functional studio space, I wouldn't change how things went down. What's more, I've found the process of settling and just getting some goddamn work done much more difficult than I expected. I've been working, but my things are periodic and lack some quality of honesty or truth that I find hard to define here.

Will They Let Me In?

Will They Let Me In?

P1040930

2015

My classes up till now have been very tangentially related (to put it kindly) to my planned graduating body. But perhaps that's just an excuse for my lack of motivation. No, really, as I said before, Taipei is a land of distractions, but I wouldn't have it any other way. There is always somewhere wild to visit, and always something I want to read or watch or talk about.

When I was in art school I thought a lot about a time in which I wouldn't need to distinguish art from the other rituals of my life. I still long for a future when life and art can merge, when every action is art, and every art-piece becomes the way in which I move through the world. In some ways, I view the past year as that. What is walking through the mountains, reading essays and manga, eating sweet cold ice treats, learning Chinese, if not art? My movements when making, my thoughts and rituals when walking or cooking or lovin', mirror one another. And this year they have been looking more similar to me than ever before. And I need it. Every day as I work through life in Taiwan, I can feel a coalescence inside me, and it's leading to the next stage of my time here. It's the beginning of my second school year, and I'm about to start making full time again.  And it's going to be so good. I can feel the power behind a year of slow build up pushing against the inside of my body, and if I can be sure to release that energy with kindness, control and sincerity, I think I can do something really good.

Taiwan is an island that doesn't feel like an island. When I was still settling I felt a sense of unease that was hard to place. Taipei is big, the population is large, and living in this city I forgot about the ocean. I took a hike up one of Taipei's nearby mountains and to the south could see cold silky cloud stretching over the vast and tightly fecund mountain range that is central Taiwan. I'm barred from that landscape though, it's a visual density that tempts and repels at the same time. How exciting it would be to wander there! But how physically challenging, how heavy that wet air! Behind me was the east coast, and in the far opposite distance was the west coast. And here I was, I could see both sides of the island at once. It reminded me how truly close we are to the sea.

Mountains

Over the last few months I've been thinking about something from a book Shellaine gave me. The book is called Wanderlust, a History of Walking. It says "Walking returns the body to its original limits again, to something supple, sensitive and vulnerable, but walking itself extends into the world as do those tools that that augment the body. The path is an extension of walking, the places set aside for walking are monuments to that pursuit, and walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it. Thus the walking body can be traced in the places it has made; paths, parks and sidewalks are traces of of the acting out of imagination and desire; walking sticks, shoes, maps, canteens and backpacks are further material results of that desire. Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world."

I guess I feel the same way about painting.  My current  project is centred on a walk across Taiwan. The walk will begin on the west coast of Taiwan and end on the east. In a sense, a journey from the two points I saw from the mountaintop. I want to know why the ocean remains relatively forgotten here. Comparable island nations have a long and well-established relationship with the sea that Taiwan doesn't share. I think the answer is cultural and historical. Elements of Chinese philosophy, Qing era marginalization, 20th century martial law and industry, and even the current constitutional framework have all contributed to a muting of the oceanic culture, though as an outsider I find myself often guessing as to why. Walking from one ocean to the other will act as a reminder of the relative smallness of this country. A literal indication that the ocean is right here, so close but so hidden. "Walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it." I keep hearing this line and thinking there must be no better way to answer these questions than through walking. The trip will also provide the space to actually see and document some examples, new and old, of Taiwanese oceanic culture that I'm only peripherally aware of.

On this walk I'll be making and installing small ceramic objects and larger scale installs. The walk will bring me to locations for installing previously made pieces, and be the starting point of an accompanying painting and photo series. I'll be making updates on this blog.

Moving

I can see the signs of the new season. You hear talk of the great European and American nature poets and the effect of the seasons on their lives. Not just their lives, but everyone's. In some parts of the world the coming of winter means a whole lot more than just chucking on a jumper. The loss of the sun and the loss of that green seems at odds with what it is to be human. And when it's over the spring brings with it such elation - I can only pretend to understand as I listen to their season songs. 

The dramatic change of colour and atmosphere is something I've never truly experienced, but I still feel sudden joy when I notice Canberra shifting. Though here the signs of change are far more subdued and I can't precisely say what they are. Of course we see slick new buds swelling on the naked suburban tees, but there's something more, too. A cleanness in the air? A cold clear bite on a quick breeze? Some small new fragrance? 

 Spring Tree Puss Spring Puss Slick

Canberra 2014

 

This year I only got to see the lead up to spring, and on the first day of September I got on a plane and flew to Taiwan. I'm here to study my Masters. It's exciting being back at uni, after four years pretending I was still a student I can now actually call myself one! I'll be working on a project examining the role of art as a tool for cultural repatriation in Taiwanese society. I'll be using this blog for general updates on my work. 

