Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

It is clear fire is once again a focal point in my art. Between 1998 and 2000, I made several quilts ‘about’ fire, the impact it has on Man and it’s presence on the Australian continent. Every Aussie grows up with combined respect and fear of this natural force which is so useful to us all but easily escapes our control when it feeds on a heavy load of fuel in the landscape.

No words can accurately convey the horror so many Australians have lived through this year, with Nature’s destructive force running out of control, forcing evacuations, bringing death, injury, panic and pain. Stinging eyes, shortness of breath and black snot are the least of what so many have suffered.

In a powerpoint slide for my advanced improvisational patchwork class in Brasil last year, I coupled part of ‘Bushfire 4’ (1999) with an image of the Amazon fires then raging in the north of that country. All the patchwork is freehand cut and pieced, then inlaid with stiops of contrasting ‘lines’ of fabric to emphasis the speed and movement of a fire.

Quilt detail is “Bushfire 4” 1999

But nothing stays the same for ever. Already social media is producing images of regrowth, renewal and regeneration that are now apearing mere weeks after fires went through the earliest hit areas. Some parts of these have received small amounts of rain, hastening germination and regrowth, but much more is needed for full effect and to break the crippling drought whch was one factor in the seriousness of these fires. It is renewal and regrowth that I wish to focus on in my next work. Based on those images, I’m sure there will be a lot of black, dark grey and little bits of colour. How I will put this together I’m not yet sure – but one thing is certain, there is lots of piecing to be done, and so I’ve started:

One of my favourite processes is working with a heap of scrap pieces on the table, to build up sets of strips to be set into whatever will be the background.

A Last Minute Wonder

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

The call for entries for a curated exhibition of small original 50cm x 50cm art quilts with the theme “Vision:2020” began appearing mid year 2019 in the various art quilt organisation newsletters, and direct announcements from the curator herself. I rarely make a quilt with a theme for a particular exhibition, and as the daughter of an optometrist, ‘eyes’ was the only response I could think of, so didn’t give it much mental space while focusing (pun intended) on my trip to Brasil and the new quilt top I threw myself into in October.

Last November parts of Australia began experiencing unusually early summer bushfires across regions totally tinder dry after years of drought. Cool temperate temperate rain forests which burn slowly if at all were suddenly engulfed by walls of flame roaring rapidly across landscape driven by strong hot dry winds. As people and politicians discussed causes and began to allocate blame, noisy comment ratcheted up from all corners of the community – local, regional, national and international experts (and non-experts including most politicians) on forest management, national parks, land clearing, Aboriginal land management practices, agricultural land use, settlement patterns, bureaucratic ignorance, governmental bungling, water resource allocation and management, fire fighting, bushfire mitigation, and the big umbrella issue, climate change.

Wherever we are, Australians are seeing and experiencing these same events from different, often conflicting and sometimes multiple points of view. It’s a wonder that loss of life is still under 50 souls, though one life lost is too many. Already living in constricted and reducing habitats, wildlife has suffered enormously and pulled heartstrings of people overseas; but let’s not forget the farmed sheep, cattle, fish and poultry that also perished. Recorded acts of heroism and bravery vie for media attention with swirling facts and fictions laced with accusations of media and political bias, mispresentation, lying, insensitivity, tone deafness, virtue signalling, panic, hysteria, acts of bravery, arson, cowardice, support, neglect, emotions, indifference and more. Though from this distance I don’t have smoke in my eyes, I see this national crisis with certain viewpoints. There are so many reasons why Australia is suffering these fires this summer, and regardless of personal views on those causes, as a nation we need conversations on policy change based on some glaring lessons learned from this experience. We are all on watch now, for the future.

By mid december I found this situation was becoming one I needed to think about addressing in my art, and this Vision:2020 call suddenly seemed a reasonable one, though with a January 10th closing date, and only vague ideas, I knew I’d be cutting it fine! On December 30th I posted ‘Eyes’ about initial thoughts and some sample making done in the quiet post Christmas period, one which I’ve always appreciated for getting something done fast with little interruption, if I happen to be at home, of course. All my life I’ve been a bit of a last minute wonder – procrastination is my middle name. My go-to-approach is a repeat block/unit design, but with rapidly increasing media coverage on our fires, it occurred to me I could locate a particular quilt with a fire theme and repurpose that by trimming down to 50cm x 50cm to be the background to what I wanted to do with an eye motif. Easy.

Fire Danger 2 1999. 60cm x 90cm

I couldn’t find the wretched thing though, so, with the clock ticking, rather than waste valuable time looking, I decided that in the remaining 6-7 days I could ‘easily’ do an improvisational piecing background and refine the eye thing in time to complete, photograph and submit an entry for Vision: 2020. I managed it with a whole day to spare. Once entries were closed, the curator, Brenda Gael Smith, gave some facts about entries received, geographical locations of artists etc. Apparently the last entry was filed at 11.54 pm on January 10th, ie. 6 minutes before close – love it!

FUTUREWATCH 50cm x 50cm 2020 area of detail approx 10cm x 12cm

The call for entry is juried, so I won’t show the whole work here yet, but will blog more later on that, regardless of the outcome.

A Couple Of Loose Ends

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Happy New Year to Everyone! Yesterday I found on the list of posts on my dashboard, a couple labelled ‘draft’ which I needed to publish or ditch.

The first was “Searching for Colour Extras” and with a title like that, clearly I had something meaningful to say on wednesday 11th December last. Maybe I was interrupted by breaking news (there’s so much ‘breaking news’ these days) Perhaps someone came to the door. Possibly one of the offsprings phoned and took my mind off on another track completely. I might have had a Christmas shopping online idea for one of our nearest and dearests. Anyway, a month later, with not a word of text beneath the headling, it now means absolutely nothing to me, so I trashed it and moved on. I’m still wondering though … sigh.

Things were a bit complicated in August through October last year, and though I posted fairly regularly, I overlooked this one from August 9th and, because it was a brief review of an exhibition “Birds In The Head” which I really enjoyed here in Montevideo, I finished and published it yesterday. It includes some notes and pics about one of the more fabulous C19 buildings here, originally a home for a wealthy family, now repurposed as a museum. Montevideo is a city full of wonderful old buildings from all eras. Well, the 50s and 60s examples are much like anywhere else, mostly plain and utilitarian compared to the architectural styles of the first half of C20.

Birds In The Head

Monday, January 13th, 2020

In August last year, Mike and I viewed an exhibition of ceramic sculptures by Tania Astapenco at the Museo del Gaucho, in downtown Montevideo. This gracious building, dating from 1888, was formerly a private home (Palacio Herber Jackson) It’s now owned by the nation’s principal bank, Banco Republica Oriental del Uruguay, BROU, and houses a historic collection of Uruguayan money and some displays of the gaucho history and culture. The museum part is up on the second floor – and while interesting enough, it is all in need of some sensitive modernisation/conservation.

The whole interior from the dimensions of the rooms and staircases to the eclectic but predominantly Parisian style says ‘luxury was here’. The entry from the street is marble, and entering through massive, ornately carved, solid inner doors with bevelled glass panes, you pass through a marble vestibule and ascend the grand marble stairs. The flooring on the first floor is of beautiful inlaid marble, and lovely wood parquet flooring. These three rooms periodically house art and cultural exhibitions.

On my first visit for years, I was unexpectedly thrilled by this exhibition, and began to write about it within a day or two; but Life produced a distracting drama, after which I went to Brasil to teach, and in all that my partly written review was forgotten, until today. It’s been lovely to process my photos and re-read the catalogue.

The exhibition of sculptures by Tania Astapenco, was titled Pajaros en la Cabeza (birds in the head) That notion comes from a quotation by Chilean poet, songwriter, painter, sculptor, embroiderer and potter, Violetta Parra (1917-67) who wrote “Creation is a bird without a flight plan, which will never fly in a straight line”  A lovely concept to which I totally relate, and the best works did have some air of creativity in flight about them, some with a touch of the wild that spoke to me, even before I read about Hiparquia !

There were many more pieces, including plates and wall plaques, but these were my favourites:

Hiparquia 56x48x20cm
Hiparquia, detail
Momentos 50x30x36cm
De Tus Abrazos/ Of Your Embrace 64x27x26cm

I would love to see her working in her studio with her principle materials, muds and adhestive pastes, to which she adds wood, paper, iron and amounts of different composition clays or sands. Astapenco refers to experimenting with all these effects, as being “in the dance of creation”. Using her array of materials she creates wonderful textures and artistic effects that I did not expect to see in such an exhibition, but then, I’m not really knowledgeable about ceramics.

Samples: Eyes 2

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

On the Art Quilts FB page recently, a quilter asked: “Who on this list uses a sketch book? I’ve been told I should, but can’t get started …” or something to that effect. I’ve written a little before on how I approach this and

My sketchbook photogtaphed with some doodles I made on scrap paper but elements of this appeared in whatI eventualluy ended up with, and after taking this photo I binned the paper bits.

In responding to that writer, I realised my sketchbook, see above, is a real book in which I do make pencil diagrams and notes of ideas. But it’s only one tool in my box, so to speak, partly because I only have one handbag this A4 book fits into, so it’s not always with me. Today’s photo shows the latest pages in my book with thoughts over several days about making eyes in various ways for a recently completed project. I don’t often include a graphic pictorial element in my designs, but the notion of ‘Eye’ might appear more often in my work, who knows?

I posted these samples on a FB page I belong to, but as the project developed, the final version of ‘eye’ was not like either of them. During hte sample phase you can see by the diagrams on the left sketchbook page that I was flirting with the eye as a motif in a repeat unit/block design. That’s an idea that will keep.

Though I love pencil and paper (lists, diagrams) I do rely quite a bit on my smart phone. The camera is quite good, and there’s the memo function for any note I need to make. If we’re out for the day, I usually have my little point-n-shoot camera which always takes great photos. It’s smaller than my phone, so is ultra convenient too. So, really I could say my notebook, visual diary or sketchbook plus items transferable from my phone add up to a multi-media group, in which each medium has a role. I could perhaps add the sample bag into which I toss samples I’ve made once they’re assessed: I never throw them away, just put them out of sight and sometimes dig into them for a look at something I know is there.

The one exception to that comment is a little 5cm /2″ square piece of brown leather suede, heat bonded onto unbleached calico/muslin, with centre square cut out and little holes cut out of one edge of each piece. I keep it in full plain sight on my design wall, because I totally love it, and for years now haven’t been able to decide where to go with this idea. Maybe something sheer … my regular readers know I keep this idea in plain sight too, without ever seriously settling on what to do with it 🙂

That might be an idea for this year’s SAQA auction quilt, which I normally turn to making early in the new year.

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