I'm encumbered with many half baked ideas. Luckily my little flat has room for a small studio, which I've been attempting to set up this week. It means so much to have a studio. Really it's a place to facilitate the mind, a space in which thoughts become actions of the hands and body. Without such a place I feel less. 

So - first thing's first. Set up a studio and establish myself in it. There's no rush to make work at a time like this, I can relax and take things as they come. Walking is of greater importance than ever if I'm to get to know my new home. I feel like I have time, and I want to use it to breath this place in. I want the city to follow me into the studio. I want the work brought out into the streets and mountains. I don't know what the results will be yet - but I have the time to find out. 

Indoor Mists

This work is a result of one month spent working in Beijing as part of the Red Gate Residency program. It must be said that, as a city to create in, Beijing can take a lot from you but it can also give so much back. It's difficult to explain how it feels when dissolution is met by true and subtle beauty, I've known this many times.  Here I've experienced heartache and joy, isolation and prosperity, and an overwhelming understanding that I am doing the right thing. As I worked and as I walked, I always came back to this feeling. "I am meant to be here," I thought "This is hard, this is exhausting, and I am building my soul." This work inhabits space in a way I find very pleasing. It's unobtrusive and quiet, as mist should be. As an obstacle it takes some getting used to, in the first week or so I caught wool and fluff on my hair and cloths. But you incorporate this new thing into your daily habits and soon I was moving around as naturally as if the room were empty. When I took it down on my last day in Beijing, I felt dizzy and lightheaded. Disoriented, as if my body had been spun around several times and then told to walk a straight line. It was so much a part of my space, of this place that had been my brief home.

I feel a strong urge to return to Beijing. I need to grow in many ways before I go back. I need to learn Chinese. I need to continue building my soul. And when I see Beijing again, how will she greet me? How will I greet her? I really want to know.

Indoor Mists 1

Sit down

Indoor Mists 2

Indoor Mists 3

Looking in

The Surprising Smell of Australia

un-felted

Slowly, slowly, slowly I'm exhaling mist - its physical form through physical action. I've been holding my breath for one entire year, and now, as I breathe out, this is what's forming in the condensation. And oh boy am I breathing heavily. I've been busy rolling, rolling, rolling these long strands of fog out of softly coloured wool.

"You look like you're making noodles."

I wonder if people who make noodles hurt this much in the morning. Every day I wake with a groan. But I love this feeling, my aching body feels real and present. It's making something true, something it needs to. This pain is the feeling of growth.

As I walk through the streets and parks I pretend I am walking through a classical Chinese landscape. Beijing is so far removed from these images and yet if you squint you can see yourself  as that eremitic wanderer. In Canberra, when I walk though the streets and parks, I imagine myself as forest-dweller, sometimes a fairy tale figure. In many ways the project reminds me of home but it's the smell of the work that's the strongest trigger, something I didn't expect. It's the wool.  I need to wet it in order to felt it, and the smell seems such an Australian experience that it's comforting to return to it every day. And every day I'm a little less sore as my body accommodates. Odd sadness here is frequent but these feelings assure me I'm on the right path.

early mists           early mists

layering

steed

At the Temple of Heaven

matching colours

Walking, going to work, meeting friends - it feels like I am falling in love every day. How lucky it is to make art and to love. These actions should reflect one another. I wonder how closely art making can be integrated with all other actions of my life. Sometimes I see it happening in other peoples lives, like a girl I know who's art collection is comprised of gifts given by lovers and friends.

I am finishing some work for Crush, a group show from here and there. I'll include some images the next post.

Louise's House

"I've returned to the room I picked for myself. Picked is not exactly the right word; it's not that I'm especially relaxed here, or feel comfortable, or even feel at home. Instead, I think it's the colours that drew me, snaring me like a bird. The dense clutter of objects, even those that bother me when I lie down or sleep, bizarrely makes me want to stay here, touching, laughing, sometimes giving myself a fright. There's no bed but I don't mind lying on the floor, especially since the few other beds in the house are either too hard or already occupied. Apart from the red forearm-inflated like a balloon and placed on a kind of chopping block-nothing really frightens me. I can go up to everything and even touch: I can unwind a bobbin of thread, but not too far, and then carefully wind it back again so no one will notice; or play with the little case; or cradle the dog's head like a doll. Or I can climb the little red ladder like a fireman in case the house catches fire, or even blow gusts of wind on the hurricane lamp. But I don't look at the hourglasses. They're too shiny, they look like candy floss, sweets, caramel-but I'm sure they'll feel pulpy, and I don't want to think about them. In other rooms, I confess I hesitate to touch things sometimes. I'm afraid my finger will get stuck in something hairy or moist, that my nails will be caked with pulp, with the flesh of parts unknown. I have to rouse myself, start walking. I have to invent new pathways to reach rooms. Sometimes I think it's either the house or me."